Geldegarde Monotoli isn’t hard to find; the tallest building in town’s got his name on it.
So here’s Ness, a small-town boy in the big city for what we assume is the first time. The locals treat him like a stupid know-nothing kid. The cops know his name and are just waiting for him to make a mistake. And now his girlfriend has been kidnapped by an alien and is being held by (signs point to) the most powerful man in town. The one that the cops say they’re beholden to protect above all others. The same one that (rumor has it) has made a deal with an evil entity for power. The man who basically owns this town.
Back when I first played the game, I thought Fourside was an analog for New York. Now, though, I think it’s supposed to be a stand-in for a mob-run Chicago- what with all the Italian names and corrupt cops. Ness is just a kid still, and the authority figures he should be able to trust for help have made it clear that they’re out to get him. By kidnapping Paula, the forces of evil have shown that he’s not invincible; that they can get close to him and hurt him. Perhaps it’s a change of tactics; they know that they can’t beat him in a fair fight, so instead they hope to scare him so bad that he just gives up.
It’s one thing to beat up some aggressive mushrooms and zombies. Everything that the kids have faced up to this point have been just monsters or maddened humans. It’s been wacky!
But in Fourside, things are different. It’s not just some aggressive animals or culties. The evil they fight is more insidious and pervasive; it’s the corruption of an entire city and the abuse of power. How can you fight the evil within men’s hearts?
While the Monotoli building employees on the first floor are less than helpful, the ones on the 47th floor are downright scary. A couple of tough-looking guys loitering in the hall warn them not to mess around, just in case someone accidentally takes a pot shot with a machine gun. They also mention “Master Pokey”. Wait, it couldn’t be…?
It’s that obnoxious kid. He’s somehow managed to land a cushy position as Monotoli’s partner, giving him political and economic advice. After berating Ness, he has his goons escort the party out of his office. Welcome to Fourside.
Unfortunately, this is as close as they’re able to get to the real estate tycoon: his office is only accessible via a private elevator. The lady operating the public elevator seems a bit touchy; she keeps telling Ness to stop starting at her hips on the way up and down. Discouraged, the boys leave the Monotoli building. They’re no closer to finding Paula than when they got there.
There’s only one more lead to check up on, however unlikely; Jackie’s. Someone in town mentioned seeing Monotoli going there on a regular basis. Maybe Ness and Jeff could run into him at the notorious dive. When they drop by, though, he’s nowhere to be found. Maybe it’s just a rumor after all. No-one at Jackie’s has anything helpful to say, but the lady working there mentions hearing loud noises coming from outside. Sure enough, a small crowd has gathered around a man who’s collapsed in the alleyway. It’s Everdred, from back in Burglin Park! The crime boss isn’t looking so hot. He says he stole the Mani Mani statue from the cult leader Carpainter with the intent to sell it for big bucks, but then Monotoli tricked him and stole it. Everdred further says that Monotoli wanted him out of the way, because he knows that the tycoon gets his evil power from the statue. Between dying gasps, he says to check behind the counter at Jackie’s. He then delivers his last haiku:
“When on your way out
Be sure that you say goodbye
Then lock the door tight.”
Everdred then lurches to his feet and stumbles away.
As instructed, Ness and Jeff go back into Jackie’s and check behind the counter… and the world goes white.
The boys regain consciousness in a dark, twisted version of the espresso bar. Everything is black, outlined in pulsing, garish neon. The patrons have changed as well; they speak gibberish and claim that the boys aren’t in Fourside but Moonside. Moonsidians are a contrary bunch: yes has become no and no is yes. The jukebox in the corner has turned into an old-style gas pump which promptly attacks them. Obviously.
The nightmare continues outside. Moonside is like a funhouse-mirror image of Fourside, as directed by Tim Burton on acid. Everything is throbbing with that same garish neon coloration. The music is discordant, and the boys are under constant assault from abstract art and melting clocks. Talking with the locals just brings more confusion. Conversations are hard to follow, even without all the no/yes-ing. Then there are the guys in Hawaiian shirts that act as teleportation devices when talked to, but give no clue as to the destination. Like Fourside, Moonside has its own hotel: the Dark Moon Hotel. Unlike Fourside, it’s always night here, so instead of an overnight stay they offer a “sleep period”. Upon waking, the hotel staff reads Ness the day’s headline: “Mani Mani is always Mani Mani at Mani Mani with all Mani Mani Mani”
Well, I’d say that’s a clue.
Oddly enough, the ATM network and phone system work here. When Ness calls his mother, though, she says “It sounds like you’re calling from the moon or something.” If only she knew.
It takes some time spent wandering aimlessly and talking to the Moonsidians, but the boys get a feel for the strange rules of this place, the teleportation service and the Mani Mani statue. Eventually, they find a sea captain who blocks their path forward. He won’t let them pass unless they’re with a guy “whose eyebrows are connected and who also has a gold tooth.” Just past him is the Mani Mani statue, so finding this person is now goal number one.
As luck would have it, one of the teleportation guys sends Ness and Jeff into a room with no door. There they find two people: one busy doing nothing, and another who’s barely visible. After talking with the barely-visible guy, the busy guy gets fed up and sends Ness and Jeff out of the room. They appear in the Hotel, but the barely-visible guy has followed them. He thinks they’re interesting, and is now completely invisible. He’s also pretty narcissistic, and constantly talks about himself. This is how Ness finds out that he’s the guy with connected eyebrows and a gold tooth. How lucky! A few more teleportations, and the three are back in front of the sea captain. He and Gold Tooth (or whatever his name is) ditch the kids and go get a drink.
Just ahead is the Moonsidian version of the Monotoli building. Standing in front of it is the Mani Mani statue, along with a man. When the boys try talking to him he claims to not be Monotoli and then disappears, leaving them with the eerily-gleaming idol. It attacks them as soon as they go for a closer look. For a statue, it sure can fight: it uses vicious psychic attacks on par with those used by Ness and Paula. But, evil idol or no, it’s no match for the boys. It goes down after a few rounds of pitched combat.
After the fight, they wake up in the back room of Jackie’s. It seems that “the Mani Mani statue was actually a device that created illusions.” When they destroyed the statue, the illusion was also broken. A mouse in the store room says that the boys were wandering around with a vacant look in their eyes. Looks like Ness had his first bad trip. As they leave the back room, Apple Kid calls. He’s made a gourmet yogurt machine, but it only makes trout-flavored yogurt. Sounds delish. He’s having it delivered via Escargo Express’ “Neglected Class”.
Outside, a monkey is working on his psychic teleportation skills. It’s not going well, but he says that Tala Ramah back in the monkey cave has finished his fasting and wants to meet with Ness. Right after the monkey leaves, an Escargo Express delivery man shows up. He says he forgot the trout-flavored yogurt machine in the desert in some monkey cave and can’t be bothered to go back for it. Ness will have to retrieve it himself. Then! A maid comes by, having heard the talk of trout-flavored yogurt. It seems she works in the Monotoli building, and their “special guest” is asking for some. If they come across some, she’d really appreciate it if they’d let her know.
Well OK then. Sounds like it’s time to go back to the desert.
