Paula! Where are you?!?!! Unfortunately, no where to be found. I wandered around Fourside a bit looking for her, but she was gone. I headed back to the little café, only to hear a commotion outside. Mr. Everdred was lying there on the ground. DEAD! No, he wasn’t actually dead, but he was a good faker. Anyways, he told me to check the back of the café’s counter. So, I walked inside and started checking the walls… what… the… ??? All of a sudden, everything went all acid-trippy, and I was transported to Moonside.
Moonside seems to me like a broken NES town, or perhaps a partially done developer’s view. The city of Fourside was there, in theory, but everything was black and bright neon with invisible walls in almost random places. The only sort-of consistent thing was the strange enemies wandering about. Demonic fire hydrants, gas pumps and Dali’s clock paintings decided to attack me in this weird world. I made my way from broken NPC to broken teleport area until I made my way to the Mani Mani statue at the center of town. After a Big-Bottle Rocket or two, I finally escaped the nightmare of Moonside. To its credit, the whole sequence had my eyes fully open in a stare and my eyebrows doing that one up one down strange look thing, and I had a huge sense of unrest driving to escape this crazy world. And, I believe that’s exactly what was intended. Nicely done, Earthbound.
As I woke up in a stupor in the back of Jackie’s café, I realized the need to get away from that crazy place as soon as possible. I walked out the door and got a call from the Apple kid, at it again. He came up with another invention - the trout yogurt machine and said he’s sending it to me, however it will be coming “Neglected Class.” In hilarious fashion, the delivery person showed up immediately but lost the machine in the desert. Immediately following that, a young girl who needed to make Trout-flavored yogurt for Mr. Monotoli showed up just to make sure I knew what my next objective was. Oh, Earthbound, how funny are you!
After speaking with Master Pokey, I wandered around Fourside a bit, and got kinda lost. I remember only playing to this part once before and I couldn’t recall what to do. I kept knocking on the door of the Department store, but they wouldn’t let me in. I finally resorted to the one thing, I always hated to do before – talk to the Hint man! Yes, I did it. Terrible, I know. But, I parted with my hard-earned bucks to figure out where to go next. And, you know what? He told me to go back to the Desert! What! I just came from there! I think my problem was, I saw a treasure-like thing in the backyard of the Department store and figured that would pay for the Runaway Five’s debt. /sigh So, I went back to the desert, found the Gold Mine dig site crowded with bystanders, mopped my brow with a Wet Towel, and headed into the giant hole.
Moles, lots of moles. Actually, five of them. However, they are all quite confused. You see, each claims that they are the 3 strongest mole, in their own special way. Fortunately, all five of them melted away to Paula’s Psi Freeze Gamma. Boom. Feels good. So, I grabbed some more loot, headed out and got a diamond from the dig site foreman, who chased after me in his backhoe.
Back in Fourside, I took the diamond to the Topolla Theater, paid off the Runaway Five… again. Finally, I get to go to the Department store and buy awesome stuff! It’s always good to get new equipment and see those little numbers increase, even better, though, is when you find an item that Rocks! Big Bottle Rockets for $139? That’s a steal, especially at this stage in the game! I stocked up and headed out of the store – only to be stopped! The lights turned off, a blur ran by, and Paula was gone! Kidnapped! Egad! Well, I took Ness & Jeff back up to the 4 floor to rescue her. Unfortunately, the crazy enemies kicked my butt! And wiped me… yep, I said it. This almost happened twice, but I decided to use a Cup of Lifenoodles on my fallen comrade, Jeff, and squeaked past the Scalding Cup of Coffee to the boss. The Department Store Spook mirthfully quipped about me burning in heaven and then got death handed to him from Psi Rockin Beta and a Big Bottle Rocket. But, Paula! Where’s my missing Paula! Oh, what to do?
So, I hate mushrooms. Both in Earthbound and in real life. On my pizza, on my burgers, even with steak. However, there is one thing that I hate worse than mushrooms: incurable confusion. Gah! Those stupid mushrooms keep putting a shroom on my head! Not that big of a deal fighting mobs, but have to go up against the Trillionage Sprout was less than ideal. Factor in his PSI Flash, and it’s an endless wave of frustration. So, I wiped my first time through… and the second. On the third time, however, I was careful to target the shrooms in the cave first, preventing the constant “feeling strange” and then run back from any shrooms in the little meadow. Boss went down fairly easily. Third My Sanctuary Location unlocked! Time to get back to Threed!
