|Developer(s)|| Ape, Inc.|
|Release date(s)|| August 27, 1994|
June 1, 1995
EarthBound (MOTHER2ギーグの逆襲, Mazā Tsū Gīgu no Gyakushū, lit. "Mother 2: Giygas Strikes Back" in Japanese) is a game for the SNES, and is a sequel to Mother, a game that was only released in Japan on the NES. This is the first and only time that the series has hit the western shores. EarthBound is a role playing video game featuring the protagonist Ness. It was developed by Ape, Inc. and HAL, and was initially released in Japan on August 27, 1994. It is considered a cult classic after receiving poor commercial success in America. Ness would later go on to play a major role in all three Super Smash Bros. video games as a playable character.
A sequel to the game, Mother 3, was released in Japan on the Game Boy Advance years later, though never made it to America or Europe. It was originally planned to be released on the Nintendo 64, but it had a dramatic delay. EarthBound hasn't been confirmed as a Virtual Console title, but it has been listed in the Entertainment Software Rating Board webpage, leading fans to think it will be, even though a decent time has passed since the rating was given.
EarthBound contains traditional elements from RPGs featured on the SNES console. As with most RPGs, the game's world includes a multitude of villages and dungeons that the game's party can head through and progress through the game. Battles will ensue in most areas excluding some portions of the games such as villages and cities, and bosses can be found at the end of some dungeons. Upon battling, characters gain experience points, which causes them to level up and thus increase their stats.
One departure from traditional RPGs of the time is the view of the game, which uses oblique projection rather than the top down view. In addition, cities and roads all share the same size, rather than the traditional overworld camera, making no difference between cities or towns and the big world outside them.
Enemy encounters are not random, as well, but rather start when the player collides with an enemy shown on the screen. Depending on the type of enemy and the player's level, one's speed can vary or they can even run away from the player instead of chasing him. Also, colliding with an enemy facing away from the player results in the player having an extra turn to attack, which applies, too, to enemies who manage to trap the player from behind. By the time Ness and his friends become strong enough to virtually defeat an enemy without taking damage, the battle scene will be skipped, and the player will be given the victory immediately. Players and enemies have a set number of Hit Points (HP) and they take turns to do actions, which include attacking each other, using items, using special psychic skills (PSI) or trying to run away. As the attacks continue, the HP from both sides will decrease. A character or enemy with HP 0 becomes unconscious and the battle ends when either side has lost all its fighters. An original mechanic from EarthBound is the way the player's characters' HP is presented. They are shown as an odometer-like box which slowly decreases as damage is taken. When a character has received enough damage to collapse ("mortal damage"), they will still be able to fight, be cured, or run away before the actual shown number is 0. The same way, if a battle ends before the message showing a character has collapsed appears, he or she will not.
Characters similar to Mother's appear in EarthBound. The player's party is conformed of what legends call the Chosen Four: Ness, a young kid from Onett able to use psychic powers, and characterized by his love of baseball; Paula, a small girl from Twoson, who uses powerful PSI as Ness, and otherwise attacks with frying pans; Jeff, son of the brilliant scientist Dr. Andonuts, and a genius kid himself, and Poo, the young prince of the distant land Dalaam with powerful martial arts knowledge.
Giygas reprises his role from Mother as the main villain. Along with his army consisting of Starmen and other aliens, robots, evil people, animals and other bizarre enemies, he is determined to stop the Chosen Four from reaching the eight "Your Sanctuary" locations and wants to conquer the Earth, and, in the end, the universe. Porky Minch, Ness's neighbor, helps Giygas in his plans, influenced by his evil power.
Near the city of Onett, a meteor suddenly crashes, waking up thirteen-year-old boy Ness. While policemen investigate the area, Ness meets his arrogant and cowardly neighbor Porky Minch. Later that night, he wakes Ness up so that he can help him search for his little brother Picky. After finding him, a bee-like insect, Buzz Buzz, appears from the meteor, telling Ness about the cosmic destroyer alien Giygas who seeks to have the universe, and how he's come desperately from the future in an effort to find him, for he is one of the Chosen Four who are able to stop Giygas. As Buzz Buzz indicates, Ness now needs to find eight "Your Sanctuary" locations to unite his power to the Earth's, collecting melodies from said sanctuaries in the Sound Stone, given to him by Buzz Buzz. Despite the PSI Shield the insect can create to protect the party, from an attacking Starman Jr., which proves to be very useful, Buzz Buzz dies a moment later in the game, by the hands of Porky's mom, who mistakes him for a dung beetle.
