Let's Play Earthbound!
Unfortunately, I don't have screenshots of this bit. Sorry.
The opening of the game tells you what's in store. The text is very casual, speaking directly to the player as it prompts you for character names -- "Name yourself. Name her, too. Name your friend. Name your other friend." The "Don't Care" option will generate a series of default names. We'll use the first options, as that's what the characters are usually called when discussing the games. But, of course, it's all up to you.
The music is upbeat and strange, with odd little noises and excited words of synthesized Japanese -- the "OK desu" you hear when you enter a name is supposedly the creator's own voice.
After naming yourself and your friends, you'll be prompted for more names -- your dog, your favorite food, and your favorite thing. You dog will be an NPC, your mother will serve your favorite food when you go home, and the hero's only offensive PSI power will be named after his favorite thing. I choose the first default -- "Rockin" -- as my favorite thing. I love this touch -- it makes the hero's offensive PSI really sound like an extension of his own personality and will -- the kind of power a kid might have.
Now, we start our story.
Our hero Ness has woken up to a strange crash in his quiet suburb. As it turns out, the crash is a meteorite. When his obnoxious next door neighbor Pokey enlists Ness's help to find his little brother Pickey at the crash site, the boys are greeted by a mechanical bug calling itself Buzz Buzz. The tiny bee (which circles you and fills your music with buzzing as long as he's with you) has come from the future to find Ness. In the future, all is devastation under Giygas, an alien being of unimaginable evil...but they are comforted by one prophecy -- about three boys and a girl who will destroy Giygas. Ness, of course, is the first of these remarkable children.
Ness returns Pickey and Pokey to their house. On the way back, they encounter a Starman, a sort of humanoid robot that forms the vanguard of Giygas's army. Only Buzz Buzz's psychic powers can save you!
And then, Buzz Buzz is smashed to death with a rolled-up newspaper by Pokey's loudmouthed mom.
Buzz Buzz dies in an excellent parody of a heroic death scene. Before he croaks, though, he gives you the Sound Stone and commands you to take this stone to the eight "Your Sanctuary" locations and record the music you hear there. This, he says, will open the door to "Your World."
And we're off!
First, you have to head to your hometown of Onett and clean out a gang of local punks, the Sharks. Their leader hangs out in an arcade -- a knife-wielding greaser with a sleazy suit and a steam-powered robot. Wait, what? After defeating the leader of the Sharks, the mayor of Onett gives you a key to a shack, which leads to a cave where you can find the first "Your Sanctuary" location. A giant ant is waiting for you -- defeat it, and you can go to Giant Step, a huge footprint in the ground where you can collect the first notes of your song, along with a vision of a small, cute puppy. This is the first glimpse of exactly what the Sanctuary spots are. They're not fonts of immense power, they're not artifacts you can pick up and equip ...they're odd, inexplicable little phenomena that offer you nothing but a song and a look into your own childhood. They're quiet moments of wonder.
Also in Onett is a house for sale. The owner is asking $10,000. You can't pay that now, unless you grind on stray dogs and skate punks for days on end. We'll be revisiting this house later.
There's also a shack belonging to the unfortunately-named Lier X Agerate. He claims to have dug up a treasure he will only show to you. Once he gets you down into the hole, though, he lets you have only a quick glimpse of the thing -- a golden horned figure, clutching a sword -- before he hurries you out, fearful he might steal it. Odd...I thought he wanted you to see it? It's a subtle moment whose significance only becomes clear much later in the game.
After the sanctuary scene, it's time to head to the police station. See, in one of the many light-hearted parodies of video game convention, the police have blocked off the road to the next town because they're going for a world record in road-blocking. To get them to remove the roadblock, you'll have to go to the police station. Five policemen gang up on you in an empty room...defeat them, and you can go to Twoson.
Now, there's a hotel in Onett. It's likely you won't use it, though, because you can simply go up the hill to your own house and have your mother cook your favorite food and send you to bed, healing all your HP and PP for free. There's also a free telephone there to call your perennially-absent father in order to save the game. You can go there any time you like. Even after you move on to Twoson and beyond, your mother will be waiting there with a free meal if you trouble yourself to walk all the way back to Onett. Of course, by the time you get to Twoson it's not really worth the trouble to walk all the way back to Onett just to save $150 on room and board, so you'll end up staying in hotels very quickly. This adds a strange tinge of loneliness to the game -- you know your mother is always waiting for you back home, and you COULD go there, but there are much more pressing issues at hand. So you call your mother on the telephone, sleep in a hotel room, and eat in drug stores and burger joints instead. You're saving the world, after all, and that's important. But once in a while, you'll be low on cash and find yourself wishing you could go back to Onett and get a free meal...and then you're thinking about home and Mom's cooking, just like a 13 year old kid out on his own, fighting aliens with psychic powers and a baseball bat.
It's a nice touch.
In Twoson, you'll hear two rumors. One, that there is a new religious movement centered in nearby Happy Happy Village. Two, that a young girl has been kidnapped. If you sleep on the way to Twoson, you'll recieve increasingly desperate telepathic messages from the girl -- her name is Paula, and her parents own a preschool.
After fighting the mobster suspected of her kidnapping -- a surprisingly friendly fellow with an eye-damaging Hawaiian shirt and a terrible moustache -- you'll find out that Paula was actually taken away by some robed fellows in blue. Mysterious. At this point, you might remember something about a religious movement in Happy Happy Village, whose ringleader was looking for a high priestess. Hmmmmmm...Time to head to the UFO-filled Peaceful Rest Valley and onward to Happy Happy village. The bridge is out -- of course -- and a strange iron pencil statue is blocking your way -- of course? Maybe someone in Twoson can help you.
Back in Twoson, you'll find two houses. One belongs to a slick, popular dude named Orange Kid, and the other belongs to a fat and messy kid named Apple Kid. They're both inventors, and they might be related, although the game is never clear on this point. It may just be one of those things -- two boy inventors, both named after fruit, living next to each other by complete coincidence.
Of course, you'll want to give your money to the messy fellow. He'll also want food. A Cookie will suffice. His pet mouse, grateful to you for helping his master, will give you a phone that will allow various characters in the game to reach you. It won't take long for Apple Kid to call you up with a new invention -- the Pencil Eraser, that destroys pencil-shaped objects. You know what you must do.
Incidentally, you can also donate money to Orange Kid. Eventually he will make his own invention -- a machine that plays an ode to the greatness of Orange kid, and then breaks forever.
That's the first installment of TL;DR Earthbound theater. Tune in for Part 1: Rescuing Paula! This time with pictures!
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