The now liberated Threed had a gentle light shining on it, replacing the unending night. There was a lot more people to talk to and some more humorous dialog. I waved goodbye to the happy denizens of Threed and hopped into the bus for Fourside! Unfortunately, there was a traffic jam in the desert that brought our bus to a standstill. Ugh, I hate road slow-downs. If it had been construction, I would have flipped. Fortunately, our beloved designers chose not to torture us for that reason. We hop out of the bus, run into some nice people in a store selling goodies and set out to explore the desert. So, on top of the store is a giant sign that says “DRUGS”, which didn’t strike me as odd when I was young but now seems kinda suspicious. I also remember having a terrible time getting sunstroke and being out of PP to heal it. Wet Towel for $24? No thank you! For whatever reason, this time was much easier. I think I breezed through the zone in about 15 minutes, collecting the contact lenses, opening all the presents and talking to the black sesame seed. Wouldn’t you know it – the traffic cleared up! We hopped back on the bus and high-tailed it for the big city of Fourside.
Fourside is an interesting place. I like it in concept, but the cross-pattern layout is a little difficult to navigate. Moreover, of the many skyscraper-like buildings throughout the town, only a handful you can go into. Thinking about this a little more, it’s probably about the same number as in Onett or Twoson, but it feels like less because of the large designs. There is, however, a gem hidden in Fourside, which is one of the best Easter eggs I’ve found in any game: a sign outside a building that reads “Planning Meeting for Earthbound 2. Only those who are related to this project are allowed to enter. APE Software Development Team.” As a 12 year-old, this was my first experience with a game breaking the fourth wall, and it blew my mind. It took me a while for me to realize that this was not actually a real meeting that I had somehow stumbled upon – probably because I wanted it to be real with every fiber of my being. When Earthbound 2 was never released, I was sad :^( Fortunately, I’ll be playing the fan-translation of Mother 3 after I finish this runthrough of Earthbound. So, I checked out the museum and the absolutely epic dinosaur skeleton, which that awesome whimsical musical track that makes me want to fly into space, saw the once again indebted Runaway Five and got kicked out of the penthouse of recently wealthy Master Pokey… jerk.
I come out of the creepy subterranean tunnel to a peaceful meadow with a lake and a waterfall. After dispatching an armored frog and some red ants, I head through another passage to Saturn Valley. Again, I’m blown away by the genius-ness of the whole thing. All the text for the Mr. Saturns changes to a crazy script and speak in a goofy but happy style. When you add in the random palm trees, telephones on top of ladders and peanut cheese bars, you end up with the perfect mix of strange and cute.
The next stroke of genius is gaining access to Master Belch’s secret lair. Headed back behind the waterfall, I’m prompted to give a password. The correct action is to stay perfectly still for three minutes – set the controller down, walk away, do nothing for three minutes of real time. Crazy! I remember encountering this for the first time when I was about 12, and, though I had a FAQ, I still had difficulty doing this. After several attempts and figuring out where the prompt was and when to stand still, I got it. This time still made me smile.
I breezed through Master Belch’s factory, was appalled at the enslavement of the Mr. Saturns, made short work of his slime piles and went to face him. It always made me chuckle to fight a boss which was literally a pile of puke that made burping sounds as it talked. He’s a pretty tough boss unless you toss him a Jar of Fly Honey. He chomped down on it for several turns as I blasted him into a pile of… uhh, anyways. Exiting the factory, I sit down for a trippy cup of coffee and say goodbye to the grateful Mr. Saturns, only to plunge my head into a mushroom-infested cave…
So, I brought Jeff from Dr. Andonut’s Lab back to Threed, and, in perfect style, his Bad Key Machine was exactly what was needed to get Ness and Paula out of the Cemetery. Some grinding got him leveled up to everyone else, and buying some goodies from the man behind the drugstore got him nicely ready for some tough battles to come. Powerful zombies here I come. Fully stocked, I headed towards the demon tent at the bottom of Threed, and the epic battle began! …And I used Jeff’s Big Bottle Rocket and one-shotted the boss. One. Shot. The Boss. In a way, I was a little disappointed that this battle that I’d remembered as being so difficult was so easily won. But now that I’ve thought about it, it’s kinda awesome that a few hours into a game you can one-shot a boss. Of course, I can’t do that any more until I can find some more of those bad boys, but the fact that I did it is still awesome. From there, I zombie-papered the municipal tent with a little help from the Apple Kid and the Mach Pizza delivery man, loaded up on regular Bottle Rockets and headed toward the creepy underground lair where the zombie problem came from.
