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EarthBound

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For the first game in the Mother series that was localized for North America under the name Earth Bound, see Mother (video game).
EarthBound
EarthBoundBox
North American boxart
Developer(s) Ape, Inc.
Nintendo
HAL Laboratory
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Designer(s) Shigesato Itoi (producer, director, scenario writer)
Keiichi Suzuki (composer)
Hirokazu Tanaka (composer)
Series Mother
Resolution
Platform(s) Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii U
Genre Role-playing game
Mode(s) Single-player
Rating(s) ESRB: K-A (Kids to Adults) (original)
ESRB: T (Teen) (current)
Media 24-megabit cartridge, Downloadable content
Input methods Super NES controller, Wii U Gamepad

EarthBound (MOTHER2ギーグの逆襲 Mazā Tsū Gīgu no Gyakushū, officially translated as Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back!), also known as EarthBound: The War Against Giygas!, is the second installment in the Mother series, developed by Ape, Inc., Nintendo, and HAL Laboratory, Inc. and published by Nintendo. The game was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System on August 27, 1994 in Japan and on June 1, 1995 in North America. It was designed and directed by Shigesato Itoi, with music by Hiroshi Kanazu, Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka.

EarthBound chronicles the adventures of Ness, a 13-year-old boy who journeys around the world using his psychic powers to collect eight melodies in order to save the future from an alien of pure evil, intending to sentence all of reality to the horror of eternal darkness.

Despite being successful in Japan, the North American version was released to a poor commercial response. Years later, the game is now lauded by gamers worldwide for its humorous depictions of American culture and parody of the RPG video game genre, and has since become a cult classic.

EarthBound was released on Nintendo's Virtual Console service for the first time on March 20, 2013 in Japan and July 18, 2013 in North America, and for the first time, Australia and Europe.

A sequel to EarthBound, titled Mother 3 was released only in Japan on April 20, 2006, and has yet to see a western release.


GameplayEdit

EarthBound-battle
Ness battling a Starman Junior
GrislyGrizzlyAdded by GrislyGrizzly

EarthBound features many traditional RPG elements; the player controls a party of characters who travel through the game's two dimensional world that is composed of villages, cities, and dungeons. Along the way, battles are fought against enemies, after which, the party receives experience points for victories. If enough experience points are acquired, a character's level will increase. This increases the character's attributes, like strength, defense, and health. EarthBound breaks traditional RPG features by not utilizing an overworld map. Instead, the world is entirely seamless, with no differentiation between towns and the outside world. Another non-traditional element is the perspective used for the world. The game uses oblique projection, while most 2-D RPGs use a "top down" view on a grid or an isometric perspective.

EarthBound, unlike its predecessor Mother, does not utilize random battles. When physical contact occurs between a character and an enemy, the screen switches to battle mode. In combat, characters and enemies possess a certain amount of hit points. Successive blows to an enemy reduces the amount of hit points. Once an enemy's hit points reach zero, they are defeated. In battle, the player is allowed to choose specific actions for their characters. These actions can include attacking, healing, or the use of items. Characters can also use special PSI attacks that require "psychic points." Once each character is assigned a command, the characters and enemies perform their actions in a set order, determined by character speed. Whenever a character receives damage, the hit point box gradually "rolls" down, similar to an odometer. This allows players an opportunity to heal the character or win the battle before the counter hits zero, after which the character is knocked unconscious. If all characters are rendered unconscious, the game ends. Because battles are not random, tactical advantages can be gained. If the player physically contacts an enemy from behind, the player is given a first-strike priority. However, this also applies to enemies, who can also engage the party from behind. Uniquely, as Ness and his friends become stronger, battles with weaker enemies are eventually won automatically, forgoing the entire battle sequence altogether.

Currency is indirectly received from Ness's father, who can also save the game's progress. Each time the party wins a battle, Ness's father deposits money in an account that can be withdrawn at ATMs. In towns, players can visit various department stores where weapons, armor, and items can be bought. Weapons and armor can be equipped to increase character strength and defense, respectively. In addition, items can be used for a number of purposes, such as healing. Towns also house several other useful facilities such as hospitals where players can be healed for a fee.

