|Developer(s)||Ape, Inc. and HAL Laboratory, Inc.|
|Release date(s)|| August 27, 1994 |
June 1, 1995 
|Rating(s)||ESRB: K-A (Kids to Adults)|
|Media||24 megabit cartridge|
EarthBound (Mother 2 in Japan) is a role-playing game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It is the second title in the Mother series. It is known for its characteristic cartoon-like graphics, soundtrack (that, uniquely for its time, incorporates sampling), irreverent humor, portrayal of the Western world as seen by Japan, and quirky, almost caricatured characters.
The game is often dubbed a "sequel" to the original Mother, an NES title released only in Japan. In practice, however, the games largely exist as "stand alone" titles, with similar themes and storylines, but little plot or character continuity.
WARNING: Spoiler warning!
This article contains plot, storyline, character, etc., details.
EarthBound is set in the year "199X" in the small town of Onett, part of Eagleland. The main character, Ness, wakes up when a meteor falls close to his house in the middle of the night. He heads out to investigate the meteor, but not before his mother reminds him to change out of his pajamas. At the crash site he meets an insect named Buzz Buzz from ten years in the future who sends him on a quest to destroy the intergalactic destroyer Giygas in this time, because he is too powerful in the time period that Buzz Buzz came from. Ness must then journey through the world, seeking his eight "sanctuaries" where the Earth's power is strongest in order to unite his own powers with the Earth's and gain the strength needed to confront Giygas. This somewhat clichéd plot is intentionally so; the unremarkable story only augments the game's humor. This is evident in the campy dialogue (such as when Ness' mother tells him to be careful while he's out saving the world) and some of the plot elements. One noteworthy moment is Buzz Buzz's demise, a rather unspectacular end for a sturdy creature who travelled ten years in the past and can block powerful psychic attacks.
EarthBound breaks the escapist, fantasy-oriented tendencies and themes of most RPGs by placing the action in a modern day world, much like Shin Megami Tensei but without the dark overtones of that series. These changes to typical RPG stories are often taken to an absurd extreme in EarthBound, such as the inclusion of baseball bats and yo-yos as weapons instead of swords or magical staves.
One of the most unusual elements of EarthBound may be the fourth-wall-breaking inclusion of the player as an active participant within the story itself, which is in great contrast to the plots of other console RPGs that usually never reference the player behind the controller, let alone incorporate him or her into the story.
Many of the RPG elements featured in EarthBound are very traditional. In towns, players can purchase items, recharge energy, or gather information from various non-player characters. Battles are not random because the enemies are visible in the navigation portion of the game (although some, such as ants, are only a few black pixels, and difficult to spot or avoid). When the characters come in contact with an enemy, a battle starts. Depending on from which angle in which the characters make contact with the enemy, the player can be at an advantage or disadvantage when the battle starts: If the enemy is approached from behind, the player get an extra turn at the beginning of the battle and vice versa. As Ness and his friends become stronger, battles with weaker enemies are eventually won immediately, skipping the entire battle sequence altogether.
The battle system is very similar to the Dragon Quest series, in the sense that the characters are not shown onscreen. Once all actions are input, the protagonists and the enemies perform the actions depending on character speed. Once the battle is won, players receive experience points in order to level up their characters and improve attributes. Naturally, as the game progresses, it becomes necessary to increase levels in order to cope with stronger enemies. An interesting aspect is the HP and PP, represented by counters that resemble odometers. When the character takes damage, their HP meter "rolls" down to that number over a short time rather than jumping directly to it. When a character takes a hit that deals more damage than their current HP, they don't actually die until their meter rolls down to zero. This means that if the battle ends before the counter reaches zero, the character survives. It also gives the player an opportunity to heal their character before they die. This creates some intense moments in gameplay as the player is forced to go through turns as fast as possible in order to heal.
One traditional RPG element not present in EarthBound is an overworld. Instead, players follow a path through a seamless world, occasionally branching off in some areas. Later on in the game, teleporting spells help players return to previous areas quickly.
Another non-traditional element is the perspective used for the world. The game uses oblique projection, while most RPGs use a top down view on a grid or an isometric perspective.
