Monday, December 21, 2009

VGA 7-2 [Vicious Voice]

A Selfish Soliloquy & Mechanized Violence

“Violence in real life is terrible; violence in the movies can be cool. It's just another color to work with.”

-Quentin Tarantino

“What exactly was 2009?”

“A year of identification as a gamer?”

“Does that really mean anything? You could just as easily say classification, which is all kinds of irritating, classifying gamers is so --- three years ago.”

“Well think about it, the only thing we even remotely played this year was The Path, and we didn’t even finish it in a context worth writing about yet.”

Over the weekend, I watched Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs for the first time. While I don’t necessarily hate his films, I’ve always been pretty distanced from them outside any critical light. This is mainly because he uses tools in a sense I’m rather envious of myself. To put it bluntly, I always end up simply feeling irritated with the fact that the man is enjoying his job so much. It’s comes through profusely in every single one of his films that I’ve seen. With RD, I didn’t see anything different --- HOWEVER, it was the first of his films to lead me to what violence means in a video game.

The most obvious example here is also the most irrelevant, which is what the media is still famous for pumping out to this day. Inane ax-grinders and politicians with some demented foundation that video games are damaging generations of children, stifling education, and desensitizing violence. These people don’t bother me so much anymore, as they’re truly just stupid animals, meant to be herded by higher intellects in the classiest fashion we can muster. Jack Thompson is after all, really only a danger to himself now.

There is only one truly malevolent form of ecstasy, and that is the ecstasy of hate and destructiveness. In this ecstasy the person becomes completely absorbed in his hate and destructiveness; he is 'beside himself' because he is completely seized by fury and the wish to kill and to control. In this absoluteness of hate he is thoroughly unified, but at the same time he loses contact with the world outside him and also with his own self. This 'sacred fury' leads close to the border of madness and to a sense of isolation by the loss of all solidarity with life and the living.”

- Eric Fromm

“A year of regression just sounds more accurate to me.”

“For us or the games…?”

“Us…though I could be mean and ---“

“Nevermind, you’re wrong anyway. Regression implies a step backwards, and we’ve only ever played games ‘normally’ the younger we were.”

“And now?”

A newer instance however, stems from a key ingredient in the formation of videogames themselves. An established system in which the player will engage opposition is still a mold that’s being left intact. I attribute this to the fact that gamers have all mechanized violence in some form or another (be it internally or pseudo-obejectively). Developers have simply been using it to feed tactile precision since blood was first spilt on screen. Effectively, violence is being avoided by this mechanization. I separate it from desensitization in the sense that I miraculously consider people smart enough to acknowledge the difference between the two (i.e. a game and ‘reality’).

So the big problem with violence in games (as the media would sensationalize anyway) is that the player will actually engage in various disturbing actions. The capacity to participate in such actions scares people because they wantonly think ‘actual violence’ translates with ease from its virtual counterpart. In actuality, it’s the duty of society (not to mention a couple of biological imperatives) to instill a sense of recognition meant to be inspired by scenes of actual violence. Now don’t get me wrong, games (not to mention various other entertainment media) have a factor in affecting the perception of violence, but it’s minimal as far as anything conclusive goes. For it to have the effect the media would lead us to believe in, a child (when neuronal plasticity is at its most flexible & absorbent) would have to be locked away with a violent game in complete isolation.

“Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between reality --- and a game…”

“Diminished sense of reality huh? VR training will do that.”

-Solid Snake and Raiden

“The love isn’t gone --- in fact it’s grown tremendously, but it isn’t exactly the same. It’s not just the typical burnout either; we’re far too obsessive for that to begin with.”

“We’ve definitely transitioned into a period where the thought about games is just as valuable as actually playing them.”

“Yet, that remains a minority amongst a minority amongst a minority of an already insular audience of selfish pigs, which is fundamental in the mindset for the ‘satisfied idiot’ stance yet again.”

“Yeah, none of ‘us’ is ready to compromise on the mindset that ‘over-analyzation’ is even valid.”

Most gamers, (the socially awkward dolts they are) have the luxury of not knowing what violence looks like (not the physical type anyway), so others claiming on their behalf that their capacity to be separated from it without actual interaction with it in the first place --- well it’s a little absurd. I personally begin to hear a loud buzzing sound whenever someone vocally tries to purposefully steer clear of violence altogether. The will to avoid violence is based on the irrational and selfish impulse to preserve happiness (either on behalf of oneself or those around them). To understand it, one must first embrace it to some extent. We’ve [humanity] proven consistently and irrefutably that we’re prone to react negatively towards presences we do not understand. People avoid such topics because it’s based once again on selfish grounds that they may contribute to the fire in some compacity. Violence is one of the oldest facets of this race, so when people try to morally buck it, they typically end up becoming more violent than what they’re trying to squash to begin with.

Trying to artificially manufacture peace by cancelling out violence is one of the most destructive intentions in existence; it relies on ignorance to accomplish its ends. It’s never worked because it’s the equivalent of trying to drop a marble into a shoe from the top of the Empire State building.

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage -- to move in the opposite direction."

- Albert Einstein

“So, identification is wrapped around the notion that we’ve grown even more malcontent and hateful of a medium we claim to love?”