PlotEdit

CharactersEdit

Main article: List of characters in EarthBound

EarthBound takes place on Earth in the year 199X in the country of Eagleland. Throughout the game, there are four playable characters come to compose the party in the game; Ness, Paula, Jeff Andonuts and Poo. Ness remains the lead character, a silent protagonist, for the entirety of the story. He is a young boy from Onett and is characterized by his love for baseball. He also possesses psychic abilities strong enough to affect cosmic events. Paula is the second main character in the game. She is a young girl from Twoson where her mother runs a preschool out of their home. Like Ness, she also possesses powerful psychic abilities. Jeff, the third character to join the party, is a young boy who resides at a boarding school in the northern country of Winters in the region of Foggyland. The son of the famed professor Dr. Andonuts, Jeff is a child prodigy who can fix almost anything. The last character to be acquired is Poo. He is the oldest of the group, a residing prince from the distant land of Dalaam in the far east region of Chommo. He is presented as a powerful martial arts master.

StoryEdit

Mother 2 Crash Site
Buzz Buzz appears moments after a bright light engulfs the meteor
GrislyGrizzlyAdded by GrislyGrizzly
The story begins when Ness is awakened by a meteor that has plummeted to the earth near his home, whereupon he proceeds to investigate the crash site. When Ness gets to the crash site he discovers a police road block and Pokey Minch, his friend and neighbor, who tells him to go home. Later, Ness is woken up again by Pokey knocking at his door, demanding help to find his brother Picky. They find him near the meteor sleeping behind a tree and wake him up. Then the three encounter an insect from the meteor named Buzz Buzz who informs Ness that he is from the future where the "universal cosmic destroyer", Giygas, dominates the planet. Buzz Buzz senses great potential in Ness and instructs him to embark on a journey to seek out and record the melodies of eight "sanctuaries," unite his own powers with the Earth's and gain the strength required to confront Giygas.

After an encounter with some hostile gang members, Ness reaches the first sanctuary on a mountain above his hometown. He then proceeds to the next town, Twoson, where he rescues a girl named Paula from the Happy Happyist Cult and discovers that Pokey (who has been the high priest of cult) is working against him. Together, Ness and Paula discover the second sanctuary. With the help of the Runaway Five, a band that Ness and Paula free from debt, the two arrive in Threed, where they are ambushed and captured. While in captivity, Paula sends a telepathic message to a boy named Jeff, who resides at a boarding school. Jeff responds to the message and acquires his father's Sky Runner, a flying vehicle, in order to reach Threed. After crashing the Sky Runner, Jeff rescues Ness and Paula and joins their group. The three of them travel to Saturn Valley, a land populated by a strange race of creatures called Mr. Saturns. There, the party learns that a monster has been kidnapping the populace. Ness and the group proceed to defeat the monster and reach the third sanctuary above Saturn Valley. The party then travels through the desert to reach the next city.

Mother 2 Summers
Screenshot depicting Ness, Paula, Jeff and Poo as they travel through Summers
GrislyGrizzlyAdded by GrislyGrizzly

Upon reaching Fourside, the group again helps the Runaway Five out of debt and visits a department store only to have Paula kidnapped. Ness and Jeff proceed to find her, and along the way, destroy a hallucination-projecting relic called the Evil Mani Mani statue. The two boys continue their search only to discover that Pokey and the Mayor have taken Paula. However, because Ness and Jeff defeated the Evil Mani Mani statue, the mayor returns to normal. Pokey escapes in the Mayor's helicopter and Paula rejoins the group. After returning to Threed, Jeff repairs the Sky Runner, and they set flight for Winters to discover the fourth sanctuary. The group then cross the ocean and arrive in Summers where Ness falls unconscious and dreams of a far-off land known as Dalaam. There, a young prince named Poo has completed his training and is instructed to join the party on their journey. The group then returns to Fourside and are able to discover the fifth sanctuary.