The game was released in Japan on August 27, 1994. Known as Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back!, the game is the sequel to Mother, released for the Famicom. This game became a phenomenal blockbuster, so much that it soon matched and even surpassed Dragon Quest in popularity. 
The next game in the series, Mother 3, is out now in Japan. It was in the Famitsu Most Wanted list, only falling below No. 10 twice, to No. 11. The title Mother 3 was originally planned to be a game designed for the Nintendo 64. According to Nintendo of America, the game was scrapped due to a lack of time, and an eventual public lack of interest in the Nintendo 64. However, according to Shigesato Itoi, the reality was that they couldn't run the 3D graphics in the game very well at all due to the development team's complete inexperience at 3D graphics. The new "Mother 3" is for the Game Boy Advance.
EarthBound follows the same basic plot as its predecessor, but Giygas ("Gyiyg" in the Japanese version) is the only returning character. It is unknown if this game is connected with Mother, storyline-wise.
Releasing the game in the United States was considered somewhat of a gamble, as the game's graphics were very simple, especially compared to other role-playing games of the time, such as Final Fantasy VI. Additionally, the humor of the game is tied to its quirky portrayal of the West, which may not have translated to that region. In an attempt to increase sales, the game was also extensively promoted within Nintendo Power, with various special offers, including a contest involving scratch-and-sniff stickers, as well as a Nintendo Power-published player's guide that was included as a pack-in with the initial American release to boost sales and assist players. Ultimately, EarthBound was not very commercially successful in the United States at the time of its release, although it has since spawned a large cult following among its loyal fans, with copies going for unusually large amounts of money in used video game stores (in some cases equal to those of the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger).
- See also: List of EarthBound characters
|Ness||Bats, Yo-yos, and Slingshots||The silent protagonist in EarthBound. He has good attack and decent defense, as well as the second strongest PSI attack (though the majority of his PSI powers heal or affect status). Even though Ness has low speed until after Magicant, he is still a well-rounded fighter. Occasionally, he will develop homesickness and will waste turns in battle daydreaming about his home. For much of the game, Ness is the main healer for the group; until Poo arrives, Ness is the only character with the ability to regenerate HP and cure ailments.||Beginning|
|Paula||Frying Pans, Yo-yos, and Slingshots||The first character to join Ness's party, Paula is adept almost exclusively with PSI powers. She has low HP, Attack, and Defense, but her high speed and excellent PSI skills (including PSI Shield) compensate. She has a unique "Pray" ability, which causes one of several random effects to occur in battle that can either assist or weaken one or both parties. Most of her PSI is centered on attack and defense rather than status changes and healing.||Found in the Cabin near Happy Happy Village, after beating Carpainter.|
|Jeff||Guns, Yo-yos, Slingshots, Bottle Rockets, and various gadgets.||Jeff is the second character to join Ness's party. He is unable to use PSI powers, but he makes up for this weakness with his ability to take various pieces of junk and turn them into useful items. He is also the only character able to use bottle rockets, which deal an enormous amount of damage to enemy parties. Jeff has a unique "Spy" ability, which allows him to see an enemy's offense, defense, and any weakness the enemy may have. This ability may also function as a "Steal" command on occasion.||Winters, a country in the far north. He soon flies over to Threed in the Sky Runner to join Ness' party.|
|Poo||Martial Arts, Yo-yos, or the Sword of Kings||Poo is the final character to join Ness's party. Having spent his entire life training in the small, isolated, mountaintop village of Dalaam, Poo is unique in several ways. Most foods obtained from locations other than Dalaam barely recover his HP, and using equipment other than those labeled "of Kings" lowers his attack and defense instead of raising it. He has a unique "Mirror" ability, which allows him to transform into one of the enemies present during a battle and use all of that monster's attacks, though the player loses control over him until the end of the battle. He has well-rounded PSI skills, fairly good attacks, and good healing abilities.||After completing his training in his homeland of Dalaam, he teleports to Ness and his friends in Summers.|
- Many of the animated backgrounds of the fight sequences in EarthBound are actually mathematical graphs that employ dynamic variables.
- Because of the unusually orderly structure of the game's memory, it is rather easy to modify in ROM format.
