North American box art depicting the reflection of protagonist Ness in a Final Starman's visor
EarthBound, originally released as Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back (MOTHER2 ギーグの逆襲 Mazā Tsū: Gīgu no Gyakushū ) in Japan, is a role-playing video game co-developed by Ape and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game console. Both releases have semi-alternate titles identified in the game's attract demo:[jargon] "EarthBound: The War Against Giygas!" for EarthBound and "Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back!" for Mother 2. It was designed by Shigesato Itoi, who also developed its predecessor, the Japan-exclusive Mother. The game was released as Mother 2 in Japan on August 27, 1994, and rebranded as EarthBound for its June 5, 1995 North American release. Despite its poor sales figures, the game has been lauded by gamers for its humorous depictions of American culture and parody of the role-playing video game genre, and has since become a cult classic.
A sequel to EarthBound for the Nintendo 64DD, titled EarthBound 64, was in development for many years before finally being canceled. This project later resurfaced as a Game Boy Advance title called Mother 3 and was released only in Japan. Like Mother, Mother 3 has only a loose connection to EarthBound, starring new characters, though it does include several returning characters. A collection of Mother and EarthBound was released in Japan under the title Mother 1 + 2. The game was rereleased on the Wii U Virtual Console in Japan on March 20, 2013 and will be released for North America and, for the first time, Europe, in late 2013.
EarthBound features many traditional RPG elements: the player controls a party of characters who travel through the game's two dimensional world, which is composed of villages, cities, caves, 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, such as offense, defense, and the maximum HP and PP of each character. Rather than using an overworld map screen like most console RPGs of its era, 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.
Unlike its predecessor, EarthBound does not use random encounters. When physical contact occurs between a character and an enemy, the screen dissolves into battle mode. In combat, characters and enemies possess a certain amount of hit points (HP). Blows to an enemy reduce the amount of HP. Once an enemy's HP reaches zero, they are defeated. If a specific type of enemy is defeated, there is a chance that the character will receive an item after the battle. In battle, the player is allowed to choose specific actions for their characters. These actions can include attacking, healing, spying (reveals enemy weakness/strengths), mirror (emulate a specific enemy), and running away. Characters can also use special PSI attacks that require psychic points (PP). 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 HP 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 (although if the counter reaches zero as the battle is won, it will be set to 1 instead and the character will survive). If all characters are rendered unconscious, the game transitions to an endgame screen, asking if the player wants to continue. An affirmative response brings Ness, conscious, back to the last telephone he saved from, with half the money on his person at the time of his defeat, and any other party members showing as still unconscious. Because battles are not random, tactical advantages can be gained. If the player physically contacts an enemy from behind (indicated by a translucent green swirl which fills the screen), the player is given a first-strike priority. However, this also applies to enemies, who can also engage the party from behind (in this case, the swirl is red). If both enemy and player are facing each other, the swirl is grey. Additionally, as Ness and his friends become stronger, battles with weaker enemies are eventually won automatically, forgoing the battle sequence, and weaker monsters will begin to flee from Ness and his friends rather than chase them. While most RPGs up to the mid-1990s primarily used swords and other traditional weapons, the characters in EarthBound use less conventional weapons such as baseball bats, yo-yos, and frying pans, with the exception of Poo, who can actually use a sword.
Currency is indirectly received from Ness' father, who can also save the game's progress. Each time the party wins a battle, Ness' father deposits money in an account that can be withdrawn at ATMs. In towns, players can visit various 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. by poo
EarthBound roughly takes place in the 1990s. Throughout the game, four characters, known as the Chosen Four, come to compose the party in the game. The player is able to change the default name of these four characters.
The player controls Ness, a young boy possessing strong psychic abilities. Early in the story, he meets an alien named Buzz Buzz with the appearance of a bee, who explains the quest that Ness must embark on. Over the course of his quest, Ness is joined by three other children his age: Paula, another powerful psychic; Jeff, a mechanical genius and child prodigy; and Poo, a martial arts master with some psychic ability.
The game's main antagonist is Giygas, an alien from a distant galaxy with the power to influence people using their own evil nature. While he is extremely powerful, the true extent of his own power has destroyed his capacity for rational thought, rendering him unable to control his power on his own.