The four then procure a boat and travel to Scaraba where they explore a pyramid in the desert. Ness and the group then travel to Dalaam and find the sixth sanctuary there, after which they acquire a submarine and travel into the Deep Darkness, a path leading them under the earth. There, they find Tenda Village, a small community populated by extremely shy creatures. After acquiring the book of overcoming shyness, Ness is able to speak to the shy villagers who allow them passage to the Lost Underworld. There, they discover the last two sanctuaries.

Upon activating the final sanctuary, Ness falls unconscious and enters a strange world composed of his dreams, Magicant. There, he encounters his nightmare. After defeating it, Magicant vanishes, and Ness becomes much stronger because he has conquered Giygas's influence over him. After awakening, Ness and the group return to Saturn Valley where Jeff's father, Dr. Andonuts, has finished the Phase Distorter, a time traveling device. Dr. Andonuts explains the kids that the machine cannot warp them to the past in their current form since life cannot withstand the warp through time. In other words, time travel would likely destroy their human bodies. To remedy this problem, Dr. Andonuts proposes to them to have their souls transplanted into robotic bodies, warning them that he doesn't know whether or not the process is reversible. Despite this critical warning, Ness, Paula, Jeff and Poo are willing to take the risk. Now in the form of robots, Ness and his friends use the Phase Distorter to travel to the past where they encounter Pokey and Giygas, who, in order to contain his massive power, has been sealed inside the Devil's Machine. Pokey informs the group that Giygas became so powerful that his mind was completely destroyed, referring to him as an "all-mighty idiot". The group defeat Pokey, who then shuts off the Devil's Machine and releases Giygas, trapping the kids in a chaotic dimension composed of his own indefinable being. Since Giygas is too powerful for Ness and his friends to overcome by fighting, Paula begins to pray, reaching out to the inhabitants of the Earth, including family members and friends, who all pray for their safety, and eventually, she reaches out to the player. The combined prayers of both Earth's inhabitants and the player reach Giygas and exploit his weakness, which turns out to be human emotions. As a result, Giygas vanishes from existence. with all the damage he had done to Eagleland and the rest of the Earth erased from history, the souls of Ness and his friends depart from their robot bodies, travel back to the present and return to their respective bodies. After bidding each other farewell, the heroes return to their homes.

After the ending credits, Picky Minch comes to Ness's house in the middle of the night and gives him a letter from Pokey that says "Come and get me loser. Spankety, spankety, spankety!", and the game ends with him and Ness pondering what has become of him.

DevelopmentEdit

Mother 2 Concept Art
Concept art depicting Ness and his dog, King, standing in front of their home
GrislyGrizzlyAdded by GrislyGrizzly

Development on EarthBound took place as a joint effort between Ape, Inc. and HAL Laboratory, Inc. and was designed by Shigesato Itoi. The total development time for the project was five years, much longer than was initially expected. Of this, Itoi has stated that many times he felt the project was "doomed". Because two companies were working on EarthBound, responsibilities were spread out between the two studios. Ape had more people working on the title and oversaw the data aspects of the game while HAL worked on the programming. Because the two studios were based at separate locations, employees would regularly have to travel between the studios to work.

Initial gameplay features that Itoi had in mind involved an unconventional level structure and hit points system. Itoi decided to exclude an overworld, because he wanted no distinction to remain between towns and the outside world. This resulted in each town being carefully designed to be unique. The first design concepts for the hit point boxes were to make them like pachinko balls and have them fall off the screen whenever a character was damaged. However, this was later changed to the "rolling counter" hit point boxes because the pachinko balls did not work so well when characters had large amounts of hit points.

EarthBound is also host to a unique kind of copy protection. When played, the game continually checks the legitimacy of its cartridge. If it is determined to be an unauthorized duplicate, it begins spawning enemies at an unusually higher rate than normal. If the player is able to overcome this challenge and reaches the game's final encounter, Giygas, the game would freeze in the middle of the battle, at which point all saved games are permanently deleted.