- ROM hackers of EarthBound discovered a debug menu featuring a Kirby cursor sprite and a hidden BGM track not present in the game itself. The debug mode can only be accessed through a Game Genie (or equivalent), or by modifying the ROM.
- You can find a joke story about a man making excuses to a police officer after being pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike if you search near the desk of the purchasable house in Onett.
- Shigesato Itoi has revealed in interviews that Giygas' dialogue during the final battle was inspired by a traumatic childhood experience wherein he mistakenly walked into an adult movie theatre playing a pornographic film and caught a glimpse of a rape scene.
- The font for Mr. Saturn's dialogue was inspired by the handwriting of the daughter of Shigesato Itoi.
Cuts and changes
As with many Japanese games, EarthBound underwent a number of changes in translation.
- Several names of towns are different:
- Threed was originally Threek.
- The Dusty Dunes Desert was originally the Doko Doko Desert/Dokodoko Desert.
- Dalaam is known as Ramma. It is unknown whether or not this was to prevent confusion with anime property Ranma ½.
- Scaraba is known as Scarabi.
- All references to alcohol were removed. Jackie's Cafe, for example, was originally known as Boruhesu's Bar. Coffee is uniformly substituted in place of alcohol, which leads to odd dialogue such as "Kids shouldn't drink espresso!".
- In the original Japanese version, the hospitals all had red crosses somewhere on the building. They were removed from the English version, due to Nintendo of America's aversion to the use of religious symbols in their games.
- All the "PSI" abilities in English are known as "PK" abilities in Japanese. However, in the Smash Bros. games, the techniques are once again named "PK".
- In the Japanese version, Ness is nude in Magicant wearing only a hat. In the English version, he is wearing his pajamas without his hat.
- The Peaceful Rest Valley was known as the Grateful Dead Valley. This was changed to avoid a copyright conflict with the band The Grateful Dead.
- The Happy Happy Village cultist sprites were significantly altered removing the letters "HH" from the forehead of their hoods and adding a white fuzzy pom pom to the end of the hood. It appears that it may have resembled hoods from the Ku Klux Klan and the pom pom was added to make it appear more like a Christmas hat of some sort.
- The Runaway Five had clothes that were all of the same color and style in the Japanese version. The Japanese group was known as the "Tonzura Brothers".
In the Player's Guide
- On page 17, Killer Instinct is mentioned as being one of the games available in Onett's Arcade.
- On page 111, there is an image of Ness in the nude on the bottom left of the page. This is an oversight on the part of NoA, as Ness was nude in Magicant in Mother 2.
- There is an enemy found in Moonside called Dali's clock, a melting clock with eyes and a sad expression. This is a reference to the popular 20th century artist Salvador Dali's painting "The Persistence of Memory".
- One of the weapons Ness can equip is called the Casey Bat. While it increases his Offense more than any other weapon he can equip, it misses three times out of four (all his other bats miss one time out of sixteen). Appropriate, since the bat's name is a reference to Casey at the Bat, the baseball poem by Ernest Thayer about a revered batter, the "mighty" Casey, who strikes out. (Side note - The Casey Bat has a 25% accuracy. Thus, it is quite appropriate in referrence to the poem, because a strikeout is 3 misses.)
- The Runaway Five sharply resemble the Blues Brothers, especially the two lead singers.
- An NPC in the Onett arcade says he doesn't think Ness is "a real Rambo type guy".
- Giant Step and Lilliput Steps are references to Gulliver's Travels.
- One of the non-player characters in the game looks almost exactly like Mr. T (though he is never referred to as such or says anything Mr. T might be thought to say). Fans of the game refer to him almost exclusively as such.
- The Starmen characters appear to be based on Gort, the alien robot from the classic sci-fi film The Day the Earth Stood Still.
- Aloysius Minch, Pokey's father, is a clever opposite to Atticus Finch from the book To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
- In the Japanese release of EarthBound (Mother 2), there is a set of default names for the characters and items related to the Mario series. Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo become Mario, Peach, Luigi, and Toad, respectively. The dog (King) becomes Yoshi, the player's favorite food becomes "mushroom", and the player's favorite thing becomes "goal".
