More about Dad

Ness’ dad is only ever present through a telephone. This is apparently representative of Itoi’s assertion that Japan is so work-centric you can never even see your children. I’d believe it!

Despite this, it’s likely that Dad will be the single character in the game you talk to the most, as he saves your game. Like many good fathers, his duties are vague and unknowable to a young mind, but incredibly important.

Every time you call Dad to save your game, he asks if you’re ready to stop playing and hit the hay.

If you don’t take him up on the offer, he says,

Ness, you like to work hard, just like your mother. But, I don’t think it’s good to work too hard.
(Click! Beep-beep-beep…)


Ness’ dad telling me not to work too hard is basically the reason the rest of my school career turned out the way it did. If you say Yes to his suggestion, he says,

We’re a great team, aren’t we? Well, you should turn the power OFF instead of just pressing RESET. All right?


And then the game just stops. The background music continues, but you can’t close the dialog box, you can’t move, pause, or do anything. All you can do is turn the game off, like you told Dad you would.

I never realized it until this current playthrough, but in turning off the game, you are hanging up the phone. That’s why there’s no Click! Beep-beep-beep at the end of that sentence!

I’ve gotten into the habit of whispering “Good night” when turning the game off.

Another funny thing Dad does is, once you have the Receiver phone from Apple Kid, he will call you if he thinks you’ve been playing too long. After a long period of time without saving, even if you’re in the middle of a dungeon, Dad will call and ask if you think you’ve played long enough.

Mostly, it’s just a reminder. He won’t save your game in the middle of nowhere, but he does tell you to get somewhere safe and get some rest.

What’s REALLY funny is if you play for a long time in one sitting, and then Dad calls while you’re playing as Jeff.

Hello, it’s your dad. You’ve been out there for a long time now… It may be none of my business, but don’t you think it would be a good idea if you took a
break?
Yes
>No

Ahhh… and this would be…? So, this isn’t Ness. Oh well, it’s okay…
Anyway, don’t strain yourself on your journey. Good luck… whoever you are.

Jeff’s “Family”

When Ness and Paula make it to Threed, they find it’s overrun by creepy Halloween ghouls. Ghosts, zombies, zombie goasts, living marionettes.

When they try to investigate the meaning behind this monster mash, they’re ambushed and thrown into a creepy underground dungeon with no way out.

That’s when Paula uses her telepathy to contact the only person who can help.

Jeff is awakened from his sleep by the psychic call from across the ocean. Much like Ness and the meteorite, Jeff’s call to action comes in the middle of the night, interrupting what should be a regular night in his regular life at the Snow Wood Boarding School in Winters, a perpetually snowy town in Foggyland – a clear representation of the UK.

He gets up, totally dressed in his school uniform, and heads for the door, when he’s halted by his friend and roommate Tony, who comes with him.

Everyone else at the boarding school is still awake, gathered in a common area, talking. It seems like Jeff and Tony are those kids. Introverted. High maintenance. On the spectrum?

Seemingly the only teacher at Snow Wood, Maxwell, provides Jeff with a machine to open the lockers in the locker room so he can gather equipment. Indeed, the machine can open any lock. Man! Presumably, Maxwell can trust a good kid like Jeff with this sort of thing.

Tony, without asking why Jeff has to leave, helps his friend scale the gate of Snow Wood.

I don’t know where you’re going or why…But remember, we are best friends forever.

A lot of people have made fun of Tony, with his dopey hat and his perpetual O face. His relationship with Jeff doesn’t quite read as a bromance, so people assume that he’s gay. And, since the game’s release, it turns out that he is! According to Itoi, in so many words.

So it’s true. It seems that Tony loves Jeff, whether or not he knows it. And Jeff is leaving behind the one person who loves him to go somewhere he doesn’t know to do something he’s not sure of.

As Jeff journeys south, he passes a drug store that sells weaponry for Ness and Paula. There’s a shortcut that is blocked by an iron pencil statue. There’s a glowing light in a cave that says, Only Ness can absorb the power of this place. Even so close to home, so much is around to remind him of his destiny intertwining with Ness’. And telling the player, “Look forward to coming back to this place!”