The story begins when Ness is awakened by a meteorite that has plummeted near his home, whereupon he proceeds to investigate the crash site. After going there, he encounters a roadblock and Pokey (known in Japan and in later games as "Porky"), Ness's neighbor, who states that Ness should simply go home. After he goes to bed, he is then woken up by Pokey knocking at his door. He states that his little brother is missing, and he needs Ness' help to find him. Ness, along with his pet dog, King, accompany Pokey and set out for his younger brother. After searching, they go to where the meteorite landed. After arriving, Ness encounters an alien named Buzz Buzz, who informs Ness that he is from the future where a hostile alien, Giygas, dominates the universe. Buzz Buzz instructs Ness to embark on a journey to defeat Giygas in the present, because he is too powerful in the future. Ness then proceeds to seek out eight "sanctuaries," to unite his own powers with the Earth's and gain the strength required to confront Giygas. Buzz Buzz is later killed by Pokey's mom, who mistakes Buzz Buzz for a dung beetle. Dying, Buzz Buzz gives Ness the Sound Stone, an item that is vital to the completion of his quest.
Ness proceeds on his quest through a variety of locales, including the towns of Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside, an icy country called Winters, a beach resort called Summers, an Eastern Asian-esque land called Dalaam, a far-off place called Scaraba (which is based on modern Egypt and includes mulukhiyah and pyramids), and a dream world called Magicant. As he goes on his journey, he encounters a variety of characters, including the other three chosen ones, Paula, a fellow psychic girl from Twoson, Jeff, a young mechanical genius from Winters, and Poo, a young prince from the far off land of Dalaam. There are several enemies that Ness encounters in EarthBound, including Giygas' army of Starmen. The group often runs into a blues band called the Runaway Five, helping them out and being helped out in return. Throughout the game, Ness runs into Pokey, who had joined with Giygas to take over the world. Ness eventually activates all of his "Sanctuary" locations, discovers Magicant within himself, and defeats his "Nightmare", which represented all of the evil hidden away in Ness' heart, unlocking his true power. Jeff's father, Doctor Andonuts, creates a device that will allow them to travel to the past to battle against Giygas - however, they are forced to transfer their souls into robot bodies, as organic material cannot withstand the warp through time. In the past, they encounter Giygas and Pokey (commanding a giant spider mech), who informs Ness and the others that Giygas has consumed so much evil power, that his mind was completely destroyed and is being held in a somewhat stable form using a machine called the "Devil's Machine." After defeating Pokey, the machine turns off, unleashing Giygas' power which destroys the machine and creates a chaotic, bizarre dimension, trapping himself and the four children in darkness. Giygas uses psychic attacks that Ness and the others can't defend against, and speaks in a confused babble. Paula then prays reaching out to a variety of people on Earth, such as their family and friends, who all pray for their safety, and eventually, she reaches out to the player, whose prayers defeat Giygas, due to his weakness to human emotions. Pokey escapes into a time warp, and Ness and his friends manage to have their spirits returned to their bodies, and they all return to their homes (with the exception of Paula, who Ness escorts home). After the credits, Picky gives Ness a message from Pokey, daring him to come looking for him.
Development on EarthBound took place as a joint effort between Ape, Inc. and HAL Laboratory, Inc. and was designed by Shigesato Itoi, APE programmer Kouji Malta and HAL programmer Satoru Iwata, both of whom were the main programmers for EarthBound. 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 (HP). 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 HP 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" HP boxes because the pachinko balls did not work so well when characters had large amounts of HP.
Some of the difficulties posed by the development of EarthBound were the data restrictions imposed by the SNES 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 (as an example, there are ten different music tracks for regular and boss battles). 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 young boy, he accidentally viewed the wrong movie at a theater, a Shintoho 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 wellbeing. In actuality, the scene shows how the titular beauty was murdered. Years later, Itoi integrated the experience into Giygas' 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. One of the marketing campaigns involved Japanese celebrity Takuya Kimura of SMAP, who was heavily featured in Weekly Famitsu promotional ads. For its North American release, efforts included bundling a full length strategy guide with the game, complete in a bigger box, and affixing a price much higher 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 months later on June 5, 1995, and was met with lukewarm responses.