“You used that to extrapolate to regression. What I’m suggesting is merely that we know where we stand even more now. It was fine when we could sit back and lurk amongst the thoughts of other people, but I’m too arrogant to take solace in that comfort anymore. I have opinions, and have been compelled to flood the ‘byte-tunnels of existence’ with them now. Communicating thoughts for oneself is simply the first step we’ve taken. “

“Oh no…”

“Yes, first step implies a second, which means 2010 should show some actual enactment from our groundings this year.”

Roping this back around games leads me to divulge my own stance in the matter. That is to say, I of course believe violence is an inherent piece of our racial character. Perhaps it’s still debatable on nature of lustful violence (sex is another piece of the puzzle entirely), but even that has an area to which games rarely explore (which they must as well). Classically, I suppose this is what’s known to most people as ‘aesthetic violence’. This is when a medium showcases an excessive and purposeful stylization of the gory, fierce, and horrific to further connect the audience towards meaning. Games have yet to accomplish this because they quickly jumped to ‘mechanic violence’ due to the nature of the medium (not to mention the short attention span of the creators and their audiences), interactive entertainment. Enemies still come amongst the player in droves, respawning caricatures meant to induce a sense of hollow accomplishment.

Despite my personal desire for games like this to increase in number, I will admit to it not being a pertinent matter in the big scheme of things right now. Gamers have to grow up before they ‘start playing with knives’. Mechanized violence is what I define more as the perpetuation of the perception to keep the act of combat within a game as a cog, turning the wheel of enjoyment on the title proper. Its functionality may drastically affect how the entire machine works (i.e. see any dork complaining about broken mechanics), but it’s so separate from the act itself, that most of the meaning is lost as well. This is a critical distinction in how gamers are meant to see the act, as some will use this sense to fuel the desensitization argument while others will defend their unearned right to keep things shallow and simple.

“Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts”

Thomas De Quincey

“Does that mean I’ll actually have to clean up my writing now…?”

“Not really, though it’ll probably be a side-effect of where we’re going now anyway.”

“Where’s that?”

“Farther away from what we hate of course. The discussions of ‘silly’ game narratives, the insatiable addiction to playing games as they roll off the assembly line, and a distinctly growing hunger for games to exercise more literary muscle as opposed to a technical one.”

A lot of gaming’s problems stem from how insular the audience is. While Nintendo is opting in for the slow and methodical route of saturating new generations with gaming, some of us are still left by the wayside with what they had a hand in inspiring in the first place (I should also make a post-it-note of the splint between Western and Eastern Game design philosophies here). Objectifications, sequelitis, and artistry debates all stem more from a lack of variety in the industry than some silly moral imperative.

In order for games to move past having their mechanics simply ‘decorated with blood’, they’ll have to slice past the comfort zone of the audience and embrace the catharsis that violence induces in a positive manner. All preceding mediums have done this, whereas games have only been allowed allude to it because of the assumptions society (and the medium’s own fans) has placed behind them. Now I don’t know who really started the non-linear narrative constructs in film, as I haven’t studied the medium to that extent (not to mention I don’t really give a damn), but Tarantino certainly owes a lot of his fame to this simplistic retooling of the modern film. This and Reservoir Dogs does something slightly brash yet fundamentally significant; it purposefully removes a major portion of the story. It’s about a jewel heist that went bad in which everything is shown but the heist itself. The precedent events, the aftermath, and back-stories are all what form the film’s primary composition.


“The only difference is that the stress and the violence is worse at home, because it happens younger, it happens at the hands of someone you love, and there is no recognition that this is the enemy.”

Gloria Steinem

“Yet we can’t completely turn those drives off. It would be a sin.”

“Of course not.”

“That means SP write-ups will have to be even more methodical than originally planned. Perversion indeed.”

“That’s good considering I rather enjoy picking one ‘new’ game over the course of a few months to completely dump myself into.”

“Double that if it’s an RPG...”

While I’m certainly not interested in using the film-to-game correlation, I am (once again) willing to acknowledge that something significantly worthwhile to the medium must be removed in order to spur growth. I’ve been very secretive about the dinky little ‘paper-theory’ Metal Gear remake I did earlier this year (apart from initial draft sketches of some of the characters), but I am willing to divulge a specifically major aspect of the design I was rather proud at fleshing out:

I stripped all respawning, conformity, and multitude from the soldiers themselves. My Outer Heaven has a stringently set number of soldiers throughout the entire game (who all meander and interact with each other). With some half decent programming, even the most rudimentary AI can define individual personality in an NPC soldier now. This means the act of taking those soldiers’ lives will actually mean something significant in the game now (considering Metal Gear’s overarching theme is one of pacifism in conflict with perpetual violence). The difficulty of the overall game becomes a bitch at this point when trying to support this, but the payoff is more than worth it.

“I would be quite happy for men to hit women if there was a law saying that women could carry guns. Because then, if a man hit you, you could shoot him.”

Jo Brand

“It will be nice to see what Assassin’s Creed 2 becomes in that regard, something once again raising that tired argument of silly game plots.”

“This coming from someone who refuses to let go of the god damn art tirade. At least we’re almost finished with that crap.”

“Some of us think it’s a discussion still worth having.”

“And some of us refuse to entertain other people’s tired opinions that mean absolutely nothing when weighed in the context of our own.”