Finally, you make it to the southern laboratory, and finally meet Jeff’s estranged father, Doctor Andonuts, who doesn’t even recognize him at first.

Uh, those glasses look good on you. How about a donut?
>Yes
No

Well, I was only offering… I’d also like a donut right about now.

He lets on that he, too, had been contacted by Paula for the purpose of getting Jeff to Threed. He mentions his Phase Distorter which is incomplete (remember that!!!!!!), but ultimately offers his Sky Runner.

What do you think? Isn’t it neat? Get in! Let’s get together again in 10 years or so.

Jeff boards, and it automatically takes him to Threed, flying over a few locations that Ness and friends will visit in the future – revealing the locations of treasure in a certain desert.

Jeff’s role, aside from being the guy who uses bottle rockets and wins boss fights, is being the loner. He doesn’t come from a loving family like Ness and Paula. His father never visits, even though he’s not far away. The only encouragement he gets is from a teacher (Maxwell, not the Doctor, saves his game data). He only has one friend, and the both of them are kind of losers. The bubble monkey, who accompanies him south from the drug store, abandons him to pursue the love of a lady monkey.

Ness is a good kid, and most definitely a swell avatar for the player. But the truth is, most kids who play and love Earthbound are probably more like Jeff. Reclusive and unpopular, not especially talented in most things, but deep down quite proud and real fucking smart.

We have seen the family lives of Ness, Paula, Pokey, and now Jeff. The most important lessons that Jeff teaches are that suffering an awkward adolescence will provide you with the self-knowledge to become a better and more dependable person in the long run,

and that your family, big or small, are the people who love you.

EDIT 12/19/14: This sums it up nice.

Low-life scum and gullible musicians save the day

Everdred runs Burglin Park, the open-air market in Twson. It’s suggested that he’s something of a mobster, and NPCs explicitly state that he’s tied to kidnappings and burglaries, and not someone to mess with.

When you tread deeply into Burglin Park, Everdred jumps off the roof of his own house and challenges you to a fight. His actions in combat include stealing consumable goods from you, knitting his brow, and biting you.

Once Everdred finds out how tough you are, he tells you about Paula‘s whereabouts. Evidently, in the Japanese version of the game, he lets on that he owns the cabin that Paula is being held in. Everdred rents out a cabin in the wilderness to people without scruples.

It’s unclear precisely why he informs you about Paula’s location – and he also suggests that he heard you were looking for her. And he asks you to bring her back here when you find her. Jesus, what does he want?

When you do bring Paula back to Everdred, he is impressed, again suggesting he has informants about town.

I heard that you’ve been pretty proud of yourself since you saved Paula’s
life… I was going to ask you to be my partner, but I know you’ll refuse. It’s
written all over your face. If you accepted, I was going to give you some
money. Actually, I can’t keep the money now anyway. Let me give this to you.
It’s 10,000 dollars. Use the money any way you like. You cannot refuse my
generosity. Just accept it.

Ha ha! Okay. And then you receive an item called Wad of bills. What do we do with this money? Hey, y’know who else wanted to see Paula? That band at the theatre: the Runaway Five!

While you’re backstage, you find out the band is indebted to the owner of the theatre, Mr. Poochyfud. I dunno how talent booking works exactly, but I guess the Runaway Five sells a lot of tickets, and that’s why the owners wants them to stay.

But guess how much their debt is? $10,000! When you give Poochyfud the wad of bills, the Runaway Five line up to express their gratitude, then they pile into their bus to go to Threed.

Oh, but you can’t get to Threed. The tunnel is inhabited by zombie goasts.

Our tour bus is too loud for any ghosts to bother us, say Lucky of the Runaway Five. The coolness and funk emanating from the bus does indeed repel the ghosts in the tunnel to Threed.

We almost see the same relationship between Everdred and Poochyfud as we did between Frank Fly and Mayor Pirkle back in Onett. Everdred and Frank are both the guy on the street with bad reputations, and Poochyfud and Pirkle act as “the guy behind the desk” who restricts progress for other people.

