EarthBound, known as MOTHER 2 in Japan, is a 1994 Japanese role-playing video game co-developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game console.
Bold indicates a major character, italic and bold together indicate a playable character.
As Ness, the player travels the world to collect eight sacred melodies of his childhood, battling eight Your Sanctuary enemies respectively, and hordes of other, sometimes unconventional choices for, enemies, in order to gain enough power to defeat the evil about to take control of the world, Giygas.
First, a meteorite wakes him up and he steps outside to investigate ground zero, only to be greeted with a police roadblock and neighbour Pokey Minch instructs him to go back home. The both of them, when Ness makes a second trip outside for the night, encounter an insect dubbed Buzz Buzz who informs Ness that he is from the future where the "universal cosmic destroyer" Giygas dominates the planet, and encourages him to embark on a journey to find and record the Eight Sanctuaries melodies and share his power among the Earth in order to correctly confront Giygas.
Along the way, he beats up a bunch of gang members, followed by the first Sanctuary guardian and the Onett (his town) police force, to proceed to Twoson, where he rescues a girl called Paula Jones from a horde of Happy Happyist insane cultists and discovers that Pokey is the priest of the cultist group, and then comes the second Sanctuary and a trip by the Runaway Five, a music band, to the next town, Threed.
Ness and Paula meet a bikini-clad woman, following them to a hotel room where monsters gang up on them both. Now kept captive, Paula telepathically communicates with boarding school student Jeff Andonuts to add another member, for Jeff to fly in an airship, crash-land, and then end up in the same telepathy-created room Ness and Paula end up in, and rescue them both. They gain the ability to teleport.
First destination: Saturn Valley, a land populated by a strange race of creatures known as Mr. Saturns, to learn that many of the creature have been kidnapped by a pile of puke, so Ness and the team proceed to defeat him by using the fly honey they created, and reach the third Sanctuary. They then travel to the desert, gateway to the metropolitan Fourside.
The Runaway Five, the same music band mentioned before, have fallen into debt, so Ness and his team proceed into a department store, where Paula gets kidnapped and has to be saved again, and then Fourside flashes in neon lights, people act as portals, yes and no switch roles, and then Fourside returns to normal after they beat a Mani Mani statue, and then find out that Pokey is again responsible, and then he escapes in a helicopter.
Jeff repairs his airship to set flight into his home Winters, where the fourth Sanctuary is located. He, Ness and Paula then cross the ocean to arrive at Summers, where Ness eats a magic cake, passes out and dreams of a far-off land named Dalaam, which turns out to be an actual place.
Prince Poo, after his Mu training, is chosen to join this group of three that becomes four, teleporting to Fourside to find the fifth Sanctuary. The group of now-four travel again by boat to an arid desert city named Scaraba, exploring a pyramid (Poo leaves for a bit for practice), and then back to Dalaam to find the sixth Sanctuary. They acquire a submarine from a giant stone creature known as Dungeon Man to take a submarine out of his mouth and use it to again travel by sea.
The destination is the Deep Darkness, located underground, where they fight the same pile of puke, this time without the fly honey. To make up for it, Poo suddenly swoops down from the sky and defeats the pile of puke by using his new power: PK/PSI Starstorm. A village of shy Tenda tribesmen are located here, and get handed a book to overcome shyness. What they speak of is the Lost Underworld, location of the final two Sanctuaries.
Endgame (spoiler alert!)
After finding and recording all eight Sanctuaries, Ness falls asleep for a while, creating Magicant, a strange world made up of his dreams, where he encounters the evil side of him in the form of a statue, turning the lights out for Magicant and having it absorbed into Ness, which radically levels him up.
He and his group of four then teleport to Saturn Valley to turn on a Phase Distorter (invented by Dr. Andonuts, Jeff's father) to battle Giygas from the past, which is his weak time spot, but warns them that they will die soon, if not immediately, if in their current bodies in the destined location, Cave of the Past, so their souls are transplanted into robots. Another warning: he doesn't know whether the process is reversible.
The group of four proceed to battle their final horde of enemies until Giygas, and then Pokey again appears, lands near the Devil's Machine, home to Giygas. They are notified that Giygas is so powerful his own mind was destroyed, Pokey branding him an "all-mighty idiot". The group battle Pokey, and soon he turns the Devil's Machine off, releasing Giygas from his slumber.
Giygas traps the children in a dimension of his own, also being so powerful that the only way to eventually defeat him is to use Paula to pray for the defeat of Giygas and spread this message across the whole world, and soon when Giygas is fatally wounded, Paula reaches out to the player to pray to finally defeat him, and erase him, and the damage he has done, out of existence.
