EarthBound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, is a 1994 Japanese role-playing video game co-developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game console. As Ness and his party of four, the player travels the world to collect melodies en route to defeating the evil alien force Giygas. It is the second game of the Mother series, and the only one to be released in the English language until its predecessor was released under the name EarthBound Beginnings in 2015 as part of Wii U's Virtual Console. EarthBound was released in Japan on August 27, 1994, and in North America on June 5, 1995.
The game had a lengthy development period which spanned five years. Its making involved a number of Japanese luminaries, including writer Shigesato Itoi, musician/songwriter Keiichi Suzuki, sound designer Hirokazu Tanaka, and future Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Themed around an idiosyncratic portrayal of Americana and Western culture, it subverted popular role-playing game traditions by featuring a real world setting while parodying numerous staples of the genre. Itoi, who directed the game, wanted it to reach non-gamers with its intentionally goofy tone. It was heavily marketed upon release via a promotional campaign which sardonically proclaimed 'this game stinks'.
EarthBound features many traditional role-playing game elements: the player controls a party of characters who travel through the game's two-dimensional world composed of villages, cities, caves, and dungeons. Along the way, the player fights battles against enemies and the party receives experience points for victories. If enough experience points are acquired, a character's level will increase. This pseudo-randomly increases the character's attributes, such as offense, defense, and the maximum hit points (HP) and psychic points (PP) of each character. Rather than using an overworld map screen like most console RPGs of its era, the world is entirely seamless, with no differentiation between towns and the outside world. Another non-traditional element is the perspective used for the world. The game uses oblique projection, while most 2D RPGs use a 'top down' view on a grid or an isometric perspective.
Unlike its predecessor, EarthBound does not use random encounters. When physical contact occurs between a character and an enemy, the screen dissolves into battle mode. In combat, characters and enemies possess a certain amount of HP. Blows to an enemy reduce the amount of HP. Once an enemy's HP reach zero, that enemy is defeated. If a specific type of enemy is defeated, there is a chance that the character will receive an item after the battle. In battle, the player is allowed to choose specific actions for their characters. These actions can include attacking, healing, spying (reveals enemy weakness/strengths), mirroring (emulate a specific enemy), and running away. Characters can also use special PSI attacks that require PP. Once each character is assigned a command, the characters and enemies perform their actions in a set order, determined by character speed. Whenever a character receives damage, the HP box gradually 'rolls' down, similar to an odometer. This allows players an opportunity to heal the character or win the battle before the counter hits zero, after which the character is knocked unconscious. If all characters are rendered unconscious, the game transitions to an endgame screen, asking if the player wants to continue. An affirmative response brings Ness, conscious, back to the last telephone he saved from, with half the money on his person at the time of his defeat, and with other party members showing as still unconscious. Because battles are not random, tactical advantages can be gained. If the player physically contacts an enemy from behind (indicated by a translucent green swirl which fills the screen), the player is given a first-strike priority. However, this also applies to enemies, who can also engage the party from behind (in this case, the swirl is red). Neutral priority is indicated by a gray swirl. Additionally, as Ness and his friends become stronger, battles with weaker enemies are eventually won automatically, forgoing the battle sequence, and weaker monsters will begin to flee from Ness and his friends rather than chase them.
Currency is indirectly received from Ness' father, who can also save the game's progress. Each time the party wins a battle, Ness' father deposits money in an account that can be withdrawn at ATMs. In towns, players can visit various stores where weapons, armor, and items can be bought. Weapons and armor can be equipped to increase character strength and defense, respectively. In addition, items can be used for a number of purposes, such as healing. Towns also contain several other useful facilities such as hospitals where players can be healed for a fee.
The game took place a few years later after the events of Mother. The player starts as a young boy named Ness as he investigates a nearby meteorite crash with his neighbor, Pokey. He finds that an alien force, Giygas, has enveloped and consumed the world in hatred and consequently turned animals, humans, and objects into malicious creatures. A bee from the future instructs Ness to collect melodies in a Sound Stone to preemptively stop the force. While visiting these eight Sanctuaries, Ness meets three other kids named Paula, Jeff, and Poo—'a psychic girl, an eccentric inventor, and a ponytailed martial artist', respectively—who join his party. Along the way, Ness visits the cultists of Happy Happy Village, where he saves Paula, and the zombie-infested Threed, where the two of them fall prey to a trap. After Paula telepathically instructs Jeff in a Winters boarding school to rescue them, they continue to the city of Fourside and the seaside resort Summers. Meanwhile, Poo, the prince of Dalaam, partakes in a violent meditation called 'Mu Training' before joining the party as well. The party continues to travel to the Scaraba desert, the Deep Darkness swamp and a forgotten underworld where dinosaurs live and as the Sound Stone is eventually filled, Ness visits Magicant alone, a surreal location in his mind where he fights his personal dark side. Upon returning to Eagleland, he and his party travel back in time to fight a young Giygas, a battle known for its 'feeling of isolation, ... incomprehensible attacks, ... buzzing static' and reliance on prayer.
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