Like Frank Fly and Carpainter, Everdred acts against his reputation after he’s defeated in a fight. Fighting Ness seems to bring out the best in people. Must be something about the purity of combat with the Chosen One that makes them see the truth.

But Everdred almost anticipates being on amicable terms with Ness from the top, introducing himself by saying, “Why don’t we chat later-after we’ve locked horns!”

It’s not clear if he’s truly changed at all because for every nice thing he does for Ness, he also gets something in return. By helping you find Paula, he’s also clearing his name in regards to her disappearance. By giving you $10,000, he is also getting rid of money that is clearly dirty.

And who’s only too happy to take the money? Why, Poochyfud, the unscrupulous owner of the Chaos Theater. And that is how organized crime helps save the world.

So you came to Twoson to smash the cult to find Paula to impress the guy to get the money to pay the debt to free the band to get to Threed.

What’s great about Twoson is that, we get to see how quests start neatly dovetailing into each other. The reward for the previous objective becomes the means of overcoming the next objective. Every event and character in the game is tied together simply by doing the next thing you need to do to progress.

Paula, a woman far away

Paula is The Girl in every sense. She’s feminine and well-loved like a young Miyazaki heroine, she wears pink like Princess Peach, she wears a bow in her hair like Ms. Pac Man, and she uses a frying pan as her weapon of choice.

I’d like to think the frying pan was an ironic choice – like, they knew how funny it would be. I’m also confident that Paula’s use of a frying pan would lead to Princess Peach being able to use a frying pan (among other things) in Super Mario RPG, and then again in Super Smash Bros. Melee.

Paula was raised by loving parents who also run the preschool in Twoson – how community-oriented they are! Paula seems to lend a hand at the school as well, which goes to show how she grew to be so kind and likeable.

Like Ness, we discover that Paula also has psychic powers, her specialty being telepathy. When you first rest at a hotel after completing Giant Step, Paula will contact you and request your aid.

Despite her talent and resourcefulness, her parents actually seem pretty dopey! After Paula’s kidnapped, her father doesn’t realize she’s missing until you ask to see her at their home. He panics and runs around town looking for her [P P P Paula! Where are you? It’s time for a yummy piece of pie!] and presumably never tells his wife, who does not mention Paula’s absence.

In a lot of ways she’s a stereotypical girl in an RPG, but I think this is done with purpose. She does get kidnapped, and she is heavily suggested to act as a love interest for Ness, and she IS the most magically (psychically) talented member of the group. So she’s girly. But, in the 90s, I feel like if a fictional girl wasn’t wearing pink with bows in her hair, she could have been Boomer from the Burger King Kids Club.

She’s also the most versatile attacker. All of Ness’ iconic attacks in Smash Bros. – Fire, Thunder, Freeze, Magnet – were actually borrowed from Paula. She gets more Psychic Points than Ness, and can even use PSI Magnet to leech PP from enemies – an explicit encouragement to use her special skills as often as possible. Her sheer offensive potential, I believe, does a lot do balance out her girliness. Hey, she doesn’t even learn restorative skills.

There’s also something about Paula I never took seriously before. To spoil something: before you recruit your remaining party members, you take control of them for very brief but very illuminating moments.

You never take control of Paula. I can’t think of a more eloquent way to illustrate how an adolescent male like Ness has no idea what goes on in the mind of a girl his age. When I first played this game, I was an adolescent male like Ness, and I never even thought to want to play as Paula.

Another interesting thing about Paula is revealed in looking back at the Japanese version of the game. When naming your party at the beginning, you can choose “Don’t Care” to have the game cycle through a set of pre-made names.

In Japanese, these names are, of course, different, but some of them are very special. If you were to name everyone with the 4th set of names,

Ness would be John
Paula would be Yoko
Jeff would be Paul
Poo would be George
and the dog would be Ringo.

Yoko: a lady among men, a non-Beatle among Beatles. The ultimate “other” is paralleled with Paula.

Right from the get-go, Earthbound has so much to say about men and women.