After this, Ness's party of four leave their robot bodies, return to their human bodies, return home and bid each other farewell, Poo to Dalaam, Jeff stays with Dr. Andonuts, Paula to Twoson's Polestar Preschool (or back home to Ness), and Ness back to his home in Onett to look at pictures a photographer took for him.
A post-credits segment shows Ness waking up again, this time from Pokey's brother Picky knocking on his door to give him a bullying letter from Pokey, leaving Ness to wonder what has become of him. THE END...?
Why It Rocks
- A very funny RPG that doesn't take itself seriously but yet when there are moments when it does take itself seriously, it’s very effective.
- Bizarre and awesome soundtrack with many unique pieces.
- Humorous and quirky dialogue, often breaking the third wall, such as a bee from 10 years into the future, as if the game predicted its own legacy, or teasing a story about a creature from a vegetable soup, but making way for your game in order not to lure you in.
- The plot (see above) is so creative and unique it is even lauded as one of the best of any game. At first, this may seem like a kids' game, but it's so profound and deep it's one of the main reasons why Earthbound is lauded today.
- Contemporary setting, unique choice for a setting at the time, such as cities, visit malls, hotels, parks, etc. Other RPGs at the time just did a medieval fantasy world.
- Underlying themes tackling real-life issues such as corruption, terrorism and childhood trauma. All under a weak impression of the game that it's just another contemporary RPG.
- Very impressive art and techniques rarely seen in any other game, such as Ness's thoughts being written directly on a wall with LED pixels as the font, and the backgrounds when you battle an enemy. (and at some points, you battle the background itself!)
- Bizarrely unique choices for enemies never seen in an RPG before. (this explains Giygas' probable motive: to demonise living and non-living things alike. Some examples of enemies include a cup of coffee, a pile of barf, a tent, some dice, a hipster (like in the last game)police officers, insane cultists resembling the Ku Klux Klan, who plot to paint everything blue)
- Many areas of the game do something very few games do: e.g. Moonside, which is Fourside but with a neon outline art style, and yes and no are switched. Lost Underworld, which drastically zooms the game out. And Cave of the Past, which you have to transplant your souls into inanimate objects to explore otherwise you will die.
- It features creatures known as Mr. Saturns, known as some of the funniest and most memorable video game characters. e.g. they have their own font, a quirky personality and are even trusted by outsiders such as Jeff and his father Dr. Andonuts.
- Magicant, a realm created by Ness's mind, is a pivotal point in the game, considering that this is the result of the Eight Melodies, is one of the most colorful, imaginatively designed and artsy parts of the game besides the battles, and you radically power up after it disappears.
- The endgame. One of the craziest final stretches in any game, period: Giygas' invasion begins, so you go to Saturn Valley to enter a Phase Distorter in order to counter Giygas, only to find out you have to travel to the past and leave your human bodies in favour of robot bodies, since human bodies would die in the process. After fighting some of the toughest enemies in the game, you travel to the lair itself, where the battle takes place, and then:
- The final boss, Giygas. By far one of the most intimidating (not just that, but disturbing) video game villains of all time, becoming an urban legend. Unlike enemies, it is not immediately revealed to you what Giygas' attacks are. (except in the first phase where he has not broken out of the Devil's Machine)
- Instead of your traditional RPG weapons, you can equip your characters with yo-yos, frying pans, baseball bats, etc. which comes as part of the game's humor. Sure, there's a sword, but that's it, really.
- Jeff alone has some items that are so powerful they can rival high-end PSI moves: shield killers, Hungry HP-Suckers, laser guns, multi-bottle rockets (capable of causing thousands of HP in damage. PSI Rockin Ω, one of the most powerful moves in-game, cannot do more than 960 damage to an enemy.)
- The food items are also unconventional and also fit the contemporary theme. You can choose to eat some sandwiches, fast food, confectionery, protein drink, Kraken, fish-tasting yoghurt...
- Satisfying and psychedelic special effects coming from PK/PSI moves.
- Some small inconveniences:
- When buying/selling items, you have to do it individually instead of doing so with several at once. Same with resurrecting party members.
- There's a part where to find a secret entrance, you have to wait under a waterfall for three minutes.
- In the Lost Underworld, there are some gaps between walls and trees bigger than you that you can't pass. (Hey, it's just trees!)
- Some small typos:
- This game can keep referring to Paula as a boy.
- Sometimes some items can register as different items, such as a bottle rocket registering as a broken iron.