Development of the music for EarthBound remained much easier than its predecessor. In an interview with Weekly Famitsu, Suzuki commented on how the SNES gave the composers much more freedom to compose what they wanted. This was an advantage, because one of the many problems the makers originally had was trying to get their music on to the cartridge. Suzuki also cited John Lennon as an influential figure to all the composers while the soundtrack was being developed.
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The game sold 140,000 copies in North America, and about twice that number in Japan. American audiences were largely indifferent to Japanese role-playing video games, and would remain this way until titles like Final Fantasy VII took the genre into the mainstream. Years later, many 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 #4. Then in the July 2008 issue of Nintendo Power, EarthBound was yet again the #1 "Readers' Most Wanted" Virtual Console title, with the original Mother now placed in second.
EarthBound is regarded by critics as one of the greatest RPGs on the SNES, 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. A 2005 GameFAQs poll of the 100 best games ever had EarthBound at the 37th spot. 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 a retrospective of the 20 essential Japanese RPGs, Gamasutra featured EarthBound on the list. In the January 2010 issue of Nintendo Power, editors named the game "The Ultimate Cult Hit."
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, music, 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 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 Western culture and parody of the RPG genre. Ranging from trips in a yellow submarine to fighting a diamond dog, both of which are nods to British music, or the American national anthem, the game is rife with subtle cultural references. Described by Gamasutra as "a warped, confused tribute to American culture, designed by people who've only experienced the country through books and movies" the quirky humor of the game is one of the chief reasons for its popularity. Amongst the ranks of absurd enemies in the game Ness must face down New Age Retro Hippies, Pogo Punks, Extra Cranky Ladies, and Big Piles of Puke throughout his quest. Much of the dialogue and plot of the game pokes fun at traditional RPG and sci-fi clichés. Even the advertising campaign played off of its humor, with the slogan "This game stinks", referring to the scratch and sniff stickers that were included in the Player's Guide.
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EarthBound has been featured in all of the titles of the blockbuster Super Smash Bros. series, further increasing the fame of Earthbound. Ness has been a staple veteran of Super Smash Bros. since the beginning. In the first title of the series, Super Smash Bros., Ness appeared as a hidden character, unlocked by beating the 1 player mode on normal difficulty or higher, using three lives or fewer, not using any continues, and finally defeating Ness in a match. In Super Smash Bros. Melee, Ness is playable from the start. Ness is once again an unlockable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and can be unlocked in several different ways. Onett and Fourside appear as battle arenas in the Melee, while only Onett appears in Brawl. New Pork City, from Mother 3 (the sequel to Earthbound and the third game in the Mother series), appears in Brawl as well. In addition to Ness, Lucas from Mother 3 is a playable character in Brawl, Pokey/Porky appeared as a boss, and trophies for many other characters, such as Paula, Jeff, and Poo, can be collected in the two latter games. Jeff is also featured as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, using his Multi-Bottle Rockets to home in on opponents. Mr. Saturn is used as a throwing item, and the Franklin Badge is featured as a power-up.
EarthBound's soundtrack has been lauded by critics and fans, including Alex Hall, a staff writer for the online music magazine The Tune, who named it the best video game soundtrack of all time.
A sequel was announced in 1996 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.
Virtual Console rerelease
In 2008, Nintendo of America announced that the game would be rereleased on the Wii Virtual Console. Despite being rated by the ESRB, the game was never rereleased. In December 2012, it was announced that the creator was planning a rerelease of a Mother game. On January 23, 2013, it was announced that EarthBound would be released in Japan on the Wii U's Virtual Console service starting March 20, 2013, but no mention was made of an international release. On April 17, 2013, Nintendo announced in its Nintendo Direct presentation that the game would be released internationally in late 2013, marking the game's first release in Europe.
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- Ape, Inc. and HAL Laboratory, Inc.. EarthBound. (Nintendo). SNES. (1995-06-01) Buzz Buzz: To defeat Giygas, your own power must unite with the Earth's... the Earth will then channel your power and multiply it... There are eight points that you must visit. Make these places your own... Each of these locations is "Your Sanctuary."
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