It also led me to a totally separate project/theory of a game with a young male protagonist avoiding a female rapist in a dystopian setting; propagation of the species would be nonexistent lest they mate (Rule of Rose & Haunting Ground just weren't enough by the way). Film is mostly sedentary and narrative-based, so tweaking that narrative is why films like Tarintino’s Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs (or even Nolan’s Memento) have such an impact. Games are more mechanical however, so affecting those mechanics is what must be done first and foremost; the craft of narrative is the spouse of the working mechanics in games. One aspect will be more prominently active in a certain medium, leaving the ‘significant other’ (pardon the pun) to cradle and support whatever meaning it can provide as a communicative artform (which all good art does in the end, it communicates).

So for games to make it through puberty, a catharsis of murder is required. Something to provide the audience with an outlet or glimpse of their own ugly tendencies is more important than suppression (it’s much less dangerous too). Now very few will be able to operate solely on that frequency for personal satisfaction (like myself), but I refuse to acknowledge the existence of any kind of Jesus archetype that’s above seeing the beauty in humanity’s violence. Truly connecting gamers with their own actions within games will be one of the most significant advances this medium ever makes. I’m impulsive, obsessive, and permanently incensed, but I’m patient enough to wait for games to do this. It’ll certainly be worth to wait.

“Today, thinking and feeling are more and more separated from each other, and this separation leads either to an almost schizophrenic intellectualism or to a neurotic, irrational emotionalism. Only if emotions and reason are brought together can man function in a way which makes life interesting and hence creates the possibility of a productive and nonviolent life. To put it briefly, what we need is not increasing control of aggression and violence but reduction of destructiveness and violence by making individual and social life more meaningful and human.”

- Eric Fromm

“Either way, I just think it’s far more cathartic to twist, obsess, and eke out something that took years to make. I feel more at peace matching the developer in that regard, flaws and all.”

“Discussion about games is simply becoming more interesting than staying up to date and actually playing them as ---“ *snap fingers rhythmically*

“Even with 2010 having three games I’m actually interested in, I’m finding myself more in need of ‘Gaming Viagra’. One’s a handheld, one’s a P.C. multiplayer life-zapper, and the last is a wild-card we have no clue about. I’ll have to pop a couple pills just to make a run at Peace Walker, which tortuously comes out during our annual Metal Gear May timeframe. “

“The goal is then?”

“To simply establish more synapses to ‘play with’. Finish the GaA, direct SPs with a bit more tact, less time playing games and more time just playing.

“It’s Christmas!”

Decorating a Christmas Tree doesn’t interest me anymore. Setting it on fire however…that at least makes a statement.”

~sLs~

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shattered Perversion | Earthbound (Mother 2)


"The wannabe black hole of Earthbound blogs…"

Those who are familiar with me should already know of my long torrential relationship with the RPG genre, both past and present. It’s composed of hundreds of titles that slice my own will to enjoy them into very delicate chunks. Over the years, I’ve been working on realigning those chunks so that they’ll resemble something I can better dump my obsessions into. I’ve already established for myself that my personal exemplar RPGs will be composed of pretentious and overly obfuscated thematics (i.e. those damn ‘Xeno’ games). I won’t however, pretend that I’ve played just a few RPGs --- as that would be an outright lie, but I’ve played more than enough to begin lumping them into very insulting categories (more than I’d even like to admit now that I think about it). Whether it’s Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, or something like Evolution I always find myself roughly under the same damn ‘umbrella’, no matter how mainstream or obscure I venture. What Earthbound does best is not that it leaves the comfort zone of said umbrella, it begins poking holes in it --- while still standing under it in the midst of a thunderstorm; weather composed of all of the damaging rules of Eastern game design. It gets itself wet with what most consider as flaws while gaining a quirky (and defining) sense of humor. The game in many instances is a commentary --- not just of a distorted Japanese lens on the West, but of the general state of JRPGs --- and apparently it did so long before I came to start 'hating' them.

Now the goal of Shattered Perversion is to strip apart any game I happen to be playing to miniscule levels; a natural evolution of what my DFB posts produced. To insultingly address the ‘fragmentation problem’ of my proposed game site, I think stripping apart entire titles like this will be ‘destructively beneficial’ to everyone involved. In addition to subjectively analytical compositions, I’ll be purposefully separating the game’s music, visuals, and most notable mechanics in order to establish some potential new logic tracks for myself. I chose Earthbound because half of the work I want to do with these posts has already been done for this title specifically. The community/staff of Starmen.Net has already given me the training wheels I need to get this little endeavor off the ground, as it represents a portion of the ambient inspiration I’m showing reverence towards. Between the handbooks, fan translations, and the appearance of those translations in the light of Nintendo’s failure, it’s the ideal candidate for an effective trial run. I’ve even upped its priority over my recently started ‘pataphysical study’ (basically collaborative SP write-ups) of Chrono Trigger, in hopes that Earthbound’s SP will help influence those as well. Shattered Perversion are only reviews as far as what they say about me through the game’s own lens, not necessarily what I have to say about them. They will all be tailor-made to show I'm at the mercy of the game, not the other way around.