In the monkey cave, there are doorways guarded by monkeys. Each monkey requests a particular item before they will move. The first two monkeys want a picnic lunch and a skip sandwich respectively, which can both be obtained at the nearby drugstore. Ness and Jeff grab the items, then come back and hand them over. Well, that was simple enough… Wait, there are more doors and more monkeys. Each room has a chest with an item, and ends in a pair of doors with a pair of monkeys wanting a different pair of items. Eventually, the boys work their way through all of the chests and all of the monkeys, only to find the final door blocked by a pencil statue. Who makes these things? A quick trip outside and a call to Escargo Express to deliver the pencil eraser device, and the pencil statue is no more.
Through the final door is Talah Rama. He’s a straight-up guru, and proves it by saying a bunch of stuff about truth, the universe, waves, and predestination. Groovy. Also, he says that the kids will bring back peace to the world. That’s cool. Then he gives you a trout-flavored yogurt dispenser, which is a bit less mystical. As if that wasn’t enough, Talah Rama then says that he will teach Ness a skill to help him in his adventure: teleportation. The monkey who will instruct Ness heads outside and tells them to follow. Outside, the boys follow the monkey to the (now clear) road. In three easy lessons, Ness is able to warp the very fabric of space and time. Sweet. He can only go to places he’s already been, but that’s way better than not being able to teleport at all. A quick hop back to Fourside, and it’s time to
take on Monotoli deliver some trout yogurt.
Pokey’s Maid Electra is hanging out near the department store, and she’s desperate for trout-flavored yogurt. When Ness walks up with the yogurt machine, she sees it, grabs it from him, and then invites him to visit her on the 48th floor of the Monotoli building. Looks like they just found their way in. On the 47th floor, the private elevator operator says she’s been waiting for the boys. True to her word, Electra made sure that Ness would be permitted up to the 48th floor.
The hallways outside Geldegarde Monotoli’s office are patrolled by sentry robots, but otherwise barren. When the two find Electra, she gives them a trout yogurt as promised. It’s “a fashionable treat for snobby, haute cuisine people in some big cities.” Eventually, Ness and Jeff are confronted by the least threatening guard robot imaginable: the Clumsy Robot. The Clumsy Robot lives up to its name. It spends more than half the fight just kind of goofing off or putting itself back together. Of course, the rest of the time is spent launching deadly missiles at Ness and Jeff. It seems like no matter what they throw at the rickety automaton, it just shrugs off and repairs itself completely by eating a bologna sandwich(?). This goes on for awhile, until suddenly the Runaway Five bust through the door and flip the power switch on the robot’s back. Problem solved. Hey, it was the least they could do after the kids dropped over a million dollars bailing them out. Ness and Jeff steel themselves and head through the door the robot was protecting.
They enter a large, lavish office. Inside are Paula and the infamous real estate tycoon. Geldegarde Monotoli, it turns out, is just a cowardly old man with skinny arms. He begs Ness not to hurt him before hiding behind Paula. For her part, Paula had no doubts that Ness would come and rescue her. She says that Monotoli isn’t really a bad guy. Geldegarde speaks up and says that the Mani Mani statue was the source of his power. Now that it’s been destroyed, he’s back to being a weak old man. He apologizes and goes on: The Mani Mani statue freaked him out, so he hid it in the back room at Jackie’s, where he would go and pray to it. It put messages in his head about stopping Ness and preventing him from going to Summers (a beach resort town). The Mani Mani statue was a tool of Giygas, and Monotoli got the impression that the evil side would be in trouble if Ness went to Summers and checked out a pyramid. To the contrary, he thinks they should definitely do the things the statue didn’t want Ness to do.
As a way to partially make up for his actions, he encourages the kids to take his private helicopter to Summers. It’s conveniently located on a heliport outside his office.
Just as they get out to the helipad though, the helicopter starts and lifts off: Pokey is once again just ahead of them. He calls Ness a loser and takes off. Stranded in Fourside, they head back into the Monotoli building.
Geldegarde hopes that Pokey is alright. On the way out of the office, Paula has a quick revelation: to get to Summers, they need to return to Threed. Luckily, the Runaway Five are still hanging out just outside the office, and would be happy to truck the kids to Threed on their tour bus. On the way out, Ness gets a call from Apple Kid. He believes he’s discovered the primary enemy behind this whole adventure, and also the way to defeat it. He needs to create a machine called the “Phase Distorter”. He’s going to try to hook up with famous scientist Dr. Andonuts to get the project going, so he won’t be in touch for awhile. With Pokey gone and Monotoli back to normal, the goons in the building say they have a lot to think about. Orange Kid calls, too, but just to say that he’s still useless.
The Runaway Five bus is just outside. It’s a long, rockin’ tour bus ride back to Threed. Once they arrive, Lucky assures the kids that the band wishes that they could do more, but will always be on their side. Also, why did they need to come here? They must’ve forgotten some important item or gadget here… He wishes them luck, and the bus pulls away. Threed is exactly as the kids left it- Which is to say, peaceful. The only thing that they really left behind was the Sky Runner that Jeff arrived in. Wasn’t that thing a broken heap, though? Who knows, maybe the damage wasn’t as bad as it looked.
It’s still in the graveyard holding cell where they left it. Sure enough, some locals painted over all the damaged parts, and it looks good as new. Jeff inspects the Sky Runner and finds that it’s not nearly as damaged as he thought. Just a few quick repairs, and it’s ready to go. It takes them back to Dr. Andonuts lab in Winters, so that they can make the adjustments required to point it at Summers. This time the landing is smooth.
Jeff’s friend the Bubble Monkey and his new wife meet the party as they land in Dr. Andonuts’ lab. They’ve apparently taken up residence in the lab. B.M. thanks Jeff for introducing them, then suggests that the party check out the cave that Jeff passed through on his original trek from the school. Dr. Andonuts is happy to meet Ness. He says that Jeff wets his bed sometimes, but other than that is a good boy. Also, there’s a place called the “Rainy Circle” up in the cave that Bubble Monkey mentioned that they should check out. While the kids do that, he’ll work on the Sky Runner.
In the cave waits the sanctuary guardian. It’s a giant mushroom! Groovy. Shrooom! Fights dirty: it scatters spores that can cause the group to grow mushrooms on their heads or get poisoned, which is always a drag. Either way, they triumph and the malignant mushroom is pulped. The sanctuary gives Ness the next section of melody, and also a whiff of his favorite food for a second.
Back at the lab, Dr. Andonuts has finished remodeling the Sky Runner. It’s ready whenever they are. He watches as they once again take to the skies.
Over the beach in Summers, the Sky Runner has some issues and comes to another violent crash landing. There’s no saving it this time. The fragments quickly wash away in the surf, leaving Ness, Paula and Jeff stranded in paradise.
I’ll be stopping here until late July. Right now I have a lot of creative balls in the air, and I don’t want to sacrifice quality in order to keep updating regularly (although it’s not like I’ve been doing this on a schedule). I fully intend to complete this write-up once things are a bit calmer. If anyone is following this, thanks for reading, hope you’re enjoying it, and stay tuned.