Happy Happy, Joy Joy, Mani Mani

So back in Onett, there’s this guy who lives on the big hill named Lier X. Agerate, Treasure Hunter and self-described “billboard guy”.

At first I thought Agerate might be a stand-in for Shigesato Itoi, or rather the kind of person Itoi was or met as an ad man in the 80s. He calls himself a Treasure Hunter, but actually, he just advertises that he’s a treasure hunter.

He’s also really really friendly with Ness, despite being an older gentleman who isn’t part of his family. Kind of awkwardly forced, a bit creepy, in the way I’ve noticed other Japanese auteurs represent themselves in their own work. I guess I’m mostly thinking of Akira Toriyama.

He also initiates a very important sub-plot when he actually finds treasure. (0:34 in the video)

The thing he finds is creepy, and gives a very peculiar sound cue when examined. But that’s it, at least for now. In fact, you don’t HAVE to do ANY of this, which is why I didn’t mention it before.

ANYWAY, once you get through Peaceful Rest Valley, you’ll reach Happy Happy Village. Happy Happy Village, I think, is a unique result of Japanese minds recreating a particular aspect of American culture.

The villagers all follow a man called Carpainter who believes that happiness can be found once everything is painted blue. They all praise the color blue, assert how happy they are, and some even suggest their strong distaste for any who disagree with their viewpoint.

On one side of the village there is a woman who requests donations from you, follows you around and insults you if you don’t comply, and if you DO comply, gives you a postcard, which, in terms of resale value, is the most worthless item in the game. On the other side of town there is a market where you can name your own price for the items on sale. If you don’t pay anything and talk to the man keeping surveillance behind the bush, he will fight you.

Religious extremism is everywhere in the world, but the hypocritcal nature of the Happy Happyists seems distinctly American to me. Evangelical in practice, Mormon in origin, Scientologist under scrutiny. Also, fucking look at these guys.

These cultists appear at random throughout the town. The rest of the villagers are polite enough, but they do not take responsibility for these violent crazies. The little Santa Claus pom-pom at the end of their hoods were added in the American version. There also used to be a little “HH” on the forehead, as though the Ku Klux Klan komparision wasn’t close enough already.

Around the same time as Earthbound’s development, the Aum Shinrikyo cult would carry out a Sarin gas attack in Tokyo. In creating the Happy Happists, maybe Itoi was casting a wider net than just Christian extremism. (The cult even published a magazine called Enjoy Happiness)

With enough scouting around, you’ll find out that Paula – who may have contacted you telepathically in your sleep by now – is locked in a cabin somewhere in Peaceful Rest Valley, being sweated out until she agrees to become Carpainter’s right-hand priestess. Carpainter has the key to her cell, but if you visit her she’ll give you the Franklin Badge as protection from Carpainter’s power over lightning.

Yeah, what, lightning? Wait. Shut up.

When you exit, you’re greeted by Happy Happyist cronies and… Pokey?! He’s a high priest with the cult now, and based on accounts in Twoson, he may have been in charge of Paula’s kidnapping. He sics the Happyists on you. Pokey, what are you up to?

The next place to be is the Happy Happyist HQ in the middle of the village. So this is where they’re all coming from! I can’t stress enough how funny and weird and clever this place is. The only way through the throngs of chanting followers is to find the stand-outs and ask them to move out of your way – though some will fight you.

And then you’re face to face with Carpainter. No, wait, first you meet this… receptionist.

Because I didn’t know what else to do!

Then, up the stairs, you’re face to face with Carpatiner and,

HEY that other thing! Agerate’s statue that he found. First you have to overcome Carpainter in battle. Which is very easy! Because the Franklin Badge reflects all of his Crashing Bang Boom lightning attacks. It’s kind of a joke, and it feels great. Yeah, take that, asshole!

Oh, but he’s not a real asshole. Once defeated, much like Frank Fly back in Onett, Carpainter comes to his senses right away. He says that the statue had been making him do peculiar things since he obtained it. He promises to get rid of it and return the village to normal.

