Mento's Alternative to E3 2018 Day -2: A Randomized EarthBound

Avatar image for mento
Mento

4520

Forum Posts

531552

Wiki Points

462

Followers

Reviews: 39

User Lists: 187

Edited By Mento  Moderator

Welcome, E3 asylum seekers, to a new edition of Mento's Alternative to E3 series. This is Your Sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle going on in the LA Convention Center, or at least the hustle and bustle that's due to start three days from now, hence the slightly weird numbering for these days. Thanks EA.

To pass the blissful time away from all that noise, I'm going to be checking out a gaggle of randomizer hacks throughout the week. If you're not familiar with these I'd like to point you towards this series of LP blogs for the A Link to the Past Randomizer I started back in April for a crash course on the concept. For the sake of expediency, it's simply adding an element of procedural generation to a game that previously lacked it or, in the few cases that had procgen, accelerating what already exists to some extent. I wanted to find a batch of six randomizer hacks that offered something a little different to A Link to the Past's chest randomizer, though keep in mind that there's only so many gameplay elements that can undergo this treatment before it turns a once structurally-sound game into a terrifying and unplayable mess. The selected games are definitely on the right side of "playable", even if I can't make assurances that they won't still be terrifying.

Our first game is EarthBound: a traditional SNES JRPG in some respects, and an utterly strange narrative experience in many others. A perfect lab rat for an intravenous injection of the idiosyncratic, wouldn't you say?

E3 Day -2: "Haunted Bro"

No Caption Provided

The Game:Ape/HAL Laboratory's EarthBound, first released in 1994 for the Super Famicom as Mother 2.

The Randomizer:The EarthBound Reshuffler (V1.5).

The Rules of the Randomizer: The Reshuffler is what you might call a "soft" randomizer, as most of its changes are cosmetic in nature; switching the sprites around for NPCs as well as a rather robust name generator for the game's items, enemies, and even the game's subtitle. However, it does include enough gameplay changes to offer those looking for a fresh take on Shigesato Itoi's eccentric classic.

One of those gameplay changes affects the enemies. The enemies you meet in the game can have anything from their appearance and name to their attack patterns changed, but their stats have only been edited to a minor degree - this means that the game can be played normally without running into some overpowered wandering encounter or boss. Enemies might have advanced psionics or confer late-game status effects, but will still hit about as hard as those weakling snakes and birds you'd normally be fighting from the outset.

The other major gameplay change is one similar to A Link to the Past: you can randomize the contents of non-story-essential item boxes, granting advanced equipment early (or weak equipment late) as well as acquiring various character-specific items for party members you have yet to recruit. A little game-breaky perhaps, but you don't have to use what they give you: stores still sell the same equipment they always have, albeit with different names, if you want to proceed with the intended equipment progression.

The Playthrough:

Didn't really make much of an effort creating names. All save Ness and
Didn't really make much of an effort creating names. All save Ness and "coolest thing" were random choices the game provides you. It's kind of an odd coincidence that one of Jeff's alternative names is Dan. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps?
Welcome to EarthBound: Death Wave! That cool subtitle was given to me courtesy of a name generator. There'll be a lot of that in this brief playthrough.
Welcome to EarthBound: Death Wave! That cool subtitle was given to me courtesy of a name generator. There'll be a lot of that in this brief playthrough.
As per usual, Ness is awoken by a sound at night, and checks in with his sister, the Exit Mouse. You'll notice that the item box sprite is different too: I believe that's the zoomed-out version you see in the Lost Underground map.
As per usual, Ness is awoken by a sound at night, and checks in with his sister, the Exit Mouse. You'll notice that the item box sprite is different too: I believe that's the zoomed-out version you see in the Lost Underground map.
In retrospect, poking around in a box at the foot of my sister's bed was just asking for trouble.
In retrospect, poking around in a box at the foot of my sister's bed was just asking for trouble.
Just kidding! The Soft Wand is the new randomized name for the Cracked Bat, Ness's first weapon. As you can see, it has the same meagre offense boost. This is one of those chests that didn't get randomized, due to it being essential that you find this weapon here.
Just kidding! The Soft Wand is the new randomized name for the Cracked Bat, Ness's first weapon. As you can see, it has the same meagre offense boost. This is one of those chests that didn't get randomized, due to it being essential that you find this weapon here.
Mom's, uh, ready for a night out on the town it looks like. My dog Sparky, meanwhile, appears unusually avuncular.
Mom's, uh, ready for a night out on the town it looks like. My dog Sparky, meanwhile, appears unusually avuncular.
This is the prologue, which means the Onett police have set up a barricade to the rest of the town (it's what they're famous for, after all). I don't recall the local cops hiring my obnoxious neighbor Pokey and a random zombie, but I guess you take what you can get in a town this small.
This is the prologue, which means the Onett police have set up a barricade to the rest of the town (it's what they're famous for, after all). I don't recall the local cops hiring my obnoxious neighbor Pokey and a random zombie, but I guess you take what you can get in a town this small.
Picky's also different to how I remember him. I seem to be seeing this woman a lot.
Picky's also different to how I remember him. I seem to be seeing this woman a lot.
Ack, sorry Giant Eyes, I'll go right home.
Ack, sorry Giant Eyes, I'll go right home.
It's a good idea to poke your head inside coffins whenever possible, especially if they have weird sticks inside.
It's a good idea to poke your head inside coffins whenever possible, especially if they have weird sticks inside.
Ah. Well, this would be one of those occasions where a randomizer perhaps took it a little too easy on me. I'm not too distressed though, because the early game with solo Ness can drag a bit. Nice to have something that can hurry the early battles along.
Ah. Well, this would be one of those occasions where a randomizer perhaps took it a little too easy on me. I'm not too distressed though, because the early game with solo Ness can drag a bit. Nice to have something that can hurry the early battles along.
The Onett police sure are a shady-looking bunch. Meanwhile, Pokey's turned into that diamond Evangelion Angel and Paula is just staring intently at that wall. I'd really like to get past them all so I can get to where my own ghost is sitting, but that's going to have to wait until later.
The Onett police sure are a shady-looking bunch. Meanwhile, Pokey's turned into that diamond Evangelion Angel and Paula is just staring intently at that wall. I'd really like to get past them all so I can get to where my own ghost is sitting, but that's going to have to wait until later.
Back home, we're roused from our slumber yet again by someone knocking at the door. It's so loud it's even woken up my mother, the transparent tapeworm. (A weird thing is that the game will keep randomizing sprites for the same character, but only some of them.)
Back home, we're roused from our slumber yet again by someone knocking at the door. It's so loud it's even woken up my mother, the transparent tapeworm. (A weird thing is that the game will keep randomizing sprites for the same character, but only some of them.)
Why, it's my old friend Poo from the Kingdom of Dalaam. It must be something really pressing if he's travelled all this way.
Why, it's my old friend Poo from the Kingdom of Dalaam. It must be something really pressing if he's travelled all this way.
Curiously, when someone joins your party their sprites return to normal. Also, the moment someone leaves the party, their sprite changes to something random. It's like Ness's intrinsic psionic ability can only keep his form and those around him stable from the chaos that Giygas is spreading.
Curiously, when someone joins your party their sprites return to normal. Also, the moment someone leaves the party, their sprite changes to something random. It's like Ness's intrinsic psionic ability can only keep his form and those around him stable from the chaos that Giygas is spreading.
They sure look intimidating, but these are the same minor scrubs that normally accost Ness at this point of the game.
They sure look intimidating, but these are the same minor scrubs that normally accost Ness at this point of the game.
So to reiterate how the randomized monsters work: their stats are about the same as the monsters you'd normally fight in this area, but their range of attacks is contingent on whatever their sprite is. This crocodile will hit you with attacks that cause you to freeze up, which isn't great when you only have the one character.
So to reiterate how the randomized monsters work: their stats are about the same as the monsters you'd normally fight in this area, but their range of attacks is contingent on whatever their sprite is. This crocodile will hit you with attacks that cause you to freeze up, which isn't great when you only have the one character.
This gigantic mole, meanwhile, will... oh, I guess it's so weak that I instantly killed it. Probably the fault of that stupidly strong weapon I picked up. Well, that saves me some time at least.
This gigantic mole, meanwhile, will... oh, I guess it's so weak that I instantly killed it. Probably the fault of that stupidly strong weapon I picked up. Well, that saves me some time at least.
The only other enemy up here is this Burly Stalker, who would normally be the greatly-named Unassuming Local Guy.
The only other enemy up here is this Burly Stalker, who would normally be the greatly-named Unassuming Local Guy.
Finally, it's time for some self-reflection. Incidentally, there's an option to also include gigantic sprites (like Dungeon Man) in the randomization pool, but the game warns you that they can block vital exits if you're unlucky with their spawns.
Finally, it's time for some self-reflection. Incidentally, there's an option to also include gigantic sprites (like Dungeon Man) in the randomization pool, but the game warns you that they can block vital exits if you're unlucky with their spawns.
After finding Buzz-Buzz, we are of course met by one of the game's recurring Starman enemies. Only here he's some kind of fuchsia rock monster. He managed to hit me with the Cold status effect: the game's equivalent of Poison, but even more annoying.
After finding Buzz-Buzz, we are of course met by one of the game's recurring Starman enemies. Only here he's some kind of fuchsia rock monster. He managed to hit me with the Cold status effect: the game's equivalent of Poison, but even more annoying.
We bring the Minch boys home to their parents, Lier X. Agerate and Flowey the Flower from Undertale.
We bring the Minch boys home to their parents, Lier X. Agerate and Flowey the Flower from Undertale.
Alas, this is where Mrs. Minch squishes poor Buzz-Buzz, revealing that he was a future version of Jeff all along. Man, the revelations you get in this new mode.
Alas, this is where Mrs. Minch squishes poor Buzz-Buzz, revealing that he was a future version of Jeff all along. Man, the revelations you get in this new mode.
Before dying, Buzz-Buzz hands us the all-important Floppy Fossil. To show proper decorum for his passing, I swallow a
Before dying, Buzz-Buzz hands us the all-important Floppy Fossil. To show proper decorum for his passing, I swallow a "that's what my girlfriend calls it" joke.
Oh hey, it looks like the Fuzzy Pickles photographer is the same as always. I guess he was random enough already.
Oh hey, it looks like the Fuzzy Pickles photographer is the same as always. I guess he was random enough already.
Oh, and it looks like he has a side gig as a librarian too? Figures he'd have maps, given he always knows where to find me.
Oh, and it looks like he has a side gig as a librarian too? Figures he'd have maps, given he always knows where to find me.
The trash coffin outside the Burger Shop has food items for the less picky eaters out there. Thank God there's an in-game explanation for what items do, otherwise I wouldn't be able to keep all these healing consumables straight.
The trash coffin outside the Burger Shop has food items for the less picky eaters out there. Thank God there's an in-game explanation for what items do, otherwise I wouldn't be able to keep all these healing consumables straight.
The arcade punks have been exchanged for this Possessive Swamp Gas (
The arcade punks have been exchanged for this Possessive Swamp Gas ("swamp gas" is a very clever name alternative for a UFO enemy) and an enormous dinosaur. I'm going to guess that one's more into retro gaming.
Wow, the arcade patrons kind of look like... what I expect arcade patrons to look like. A dork, an old man, and a snake someone accidentally let in.
Wow, the arcade patrons kind of look like... what I expect arcade patrons to look like. A dork, an old man, and a snake someone accidentally let in.
Here we find our first Jeff weapon. Jeff kind of messes up the randomizer item pool a bit - there's a huge number of random objects in the game that are either items only he can use, or items he can use to create other items. The odds of finding a strong Ness weapon like that Ghastly Stick were fairly remote, I suspect. It's mostly food items and Jeff components from here on out.
Here we find our first Jeff weapon. Jeff kind of messes up the randomizer item pool a bit - there's a huge number of random objects in the game that are either items only he can use, or items he can use to create other items. The odds of finding a strong Ness weapon like that Ghastly Stick were fairly remote, I suspect. It's mostly food items and Jeff components from here on out.
To be fair, Ness is approaching an age where he finds titillation everywhere. Even this creepy old gangster looks hot.
To be fair, Ness is approaching an age where he finds titillation everywhere. Even this creepy old gangster looks hot.
Neither Frank nor his Frankystein Mk. II, which is now this happy taxi from
Neither Frank nor his Frankystein Mk. II, which is now this happy taxi from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", create much of a roadblock thanks to this creepy stick I stole from a corpse. Honestly, I'm glad I can sidestep this guy; this is often a tough battle to deal with.
I'll leave you with Mayor B.H. Pirkle embellishing my fight with the Sharks, even though I secretly suspect he's one of the Runaway Five.
I'll leave you with Mayor B.H. Pirkle embellishing my fight with the Sharks, even though I secretly suspect he's one of the Runaway Five.