After battling the local gang known as The Sharks and their leader Frank Fly, Ness gains access to the first sanctuary, Giant Step. He then continues to the city of Twoson, after having to face Captain Strong and his officers, and goes to the Happy Happy Village to save the kidnapped Paula. Ness then knows the people who had kidnapped the girl, the Happy Happy Cult, as they called themselves, were guided by Mr. Carpainter, and also assisted by the now evil Porky Minch. Defeating Carpainter, Ness and Paula find out he had been controlled by a golden statue, the Evil Mani Mani statue, and everything in the village turns back to normal again. Both kids meanwhile discover Lilliput Steps, the second sanctuary, nearby.
Everdred, a burglar found in the Burglin Park in Twoson, met by Ness earlier, offers him a wad of bills, which he uses to free the band who performs in the local theater, the Runaway Five, from a debt. With the help of their noisy bus, the children can go through the tunnel, safe from the ghosts there, and reach the third city, Threed. However, they soon discover the city is the one infested with undead. Soon, Ness and Paula are captured by zombies, and must find help from someone else. At this time, Paula sends a telepathic message to Jeff, who is faraway in the northern city of Winters.
Jeff comes in the Sky Runner his father, Dr. Andonuts, invented just in time to save Ness and Paula from their cell. The group is assisted by the young genius called Apple Kid, met by Ness in Twoson, which gives them a device called Zombie Paper, a sticky trap used to capture zombies. This lets the party proceed to Grapefruit Falls and Saturn Valley, a town habitated by strange creatures collectively known as Mr. Saturn. There, they learn a monster known as Master Belch is the responsible behind Threed's zombies, and has, too, kidnapped and enslaved some Mr. Saturn. The group enters his factory and defeats him, freeing the populants of both Saturn Valley and Threed. Above the valley, Ness, Paula and Jeff find the third sanctuary, Milky Well.
Traffic problems makes the group need to pass the Dusty Dunes Desert in order to get to the next city, Fourside. There, they again help the Runaway Five with another debt, and enter the Dept. Store only to have Paula kidnapped again. It is later known Porky and the mayor are behind this. Ness and his friends then see Everdred lying on the floor, saying he got too near to the mayor's secrets and reveals the party they need to go the back of the café building (a bar in the Japanese Mother 2). There, they find the Evil Mani Mani Statue and are transported to the negative and dark world of Moonside. They manage to destroy the statue and then learn Moonside was just an hallucination. With the relic destroyed, the mayor turns back to normal and gives Ness and Jeff Paula back. However, Porky escapes in the mayor's helicopter.
The party goes back to Threed to fix the Sky Runner and find the fourth sanctuary in Winters, Rainy Circle. The group then heads south to Summers. A magic cake Ness eats there makes him dream of a faraway land known as Dalaam. There, prince Poo needs to finish his training. When he becomes successful, he appears in Summers to join Ness's party. After investigating an underground passage in a room in the Dinosaur Museum in Fourside, the group finds the fifth sanctuary, Magnet Hill. They also find a carrot key which lets them enter a dungeon in Poo's land Dalaam, where they find the sixth sanctuary Pink Cloud.
Later, Ness's party takes a boat from Summers to the desert land Scaraba. They find the secret to defeat Giygas there. Poo's master takes him from the party for some time so that he can learn a hidden PSI power. The three children then meet Dungeon Man in the desert, a half-dungeon, half-man hybrid which in reality is a dungeon maker named Brick Road. They receive help from him and, afterwards, find a useful submarine inside, which lets them go to the Deep Darkness.
There, after a long swamp-like area, Master Belch, now more powerful and known as Master Barf, confronts the team. Soon after the battle beings, though, Poo comes from the sky attacking and beating him with his new power, PSI Starstorm. The party proceeds to a cave known by its inhabitants as the Tenda Village, where a group of shy, green creatures live. The book Overcoming Shyness, retrieved by Ness's party from the Onett library, helps the Tenda, who now, able to talk, show the group a path that leads to a giant underground land infested with dinosaurs known as the Lost Underworld.