As mentioned, the desert is blazing hot. Each second that the kids spend trudging through the sand brings with it the danger of sunstroke. Luckily, near the road is the Dusty Dunes Drugstore, which I imagine is having an unexpected windfall with all the delayed drivers. Ness and friends stock up on wet towels to counter the effects of the merciless sun.
The music for the desert is great; like a staticky AM radio rendition of some jaunty, forgotten Tex-Mex tune. A monkey guards a hole close to the drugstore. He says that beneath the surface is a paradise built by a guru named Tala Rama. Sure enough, said guru is hanging (floating) out just inside the hole, but he’s meditating and also he’s taken a vow of silence. Maybe we’ll attain enlightenment later.
The Dusty Dunes Desert is a brutal place, filled with enemies that aren’t messing around. In addition to the natural fauna that you’d find in these sorts of badlands, artificial threats like Cute Little UFOs and Smilin’ Spheres (they violently explode upon defeat!) make the trek through the sands hellish. It’s not all fighting and sunstroke, though. Ness and crew meet some pro tanners (they sunbathe, not prepare leather), find someone’s contact lens, and reunite two lovelorn sesame seeds torn apart by time and distance. Yes, sesame seeds. Deep in the desert is Gerardo Montague, a guy who’s trying to start a gold mine. He hasn’t gotten very far, but he’s super hungry and when Ness gives him a hamburger from his pack, he promises to give them any gold that he finds. Such a deal. Eventually Ness and crew reach the other side of the desert, only to find the traffic jam cleared. Ain’t it always the way. Onward to Fourside!
On the second floor of the bakery is the guy who lost his contact lens in the desert. He’s overjoyed to get it back; it was a memento from his grandmother. As a reward, he gives them his socks that he only uses for special occasions. …Thanks? Maybe they can be used as a malodorous missile on some unlucky enemy.
In Fourside, it seems like everyone’s talking about Geldegarde Monotoli. He’s a real estate agent who made it big and now owns most of the city, including the police force. They themselves make no bones about it, either- one cop tells you it’s Monotoli first, citizens second. Another knows Ness’ name and says he’s already checked him out. The local department store was bought by Monotoli, but was closed shortly after some weird stuff happened there. Some other rumors about Monotoli: that he made a deal with an evil entity in exchange for his power, and that he frequents an unpopular local dive called “Jackie’s”. It’s an espresso joint, although in the Japanese version of the game it was a bar. There is one guy who thinks Monotoli’s been good for the city, but he probably shops at Wal-mart, banks with Bank of America, and voted for Bush. After the desert, the enemies in Fourside are pushovers. Just some Mad Taxis (One might even call them… Crazy Taxis?) and irate locals.
Apparently the Runaway Five made it to Fourside after all; a local says that they’ve been selling out the Topolla Theater. Ness tries to use the backstage pass they gave him back in Twoson to waltz past the ticket counter, but no dice. The Topolla is way bigger than Twoson’s Chaos Theater; it looks like they the band has hit the big-time. In the green room, though, they’re playing the same old song- the Runaway Five are stuck in another bum contract. This time they’re in for a million bucks. Yikes. Well, might as well enjoy the show: they’ll be playing here for awhile. That’s not the kind of money that some kids could come up with, short of finding buried gold, or something.
Well, the big city hasn’t treated the kids very nicely. Almost makes you miss the straightforward hostility of the desert. Wonder if Geldegarde ever found any gold?
-Back at the dig, a crowd has gathered. No gold yet, but Gerardo’s found a maze full of monsters, including five huge moles. He’s at a loss on what to do. It’s giving him an ulcer. If Montague actually found some gold, it might be enough to get the Runaway Five off the hook, so Ness and crew decide to clear the tunnels out as a favor.
“We can’t stop here! This is mole country!”
The mine is full of poisonous snakes, mad ducks, and what appear to be clumps of ambulatory rope called “noose men”. As promised, there are moles. Five of them, and they’re all huge. Each one attacks Ness on sight, but not before proclaiming himself the 3rd strongest of the 5 moles. Maybe they’ve got an inferiority complex? Or maybe none of them wants to deal with the pressure of being the strongest. Always being challenged for your position, you know? No matter where they believe they are in the mole power pecking (scratching) order, they go down pretty easily when faced with Paula’s freeze attacks. Eventually, all the moles are defeated, and the hole is open for plundering. Gerardo Montague expresses gratitude for Ness’ help. He’s psyched to finally get down to digging business.
On the way back to town, Gerardo’s brother George Montague pulls up in an earth mover. He says that they didn’t find any gold, but they did find a diamond. As promised, Gerardo gives it to Ness. Wow, a diamond. What can we do with that?
Instead of doing the smart thing and investing, Ness and friends decide to bail out their musician pals again. The sight of the diamond sends the theater manager into heart palpitations. She tears up the contract, and the Runaway 5 are free once more. They say they’ll play one last show and then that’s the end for this venue. Their final show is a blowout: they get famous jazz singer Venus to perform with them, and then ride their tour bus offstage at the end. Out in the lobby, a fan laments his bad luck: he went to the bathroom at the wrong time and missed the show. He’ll hate bathrooms for the rest of his life.
Once again outside, some locals mention that the department store is back open. Finally, a chance to upgrade the group’s equipment. Ness, Paula and Jeff head over for some retail therapy. The department store is way bigger than any that the group has seen. It’s four floors of capitalist wonderment. Nothing seems too weird about it, except for maybe the mouse on the first floor who thinks that the lights are going to go out. Everyone gets loaded up with the latest and greatest, then heads back down the escalator towards adventure. Suddenly!
The lights go out, and Paula is snatched by some sort of be-tentacled alien creature! It happens so quickly that Jeff and Ness have no time to come to her defense. A voice sounds over the store’s PA: “Your attention please, would the customer from Onett, Mr. Ness, please proceed to the office on the fourth floor. That was customer Ness, 4th floor office… Gwaaaaaaaaagh!”
With no option but to obey the commands of the PA in the hopes that they’ll rescue Paula, the two boys fumble their way through the dark back towards the top floor. It seems like the products that were being sold moments ago are now animate and carrying a grudge. Ness and Jeff fight off records, guitars, and animate coffee cups (hey, that stuff’s HOT!) on their way up, all the while taunted by the voice from the PA. The guitars especially fight with vicious lightning attacks. Luckily, the Franklin Badge is just as effective as it was back in Happy-Happy Village. At the top of the shopping center is a door leading into the management’s office. Calmly waiting for them at the desk is the very alien that snatched Paula.
T he Department Store Spook talks big, but can’t take a hit. At least, not from one of Jeff’s big bottle rockets. As it dies, it says that Giygas will avenge it, and then something about Paula and Monotoli before croaking. Ness and Jeff are left alone. Paula is nowhere to be seen.
Power is restored as they leave the office. The shoppers are a bit freaked out, but none the worse for wear. Just another day in the city. The mouse knew it all along, though: “I guess it’s just a mouse’s sixth sense…”
Their dear friend is missing, and her kidnapper named Monotoli with his dying breath. Time to meet the most hated man in Fourside.
Well that got grim. Here’s a fantastic video of someone riffing on the Earthbound shop theme, ragtime-style!