Okay --- so I have a bit of penance to express first. I’m one of those people who didn’t even know who the hell Ness was until Super Smash Brothers. I think that’s going to be very important when concerning the visual fidelity of this game because I saw Ness actualized in 3D far before I ever even saw a screenshot for Earthbound itself, meaning my ignorance allows a default circumvention of the various graphical gripes I’ve seen displayed for the game. It’s doubly important because apart from Link, Ness was always my favored character in both Super Smash Bros. & Super Smash Bros. Melee. His quirky yo-yo and bat (pretty much the majority of his smash attacks) were items I always simply found enthralling to use (and his voice always annoyed the people I played with, so that was a plus). I even earned a twisted sense of pleasure out of successfully using the PK Thunder attack as his double-jump.

Despite hearing about how lovely the game was, I was somewhat shocked that I couldn't find more writing from fans about the game itself. It was easy to find Mother 3 material, but Earthbound's status is still kind of gaseous, despite it being the only Mother title released in America. I thought this was surprising because it instantly reminded me of Xenogears, another JRPG I poured about month into at the beginning of the year. It was understandable with Xenogears, but witnessing the reality that EB love is still slightly hidden, I thought I'd make a run at it for the first SP writeup. So here's my drop in the bucket.

Video Game Information

Name of Game: Earthbound (In Japan: Mother 2: Gyiyg no Gyakushū, lit. "Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back")
Type of Game: Japanese Role-Playing Game
Designer & Writer of Game: Shigesato Itoi
Composer of Game: Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka
Originally Available: Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Released On: August 27, 1994
Length: Eight sanctuaries spread out across various lands. Standard 20 hour JRPG romp, provided one takes their time.
Difficulty: The game’s minimalist tone bleeds into how hard it is, which will only really turn off some who come at this as their first JRPG
Current General Status By Gamers: Resolute Cult Classic
First Touched By SnakeLinkSonic: October 15, 2009
My Low Point: Jeff’s introduction as he moves across Winters
My High Point: No single high point in particular, but simply how endearing its appeal becomes over time.


Post Contents

I - The Beautiful Boy
II - "Shut Up!"
III - Taming Dorks
IV - A Tale
V - VGA OST Analysis IV
VI - PSI Dissection
VII - The [J]RPG
VIII - The Fruit Basket
IX - Quotes
X - Conclusion

I - The Beautiful Boy

The oblique perspective that Earthbound uses is something I’ve not seen that often in games. Due to it, the visual structures of towns such as Onett resonate deeply. The streets, sidewalks, and various other urban touchstones basically facilitate the now-cultish look of the game. There are also some rare oddities such as Fourside as well, which shift the view to a more top-down view. Due to that, such areas instantly become more memorable than they'd be otherwise. Something Earthbound also did that was slightly ahead of its time was make all monsters, threats, and party members appear on-screen. Towns become towns in this fashion, not merely hub points for new equipment and gear. The extended space means more time is spent traversing as well; this goes to play towards the how rich the backdrops themselves actually are. The layouts of the paths and streets actually show some cleverness in design as well. This isn't simply how they’re aesthetically arranged, but how that dances with the players' movement among them. An example of that would be Fourside, which as I mentioned above, uses a slightly more aerial view. As wonky as it initially appears, up until that point in the game, the player has no real association with tall buildings such as Monotoli’s. When the view slightly shifts, it seems to reflect the verticality of the area overall, giving the illusion of actually navigating between those structures. This is much harder to play with, and something I admire Earthbound for even trying --- well before the formal 3D era too. It would have been simple enough to go with a more aerial approach, but opting for this particular viewpoint allows a much more engrossing (albeit off-kilter) lure. The game even goes one step further here as well, providing a visual treasure that most argue as their favorite area in the game, Moonside. Halfway through the city’s narrative sequence, the player is forced to enter an alternate reality which strips away most of Fourside’s rendering in lieu of a stark line-based neon aesthetic. During this part of the game, ‘No’ means ‘Yes’, a guy in a Hawaiian shirt randomly warps them to necessary areas, and the music deteriorates in key areas to show how backwards things have become.

The characters themselves reflect that simple endearing aesthetic the game almost seems aware of. The most immediate thoughts I have when coming back to this is how much it visually influenced the Pokémon games. There’s even a hint of Peanuts reference thrown in the mix as well, be it through things such as snarky comments from King, the simplistic designs, or the fact that its younger-than-average children are having an off-kilter fantasy quest. There’s no real strength in terms of animation, yet because of how the music and sound laces throughout the play, it was only jarring during the first hour for me (the first person perspective in combat especially). This is surprising because I’m usually the first one to the table to praise and obnoxiously advocate the need for animation. The battle screen of Earthbound however, relies mostly on psychedelic backgrounds, menu colors, and various methods of screen shaking; there’s just not much else to speak of. This means that there’s a much stronger focus on the figures and text which pick up the slack here. The counter is especially fun as it essentially destroys what I loathe so much about TBC [turn-based combat]. The game once again shows nothing but awareness to the significance granted here, as it lets the player choose menu colors when starting the game and even the levels of speed at which the text pops up (which isn’t so common either). Earthbound in many ways could be a graphic designer’s dream playground if they desired to somehow make a run at updating it (granted they know some code of course).

II - "Shut Up!"

I’ve always rather enjoyed how early titles were poorly localized from Japanese to American audiences. It’s an effective novelty for us in the West, as the dissonance always tends to come out as humorous; that in effect can vividly color the player’s memory of a game (especially when they're young). The ugliest of typos can become the most cherished instances in some games.

