The moment you step out of the warehouse with the battered Mani Mani statue, Apple Kid calls you to inform you of his newest invention, a yogurt machine that only dispenses trout-flavored yogurt. He’s nice enough to send it to you via Escargo Express’ “neglected class” delivery service.
When you step out of Jackie’s Cafe, a monkey will come up and tell you that the simian guru Talah Rama is awaiting your presence at the caves in Dusty Dune Desert.
Just as the talking monkey leaves, a guy from Escargo Express comes up and tells you that he lost the yogurt dispenser in the desert, so you can go and get it yourself.
Then the moment the Escargo guy leaves, Electra, Geldegarde Monotoli’s overworked maid, drops by to tell you that she could really use some trout-flavored yogurt to serve to Mr. Monotoli’s special guests – probably the goddamn Minches.
FINALLY, once everyone’s done running on- and off-screen like a Scooby Doo hallway scene, you get control back, and it’s time to head to the Monkey Caves in the Dusty Dunes desert.
Now this shit is some ridiculous trolling. It’s not a monster-filled dungeon, but it’s just as harrowing. You have to navigate your way through this monkey maze, but the only way to access each entrance is to give a consumable item to the monkey blocking your way.
This is especially devious considering at this point you’re still hoping Paula will rejoin the party so you can start carrying more things again. Now, when inventory space is most precious, the game asks you to lug around a bunch of bullshit just so you can give it away to the these filthy monkeys.
The good news is, unlike the game’s previous cavernous troll, this one is worth the effort. The monkeys are all pretty funny, and you get some super sweet items, including a Fire Pendant, a Bag of Dragonite (Using it in battle transforms you into a dragon for one turn and do big-time damage. Yeah, this game’s mythology is all-encompassing), and the always useful revivifying Cup of Lifenoodles.
Not only that, but once you finally reach the end of cave, you meet Talah Rama, an enlightened Monkey with visions of the future who ascertains that, YES, YOU are meant to restore balance to the Earth, and he offers you an awesome power to help you. [You can accept or reject this awesome power. Talah Rama jovially supports either choice.] He also gives you the Trout Yogurt Dispenser.
Ultimately, you’ll end up following one of his monkey disciples all of the way out of the cave and onto the desert highway. Here, you are taught the ability PSI Teleport, which allows you to travel back to any place you have previously visited. Well, hot fucking damn.
What I love about PSI Teleport is that, even with the ability to travel anywhere almost instantly, you still have to put some effort in. You can only use it if you have enough space in front of you to gather speed and then “take off”. If you collide with anything before you actually teleport, the skill fails and you lose those Psychic Points.
What’s especially devious about this is that, if you were to teleport to Saturn Valley as I did when I first got this ability, you would not be able to teleport OUT of Saturn Valley, because there’s not enough room! I don’t think that’s a coincidence – it’s one of the few places in the game you can rest without spending money.
Anyway, now you never have to take a bus again! If you Teleport back to Fourside, you’ll find Electra standing outside of the Monotoli Building, who’ll swipe the Trout Yogurt Dispenser and then grant you access to the VIP elevator inside!
Up on the 48th floor are a series of hallways and meeting rooms that are eerily empty, save for creepy Sentry Robots who will come directly after you once you draw near, ask you for identification, discover you have none, and initiate battle. These guys are especially diabolical because they’re always in places where it LOOKS LIKE you can avoid them, but in all but one situation, you can’t through normal means.
You can also find a room with Electra in it. She’ll give you some trout-flavored yogurt.
Finally, you end up in a room with a really doofy looking bucket o’ bolts called the Clumsy Robot. What’s funny about this guy is that, when it’s not wasting a turn doing something stupid, it fires missiles at you, doing massive damage. It’s the Mr. Magoo of boss fights.
The Clumsy Robot can also feed itself bolgna sandwiches, endlessly healing its HP to maximum. It seems like one of those stupid RPG rigged fights that you’re supposed to lose because the story says so!