The EarthBound Reshuffler is cute, but kinda inconsequential. I suppose if you were playing or streaming EarthBound a lot, it'd be a handy tool for a bit of visual flair for subsequent playthroughs, having a chuckle at who the game chooses to recast for various roles. I'm more interested in the item variance from the gift boxes and the way the randomized enemies work, but despite the different attacks it's usually the stats of the creature - the HP, strength, and whatnot - that make the difference in battles. I say that, having avoided any fights with status effects that might've turned me into a rock and caused an instant game over, so I should count my blessings I suppose.

All in all, it doesn't do a whole lot to the core gaming experience, but then EarthBound didn't really need much improving. Perhaps a randomizer that's more in the silly spirit of the game is a better fit than something that shakes everything up too much. I'll give it a passing grade, but I think if I'm ever going to play through EarthBound again it'll be via my unmodified (and completely legal) Wii U Virtual Console version.

Rating: B-.

(NB: These ratings are for the randomizer hack, not the games themselves.)

Day -2: EarthBoundDay -1: Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Day 0: Super Mario WorldDay 1: Final Fantasy Tactics
Day 2: Pokémon FireRedDay 3: Secret of Mana
Avatar image for jeremyf
jeremyf

555

Forum Posts

2962

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 12

User Lists: 9

This does look cool. Wish there was a little more to it, but inherently you can do less with this type of game than Zelda.

Avatar image for arbitrarywater
ArbitraryWater

15932

Forum Posts

5508

Wiki Points

0

Followers

Reviews: 8

User Lists: 58

I’m very into the concept of this feature. I think it’ll be hard to find a randomizer as crazy or fully-featured as Link to the Past, but I’m certainly excited to see you try.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.