Back in Twoson, Paula’s parents are thrilled. It’s strangely heartwarming to see this little reunion and to know that I was the one who made it all happen. I think it’s because doesn’t have a strong connection with any of his family members in person. The majority of the meaningful dialog occurs over the phone. Of course, everything becomes lighthearted very quickly as Paula & Ness grab a and slip into the Chaos Theater. The Runaway Five are just goofy, top to bottom. I understand the parody of the Beatles, but I feel like they fourth wall-break enough to parody themselves. Anyway, we board their bus and head through the ghost tunnel to Threed.
Threed is without a doubt one of the most creepy environments in an RPG. The city is dark, the music is ominous, and the ghosts and trashcans are tough. I still felt like I have to constantly watch my back and run. We quickly worked our way up to the zombies guarding the northwest tunnel, and headed back to the hotel. To my continued amusement, a shady looking woman arrives ahead of me. The music got all warped, the guy at the desk was gone, and something was not right. But, I still fell for the trap and headed right into the room filled with zombies. Well, time for Paula to call out to another hero.
Enter Jeff – smart, resourceful, and can use bottle rockets. What more could I ask for? Off at a boarding school in Winters, the game picked up with Jeff hearing the distress call. I have to stop and say, Winters is one of my favorite environments in any game. The soundtrack is priceless and brings each scene to life, and the wind whipping along the snow gives me a little shiver of cold air along the freshly fallen snow. However, with Jeff at such a low level, why the heck do I have to fight Gruff Goats that can take me down in two turns easy? I died so many times trying to make it through this area my first time through, not realizing I needed to carefully grind for several levels. Fortunately, I was able to utilize the Bubble Monkey, hangout with the Tessie-Watching Club, and get through the satirical dungeon.
As a 12 year old, I didn't make the connection of numbered towns until I made it to Twoson. It's a funny little thing to go from Onett to Twoson to Threed and so on. I was also originally blown away that a psychic girl was communicating with me in my dreams whenever I slept at the hotel or my house. I felt genuine urgency to come and help this girl. So, I grabbed a free bike rental from the shop, wandered through the shops in Burglin park and marveled at the opportunity to shop through three levels of the Dept. store. This time through, I was all business. Head to Apple Kid, order a small Mach Pizza and head to Peaceful Rest Valley. Man, those stupid Lil' UFO's are killer! I feel like I can never hit them, and then I get hit with a beam that gives me a Cold. It is clever to have a minor poison be called a cold, and I lost 4 HP do to sneezing every turn. Then I got blasted with those Territorial Oaks that burst into flames when they die doing well over 2x damage than my max HP, every time I hammered on the A button to exit the battle and try to save as much HP possible.
Blue Blue. Blue, Blue. Blue? I stepped into Happy Valley that had been turned Blue... literally. The irony is that I didn't get that until this playthrough when one of the NPC's in Twoson directly pointed it out. Hilarious. I loved seeing the blue cultists attack me with blue paintbrushes and yelling blue things. Blue Cow, FTW. Oh, and then fighting Mr. Carpainter (Car-Painter? *sigh*), you have to use the Franklin badge to deflect his lightning. Seriously, the localizers had a field day with this one. So, I freed Paula from her prison, level her awesome PSI powers, Paralyze the Mondo Mole and snag the 2nd "My Sanctuary" at the Lilliput steps. Blue town is Happy again.
I remember Earthbound very fondly from my formative days of video games as a 6th grader, itching to get my grubby little hands on any game I could. I had just been introduced to RPG's through Chrono Trigger months earlier, and my world had expanded beyond the bounds of just platformers, sports games and brawlers. Earthbound now sits as a treasure in my memorial basket, and I have decided to revisit my treasured memory for your browsing pleasure and my desire to recapture that distant joy.
I'm truly pleased to find myself back in Onett. Reacquainted with characters like Buzz Buzz, my dog and Franky from the back of the arcade, I found the dialog to be delightfully humorous. Whether it's my dog's color commentary or the random talking Sharks, I found myself laughing every three or four minutes from a subtle punchline to a hilarious, fourth-wall busting moment. It still feels great to get that Mr. Baseball Cap upgrade and buy my first bat - even if it's just a Tee-ball bat. The Spiteful crows reminded me again, why I hated them so much - he stole my Bread Roll. What a jerk! It's the highest level healing item at the beginning of the game, and, in my first battle, he stole it. Unbelievable. Regardless, I grind my way past Sharks, get flattened by Franky, grind some more, obliterate Franky, happily eat a hamburger and quickly take down the Giant Ant at the Giant Step for the first Sanctuary location.