Earthbound is one of the most charming and unique games I have ever had the pleasure of lets playing. It is bursting at the seams with personality and humor and I cant believe I waited so long to sit down and play this gem. In an era where most RPGs were about far away fantastical lands, Earthbound is refreshingly down to earth and earnest in its satire.
Development on Earthbound (AKA Mother 2) began shortly after the release of Mother in Japan in 1989 by a combined team of Ape Inc. (who would later become Creatures, the dev team behind Pokémon) and HAL Laboratories (who most people would know as the developers of Super Smash Brothers). These two developers were comprised of a different team than the developers of the original Mother. To say the game had a troubled development would be an understatement, as it took over five years to complete with many developers working nights and weekends. The game was reportedly almost cancelled several times. According to director and writer, Shigesato Itoi, the projects problems were solved when programmer (and future president of Nintendo) Satoru Iwata joined the team.
Itoi used a technique he dubbed "reckless wildness" to develop Earthbound, which basically means that anything was on the table. He wanted to encourage his developers to come up with news ways of portraying ideas in a video game medium. He recognized that they were developing a game and not what he called "big scenario scripts". He wanted the players to have an emotional reaction while playing the game. Music composer Hip Tanaka was a huge contributor to how well Earthbound pulled this off. Sound design is so often underlooked when evaluating why a game succeeds or fails, and I feel like its worth mentioning how well the soundtrack pulls the whole experience together. The fight music isnt just standard uptempo fare, its discordant and it makes you feel uneasy. Almost like youre an 11 year old kid who got thrown into a situation that was way over his head. There are so many instances where the sound design plays perfect with the visuals and the gameplay, but I dont want to talk about it too much here for risk of spoilers, but we will be pointing out several of these as we go.
Mother 2 was released in August 1994 in Japan and localization on the North American release began. The original Mother was never released in NA and for fear of confusion about what it was a sequel to, the name was changed to Earthbound. Dan Owsen of Nintendo of America began translation but was moved to another project after having completed about 10% of the translation. Still, he is credited with coming up with some of the more memorable phrases, such as say fuzzy pickles. Marcus Lindblom took over localization duties and was faced with a rather interesting challenge, as he had to translate a game that was essentially "an outsider's view of the U.S." to American audiences. He was given an immense amount of freedom from Nintendo to do so and introduced many Western culture references to the dialogue, including Bugs Bunny, Benny Hill, and Spinal Tap.
Unfortunately despite the labor of love that localizing Earthbound became for Lindblom, Earthbound released to a lackluster reception in the US. This was largely due to a poor marketing campaign that revolved around the tagline this game stinks. Nintendo released awful smelling stratch n sniff stickers of the game to tie into the marketing campaign. In the end, despite spending $2 million in marketing, the game sold only around 140,000 copies in NA, compared to nearly twice that in Japan. I must admit that I didnt even know Earthbound existed until Ness was a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Because of the poor sales and the decline of the Super Nintendo, Mother 2 did not see a European release until the global Virtual Console release on the WiiU. Nintendo also elected not to release Mother 3 outside of Japan, a decision which has yet to be rectified. Fortunately Earthbound has gained a comparatively massive following in the decade since its release and many critics today laud it as a wonderfully crafted RPG. Not only has Nintendo released Earthbound on the Virtual Console, but they also just recently released the original Mother (called Earthbound Beginnings in the US) on the Virtual Console as well.
VideosEpisode 01 - Ness Ketchum
Episode 02 - Eating Socks
Episode 03 - Giant Step
Episode 04 - Fuzzy Pickles
Episode 05 - New Age Retro Hippie
Episode 06 - Exploding Trees
Episode 07 - Happy Happy
Episode 08 - Lilliput
Episode 09 - Zombie Town
Episode 10 - Tessie
Episode 11 - Zombie Haircut
Episode 12 - Saturn Valley
Episode 13 - Milky Well
Episode 14 - Fourside
Episode 15 - Mole Cave
Episode 16 - The Third Strongest
Episode 17 - Moonside
Episode 18 - Too Many Monkeys
Episode 19 - Runaway Choppers
Episode 20 - Fresh Sock Smell
Episode 21 - Dad Phone Man
Episode 22 - Bumpin Kraken
Episode 23 - Sneaky Hieroglyphs
Episode 24 - HNNNGGGG
Episode 25 - Vindication
Episode 26 - Lethal-Asp Hieroglyphs
Episode 27 - Come Play With Us
Episode 28 - Yellow Submarine
Episode 29 - Deep Darkness
Episode 30 - Kidnapping
Episode 31 - Stonehenge
Episode 32 - Starman Super
Episode 33 - The Great Escape
Episode 34 - Overcoming Shyness
Episode 35 - Dinosaur Land
Episode 36 - Smaaaash
Episode 37 - Analysis Mode Engage
Episode 38 - Unleash Your Potential
Episode 39 - Taking Back Onett
Episode 40 - The Fight With Giygas
Episode 41 - Going Home (Epilogue)
The Story So Far..