“I feel asleep!”Metal Gear, 1986 [NES]

Earthbound wasn’t that poor when it came to this though. Sure it has some odd dialogue, but since the game is always being so damn goofy with itself, this often hides whatever messiness the localization team may have tripped up on. Like many other games of its time, Earthbound communicates its humor primarily through text. Perhaps this is simply due to a decent translation, but that doesn’t change how the jokes and references came roaring through in its favor. Along with how things were said, there’s a ‘what’ in there somewhere as well. That ‘what’ in Earthbound primarily thrives around a humorous lens of America. Both Ness and Pokey for example, represent tired archetypes commonly seen in the comic books (which later became hidden in Pokémon through the player and their respective rival). Both were neighbors and victims of a light-hearted child abuse. Pokey was even spanked from what I gathered in the original Japanese game, while Ness is left as the paternally neglected kid with a loving mother and sister. His [Ness] dad even constantly tries to assuage his own absence by making annoying calls at his leisure (it sure annoyed the hell out me anyway…). Both lads go on a divisive quest which leads one down a morally questionable path while the other manifests as the heroic leader who the planet will have to lay all of its tired-ass hopes on. From town to town, the player will be faced with numerous tropes and situations that are like a fantasy within a dream of a kid…in a sitcom Hell, even reading the description of items like coffee show the purposeful intent the developers meant to caress (i.e. saying coffee must taste good to adults, yet it still grants Ness HP).

The game even plays with its own formula in the text category as well. The most obvious example here is the player’s first visit to Saturn Valley. Here Ness and co. meet the Mr. Saturn population (those big-nosed guys that basically look like heads with feet attached). They speak in a dialect which is translated to the player through a wacked-out font. I’d even go one further here and relate it back to graphic designers again, as it harbors a seething similarity to the commonly reviled Comic Sans MS (it seriously looks like somebody beat the living hell out of that font). It’s jarring to watch nouns, verbs and pronouns get mixed up amongst an already jacked-up looking typeface, but as time goes on, the player recognizes it and it then becomes another clever stitching on the game making fun of its own depiction. One could honestly relate the jarring transition one has to make when learning something new to anything, but learning a new language is so resolute in itself that it just 'pops' more when a facsimile is made of it. Earthbound is just one of those games that manages to show what a little writing can do for a game.

III - Taming Dorks

This game distinctly has a mood which sometimes comes off as totally grating, so if you start out wondering what the big deal is, you’re bound to be fucked (despite the fact that Earthbound’s greatest forte is how much it gets under your skin as time goes on). This flavor initially confused the hell out of me because of what I established above. My preferred RPGs come from a womb that birth extremist role-playing games. When Final Fantasy is taken to a narrative extreme, you get a mess called Xenosaga. However, if you turn the notch all the way in the other direction, you get Earthbound --- which is something I can crawl into pretty deeply as well (I just had to shift my gears in order to compensate). Also, as someone who primarily listens to just video-game music, Earthbound is rife to musical connections outside of that world. Humorous connections to the Blues Brothers (The Runway Five), Chuck Berry (the hippie theme song), and The Beatles (at least three songs in this game show allusion to Beatles music) all run rampant throughout the entire game. Given that I purposefully avoid going into ‘this is influenced by this’ territory below, I don’t want it to go unnoticed how Earthbound is a pop-culture roast of America --- which still kind of holds up fifteen years later. Watching a stalker get dragged off a pop-diva’s stage just made me place this game in a ‘to-be-respected’ category. Not because it was mildly entertaining, or even because the game was ahead of its time, but because so many others falter on this same note now. Progenitors shouldn’t simply be the bar that all other children fall trying to latch on to, yet Earthbound remains just that, in many cases as well.

When I heard the emotional ties some people latched onto the game, I was a bit confounded as well. Since Earthbound aims so incisively to make its audience laugh, I was appalled at some fans claims that they were in tears by the end of the game. However, when I finally completed the game --- I caught a glimpse of that emotional undercurrent. Just after the final boss’s defeat, the party is transported back to Saturn Valley, where they immediately say their goodbyes and Paula asks Ness to walk her home. It was in this that I read that small child (who we all knew as kids) that burst into tears when they had to go home at the end of the day. It’s that slight twinge of sadness that everybody reacts to differently. Earthbound simply gave a playground to those who are more susceptible to it. Simply going home at the end of the day is why some people shed tears for Ness and co. Again, in an industry where so many games directly aim to have darker, engaging, or character-driven plots, Earthbound snaps through an nearly invisible boundary, dragging along with it --- every juvenile emotion gamers felt as kids. We’re all crying and bitching for ‘realism’ these days yet none of us really knows what the hell that is to begin with; Earthbound knew that and made fun of it well before it became a valid point of contention. I’m more willing to admire that connection in gamers than what I expect (and have heard) of Mother 3 right now, which seems to purposefully aim at the kitsch under the same guises. I’d rather fall in love with a ricocheted bullet to my heart, not some dolt who was pointing directly at it (yeah --- I’m positive that I’ll probably contradict myself whenever I finally decide to play through Mother 3, so deal with it).