But just as things seem bad, The Runaway Five bust in and the boss music changes to something rompin’ and awesome! One of the them accidentally flips the robot’s power switch, and the fight is won.
You can always count on one thing – every time you bail The Runaway Five outta debt, they always return the favor.
[The truth is, I found out, the balogna sandwich does nothing to heal the Clumsy Robot. Once the Runaway Five show up, that basically means to did enough damage to defeat him, like any other fight. But this way is so much funnier. Oh my God! Why don’t more RPGs have fights that end like this? The set piece possibilities are endless!]
In the next room, you find a broken old man who immediately begs for forgiveness and runs behind Paula, cowering.
Paula behaves just as she did the first time you rescued her from captivity, calm and optimistic. She also assures you that Monotoli actually isn’t all that bad.
Monotoli basically places all of the blame on the Mani Mani Statue, which he claims attracts evil and weakens the hearts of those who come into contact with it.
He also says that he received messages from the statue, telling him to make sure that Ness and gang never make it to the resort town, Summers, and that they never find out about the “Pyramid” or some such. He intuits that Ness definitely should go to Summers, and offers his helicopter as a means of conveyance, opening the secret door to his private helipad.
When you get out to the helipad, you find… POKEY?!
That fat fucking FUCK! Now that Monotoli is a plain old man again, Pokey has no use for him, so he steals the helicopter and flies away. Where the hell could he possibly go? Hopefully his weight throws off the helicopter’s balance and he crashes and dies. How’d he even GET out there??
When you head back inside to tell Monotoli what happened, he actually expresses concern for Pokey. I always thought this to mean that Monotoli is such a nice guy, he would even fear for the safety of someone who used him as tool and probably was the person ACTUALLY RESPONSIBLE for all of the bad attributed to his own self.
Only this time did I consider that maybe Monotoli expresses concern for Pokey because he knows something about the helicopter that we don’t…?
When you move to leave, a “!” appears over Paula’s head and everything fades to black around her.
It’s a disquieting moment, suggesting that’s Paula’s ESP is a strange and alienating thing, another facet of her feminine otherness. When things return to normal, she shrugs off the episode as a spell of dizziness and suggests that the gang heads back to the town of Threed. The Runaway Five offer you a ride there.
On your way out of the building you suddenly receive ANOTHER call from Apple Kid.
Hello! How are you? This is Apple Kid.
I think I’m a real genius… In fact, I know I’m a genius.
Why? Well, I have discovered the primary enemy of you and of all humanity.
We have to fight and defeat this being…
To do so, we need to invent a machine called the “Phase Distorter.”
I’ve got to find the wandering scientist,
Dr. Andonuts, and make the distorter. So, I may be gone for a while.
I told you to remember that Phase Distorter! This is another eerie moment for me. You’ve been told about evil and darkness before, but those were by special people who have a certain spiritual awareness. Apple Kid, though a genius, is just a regular dude. Is Giygas’ evil so pervasive that even average people are starting to pick up on it?
If you still haven’t figured out what’s waiting in Threed, the Runaway Five give you a hint after they drop you off in their sweet bus: “By the way, why did you need to come back here? You must have forgotten some very important item or gadget here… How’s that for a guess? Am I close?”
Head up to the graveyard, where Jeff crash-landed the Sky Runner, and you’ll find that the members of the zombie action committee, formerly so useless, have restored the Sky Runner to working order! Hop in, and you’re on your way~~~~~~~
That was a long one, but everything in this entire sequences is basically emblematic of Earthbound.
- Clear and intertwining objectives (Find THIS monkey to get THIS machine to rescue THIS girl to intuit THIS method of travel to reach THIS resort town…)
- Silly fucking shit (monkeys, trout yogurt, impeccably-timed entrances, robots that eat sandwiches)
- Arduous and sometimes clever dungeons with sweets rewards (Telportation, getting Paula back)
- An economic use of the cast, providing depth to you, them, and the world (Apple Kid, The Runaway Five, the citizens of Threed)
- The assertion that all people at their core are essentially good (except for Pokey)
And with that, we’re finally OUT of Fourside!!