Zombie paper in hand, Ness proceeds to the Zombie Relief Corp. tent at the center of town. The kids cover the entire floor with it, and then spend the night at the hotel. Because obviously that’s the safest place to be, after oh I don’t know, being AMBUSHED AND KIDNAPPED BY ZOMBIES THERE.
Anyway, the zombie paper must have some kind of chemical attractant embedded in it, because come nightfall the zombies all converge on the tent. Including those that were guarding the passageway north of the graveyard. Maybe it smells of brains? Either way, they all get stuck to the zombie paper. The next day, the Zombie Relief Corp. is gathered outside the tent, which now contains all the local zombies in varying states of immobilized (un)death. It’s gross, and it almost makes you feel sorry for them. Almost.
With Threed down to Terror Level Yellow, it’s time to check out that passageway. Ness and pals go down the ladder only to find it full of ghosts, bugs, and some surviving zombies. Guarding the ladder at the other end of the cryptish causeway is a “mini barf”. It’s basically an animate puddle of excrement, and it’s not happy to see them. Not only that, the burps it breathes into their faces cause blindness. Gross. After defeating it, they climb out to emerge in the welcome fresh air and sunlight. A guy standing conveniently nearby offers to sell Ness some food and mentions a place called Saturn Valley. It’s just ahead, and full of interesting… people that the kids might want to meet. You should go there.
The zombies out here in the wilderness are just as dangerous as the ones in town, if somewhat less urbane. More worrisome are the local reptiles: armored frogs and crocodiles are on the prowl. Just to the north, the kids find a short cave that leads to Saturn Valley, the home of Mr. Saturn. Mr. Saturn is a squat, round, bipedal thing with a huge nose and a bow. There’s a bunch of them, and they’re all named Mr. Saturn. They speak Saturnian, which is like a really whimsical version of English. It’s based on Earthbound producer Shigesato Itoi’s daughter’s handwriting.
The Mr. Saturns are extremely friendly and gracious hosts. They mention that there used to be more of them, but lately they’ve been disappearing one by one. From what Ness is able to piece to together, it sounds like the Mr. Saturns are being kidnapped and forced to work someplace hidden behind the nearby Grapefruit Falls. Given the description, it could be Belch behind it all. One Mr. Saturn, possibly an escapee, says that when the guard at the falls asks for a password, just stand there without moving for 3 minutes. Meta. After the outstanding hospitality shown by the Mr. Saturns, how could they not help? Loaded up with peanut cheese bars (a local delicacy), Ness and crew set out for the falls.
Behind the falls, Ness is asked for the password and waits the prescribed 3 minutes. Sure enough, they’re allowed inside. Through the door is a huge factory, guarded by slimy little piles and weird round puffballs called “Foppies”. Some Mr. Saturns have been locked in shackles and are being forced to produce fly honey. They’re ecstatic to see Ness’ smiling face after being bossed around by the slimy slavedrivers. The piles really run the place, too. They fight dirty, using the same blinding-burp tactics that the min-barf did back in the graveyard tunnel.
Deep within the factory is Master Belch. He is literally a giant pile of barf. According to Belch, there’s a prophecy that a boy will take Giygas down, but he finds it hard to believe that Ness could possibly pose a threat to his boss. Nevertheless, Belch isn’t going to let you go. “Get ready to feel the pain of true Nausea!” He’s not kidding. His exhalations cause Ness and friends to be violently ill, to the degree that vomiting makes them lose HP. Fortunately, they have a secret weapon; the jar of fly honey from the Boogey Tent in Threed. When Ness takes it out, Belch snatches it from his hand and starts wolfing it down, completely forgetting everything but stuffing his face. The fly honey buzz is so strong that he completely ignores the party’s attacks. He goes down shortly after, but not before saying that Giygas is ahead of the party; he’s already planted the Mani Mani statue in Fourside.
Behind Belch is a cave leading all the way back to Saturn Valley. The Mr. Saturns who were enslaved in the factory escape with Ness and crew. Back in Saturn Valley, a local hot spring provides a much-needed hot bath to wash away all the various half-dried fluids. They feel much better. The Mr. Saturns are happy beyond reckoning.
Near the hot spring is a cave with a sign advertising the “Milky Well”. The Milky Well cave is full of plants, all of which seem to want to kill you. Ness not only runs into tougher mushrooms and sprouts, but also a vaguely humanoid plant-creature called the “Ranboob”. Weird. Through some verdant tunnels lies the Trillionage Sprout. It’s basically an animate pile of dirt. Whatevz. Even with a mushroom growing out of his head, Ness and friends are able to take it down. Through a doorway outside is the Milky Well; a small natural fountain filled with whiteish mineral water. Ness records the melody piece here with his Sound Stone and “thought he heard his mother from far away… she said ‘Be a thoughtful, strong boy…’” Back in Saturn Valley, one of the Mr. Saturns offers Ness a cup of coffee… and a psychedelic interlude.
(Keep in mind that the game’s default names are Ness, Paula and Jeff, but the player can name the characters whatever they want.)
Who is talking here? There’s no indication, although it seems to be someone with a vested interest in Ness’ success. Some fans theorize that it’s his father offering encouragement. If I had to choose a specific character, I think it would be Buzz Buzz, the insectoid messenger from the future from back at the beginning of the game. The person speaking, in addition to some almost-parental fondness for the party, although seems to have knowledge of their overall mission, which Ness’ dad wouldn’t have. But I don’t think it’s a specific character.
This interlude is one of the main reasons I think so highly of Earthbound. It’s completely unnecessary. And that I think is the point. So much of what makes the game great is all the unnecessary stuff. Chrono Trigger is an excellent game, and it doesn’t have anything like this interlude to remind the player of the plot up to that point. CT is a lean, mean action movie of a role-playing game. Nothing is wasted. Earthbound is there to be your friend. It wants you to have a good time, and not take things so seriously. The Mr. Saturns are just these fun little round guys with huge noses and bows who talk funny. Whereas everyone you meet in Chrono Trigger only talks about stuff that has to do with the plot, the characters in Earthbound crack jokes. Not everyone has anything important to say, but you talk to them because it’s fun and you don’t know what they’ll come up with next.
Anyway, so the coffee break. Maybe it’s there because Shigesato Itoi was a marketing copywriter and not a game designer. Maybe he was thinking it could be nice to have a little wrap-up a few hours into his game. Either way, it makes the player feel like someone cares that they’re having a good time. And that makes them want to keep playing.
With Belch defeated and the Milky Well melody secured, it’s time to return to Threed. Ness, Paula and Jeff bid farewell to Mr. Saturn and go back through the graveyard passage. It’s as quiet as you’d expect a grave to be. They find Threed a changed place. Some of the townsfolk have gathered near the passage to greet the party and thank them for everything they’ve done. The town is safe and peaceful once again, and the tunnels are free of ghosts. The only zombies left are trapped in cages. The music is great. The buses are running again, and it’s time to move on.