“Ness and Lucas (the protagonist of Mother 3) are probably best-known to American audiences for their appearances in the Super Smash Bros games.”
-TVTropes.org

Such statements suggest guilt on both sides of the fence. For gamers, more of us should have noticed this title when we initially got access to it, then maybe we wouldn’t be bitching about having its sequel ported over ten years later. For Nintendo --- well there’s a lot of scapegoat reasons they can hide behind (e.g. the music licensing), but at the end of the day --- there was simply no ‘will’ behind this game’s soul. I doubt Itoi was righteous enough to make sure we got it, so its publisher (whose job it is to compensate in this area) becomes the pivotal figurehead. Thanks to ingrained lethargies on both the audience and creator’s part, Earthbound suffers. Those failings did inspire translations of both Mother 1 and 3 however, and watching the gaming audience hop up on stage --- it not only destroys the fourth wall, but it redefines it. The game to this day, wields its fans like Ness’s Gutsy Bat.

IV – A Tale as Silly as Earth Itself

[Instead of a long drawn out and detailed take of the game’s story (which this still kind of is…), I’ll simply advise you to read this, and then step back and admire how ludicrous it is.]

Earthbound is about a psychic boy named Ness, who awakens in the middle of the night to the sound of a meteorite impacting his hometown of Onett. As he sets out to investigate it, he comes across the police blocking access to the meteor, along with his next door neighbor Pokey Minch. After making his way back home and falling asleep, he awakens once again to obnoxious rapping on his front door. Upon answering it, he’s greeted by Pokey, who goads Ness into helping him look for his runaway younger brother, Picky. As they come across the meteor again, they find Picky and a small talking insect from the future calling itself Buzz-Buzz. Buzz-Buzz then begins to relate to Ness a creature known as Giygas, who will obliterate the universe if Ness doesn’t stop him. The small group’s assault by a Starman proves that Buzz-Buzz the talking beetle hasn’t lost his mind and the four return to Pokey’s house. It’s here that Buzz-Buzz is stomped on by Pokey and Picky’s mother, who simply mistakes the small warrior for a dung beetle. Before dying however, Buzz-Buzz provides Ness with a Soundstone and a prophecy of his triumph against Giygas, who is far too unstoppable in the future Buzz-Buzz hails from.

The next day, Ness embarks on a quest to seek out eight sanctuaries in order for his Soundstone to record and supplement his own budding and mysterious psychic power. He encounters the first sanctuary guardian, the Titanic Ant, in a mountain above his hometown. Afterwards he makes his way into the neighboring town of Twoson, where he seeks out a young girl named Paula Polestar (who has been telepathically calling out to him since his first sanctuary encounter). He learns through a thug named Everdred that Paula was kidnapped by the Happy Happyist Cult. As he makes his way towards her location, Ness finds out that she’s set to become a high priestess for Happy Happyism, a devout theology that worships the color blue. Ness finds Paula, but she’s locked away in a house. Paula passes Ness the Franklin Badge through the bars of her cell, which aids Ness in defeating the Carpainter --- the leader of Happy Happyism. After defeating him, he’s able to free Paula and dissipate the cult’s influence on the surrounding village. Pokey, who was revealed to be aiding the Carpainter, flees the scene as Ness rescues Paula. The duo sets out to a nearby cave where they dispatch the guardian of the second sanctuary, the Mondo Mole.

After recording the second sanctuary’s power, Ness and Paula helps an indebted group of musicians with their money troubles at a nearby theater. The group, known as The Runaway Five, repays Ness and Paula by giving them a ride into Threed, which was otherwise inaccessible to the two before due to a large amount of ghosts inhabiting the tunnel leading out of Twoson. Fortunately, The Runaway Five’s bus blasts music so loud, it repells all ghosts away from it. Upon arriving in Threed however, the gang finds it largely inhabited by undead zombies and gigantic man-eating tents. After some shady trailing of a seductive looking woman at a hotel, Ness and Paula get ambushed by various undead creatures and locked away underneath Threed’s cemetery. Paula uses her telepathic abilities to awaken Jeff Andonuts, who lives at a boarding school near the region of Winters. After being asked for help by Paula in his sleep, Jeff suddenly resolves to help her and leaves his friends at the orphanage. He crosses through Winters, riding the head of Tessie, the mysterious lake-dwelling dinosaur. Just as he reaches Stonehenge, Jeff finds his father, who lives in a lab and is as handy with building tools as Jeff is. Dr. Andonuts then provides Jeff with the Sky Runner, a flying machine which gives Jeff the transportation necessary to reach Paula and Ness.

However, after arriving in Threed, the Sky Runner plummets through the cemetery and smashes to bits right in front of Paula and Ness. As the three introduce themselves, Jeff uses his recently-acquired Bad Key Machine to open the lock on their confining door. As they make their way above ground, they make their way into an odd area known as Saturn Valley, which is populated by weird little creatures called Mr. Saturns, who talk in an odd dialect. They tell the trio how to access a nearby factory where they proceed to and combat a creature that has been kidnapping locals, Master Belch. After defeating the gigantic pile of vomit, the three then make their way back to Saturn Valley and access a new area where they come across the third sanctuary guardian, the Trillionage Sprout. After overcoming it, they then retrace their steps to Threed, where they use the the local bus to make their way into the desert.

