Paula is gone. AGAIN.
When you come back from your spelunking adventure, the four-story (Wow!) Fourside Department Store is open for business. And it has everything you need! Every kind of healing item up until this point, and on the very top floor there’s brand new weaponry to equip – FINALLY! Certainly the best part, in ANY RPG, of coming to a new town is getting the newest gear.
And then, once you descend each escalator back to the ground floor and make your way toward the exit, the lights flicker and some… THING sweeps through your party and snatches Paula away. As the lights flicker again, every NPC disappears, and a voice over the intercom summons you to the office at the top floor.
So now a place that was once a haven of supply and demand is now one of the most devious dungeons in the whole game.
Paula is gone. She is the most versatile striker of the team, who can direct strong attacks at single targets or whole groups, and she was the only member with elemental skills. But you can’t use those anymore because she’s gone.
Also because she’s gone, all of Paula’s items are gone. PROTIP: Before this point, take important items away from Paula – explosives, Teddy Bears, and especially the electro-reflective Franklin Badge. In fact, if you have space, load up on Teddy Bears and Bottle Rockets. Probably shoulda mentioned this sooner!!
The enemies here are fucking tough. There’s a huge spike in difficulty here, so I hope you bought the best stuff before the blackout. Most enemies have a “regular” attack and a “strong” attack, but it seems most of them use their strongest attacks all of the time. The Mystical Records can heal each other with Lifeup, too. If you have the Franklin Badge, that should at least protect you from the attacks from the ambulating bass guitar pretty well.
The assortment of enemies could be a nod to the style of hip urban beatniks. Y’know, listening to their records and going to their clubs and playing their upright basses and drinking their scalding hot coffee? Y’know? The selection of enemies here seems too specific not to suggest something.
The environment works against you. While riding the escalator, you are robbed of control until you reach the top or bottom. This restricts your ability to scroll enemies away.
What do I mean when I say scroll enemies away? Well, if you have enough space, and you see enemies in the distance that have not noticed you yet, and you don’t want to fight them, all you have to do is walk in the opposite direction until the enemies scroll off-screen, plus a few more steps. When you walk back, the game will have basically “reshuffled” the enemies. Depending on the location, sometimes this technique will result in a different set of enemies, and sometimes you can make enemies disappear altogether.
Since each floor in the department store is connected by an escalator, there is no opportunity to reshuffle the enemies off-screen. So each time you ascend to a new floor, it’s very likely you’ll be bum-rushed by whatever the game wants to throw at you. So be prepared each time you step on the escalator.
The big boss on the top floor, who’s been taunting you over the PA periodically, is tough but simple, and if you let loose everything you have at him before he does the same to you, he should be taken care of pretty easily.
Being an alien, he clearly works for Giygas, but on defeat he says, At this moment, Paula should be… Monotoli… Gwaaaarrrgh!!, then dissipates.
Monotoli, based on NPC intel, is a Trump-styled self-made billionaire who seems to essentially run the town. Indeed, there is no city hall, but there is a giant skyscraper that says, “Monotoli” on it.
Investigating the Monotoli building will only lead you to find… Pokey! Apparently, he’s now Monotoli’s political and economic advisor. He insults your taste, and then has you escorted from the premises – again, another one of those rare, uncomfortable times that control is robbed of you. Fucking Pokey.
So, it seems you can’t just walk in to the office of the most influential man in Eagleland. However NPC investigation will reveal that Monotoli spends a lot at Jackie’s Cafe – an unusual dive for a man of means to patronize. The patrons at Jackie’s are pretty tight-lipped, but one will tell that she hears some kerfuffle outside.
When you go back outside, Fourside’s upbeat music has been replaced by something creepier, and you’ll find… Everdred, lying prone in the alley! He reveals that he stole the Mani Mani statue from Carpainter in Happy Happy Village – likely with the hopes of pawning it somewhere for a chunk of change – but he was hoodwinked and robbed of the statue by none other than Monotoli. The statue is likely the source of his newfound influential power.
This is a very scary moment. Everdred has been very good to us, and we know how clever he is, especially when it comes to dealing with greedy behind-the-desk overseers. And yet Monotoli STILL got the upper hand on this guy. Clearly, Monotoli isn’t like the other politicians and businessmen we’ve run into. He’s clever, he’s rich, and he’s evil.
What adds to the gloom of the atmosphere, aside from the music, is that you have to push through a crowd of onlookers to get to Everdred; mostly one guy you can actually get to move out of your way if you give him something to eat. Though they don’t seem to hear the conversation, it’s a pretty intimate moment to share out in public surrounded by strangers.
Once Everdred tells you everything he knows, he asks if you’d like him to repeat what he said. This happens in the game whenever you’re presented with a chunk of plot information, as with Buzz Buzz’s final words.
Though paralleling Everdred with Buzz Buzz reminds me of a certain mystery. This sprite.
Its Everdred’s angel – the same kind of sprite that replaces characters in your party when their HP hits 0 and they need to be revived. This sprite is never used, but was found amongst other junk data in the game. This sprite leads to two possible conclusions.
1) At some point in planning, Everdred was supposed to die here in the alley. Just as with Buzz Buzz, an important NPC would die after telling you something very important. This would represent a big shift in scope, as it would lead to the first death of a human being, and would represent Monotoli as a reprehensible monster. If Everdred did not die in the alley, it’s possible his sprite would appear during the game’s credits. But I guess that was too much of a downer.
2) Everdred was meant to be a playable character at some point. This is not a popular opinion, and there is no other data supporting this possibility, but there is some context. Only members of the player’s party have angelic sprites; all other NPCs flicker or fade from existence if they’re killed or otherwise defeated.
Looking back at Mother 1 (Earthbound Zero), you can see that all of the playable characters in its cast were the basis for the playable characters in Earthbound – kid in red ball cap, cute blonde girl in pink, dorky smart kid with glasses. There’s also a fourth party member who joins for a period of time: a muscley, snarky gangster with sunglasses named Teddy, who is older than the rest of the kids.
While Everdred is a much older, possible dirtier version of Teddy, it’s pretty easy to see the connection. Most people say that Teddy was the basis for Frank Fly, which certainly makes sense. Even if the idea was discarded early on, I’m almost confident it was a possibility at some point during production. It seems Itoi has a weird respect for shady gangster tough guys.
Anyway, Everdred doesn’t die. What he does do is recite his “last” haiku poem.
When on your way out
Be sure that you say goodbye
then lock the door tight.
He urges you not to follow him as he stumbles away.
But before he goes, he tells you to check behind the counter in the cafe.