Some of the difficulties posed by the development of EarthBound were the data restrictions imposed by the Super Nintendo Entertainment System cartridge size. It was initially designed to fit on an 8 megabit cartridge. However, it was later pushed to 12 megabits and then finally pushed onto a 24 megabit cartridge. This can partially be attributed to the large amount of music composed for the title. Other aspects of the project that remained difficult were programming concepts. The oblique projection techniques proved difficult to program and were time consuming as well. The bicycle and delivery man systems posed problems as well due to their own complex programming schemes.

Some aspects of the character designs remain very personal for Shigesato Itoi. In an interview on his website, Itoi describes how his inspiration for the final battle with Giygas resulted from a "traumatic" childhood event. When Itoi was a very little boy, he accidentally viewed the wrong movie at a theater, a Shintōhō film entitled The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty. According to Itoi the film featured a graphic rape scene near a river that traumatized Itoi so much that his parents began to worry about his well-being. Years later, Itoi integrated the experience into Giygas's dialogue for the final battle.

Nintendo eventually announced a release date of August 27, 1994 for Japan, and invested a large amount of money into promoting the new game. Other efforts included bundling a full length strategy guide with the game, complete in a bigger box, and affixing a price much lower than other titles at the time. Scratch and sniff stickers also came bundled with the game. EarthBound was released in Japan on August 27, 1994, and was well received. The North American version was released almost a year later on June 1, 1995, and was met with lukewarm responses.

A sequel was announced three years later for the Nintendo 64DD, entitled EarthBound 64 or Mother 3. However, the game became plagued by problems as release date pushbacks occurred, as well as failures to appear at popular gaming conventions, like E3. Nintendo eventually announced its cancellation on August 21, 2000. Years later, Mother 3 resurfaced as a Game Boy Advance title and was released only in Japan. On May 5, 2005, Shigesato Itoi announced that he had no plans to develop the Mother series any further. After the development of the Wii system, it was expected that EarthBound will be released for the Virtual Console, but due to supposed copyright issues involving music sampling, and Nintendo of Japan's refusal to let the game be modified, it was stated that EarthBound would never be re-released outside of Japan.

However, during the Nintendo Direct show on April 17, 2013, Nintendo announced that EarthBound would be re-released for the Wii U's Virtual Console in America and Europe in 2013. The Japanese version was already re-released in March of the same year. On July 18, 2013, EarthBound was suddenly released on the Wii U Virtual Console for $9.99. As of August 2013, Earthbound is 1# on the VC in most of Europe and is 2nd place in America, behind Donkey Kong.

MusicEdit

Main article: Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back

EarthBound's soundtrack, Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back, was released on compact disc and cassette tape by Sony Records on November 2, 1994. It consists of twenty-four tracks, three of which are remixes. Some songs from EarthBound appear in Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl in their original or remixed form.

Development of the music for EarthBound remained much easier than its predecessor. In an interview with Weekly Famitsu, Keiichi Suzuki commented on how the Super Nintendo Entertainment System gave the composers much more freedom to compose what they wanted. Suzuki also cited John Lennon as an influential figure to all the composers while the soundtrack was being developed. EarthBound is controversially known for its heavy use of sampling popular music, a factor which has prevented it from being re-released.

Throughout the game, a distinct UFO-like sound effect can be heard in many themes, most noticably at the start of Otherworldly Foe. The noise can be heard in places such as nighttime Onett, and inside caverns. The sound also appears in Mother 3, most noticably in the room of the Empire Porky Building following the Hall of Memories. Coincidentially, the theme is the "Nighttime Onett" theme from one of the earliest segments of the game.

ReceptionEdit

EarthBound became a great success in Japan, eventually rising to #1 on Weekly Famitsu's top 30 chart along with hearty recommendations by the magazine reviewers. Commercial reactions in America, on the other hand, were much lower than Nintendo had anticipated. American audiences were largely indifferent to Japanese RPGs, and would remain this way until titles like Final Fantasy VII took the genre into the mainstream. Years later, many American critics have praised the game for being ahead of its time, as well as for its storyline, graphics, and particularly, its humor. In the June 2008 issue of Nintendo Power, EarthBound was revealed to be the #1 "Readers' Most Wanted" Virtual Console title, with Mother close behind at #2.