Unfortunately, the bus gets caught in traffic and the gang is forced to disembark. They then trek across the desert and make their way into city of Fourside. Here they find The Runaway Five in financial trouble again, but through the usage of a gift from an entrepreneur in the desert, they use a diamond to pay off the band’s debt yet again. Making their way through Fourside’s nearby department store finds the group in sudden darkness as a creature swiftly kidnaps Paula from the group. After combating the creature, they learn a clue leading them to a nearby café. Here in an alley, they encounter the thug Everdred again, who informs them of a secret switch behind the café’s counter. Hitting that switch transports Jeff and Ness to an area known as Moonside, where most of the world is backwards and random pieces of art and such attack them. After defeating the illusion-creating Mani Mani statue (which was also worshiped by the Happy Happyist cult), the two boys shift back to the ‘normal’ city of Fourside. A talking monkey then introduces the two to the Talah Rama, a meditative old man who lives in the desert. The Talah Rama informs Ness of his destiny and gives Ness a yogurt dispenser; he also advises one of his monkeys to teach Ness the art of teleportation as well. Using those tools, Ness makes his way back into Fourside and proceeds to the top of Geldegarde Monotoli’s building, a man thought to be the monopolistic tyrant of Fourside. After reaching the top however, they find only robots that the Runaway Five timely arrive to help them dispatch. After defeating them, Ness and Jeff finally find Paula along with an old man --- Monotoli. The old man explains that he was seduced by the Mani Mani statue and offers his apologies in the form of his personal helicopter. Just as Ness, Paula, and Jeff exit to board it however, Pokey appears once again. He steals the aircraft and verbally assaults Ness from the sky before speeding off.


The Runaway Five help the group by providing them with a ride back to Threed. The trio then proceed to the area below the cemetery once again, where Jeff fixes the broken Sky Runner. Using it, the gang makes its way to Dr. Andonuts lab. As he remodels the Sky Runner, Ness and crew make their way to a nearby sanctuary location, which Jeff passed earlier prior to meeting up with Ness and Paula. Here they fight defeat the Shrooom and Ness records the fourth notch on his Soundstone. As they make their way back to Dr. Andonuts lab, he reveals a newly fitted Sky Runner, which gets the gang as far as the town of Summers before crashing on the beach and shattering permanently. In Summers, the gang comes across a pretentious social club, where they meet a somewhat blithe woman selling cake. After eating some of it, the gang seems to go into some sort of induced high. The tale then switches to a young prince, known as Poo.

Poo treks through his home city of Dalaam and meditates on various things. After answering a series of sacrificial questions from some higher unknown entity, Poo completes his meditation and proceeds back to his home palace. His messenger informs him of his completed training and Poo gains the power to teleport. He uses this power to warp to the still somewhat inebriated party of Ness, Paula, and Jeff. Poo, who has been spiritually led to believe Ness’s destiny, dedicates his cause to Ness’s and joins their party (no questions asked). The four then make their way through the museum of Summers, where they encounter a ringing phone telling of a large discovery of importance in Fourside. Making their way back, the gang uses its pull of good terms with the Runaway Five as a bargaining chip to meet the diva Venus. Getting her autograph on a banana peel allows the gang to coerce the discovery out of a museum director. He reveals a mysterious light shining from beneath the museum’s sewage system. Upon investigating, the gang finds the guardian of the fifth sanctuary location, the Plauge Rat of Doom.

After departing Fourside, the gang heads back to Dalaam, Poo’s old mountainous sky-village. Here they quickly take care of the sixth sanctuary guardian(s), Thunder and Storm. They then head back to Summers, where they pay a captain to transport them to the desert village of Scaraba. In this area, the gang meets an old friend Jeff met earlier in his solo travels, the Dungeon Man. Poo then departs for extra training, while the other three make use of the Dungeon Man’s broken submarine to traverse the murky waters of Deep Darkness, a nearby swampland. Making their way through it leads the gang to a village full of small shy green creatures, known as Tendas. Ness learns that he’ll have to help the shy Tenda villagers overcome their meekness in order to further explore their village. Luckily one of the group’s contacts is able to provide a text for aiding with this. He points the gang back towards Dr. Andonut’s lab. Poo rejoins them with new powers as the gang returns to Winters, but they find Jeff’s father has been kidnapped and taken into the nearby Stonehenge base. Inside the base, the gang encounters a strong resistance from Starmen but are still able to free the various captives of the base, including Jeff’s father.

Afterwards, the group is informed of the book that will help with the Tenda’s shyness, which is located in Onett’s library. Teleporting there, they’re able to find the book and they depart back to Tenda village, where they help the villagers overcome their bashfulness. With their help, Ness and crew are shown an underground passage leading them to a confrontation with their seventh sanctuary guardian, the Electro Specter. Defeating it records another notch on Ness’s Soundstone before the gang is mysteriously whisked away to a prehistoric Lost Underworld area. Here they’re extremely tiny and find a number of villages populated with Tendas, who aid them on their way. They also come across a talking rock, which informs them of the final sanctuary location. Exploring the nearby Fire Spring cave leads them into combat with the eighth and final guardian(s), Carbon & Diamond Dog.