Before getting to the actual tropical area, the group goes through a dungeon where they reach the seventh sanctuary, Lumine Hall, and then are obliged to fight their way through dinosaurs to find the eighth and last sanctuary known as Fire Spring. Getting the last melody makes Ness go unconscious and the Sound Stone he once had disappears. A grey flashback where he presences his infancy is shown and then he goes to the dreamed land of Magicant, which exists only inside Ness's mind.
After traveling alone and encounter many past friends and enemies, Ness reaches the center of Magicant, the Sea of Eden. There, he must fight Ness's Nightmare, a representation of the evil in Ness's heart, which is, at the same time, a replica of the Evil Mani Mani statue. Ness is victorious in the battle, and receives a massive increase in his stats for having defeated his nightmares. Then, he wakes up with his friends in Fire Spring, and they say Ness has been unconscious repeating "Saturn Valley", so they decide to go there and check what's going on.
Dr. Andonuts has finished the Phase Distorter, a device that allows to travel through time and space, but Porky Minch has stole it, and he needs a special material to make a second one. Ness's party goes back to Onett, now infested with Starmen and powerful enemies, to retrieve said material from the meteorite that fell there at the beginning of the game. With the help of Apple Kid and Mr. Saturn, Dr. Andonuts finishes the Phase Distorter II and the group travels to the Cave of the Past. There, they are quickly found by the inventors, who came with the Phase Distorter III, and they are told they need to travel to the past to fight Giygas, but they need to have their minds transferred to robots for the time travel.
The group then appears in the same place many millions of years earlier, and follow the cave to find Giygas's Lair. They reach a round ball with Ness's face, the Devil's Machine, where Giygas is hiding, and Porky. He explains Giygas has become so powerful his mind has been destroyed, and calls it "an all-mighty idiot", because he doesn't think anymore. The group battles both villains, and then Porky opens the Devil's Machine to reveal the true form of Giygas, which appears as a satanic red face in a swirling vortex of evil. Ness and his friends manage to fight it, but then they are seen helpless, and Paula starts to pray, in an effort to reach the people from the Earth. After the prayings of Ness's family in Onett, Paula's family in Twoson, Jeff's friends in Winters, Poo's servants from Dalaam, Frank Fly, and the Runaway Five in the beginning, and the rest of the Earth afterwards, reach Giygas, he starts to be damaged, as his weakness are human emotions. However, the darkness then consumes Paula's prayings and she is unable to proceed. A mysterious name then appears as someone praying for Ness's party, and Giygas continues to be damaged. The name in the end reveals to be the actual player's name (asked randomly somewhere in the middle of the game), and Giygas finally collapses.
Ness and his friends finally go back to their time, and return to their homes. After Ness takes Paula back to Twoson, and finally goes home to see a photograph album a man delivered to his mom, which displays photos of Ness throughout his journey. After the ending sequence finishes with a notable ending, giving credit to the player after the game's staff, Ness is found sleeping in his bed, the same way as the game starts. Suddenly, a knock on the door wakes him up. It is Picky Minch, who delivers a letter to Ness, even though it's not time to receive letters. He says it's from Porky. The letter reads "Come and get me, loser! Spankety spankety spankety!", reminding Ness he managed to escape through time during the battle with Giygas, and the game finishes with a "THE END...?" screen.
Development for EarthBound needed a great effort from both Ape, Inc. and HAL Laboratory; the game designer was Shigesato Itoi. Much longer than expected, the game took five years to be made, which made Itoi think numerous times the game was "doomed". While HAL was occupied on the programming, Ape had more people working and oversaw the data aspects.
Itoi had initially planned an unusual level structure and HP system for the game. He wanted no overworld, just like Mother, and uniqueness to each town or city. The first design of the HP system were pachinko balls that fell off the screen when a player was damaged, but large amounts of HP made the idea difficult, which resulted in the odometer-like HP bar seen in the final version. Since the odometer keeps rolling and does not stop until it has reached the amount of HP the character has, it is possible to lose all your HP (with high HP only) and then defeat the enemy without the odometer rolling to zero and not have a character die, which makes the game different from other RPG's.