At this point, I was flush with cash and decided to go back to Onett to buy that house. It’s still for sale, and $7,500 bucks later, Ness is a proud homeowner. It’s a complete dump, to say the least. There are holes in the floor, manky furniture, and the back wall is entirely missing. “Ocean view”, indeed. In a chest of drawers is an old magazine, which contains the following:
“My Secret Life, chapter three.” (Story from the previous chapter.) I was neither a murder suspect, nor a target for an international spy organization. But I drove a car down the Jersey Turnpike at 80 mph. …A police officer pulled me over and asked for my driver’s license. He said I was going 20 mph over the speed limit. I instantly pointed to my wife and said, “I’m in a hurry, my wife is in labor.” Fortunately, my wife actually had a big stomach. I hoped he’d let me go with this excuse. “Oh, since it’s an emergency. I’ll lead you to the hospital with my police car,” he said. “No, it’s not necessary.” “Why not?” asked the officer. “Uh… well…” “Let’s get going,” said the officer… “No, no! We can’t! This baby is a demon child!”
-And that’s it.
After visiting Ness’ mother, the party heads back to Twoson and drops in to let Paula’s parents know that she’s ok (this is completely unnecessary, and I only do it out of respect for the characters). At the Twoson hospital is a guy from Threed who was bitten by a zombie, but then recovered. He’d left an item that was extremely important to him at the Threed hospital, but was unable to retrieve it due to the ghosts haunting the tunnel. Upon receiving the “insignificant item” (What the game calls it. Hey, it’s got sentimental value.), he rewards the party with a magic truffle from the exotic and faraway land of Scaraba.
With the bus running, Ness and crew can hitch a ride all the way to Fourside. It’s got an excellent theme.
Unfortunately, the road is completely backed up in the desert outside of the city. It’s not clearing up anytime soon and the bus driver’s got a route to drive, so the party gets off to explore. Apparently there’s a herd of buffalo crossing the road up ahead causing the traffic jam. It’s blazing hot, and with the cars blocking the highway the only option is to trek through the desert.
Proof that the internet never forgets anything: yesterday I found a review I’d written of a tarot deck more than 13 years ago. It’s true: I wrote a review for a tarot deck (mostly about the art). I used to be more open-minded toward the occult. Hell, for a period of time I thought I might be psychic. This sprang from a vision I had of a classmate at an advanced age. She went from teenage hellion to older church lady before my eyes. It was convincing.
Anyway, yeah. The woman I was living with told me to be proud of myself, as the review was my first published work. Given that it was my first (and so far only) tarot deck, I’m not sure how qualified I was to write such a critique. I’d only bought it days before, coupled with a book on learning how to use it. It felt silly, even if she was technically right. (If you’re interested in finding this cave drawings, search for my email address.) She knew I wanted to be an author, so maybe it was her way of encouraging me.
I’m much more skeptical now, to say the least. I’ve left the occult behind, along with both mainstream and alternative religions.
The other day I was cleaning out a storage closet and found my tarot deck among some other artifacts of my youth. Even during my most fundamentalist atheist period, I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. They’ve sat and collected dust for the past 13 years, essentially because I liked the pictures too much. Later that evening, we went out for coffee with a friend of ours. I brought the deck with me to share, as I thought she might dig the circus/BDSM-inspired imagery.
It dawned on me that a tarot reading, if you put aside all the mysticism, is like a primitive talk therapy session. The whole idea behind talk therapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy, is to bring the patient around to changing their destructive behavior by helping them realize what the problem is and then assisting them in creating strategies to deal with the problematic behaviors. In a tarot reading, you lay out the cards in a pattern, and each card relates a part of the life of the person being read. The particular card and its position define the situation described. The person reading the cards can describe what they’re “saying”, but it’s up to the person being read to fill in the life details that the cards pertain to, in their own mind. The “Death” card could show up, and the person receiving the reading will automatically relate that to their recently-deceased relative or a job that they lost.
The reader will then explain that Death does not necessarily mean actual death, but could describe a radical change. And then say something about how big changes can be scary, but that every ending is a chance for a new beginning. A good tarot reader would gauge the reaction of the person getting the reading, and maybe slip in some advice or guidance. The read-ee then looks at their problem in a different way, and goes away feeling more confident about dealing with life.
See? It’s totally therapy. So I’m thinking about trying to learn the tarot again. I’m looking at it from a purely life-coachy perspective, and also maybe a little bit to feed my trollish tendencies. There’s a part of me that relishes in the opportunity to mess with my more strident skeptic friends.
It’s not just Paula’s parents that are glad to have her back. It seems like the whole town is happy she’s ok. One guy near the department store has strong feelings: “Kidnapping is wrong! I’ll be careful not to kidnap anyone!” Among the people happy to see Paula are the Runaway Five, the band at the Chaos theatre. As a reward for bringing her back, they give Ness a backstage pass to their show. He gets to waltz past all the suckers waiting in line for tickets.
In the theater, a girl browbeats Ness into taking her backstage. In the green room, the band opines about their money troubles as they get ready to take the stage. They need $10,000 to get out of their contract. Back out on the floor, the lights dim and the curtains part. The stage show is pure Blues Brothers, with band leaders Lucky and Gorgeous in place of Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi.
After the show, Ness and Paula head for Burglin Park. Everdred is there waiting for them. He says he’d offer Ness a job as his right-hand man, but knows he’d refuse. Either way, he hands over a wad of bills worth $10,000. It’s an actual “wad of bills”, not in-game money that can be spent. Aww. “You cannot refuse my generosity. Just accept it. I now plan on looking for the evil Mani Mani statue that Lier X. Agerate unearthed in Onett. I’ll see you in another time, in another space.” Metaphysical, man. Hey, Everdred’s cash is just enough to get the Runaway Five off the hook! Convenient.
The Chaos Theater’s manager, Poochyfud, gloats about the contract he’s tricked the Runaway Five into. He’s flabbergasted when Ness buys them off, but says that they’re free to leave now that he’s got his money. The band must be listening outside the door, because they all come in and say how happy they are.
The tunnel to Threed, the next town over, is haunted by ghosts. If Ness attempted to ignore them and press through, he and Paula just end up spookily turned around. The ghosts don’t seem to like happiness or noise, though. As a reward for getting them off the hook, the band offers Ness and Paula a ride to Threed; they’re way too jubilant for the ghosts to bother them. Everyone loads up onto the tour bus and heads down the road. In the tunnel, the ghosts try to give chase but are driven off by the pure positive energy the band gives off. Once they arrive in Threed, the kids get off the bus.
“This town seems pretty gloomy, but I’m sure you can light up the place with your own little brand of sunshine…” The band continues through another haunted tunnel to the big city of Fourside, effectively trapping Ness and Paula in Threed.
I died in shortly upon arriving in Threed. This doesn’t happen very often, but it reminded me of another reason I believe this game is great:
Upon dying, we see Ness wearing a halo, standing in a spotlight: “Ness! It looks like you got your head handed to you. So, how about giving it another shot?”
(After choosing “Yes”)
“Ness decided to return after summoning all the courage and energy he had. Good luck!”
I just like how positive and friendly the game is. As if it’s extending a literal hand to Ness as he lays on the ground and helping him up. As the player, I feel like the game wants me to have fun and succeed.