- Mashroomized (Mushroomized)
- "Everything in the unverse could be destroyed in the hands of Giygas."
- Despite adding realism to the game, the ATM system will get very tedious.
- Constant interruptions: You have to wait for your dad to blabber a bit in order to save, and he does that out of nowhere as well, earthquakes constantly stop you from moving, and they're very hard to see coming, and you have to slog through a photographer taking a picture of you, with the end credits being the only purpose.
- You move fairly slowly, so it can feel like a chore. And the bike, which is supposed to speed up your game, is only useful when you're alone, not even if a party member is dead.
- Your inventory may quickly get filled up with junk which you can only use once, and that's it.
- Outside of Giygas and telepathic communication, Paula's prayer ability is a straight-up gamble. By chance, you may be able to revive enemies, or cause your entire team to cry or feel strange.
- Speaking of, the game developers may have taken strange a little too literally. If a party member is feeling strange, they have the chance to kill another of your party members.
- Poo is considered by many as the weakest member.
- His mirror ability, meant to be his signature move, is situational. He is unable to transform to certain enemies, such as ones that have neutralisers. It's also vulnerable to strangeness as mentioned above.
- He is missing for a large part of the game. He is only there for about two sections in the game, then he leaves for another large chunk of the game.
- If you die, you return alone, have to go to a hospital, a pool or a spring to revive your friends, but you're likely to encounter enemies, which makes this process even harder. Their PSI is also not replenished, so you have to find magic butterflies or go to a hotel.
- The PK/PSI moves may harm your eyes or ears. (in the Wii U port, some of the moves were made more translucent and blurry to reduce harm on your eyes)
- As mentioned before, Giygas is very disturbing for a kids game, considering the fact the background during the fight looks like a red colored distorted picture of man screaming.
- The soundtrack itself is arguably EVEN WORSE than the boss due to the nightmarish distortion and sound effects that add to the terror. (Giygas is Fatally Wounded! being a standout due to the apocalyptic atmosphere this track of "music" creates)
- The scene where after Giygas dies, the screen starts to go static in a really creepy way and the track that plays during the static sequence, Giygas Disintegrates really doesn't help.
Why It Flopped Outside Japan
- The slogan for the game, "This Game Stinks", and its high price for coming with a player's guide, are two of the largest reasons why this game flopped in America, plus:
- This game was not released in Europe, nor Australia or New Zealand until the game got a Virtual Console release for the Wii U.
GBA Port (Mother 1+2)
- This port adds nothing significant to the game apart from some bug fixes.
- Butchered sound quality. Giygas is Wounded! and the PSI Rockin sound effect both sound very far from their SNES counterparts besides the "rhythm".
The game received wide critical acclaim, and was deemed by many a timeless classic and one of the greatest RPGs of all time, but mostly far after its release (because immediately after release it didn't do so well outside of Japan). Multiple reviewers described the game as "original" or "unique" and praised its script's range of emotions and humor.
Critics praised its "real world" setting, which was seen as an uncommon choice and its 90s homage as "a love letter to 20th-century Americana", with a payphone as a save point, ATMs to transfer money, yo-yos as weapons, skateboarders and hippies as enemies, and references to classic rock bands.
- The game's regions are based off of different parts of the world in a likely homage to the third game in the Dragon Quest series, of which Shigesato Itoi is a fan of.
- Eagleland: Based off of North America with a mild climate, trees, badlands and urban and suburban cities (consisting of Onett, Twoson, Threed and Fourside)
- Foggyland: Based off of Europe, in the northern part of the region (Winters) taking place in a freezing-cold, snowy climate region. In the southern part of the region (Summers) it is in a warm climate region, consists of beaches and is fairly urbanised
- Chommo: Based off of northeast Africa and the Middle East with a desert climate. One of the areas, Scaraba is based off of Egypt with its civilization and a pyramid resembling that of Giza. The Deep Darkness swamp is based off of Africa's swamps like The Kafue Flats. Dalaam, which Poo (a playable character) is prince of, is located there.
- In Mother 2's edition of Magicant, Ness is nude, since in Japan child nudity without being pornographic is a symbol of purity, but since it's considered offensive and adult content in America, Ness has his clothes on in Earthbound.
- Supposedly the entrance before the fight with Giygas is said to represent a woman giving birth to a child (the door to his lair being a vagina and the insides being the uterus) backed up with the fact if one was to look closely there is a fetus like design during the fight of Giygas.
- Earthbound was initially rated Kids to Adults (which is today E for Everyone), but in the Wii U version it was cranked up to T for Teens, probably due to Giygas.