- The arcade in Onett contains a couple of Donkey Kong arcade machines. There are no real titles on the machines, but the tell-tale red girder pattern of the first level shows on the first machine in front row, and on the second-to-last machine in the back row.
- During the course of the game, the heroes fight the Kraken, the legendary sea creature.
- The sea-creature Tessie found in Winters is a reference to modern-day Nessie, a creature some people have claimed to see in Scotland.
- The second-weakest hat for Ness is the "Mr. Baseball Cap". This is a reference to the Tom Selleck movie Mr. Baseball about an American baseball player who played on a Japanese baseball team.
- The Peaceful Rest Valley was known as the Grateful Dead Valley in the original Japanese Mother 2.
- The man who pops in periodically and takes your photo bears a striking resemblance to Dr. Demento.
- Two enemies, the Lesser and Greater Mook, refer to the term mook, an easily defeated and not particularly important henchman. May also reference Howard Stern's frequently-used phrase "earthbound mooks", making the name a double entendre of sorts.
It is interesting to note that the team that designed EarthBound are also open fans of the British pop and rock band, The Beatles. Throughout the game, there are countless examples of this:
- In the Japanese version of EarthBound, Mother 2, many of the extra alternate names for characters and such are that of Beatles band members. Among them are John (Ness), Yoko (Paula), Paul (Jeff), George (Poo), and Ringo (King). In this particular set, the main character's favorite food is "Honey Pie", and his favorite thing is "Love".
- In the English version of the game, a question is asked by a townsperson in Onett that relates to the band's song "Yesterday".
- The yellow submarine in the game is obviously a nod to their song and animated movie, Yellow Submarine. (A sign near the submarine says "The yellow color is purely coincidental.")
- A member of a band in the game called the Runaway Five references a song which The Beatles covered called "Money (That's What I Want)", originally by Barrett Strong.
- The song played while inside the Dungeon Man contains a sample from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise).
- After you have been to the Tenda Village and progressed to The Lost Underworld, the Tenda Elder will bid you farewell by saying, "So long. I say goodbye", a possible reference to the Beatles songs "Kansas City" and "Hello, Goodbye". Furthermore, some of the Warp Men in Moonside often say "Hello! and, Goodbye!" before sending the player to another location.
- The first few measures of the song played when you wake up at a hotel closely resembles a slowed down version of the melody from The Beatles song "Good Morning Good Morning."
- When entering Giygas's lair via the Lost Underworld (the Cave of the Past), a song reminiscent of the prelude to "All You Need Is Love" (the trumpets performing the Marseillaise) is played.
- The high-pitched violin scrapes in the song playing inside the Dungeon Man may be inspired by Paul McCartney's "Live and Let Die" from the James Bond film of the same name.
- The music that plays as you ride Tessie sounds similar to the beginning of "Strawberry Fields Forever".
- The music played when starting a new game and naming the characters contains a short musical sample from the theme song for the show Monty Python's Flying Circus, John Philip Sousa's Liberty Bell March.
- In Jackie's Cafe, the music contains a sample from the theme song for the Our Gang film series. Also heard in the background are the first four bars of The Star-Spangled Banner.
- The background music for Moonside has a sample from the Ric Ocasek song, "Keep On Laughin".
- One battle music track features music similar to the intro from "Johnny B. Goode" and several other Chuck Berry songs.
- During the battle with the Slimy Little Pile (one of Master Belch's minions) one can hear a sample of the Super Mario Bros. theme.
- The main stage theme for Xevious can be heard in the background noise in the arcade in Onett.
- One of the battle themes resembles the song Tequila by The Champs.
- When spoken to, the character standing next to the ocean in Onett will play a melody from Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, movement 2 on his trumpet.
- The second song played by the Runaway Five in the Chaos Theater strongly resembles the song The Changeling by The Doors.
- The theme played while in the Sky Runner sounds similar to the synthesized introduction of The Who song, Won't Get Fooled Again.
- Two enemies in the game share the names of famous David Bowie songs: "Starman" (the trademark Starmen enemies appear throughout the game) and "Diamond Dogs" (Diamond Dog is one of the major bosses in the game).
- The music played during the Runaway Five's bus scenes is from the television series "Peter Gunn."
Notes and references
- Official sites
- Fan sites