In the Threed hospital, a sign on the wall says: “There is a well-know theory that if you are bitten by zombies, bite back and you can recover. Of course, there is no scientific evidence to support this theory.” Threed is crawling with zombies. Many people have abandoned their homes and are living in the center of town in the hopes that circling the wagons will up their chances of continuing to live. The Zombie Relief Corp. is set up in a circus tent in the middle of the town, but they’re not feeling good about their likelihood of survival. One Threedian(?) says that he’s worked for the zombies, but also against them. He’s a con man. If he’s to be believed, the undead forces are being given life by something named “Belch”, which works for Giygas. Just north of Threed are two large cemeteries, which are full of ghosts and aggressive bugs. These seem like the last places you’d want to hang out in a city overrun with the dead. But! Near a lone headstone north of the cemetery, the photographer shows up. How does he know where to appear? At the hotel, the morning paper is a bit different: it’s been remade as a propaganda rag.
The “Zombie Herald”.
Fighting through the spooks infesting the cemetery, our psychic twosome comes upon a pair of zombies guarding something. The zombies don’t attack, but they do stare Ness and Paula down with extreme prejudice. With no luck among the graves, they head back to the city center. A beautiful woman stands in front of the hotel. She seems to be watching them, and only goes in when they come close. When they follow her into a hotel room, they’re ambushed by a group of undead baddies.
Ness and Paula come to in an underground room with only one door in or out, and it’s locked. The situation seems hopeless. With no alternative, Paula calls out psychically to a friend the two of them haven’t met yet: Jeff.
In winters, a young boy named Jeff is asleep in his private school boarding house. Paula’s psychic pleas for help drive him awake and out of bed. Jeff’s movements wake up his friend Tony. Tony tries to remind him about the dorm rules regarding wandering the halls after hours, but sees in his eyes that something serious is up. He joins Jeff. Jeff isn’t the only one up; other boys are up and chatting in the common area of the boys’school.
Downstairs is Jeff and Tony’s friend Maxwell. In a bid to help Jeff in his coop-flying efforts, he gives a key to some equipment lockers. It’s bent and doesn’t work. In the time it takes Jeff to figure out this out, Maxwell invents a bad key machine to open locks in place of slightly bent keys. Newly equipped, Jeff obtains a pop gun and protective Sherlock Holmes hat. Outside the school, Tony kneels in front of the gate to help Jeff get over the gate. “I don’t know where you’re going or why, but remember, we are best friends forever.”
Just adjacent to the school is a drug store, with a monkey hanging out there. A woman nearby says she’ll give Jeff the monkey for free, if he buys a $1 pack of gum. It’s impossible to pass up such a bargain, so Jeff invests in his own personal monkey pet. It snatches some gum and blows a bubble so big that its body is lifted off the ground. Surely such an outstanding talent will come in handy. Back outside, Jeff faces the local wildlife. It seems that Onett isn’t the only place plagued by aggressive dogs and crows. Even goats are attacking, and Jeff learns to be wary of their sharp horns and hooves.
To the south, through the snow and the trees is Lake Tess. A group of boys calling themselves the “Tessie-Watching Club” are camping out on the shore in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the Lake Tess Monster, “Tessie”. They share their stew with Jeff him and let him stay with them overnight. While he sleeps, Jeff hears Paula’s calls in his dreams telling him to keep heading south.
The next morning, the sky is clear and the wind is blowing: perfect weather for a Tessie sighting. In fact, a whirlpool is visible in the water, which the Bubble Monkey floats over to using the gum. It lands on the back of Tessie, who has risen from the depths. Tessie looks like a lavender brontosaurus, and gives Jeff and the Bubble Monkey a ride south across the water to another shore. She then majestically sinks back beneath the waves, leaving them to continue south.
(Skip to 2:28 to see the majestic Tessie. You won’t be disappointed. Or maybe you will. I CAN’T READ YOUR MIND.)
A bit farther from the landing point is a sign welcoming you to a “dungeon”. Inside is a fairly friendly, pedestrian maze. Just some branching paths, a few easy enemies and a handful of presents. Waiting outside is a man in overalls named “Brickroad”, the dungeon developer. He wants to become ““Dungeon Man”, the first combination of human and dungeon in history.” Whatever turns your crank, I guess.
A real cave lies a bit further; not a manufactured dungeon experience. It’s full of rats, ambulatory mushrooms, and a sanctuary boss. It’s not interested in Jeff, though; it’s waiting for Ness. Only he can absorb the power of that place. Elitist.
Just outside the cave is a lady monkey, and so Bubble Monkey and Jeff part ways. Such is romance- you can’t just pass up a chance at bliss. Jeff watches them traipse off together. Nearby is Stonehenge. Yes, THAT Stonehenge. It’s crawling with tough cave boys, though, so Jeff doesn’t play tourist. Finally, he arrives at a large building labeled “LAB”. It’s the home of Jeff’s brilliant scientist father: Dr. Andonuts. They don’t really see each other that often, so the reunion is a little awkward. Dr. Andonuts is working on a machine to transport things between two points in space! Oh, but he hasn’t completed it yet. Luckily, there’s still the Sky Runner, a UFO-looking device that he lets Jeff borrow to fly to Threed. The music is fantastic. The Sky Runner soars over the landscape, but the landing isn’t quite as smooth. Jeff circles a few times over the cemetery before crashing through the roof of Ness and Paula’s holding cell. It’s totaled (?).
Upon meeting Ness and Paula: “You don’t have to explain a thing… I’m Jeff. I came because you called me. I’m not very strong, really near-sighted, kind of shy, and I tend to be a little reckless. This is just the way I am… I hope you want me to be your friend… okay?” Ness welcomes him to the group. The locked door gives way after they use Jeff’s Bad Key Machine, and the three are back on the road to adventure.
I really like this first conversation. How much does it say about Jeff’s character that the first thing he does is apologize for being lame? Even after fighting loads of aggressive goats, crossing a lake on the back of a dinosaur and flying a UFO, he isn’t comfortable with himself. Must be the lack of guidance from his dad.
Things are looking bad in town, and more people are holed up in the circus tent in the town square. Oddly, another tent seems to have been erected in the southern portion of Threed, right near a sign that says not to put up any tents. It’s a weird color, too, and oh- it has a face on it. With teeth. Because it’s an evil circus tent. Obviously. The Boogey Tent is being used to stored fly honey, according to a traitorous human nearby. You know, bees make bee honey, and flies make fly honey. Apparently the zombies’ boss Belch loves the stuff. They take a jar of it, because why not.
After the fight, Ness gets a call from Apple Kid. He’s invented a thing that could possibly be useful? It’s called “zombie paper”. Like fly paper, but for zombies. He asked the pizza delivery guy to deliver it to you. Sure enough, he shows up with the stuff in hand and delivers it to the first guy he sees, not caring if it’s Ness or not. “Let’s just pretend that you’re Ness, and I’ll give this to you. Oh! Hello, Ness! Just go along with me on this one, okay. I made the decision that you’re Ness, no matter what… That’s right, Ness… *wink, wink*” Boy, this zombie paper stuff could be just the ticket for the besieged burg…
This was originally posted to my old Livejournal in September of 2005. Although it’s a little embarrassing to re-read, I think the ideas still hold up. I’m mostly re-posting this for a friend to read.
If he did this right, it’d be the first of its kind.