Carpainter is a weird guy. His name is a pretty half-hearted pun, and he seems to be wearing something like a yarmulke. Maybe Itoi just wanted to use Happy Happy Village to include religions predomninantly practiced in America? Or some kind of statement about how, despite the percentage of Christians in the country, the Jews seem to run everything?? I don’t believe that by the way. His design is just so peculiar to me.

The statue, which Carpainter reveals is called the Mani Mani statue, is also pretty weird, but a little easier to break down. It definitely looks like an Oscar statuette with devil horns – a pretty natural symbol for the corrupting nature of power and fame. Also, not only does “Mani” sound a little like “money”, the statue also functions as an evil and powerful MacGuffin in the same way the Mammon Machine does in Chrono Trigger. “Mani” kind of sounds like “Mammon”, and Mammon also basically means wealth as a result of avarice.

For now, we take Carpainter’s word for it, and the statue just kind of hangs out. Carpainter also gives us the key to Paula’s cell. Let’s go get her!

Peaceful Rest Valley, and a suprise

Peaceful Rest Valley is the biggest outdoor dungeon yet. It’s a very weird place, with the vaguely threatening music over the sound of rushing water, and the strangely beautiful contrast of the pale grass and the purple water.

It’s surprisingly labyrinthian, and it’s filled with useful goods and, of course, deadly new baddies. Those that are not alien in origin are sentient plants, perhaps made so by alien meddling. Giygas, what are you UP to??

Some of the enemies here also have wild, careening movements, veering back and forth. This makes them very difficult to outmaneuver, but because of the nature of Peaceful Rest Valley, they might get caught on flora, rocks, and other obstacles. You can use choke points to your advantage here to elude enemies and pick your fights more careful.

PROTIP: Grab the Teddy Bear from Paula’s bedroom back in Twoson. For as long as you have it, it will receive damage instead of you, about 100 HP worth. Be sure and grab it after you’ve gotten the Pencil Eraser, so as not to waste it.


These Mobile Sprouts aren’t so tough, but they can use PSI Magnet to steal you PP and heal themselves with PSI Lifeup. They can also sow seeds around multiply, so you don’t want a bunch of these guys stealing PP and healing each other. That would be the worst.


The Li’l UFO is not only quick and evasive, but it shoots a beam that causes nighttime stuffiness. That’s right – it gives you a cold! You sneeze and suffer 4 HP of damage every round. You can cure yourself if you have a cold remedy, or if you’ve learned PSI Healing.


The Territorial Oak is one of the most ridiculous enemies in the game. Not only can it hit hard and lower you offense and defense, it also bursts into flames and explodes upon defeat, hurting everyone. You are guaranteed to take a hit when fighting the Territorial Oak, and any Teddy Bear you have is destroyed. Tread softly, and scroll through text quickly to minimize damage.


Spinning Robo is basically like Li’l UFO, though it can also put a Shield on itself. Also, sometimes it drops… WAIT, WHAT

Guys, I–

This is my 10th time playing this game. And I have never gotten this item before.

This is so exciting.

Well, it turns out the only thing to do with it is sell it for $1000. Not A LOT of money, but enough to add plenty of wiggle room to my next shopping trip.

I almost want to keep it for posterity.

Trolling in Twoson

In Onett, enemies did not appear within the boundaries of town. In Twoson, some of the townsfolk ARE bad guys!

These guys are mostly soft, but they start introducing some ridiculous and tricky strategies, brushing their teeth and acting like drunk weirdos to buff, debuff, and stun.

Anyway, from this point on, I’m not going to do so much of a play-by-play of the game. There enough yokels whom I’ve stolen images from who’ve been down that road. From now on I’m just gonna comment where the commenting is good.

SO in Twoson you find out that your next party member, the telepathic Paula, has been kidnapped by the Happy Happyist cult. Her parents, who run the preschool, are the last to find out.

In order to get to Happy Happy Village, you have to go through Peaceful Rest Valley.

Not very far into the valley, you run into this.

There is no way past it. At least not now. And yet, this is the direction you’re supposed to go! So I guess there’s something you need back in Twoson?

You have to talk to the inventors! One of them can give you something useful, probably! Let’s talk to the handsome young Orange Kid.

