- "[...] Take the HP display, for example. If you get hit for five points, your HP goes down by five. The meter sort of spins, like a drum roll. You know those odometers in cars? The numbers spin and drop, “doo-doo-doo-doo”. Of course the numbers are displayed, but at the same time there’s this sensation we get from that visualization of a drum roll. I wanted to make it subconsciously entertaining. And I wanted to make a video game that didn’t just reek of–well, video games."
- — Shigesato Itoi
The rolling HP meter has can be either very advantageous (or disadvantageous) to the player because it gives crucial time for a character to increase their health before being afflicted by Unconsciousness, but enemies can use this to their advantage as well. When a character takes damage, their HP meter will decrease or "roll" until all of the damage is taken, but until all the damage is taken, it can be stopped by ending the battle or healing the character. For low levels, the rate of "rolling" is generally too fast for any effects to be important, but for higher levels, strategy involving the rolling counter becomes more important.
This effect essentially prevents characters from dying until their HP has decreased to zero, so even if a character has taken Mortal damage, they can be saved. A character can still use regular battle actions while they are taking damage, including repeated amounts of mortal damage. This also applies to when HP is increasing as well, so if a character uses a healing item, the healing can be interrupted by a sufficiently powerful enemy attack. However, once the player reaches his turn again, he can wait as long as he wants for the rolling meter to heal back to full health before entering new commands, or if his life is in danger due to mortal damage, he can enter commands as fast as possible to ensure that healing takes place before the meter reaches 0. Proper use of this system is very beneficial to combat success.
In EarthBound, unconsciousness is only induced in a player character if that character's HP meter is at 0 at the beginining of execution of any action by a player or enemy. This means that, if the gauge reaches 0 just after a character executes a healing spell on that character, he or she will be saved, but if the gauge reaches 0 just before then, he or she will fall unconscious first and the spell will be wasted. Curiously, if any character hits 0 HP during the command entry stage, the character will not die until commands are finished, leading to a false feeling that he or she can still be saved. However, immediately upon finishing all command entry, he or she will fall unconscious before anyone can take an action (including running away).
The same rules for the HP meter apply to the PP meter, yet its usage has very little effect on gameplay because the PP meter almost always reaches its appropriate final value before it can be used again in another turn.
- ↑ http://yomuka.wordpress.com/2009/04/30/famitsu-06191992/ A translated interview with Shigesato Itoi, held by Weekly Famitsu on June 19, 1992