ReviewsEdit

Reviews of EarthBound have generally been positive. In Allgame's review, EarthBound was declared "one of the most original role-playing games of the 1990s." The site then went on to praise its storyline, humor, and characters. A point of contention between critics were the simplistic graphics. In All RPG's review of the game, the graphics were described as "horrid," while Nintendojo and 1UP enjoyed them, with 1UP going so far as to say "regardless of what anyone tells you, the graphics are awesome." 1UP also criticized the title's similarities to Dragon Quest, but in the end declared EarthBound a game "worth experiencing." Nintendojo and Gamasutra also criticized the similarities to Dragon Quest, with Gamasutra declaring EarthBound an "unabashed Dragon Quest clone..." Despite the criticism, Gamasutra regarded the title as "as one of the greatest RPGs on the SNES." The game's audio was also praised, with All RPG declaring it "some of the best music on the Super Nintendo." Of all EarthBound's elements, however, the most lauded was its humor, being universally praised by all critics for its comedic, albeit confusing, depictions of American culture and parody of the RPG genre.

LegacyEdit

SSBB Ness
Ness, as he appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl
GrislyGrizzlyAdded by GrislyGrizzly

EarthBound is regarded by critics as one of the greatest RPGs on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as one of the best of the 1990s. The game has also become a cult classic and possesses substantial fanbases in both Japan and North America. As a result, the game regularly appears on readers' choice polls in both countries. In a 2005 readers' choice poll of the top 99 best games of all time conducted by IGN, EarthBound was voted 46th on the list. A year later, IGN conducted a similar readers' choice poll where EarthBound moved up to be 33rd on the list. The game has also appeared on lists conducted by the Japanese. In a 2006 readers' poll conducted by Famitsu magazine, the game was voted the 37th best game of all time on a list of 100 titles. In an introspective of the 20 essential Japanese RPGs, Gamasutra featured EarthBound on the list.

Super Smash Bros. seriesEdit

EarthBound is one of the many Nintendo franchises featured extensively in the Super Smash Bros. series, having playable characters, stages, music tracks, trophies, and stickers representing the series.

Super Smash Bros.Edit

Ness appears as an unlockable character in the first Super Smash Bros. game on the Nintendo 64, marking his first appearnace in 3D, although he and Captain Falcon are the only characters that appear without having a stage from their respective games.

Super Smash Bros. MeleeEdit

Ness appears again in Super Smash Bros. Melee, this time as a starting character in the roster. Onett and Fourside appear as stages, and nine trophies from EarthBound appear, Ness, a Mr. Saturn, a Starman, a UFO, Jeff Andonuts Paula, Poo, and two other trophies of Ness's special moves in the game..

Super Smash Bros. BrawlEdit

Ness again appears as an unlockable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. The Mother franchise also gets another playable fighter joining the fray in the form of Lucas from Mother 3, appearing as a starter character. Lucas' appearance in the game marks not only his first 3D appearance, but his first appearance outside of Japan as well. The Onett stage from Melee reappears as a Classic Stage, joined by New Pork City as a new stage and the largest stage in the game. The stage features the Ultimate Chimera, capable of instant KO's to players who run into it. The six EarthBound-based trophies that appear are Ness, his Final Smash of PK Starstorm, Franklin Badge, Mr. Saturn, Jeff, and Porky (despite using his Mother 3appearance). The eight EarthBound-based stickers used are Ness and his party, Mr. Saturn, Starman, Master Belch, and Porky (using his EarthBound appearance).

Fan worksEdit

Since gaining a large cult following, EarthBound's fanbase have created a variety of work, ranging from fanmade games to drawings.

EarthBound's soundtrack has also been completely remixed by fans and released as a free downloadable tribute album entitled Bound Together. The album encompasses 48 tracks and includes performances from well known video game cover bands, such as the OneUps, as well as various artists from remixing communities like OverClocked ReMix.

Trivia Edit

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