He wasn’t sure if it would even work, given that he hadn’t built the thing from the ground up. He didn’t gather the sand for the silicon himself, didn’t melt it, didn’t slice out wafers. He hadn’t mined the metals, hadn’t refined them, and hadn’t printed the board with semiconductors. It would have been impossible to do by hand. The component parts had been manufactured in Taiwan by soulless, impersonal machines, which, if his theory were correct, would work to his advantage.
His predecessors had done it all themselves. They felled the trees after blessing them with the prayers of their craftsman gods. They hewed the logs themselves, singing ancient words of work, bringing out the natural magic inherent in the timber. Carving was done the same way but with different songs, drawing out the figures that already existed within the piece that just needed to be freed from the formless chunk of wood.
The potters had their ways, and the weavers theirs. The weapons-makers, the leatherworkers, the blacksmiths. It was a sort of give-and-take; the craftsmen and women put in their souls, their energies, while drawing out the natural spirits from their materials. The end results were pieces that were more than the sum of their parts; they held a magic that you couldn’t get from factories or third-world sweatshops.
Simon thought of his mother’s and her “secret ingredient”, which she always maintained was love. That too, was a form of this craft. The sweat and energy she put into feeding her loved ones made the food taste all the better, although the thought never occurred to him as a child. He noticed these things more nowadays. In fact, ever since the original inkling occurred to him he saw more and more examples to confirm his fledgling theory.
A shot of pain as he cut his hand on a sharp edge. He smiled through the shock as the blood oozed from the small gash, watching it drip onto an IDE cable.
One less step.
He’d clean it up later, when the fury of this creative burst lessened. The thought had occurred to him to christen the piece with blood earlier, but at the time it seemed almost absurd. Now that he’d spilt some of his life into the project, it felt right. Not some stilted, ceremonial bloodletting, but a real “donation” that came as a result of being completely focused on the work, at the exclusion of everything else.
Simon gave a second’s thought to sanding off the offending edge. He’d built the case himself, gathering sheet metal from a local scrap yard. It was heavy as Hell, being 14-gauge steel, and he hadn’t bothered painting it. That act he’d leave until after the experiment was complete. No point in gussying up a failed project.
The PCI cards went into place one by one. He remembered reading about the songs and prayers the old craftsmen had sung while working. Being an atheist, he didn’t really know any prayers, besides the ones from his childhood that just wouldn’t go away. Nor did he know any songs that seemed appropriate. Simon thought back to his days of reading through class. All those Greek myths, there had to be a god of crafts. There was Hera, but she was the goddess of the home, and that seemed better for cooking. Hephaestus! God of the forge: he’d be perfect, once the feeling of ridiculousness passed.
What does one pray to a god of crafting? In fact, what am I trying to accomplish? I just started doing this, without a particular goal in mind.
The words came much easier than he thought they would.
…Hephaestus, god of the forge, hear me. I ask your blessing upon my work. Please give me skill beyond that which I have. Would that your hands be mine. Would that your forge temper my spirit. Would that your hammer find its’ mark upon my soul.
He repeated this throughout the rest of the night. It gained a rhythm and a melody that seemed to come from nowhere. The screws seemed to turn to its beat, and the fans spun to its meter.
Simon had considered getting more advanced hardware, but decided the speed didn’t really matter in the end. Performance just wasn’t a factor. The hard drive went in, and then the RAM. All the cables were connected. Finally everything was ready.
He looked at the assembled computer. It had a piecemeal appearance, to say the least. The power button had come from the control panel of an aborted attempt to build an arcade cabinet. The LED’s came from an old bicycle brake. The sides of the case were expanded steel mesh for airflow. Since he couldn’t build the component parts himself, as much effort as possible was put into ensuring that the rest was built by hand.
After a moment’s reflection, Simon hit the power button and listened as the hard drive whirred to life. The boot screen for his home-brewed, hand-coded OS appeared on the screen. Now would be the test.
Twoson (pronounced “too-sahn”)seems to have a bit of an inferiority complex: a sign near the entrance says “Twoson– We got this name because we weren’t first.” Another sign: “Twoson is different from Onett. We have Burglin Park.” Twoson shouldn’t feel inadequate; it’s home to two of the greatest rpg enemies of all time: the New Age Retro Hippie and the Unassuming Local Guy.
Rounding out the roster of outlandish opponents in residence is the Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom; a freewheelin’ fungus (hooray, alliteration) that can infect Ness with spores. The spores make him act erratic in battle, control strangely when walking around, and make a mushroom grow out of his head. Luckily, the healers who hang out at the hospital are willing to buy it off him (literally) for $50 a pop. No doubt, it ends up right next to powdered rhino horn on a shelf in some back-alley apothecary.
The photographer shows up again as Ness goes into a local bike shop (called “Punk-Sure!”). The photo-stalking would be creepy, if he wasn’t so charming. Inside, the be-mohawked bike clerk doesn’t have any bikes to sell, so he lends one for free since he likes Ness’ style.
There is almost no point to the bike. Riding it makes Ness go about 2x faster than walking, but you can only ride it in town and when he’s alone.
There is no indication either in the game or the manual, but by playing with the controller while riding, a player may find that the right shoulder button rings the bike’s bell. I was overjoyed to discover this. Paired with the carefree bicycle theme, the game becomes a childhood simulator.
Ok, so maybe that’s overselling it a bit. It’s just a bell on a bike, but nevertheless I feel it adds a lot to the game’s charm.
Around town, people are talking about a new religious movement called “Happy-Happyism”. The cultists have set up a small town across the nearby Peaceful Rest Valley called “Happy-Happy Village”. Sounds a bit new-agey. Traversing the valley itself has become dangerous, since UFOs have been sighted in the vicinity and the local wildlife has become aggressive. Twoson is home to the Chaos theater, and every night the Runaway Five sell the place out. It’s impossible to get tickets to a show due to their popularity, but they themselves are broke. It’s a classic case of artists getting taken advantage of via draconian contract. Until they work off their debt, they’ll be playing every night for the foreseeable future.
Everyone talks about Paula, a Twosonian (Twosonite?) girl who apparently has magic powers. She definitely seems like someone Ness should meet, but when he gets to the preschool her parents run she’s nowhere to be found. Her mother doesn’t seem worried; she says Paula has a guardian angel. Her father didn’t realize she was gone. He freaks out and runs outside to look for her.
Burglin Park is kind of like the Portland Saturday Market; like a big street fair/yard sale, with some vaguely sketchy bits. One booth sells condiments- they’re automatically applied to food items, and complimentary flavors give you more health! Of course, if you put ketchup in Ness’ coffee, he’s not quite as thrilled. The park is run by a local crime boss named Everdred. According to one vendor: “Of course, Everdred isn’t a good person, but he’s actually quite warm-hearted for a crime boss.” As Ness approaches a house in the west side of the park, Everdred himself jumps off the roof and attacks him. He loses of course, but blames it on twisting his ankle when he jumped down. Despite all that, he seems pretty friendly. Everdred says that a chubby boy and a weird guy in a blue outfit kidnapped Paula and taken her to Peaceful rest Valley, the headquarters of Happy-Happyism. He thinks they’re going to make her a human sacrifice. Might want to get religion sooner rather than later.