The game passed from an 8 megabit SNES cartridge to 12 megabits, and finally to 24 megabits. The music partially affected the change, as the final number of tracks is really big. Other difficult aspects of the game were the programming concepts, such as the delivery services and the bicycle, which curiously were not really that important in the game. In addition, the oblique projection also posed problems in programming.
Nintendo announced a Japanese release date of August 27, 1994, and invested a lot in advertising. The game included a full length strategy guide and stickers, and was also sold at a lower price compared to other titles. In June 1, 1995, the game was finally released to America, after a long process of localization.
The game has had been ported to the Game Boy Advance in Japan only, along with its prequel, under the name of Mother 1+2. A sequel was announced for the Nintendo 64DD, titled EarthBound 64 (Mother 3 in Japan). However, the game featured many problems in programming, glitches, pushbacks, and was ultimately cancelled on August 21, 2000. Later, Mother 3 was released in 2005 for the Game Boy Advance, but, unlike EarthBound, only in Japan. ESRB has listed EarthBound for the Wii, which may mean it will be released on the Virtual Console, though nothing concerning this has been officially announced. A DS trilogy of the Mother series has had no announcement; even though, Itoi mentioned it is not entirely out-of-question.
Mother 2: Giygas Strikes Back is the name of the soundtrack from EarthBound, released only in Japan. The album was composed by Hiroshi Kanazu, Keiichi Suzuki, and Hirokazu Tanaka, and released by Sony Records on November 2, 1994.
- Saturn Valley
- Dusty Dunes Desert
- Dungeon Man
- Deep Darkness
- Tenda Village
- The Lost Underworld
- Cave of the Past
- Final Battle
- Love and Peace
- Ending (Smiles & Tears)
- Room Number (PSI Remix)
- Hula Hoop (PSI Remix)
- Another 2 (PSI Remix)
While EarthBound was a huge success in Japan, it sold much lower than expected in North America, possibly due to the fact that many American gamers were indifferent to Japanese RPGs. Years later, American critics praised it for being ahead of its time. In June 2008, EarthBound was shown in Nintendo Power as the most wanted game for the Virtual Console, with Mother being number four. One month later, it, again, retained the title with the original Mother now in second place.
EarthBound has been continually called one of the greatest and most original role-playing games of the 1990s. The game's graphics have been received both well and badly, with some reviews calling them "horrid" and some others rather liking them for being simple enough to fit the game. Another criticism has been its similarity to Dragon Quest titles. The game's humor has been its most lauded element. Many have liked the fact it is a strange, confusing, yet comedic depiction of North American culture, as well as a parody of the RPG genre. The game is full of subtle cultural references, ranging from a yellow submarine to absurd enemies such as battling a New Age Retro Hippie. Even the slogan of the game ("This game stinks") referenced the scratch and sniff stickers from the player's guide in the North American version.
EarthBound has created a huge fanbase that continually asks for its release on the Virtual Console, as well as official localizations of the remaining two games in the series. However, Nintendo of America's president Reggie Fils-Aimé has indicated that titles only get released at the right time, hinting EarthBound may not be released soon outside of Japan. While fans had long been waiting for a VC release, they now seem to have lost hope, as it has recently been noticed the game uses music, along with other elements, taken from copyrighted material, which would make it illegal. 
Due to the game having thousands of pop culture references such as The Beatles, the game is nigh impossible to re-release without paying billions of dollars to renew the licenses. Regardless, as Nintendo continues to reference the game in other games, the company obviously recognizes the game's cult legacy.
In March 2013, Nintendo released MOTHER 2, the Japanese version of EarthBound, on the Virtual Console for Wii U in Japan. EarthBound fans went onto the game's official Miiverse Community, asking for the game's release in North America and Europe. On April 17th, 2013, during a Nintendo Direct Broadcast, President of Nintendo Satoru Iwata announced that EarthBound would be released on the North American and European (Which never got EarthBound released in their territory even since the original SNES Release) Wii U Virtual Console Service later in 2013.