Greetings. I’m Orange Kid, the inventor. Have you heard of me? I’m a bit
embarrassed about my reputation. I have a lot of inventions in development,
but I’m running short of cash. I’m basically a happy-go-lucky person, so I’m
not worried. You know, I’m working on this machine that would really help you
in Peaceful Rest Valley. I hope it’s ready soon… what? You’re actually
willing to help finance the project?

>Yes

Oh goody! Would it be okay to get $200 to buy materials?

>Yes

Thank you very much! Your support should have a tremendous impact on all
mankind.

Let me give you my new “Super Orange Machine.” I call it “Suporma” for short.
Please use it for spreading peace and goodwill on Earth.

Alright let’s go back to Peaceful Rest Valley and try this out.

The Suporma sang the song “Ode to Orange Kid.” As soon as it finished, the
machine broke down.

Alright, my confidence in inventors has taken a hit, but let’s try talking to the dweeby Apple Kid.

Well, I have sort of neglected doing my housework… I know it’s a bit of a
pig sty, but anyway… I’m Apple Kid. I haven’t taken a bath in quite a while,
so I may be kind of stinky.

By the way, I’m starving. Do you have something to eat? If you do, can I have
some?

>Yes

What can you give me?
Please choose something edible… I’m not a garbage can, you know.

>anything edible

Thanks. You seem very nice. Uh, I wonder if… Maybe you would like to
invest some money in my inventions?

>Yes

Yes! Yes! Yes! Oh. Excuse me. I mean thank you! By the way, I could really
use $200.

>Yes

Thank you. I won’t let you down.

The invention isn’t ready off the bat, though. In the meanwhile, Apple Kid’s pet mouse gives me the Receiver Phone, with which I can receive a phone call from anywhere in the world. Though I can’t make outgoing calls with it.

Only after dicking around for a little bit will you get a call from Apple Kid tell you he finished his invention: the Pencil Eraser, which will erase any pencil shaped object.

This interlude demonstrates another thing Earthbound is good at: trolling. Even if you invested in the inventions before you headed for Peaceful Rest Valley, the Pencil Eraser would not be complete until went to the iron pencil statue and came back to town.

This also acts as an additional incident of the motif started with the introduction of Buzz Buzz: never judging a book by its cover. The pudgy, stinky Apple Kid was much nicer and more useful than the slick and vain Orange Kid.

The whole game is like this. In addition to your party members, you will make the most unlikely of friends.

Hug tha Police

Hail the conquering hero!! Wait what

Well, now I gotta go down to the precinct and explain myself to this guy.

So here you are. You’re the little delinquent that came back from Giant Step!
Now you listen here… “Don’t Enter” means just that– DO NOT ENTER! You got
that?
And furthermore…
Blah blah
Blah blah
It’s usually those tax evaders who…
Blah blah
Blah blah
We don’t enjoy blocking off the roads, you know…
Blah blah
Blah blah
It’s usually the local whiners that make a big deal about
emergencies and meteorites!
Blah blah
Blah blah
Blah blah

I love how the “blah blah’s” are parsed in a nice, staccato.

But, hey, who’s this other guy, his superior?

Captain Strong asks if you want to get through the road blocks and get to the town of Twoson. If you say Yes, your control of Ness is robbed for the first time and Strong ushers you into The Back Room.

YEAH! Strong tests your might by trying to murder you with cops! You’re subjected to five fights in a row, without a break.

You don’t get a chance to access the menu between fights, so I hope you came prepared! Most first-timers don’t. Make sure you got hamburgers and keep your HP in the 40s at least. If you’re lucky and/or tough enough, you can quicken a few of the fights with a good PSI Rockin’.

I also love this guy who leaves without fighting you. Because you think you’ll get out without having to fight anyone else, but then you’re left fighting Captain Strong, who’s strong!

Guys, this game is so good. Y’know why? Since starting the game, we’ve been asked to,

1. Find the next-door neighbor and embrace your destiny
2. Pacify The Sharks
3. Liberate the Sanctuary at Giant Step
4. Strongarm Captain Strong and the police

Those are four separate challenges to tackle. All in the first town in the game! You might have thought that the Onett Police Department might have been just window dressing for the game’s prologue, but they also function as a challenge unique from every other up to this point.