On the way out, Ness checks in on Twoson’s two resident inventors; the popular Orange Kid and the slovenly Apple Kid. They both need money to continue their work; around $200 each. In return for his investment, Orange Kid gives Ness the “Super Orange Machine”, or “Suporma” for short. He says to use it for spreading peace and goodwill on Earth. Once activated, it does nothing but play “Ode to Orange Kid” before breaking. Orange Kid is unrepentant.
Apple Kid is a slob, and gives Ness nothing in return for his monetary donation. His nameless mouse pet, however, gives him a receiver phone. This cellular device allows Ness to take calls, but not make them. With nothing left to do in Twoson, Ness heads toward Peaceful Rest Valley and Happy-Happy Village through a cave to the east.
On the other side, he finds the bridge out. The only way north is blocked by what looks like a… pencil-shaped iron statue? Ness heads back to Twoson, defeated for now. Back in civilization, Apple Kid calls to announce that he’s made a breakthrough that should be seen as soon as possible. It’s a Pencil Eraser! It erases pencil-shaped objects from existence. How… useful. Just don’t activate it near a shop that sells pencils. Back in the wild, the pencil statue still blocks the path. -But with the flip of a switch, the Pencil Eraser wipes it out.
The path through Peaceful Rest Valley is grueling; filled with robots that shoot beams that cause night-time stuffiness, UFOs, and exploding trees. Maybe before, all the dogs, crows, hippies and ambulatory mushrooms could be written off as flukes. But here outside it becomes obvious that Ness is being actively opposed.
On the other side of the wilderness, we find a small village painted completely blue. Creepy music plays, and everyone seems to have found an unsettling happiness. It’s all attributed to the spiritual leader Carpainter, who they say talks to the divine. The people in Happy-Happy Village wants to paint the world blue, as they believe it’s the only way to achieve world peace- And they’re willing to kick the butts of those who get in the way.
So apparently the Happy-Happy cult is a sort of riff on a Japanese nationalist cult called the Aum Shinrikyo. The obsession with blue may be a reference to the Aum Shinrikyo’s affinity for the color white. Painting the world blue in order to bring about peace might be a much friendlier version of the Aum’s sarin gas attacks toward sparking WWIII. Also of note are the Happy-Happy cult members’ robes and hoods, which bear a marked resemblance to KKK garb. Yowza.
According to the locals, Carpainter has found a girl to be the high-priestess of his religion. He hangs out in a church in the center of town, which is almost completely filled to capacity with blue-wearing culties. Some try to convert you, some just attack. Luckily, their paint doesn’t do a lot of damage.
“You strange, unmasked fellow. Don’t go to heaven!”
Once you finally wade through the crowd to Carpainter, he asks Ness to be his right-hand man. Refusal nets you a one-way trip outside via summoned lightning. With powers like that, there’s no way to get close enough to him to force him to give up Paula. Back outside, a Happy-Happyist lets slip that he and a chubby kid kidnapped Paula and locked her up in a cabin nearby. Maybe she could help. A trip through a nearby cave leads to the cabin.
Paula is behind impenetrable bars, but she foresaw Ness’ arrival and says Carpainter has the key. She gives him a Franklin Badge that protects against lightning. Convenient! Outside the cabin, Ness is confronted by Pokey(?!) and a couple blue-hooded toughs. They must’ve followed him from the village. Looks like we’ve found the “chubby kid” who helped kidnap Paula. Pokey says that Carpainter made him a bigshot in Happy-Happyism, and that Ness should call him Master Pokey. He leaves his minions to take care of Ness. They don’t last long.
Back at the church, Carpainter’s lightning bounces harmlessly off Ness’ new Franklin badge.The fight is on. The old man’s lightning does him no good (and indeed is reflected back at him), and he falls quickly. Turns out the Mani Mani Statue standing behind him (the same one Lier X. Agerate found) was putting weird thoughts in his head. He asks forgiveness and gives Ness the key for the cabin. Back downstairs, the church has cleared out now that the cultists have woken up from their trance. The three who’re say they won’t be there long; they’re done with that noise.
Outside, Pokey shows up and acts like he wants Ness’ forgiveness, saying he’s woken up as if from a horrible nightmare. Of course, once he’s out of striking range, he laughs in your face and high-tails it out of there. Back at the cabin, Ness uses the key and frees Paula. The vision of him coming to her rescue has been fulfilled. Back in Happy-Happy Village, the residents are humbler and wiser for the experience. They’ve also decided that they’re done with that blue shit. The buildings have been re-painted a more agreeable palette. Some of them mention a nearby place through a cave called “Lilliput Steps” that made them feel uneasy as cultists. Sounds like an excellent place to investigate.
No wonder the Happy-Happyists didn’t want to go into the cave; it’s full of aggressive wildlife. Ness and Paula are constantly attacked by bats, moles and bears with big-ass chips on their shoulders. Paula especially is at a disadvantage. She hasn’t been toughened like her psychic companion.
At this point in my playthrough, Ness got homesick for the first time. Being homesick is something that happens if you don’t call your mom often enough in the game. At first, all that happens is that Ness misses turns in combat due to thinking about home or his mom. If unaddressed, it can blossom into full-blown depression and Ness will spend his turns moping.
I love that Ness can get homesick. Too often, heroes in games are islands to themselves, always assured of their mission and place in the world. Ness is a kid! He’s probably 12 at the most. All you have to do to cure him of his homesickness is call your mom. It only makes sense that he would need to hear his mother’s voice every once in awhile, so far from home. Normally when you call her, she mentions that she’s bathing the dog, or that Ness’ teacher came by asking about him and that she made up an excuse. When homesick, she says that she can hear the sadness in his voice, and that’s proud of him.
CALL YOUR MOM.
His dad worries about him, too. When you call him to save the game and you choose to continue, he worries that Ness is working too hard. Every two hours of real time spent playing the game, he calls on the receiver phone to ask if maybe you don’t think you should take a break? After telling him no, he replies with, “Ah, I see…Well, it doesn’t make me happy, but I understand your point about the fate of the world being at stake.” It’s like Shigesato Itoi (the producer behind Earthbound/the Mother series) wanted to gently teach the player how to be a thoughtful, caring person.
At the end of the cave, awaits the Mondo Mole. His raking claws make this a difficult fight, but Ness’ “Flash” attacks blind the oversized rodent. Lilliput Steps looks like a path of tiny footprints. It gives another melody piece, and a vision of a baby in a red cap.
After spending the night recovering in Happy-Happy Village, Ness and Paula head through the wilderness back to Twoson. The trek is shortened considerably by the now-repaired bridge! A repentant former-cultist mended it as a way to make amends. Back in town, Paula’s parents are happy to see her. Her mother says she knew Ness would save her all along. She sends the two off with her encouragement and a hand-made band-aid (a “hand-aid”, if you will). Her father is worried, but Paula tells him that they’ll be fine, according to her visions. He promises not to cry anymore as they leave. Outside the house, a guy lets Ness know that Everdred is looking for him to give him something. Will it be payback for his earlier beating at the hands of one young psychic?! (spoiler: no.)