One of the wonderful things about Earthbound is that, even though its a sequel, the player does not need to have played Mother at all. The setup is simple: Many years ago the evil Giygas attacked Earth and was repelled by a hero, but he was not destroyed. Now he returns and seeks to destroy all that you hold dear...
Ness (AKA Alden, as we named him) is the protagonist of Earthbound. Being that you can not only name Ness, but he has no explicit dialogue other than the options you pick, its kind of hard to nail down a personality for him. He kinda falls into that blank slate protagonist area, where the player can insert themselves into his shoes.
Paula (AKA Jacky) is the first party member we get to recruit. Other than the fact that we have seen her character art and named her we have no idea who she is right now, so I will leave this blank until we get later in the story.
Jeff (AKA Alex) is our third recruit. Once again we have no idea who he is or what hes up to, so he shall remain a mystery.
Poo, (AKA Droo) is our fourth and possibly most mysterious of mystery recruits, whose deeds shall remain nameless. For now.
Ness dad plays an important role in the game, despite being a phone. He deposits money into your bank account and acts as a save point throughout the game.
Ness mother plays a very important role in the story. She is a constant in Ness life, someone he can always turn to for a nice hot <your favorite food> and some motherly advice. Whenever Ness is feeling homesick he only needs to call his mom and hear her voice to feel better. Theres a reason these games are called Mother, but well get more into that later.
Giygas is the main villain of Earthbound, returning to reprise his role from Mother. At the end of Mother the player (a young boy named Ninten) manages to drive off Giygas, but Giygas is not destroyed. Now he returns to Earth and begins corrupting everything around him.
One of the most iconic villains of the series, Starman is featured on the box art of the North American version as well as in the Smash Run mode of Super Smash Bros for 3DS. His design is heavily based off of the robot Gort from the classic sci fi movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. At this point Starman has done little aside from travel back in time and try to kill us, but we can only assume his evil has just begun
Pokey is a dick. Theres just no other way to say it. Hes self centered, egotistical, and a coward. Pokey was a trash human being before Giygas showed up and guess what? Its all downhill from here. His brother Picky aint so bad though.
Seeing as this is an RPG and not only are there dozens of enemies but it seems like everything in the entire world wants to kill you were just going to say Giygas is the big bad and everything is his fault. Which is actually pretty accurate, as Giygas presence causes people to become corrupted and evil. When you defeat enemies youre not killing them so much as you are snapping them out of their Giygas induced daydreaming.
Below are some scans of the Earthbound preview that ran in an old issue of Nintendo Power, courtesy of Y-Hat. Thanks again, dude!
As promised, here are the NINTENDO POWER PREVIEW SCANS!!!!! This is what got me interested in Earthbound. It's as charming as the game itself.
This was the cover of Nintendo Power Volume 70. Right below where the Chicago Bulls and (original) Charlotte Hornets mascot are tipping off is the section where the Earthbound preview ran. Epic Center was the dedicated RPG section of Nintendo Power, and it debuted in this very issue. They ended up running it inconsistently. Side note: I didn't keep this in good condition, so it obscures the "2" that comes after the first look at "Star Fox." That ended up being canceled. The Virtual Boy probably should have been canceled. Spoiler alert: Donkey Kong Country ended up winning Best Game in the 1994 Nintendo Power awards.
The preview hooks you right off the bat. "The Geek" is Giygas, and as I said before, it's probably because its Japanese name is "Giyg." Also, there are no living kitchen implements in the final version.
The format of the rest of the preview is in a spoof off the National Inquirer. Already, it's a hell of a lot better than the ad campaign that came out outside of Nintendo Power. Also, here is where you learn that Ness is 13.
Part one of the party and friends preview. Dodgeball, obviously, did not make the cut. And if you look closely, Ness's PSI Special is named "Drill." That's one of the default names you can choose for your favorite thing. Pretty badass. There's also a cute nod to Link and Zelda.
I didn't do as good of a job of scanning this page, but the screenshot with the Bad Buffalo shows that Jeff fired "five Pencil Rockets." That became the Big Bottle Rocket in the end. The name "Threek" became the more pleasant sounding "Threed," although it's probably a better name thematically considering that zombies overrun the town. The Inquirer calls him "Pu," but the screenshots show him off as "Poo." And they mixed up Apple Kid with Maxwell Labs, who ends up making the Bad Key Machine (your "best skeleton key in the world.") Oh, and the Ghost of Starman was originally Starman's Ancestor.
Nothing much to elaborate on here. "Escargo Express" is referred to by the actual spelling of "escargot." The end result probably makes for a better delivery pun.
There is no pie to be had in Earthbound, and they don't elaborate on what the "blobs" are made out of.