That what you’d call economy of design.

Death and ATM Fees

Ness gets money from his bank account, which is jointly owned by his father. For every enemy you defeat, Dad deposits the appropriate amount of money. With your trusty ATM card you can withdraw money from and deposit money into Ness’ account.

Why would you want to put your money away?

Well, get this. Here’s what happens when you get KO’d in battle.

If you accept the offer to continue, you’re brought back to your last save point, and,

1. All of your PP is gone.
2. All of your teammates stay dead and have to be retrieved from the hospital.
3. Any items you’ve used are gone.

AND!

4. Half of all money on your person is removed.

BUT!

5. You retain all experience received up until your death!

So, if you remember to deposit your money when you’re headed somewhere dangerous, you don’t necessarily have to restart your game when you die. As long as you’re careful with your resources.

I love how the game indicates the death of your characters – suffering mortal damage, collapsing, becoming floating, ghostly images with halos.

And yet when you go to the hospital, reception will tell you that your “departed” have actually been there all along! You just have to pay money for their release.

It’s a pretty funny way for the game to have its cake and eat it, too. Even when using strong language and imagery to suggest the end your life, the same authority (the game) tells you that it’s okay, their parachutes deployed, they’re alive after all!

Dungeon anatomy – A Giant Step in the right direction

All right, let’s get through this shack and get to where we’re going to.

Giant Step is the first official dungeon in Earthbound, and several new elements come to light with the introduction of some new BAD DUDES!! All of them are rodents.

Rowdy Mouse’s thing is that it has a really high critical hit rate. So you’ll be bashing away at him like everything’s alright, being all like “No, thank you” to recovering HP, and then SMAAAASH!! Now you’re in critical condition and hoping you get the first action in on the next turn! Rowdy Mouse is here to punish you for being lazy.

Attack Slugs consistently attack in very large groups, prompting you with a decision: to either defeat them all with physical attacks, or using 10 precious Psychic Points to take them all out at once with Ness’ PSI attack move.

The worst dudes, though, might be these guys. Black Antoids usually attack in pairs. They do consistently more damage than other baddies in this damn cave, and they know Lifeup Alpha, the same recovery skill Ness has. Take these guys down fast.

So a beautiful thing about Earthbound is that all enemies can be seen before you fight them. There are no random encounters! Earthbound may be one of the first games to introduce the concept of gaining or losing the advantage in battle based on how the battle is initiated. If you tag the enemy’s back, you get a bonus turn! If the enemy gets the drop on you, you have to suffer a turn without any input.

If you haven’t figured it out by this point, Giant Step is the place where you may notice that some enemies move about differently than others. Some come out you in arcing paths, some careen wildly, some even teleport toward you at set intervals.

For the jerks in Giant Step: for every step you take, they take two toward you. With this in mind you can anticipate how far you can go before a battle is initiated, how far away you can lure a sole enemy to overwhelm them, how close can you get to loot, how far away the nearest exit is. You ain’t just walking around like some schmuck – yer ALWAYS thinkin’!

The other big difference between Giant Step and previous challenges, like finding Picky and the siege of the arcade, is that you have no idea where you’re going.

You find Picky somewhere you’ve been before, and you can SEE Frank Fly in the lot behind the arcade. But you don’t know for sure what lies at the other end of the cave behind the shack.

OH, BUT I DO

Titanic Ant is the first really tough fight of the game, every turn asking yourself, should I heal NOW?” PROTIP: At this point in the game, it’s better to hold onto that PP for healing than for attacking. This is especially true fighting Titanic Ant, who can suck away your PP with PSI Magnet. What a Titanic DICK! Though you will want to open with one PSI Rockin’ attack to get rid of the Black Antoids flanking him.

Once you do it, you gain access to your first Sanctuary.

And then you get to enjoy a walk back to town as all of the vermin cower – enemies will literally run away from you in fear.

Feels good, man.