After overcoming the dogs, Ness passes out and is locked away inside his own mind. Here he encounters his family and various opponents he’s had over throughout his quest quest. Through the help of odd bird-men, Ness is able to subjugate his inner evils in the form of yet another Mani Mani statue. He then gains various powers he didn’t have access to before and wakes up. The gang then makes its way to Saturn Valley. He meets up with Dr. Andonuts and others, who have completed working on a Phase Distorter, which will allow them access to the past in order to combat Giygas. As they use the Phase Distorter, the gang travels to an origin space glimpsed in the Lost Underworld. After arriving, Poo is granted more power by his trainer once again. Dr. Andonuts arrives in a new Phase Distorer and informs them that they’ll all need to have their brains transplanted into robots since traveling through space time would otherwise destroy their bodies. After being informed of their likely demise and inability to return from their destination, all four children undergo the operation. The group then uses the Phase Distorter to travel into the past.

Here they once again encounter Pokey, who has been abashedly manipulating all their misfortunes during the entire quest. He then mocks the group while describing the power of Giygas, who he stands before. The group launches into battle with them both, but even as they dispatch Pokey, Giygas force proves to be too strong for them. As described previously by Pokey, Giygas has ascended far beyond a state which they can stand against, and is nothing more than the universal embodiment of evil itself. Paula, using the only option available to her, prays to everybody the gang has come across in their travels. Fortunately, the emotions granted by Paula’s prayers work against Giygas and mortally wound him. As he’s destroyed, the gang’s consciousness is transferred back into their bodies lying amongst everyone in Saturn Valley. As they all awaken, they bid each other farewell and Paula asks Ness to walk her home. Afterwards, Ness makes his way back to Onett where his mom shows him a scrapbook of pictures taken of him throughout his journey.

Later on that night…more obnoxious rapping on the door is heard and a message is delivered to Ness by Picky, Pokey’s younger brother. It appears to be from Pokey himself and simply reads:

“Come and get me loser. Spankety, spankety, spankety"

~The End~

V - Tunes From Eagleland [VGA OST Analysis #4]

To say that Earthbound has a memorable soundtrack would be an immense understatement. The game’s purposeful parody-lens of the West is somewhat solidified through its soundtrack. Respectfully lifted from countless sources (which I try my best to avoid), its homage to various touchstones in pop-culture kind of vibrates throughout the entire game. This, along with the game’s own merry-go-round tale, effectively distorts the already skewed visage of the title being such a quirky game. There are quite a few songs on this OST, so I picked one of the albums with what I thought had the best assortment of tracks. The standout tracks are of course, in the fruit basket --- and I’ve marked my favorite overall with a trio of stars. The irrational side of me won the argument over whether or not to write up the entire soundtrack, but I did find some inner compromise in only allowing myself a couple of sentences to describe the track.

Game Profile
Title: Earthbound (Mother 2)
Release: 1994
Composers: Keiichi Suzuki, Hirokazu Tanaka
Platform: Super Nintendo
Type: Role-Playing Fantasy

Track #1 – “Intro” – 0:30
Most Prominent Appearance – The 15th second

The introduction for Earthbound is almost characteristically offbeat. It begins as an ascending set of epic tones then suddenly lets go; just as the screen fades to the saucer shot of an invaded town, the music abruptly switches to a desolate pulse, which becomes a sort of makeshift leitmotif for Giygas overall.

Track #2 – “Title Screen” – 0:15
Most Prominent Appearance – Entire track

Right off the coattails of the previous track, this piercing and somewhat fitting theme is best juxtaposed with the intro music, as together they pretty much sum up the bulk of Earthbound’s narrative --- in less than a minute no less.

Track #3 – “Demo Screen” – 1:13
Most Prominent Appearance – The crash at 0:49

I’m not a big fan of this track --- at least not until the last twenty seconds, at which point it transitions into a more in-tune tempo when summing up how the game plays for a demo reel. Luckily, it’s too short to rail against, but the faded usage of how it ‘crashes’ at 0:49 is still pretty satisfying.

Track #4 – “Info Entry” – 1:01
Most Prominent Appearance – The background tones that start around ten seconds in

This is the first track that made me notice the game’s music. Mostly this because when set against the prior three tracks of music, the themes become a ransom letter composed of newspaper and magazine clippings. This in turn just begins to provide whatever definition Earthbound’s music may have. The MPA tones mentioned sort of settle the spirits as the player inputs a gaggle of information, some expected --- some not.

Track #5 – “Name Entry” – 3:13
Most Prominent Appearance – Around thirty seconds, where some light drum-beats start in

This is the first of the game’s more formal theme tracks. If the last piece of musc provides a decent introduction to the game’s character, this one begins to set forth things of such definition. It’s gradual and up-tempo, and it also begins to hide the weird sci-fi nightmare noise that the Intro theme so sweetly introduced. That becomes fairly important to the game’s ‘undercurrent of darkness’ later on.

Track #6 – “Confirmation Noise” – 0:04
Most Prominent Appearance – That I don’t care to care what’s being said

The MPA kind of says it all. Earthbound has a bunch of ambient noise that becomes its music, this track lets the player very restrictedly take part in the music’s creation --- as far as how they hear the first time anyway. It’s just a random track of somebody voicing gibberish set along with those light drum beats in the previous track.

Track #7 – “Finished Name Confirmation” – 0:04
Most Prominent Appearance – The last two beats

This is in the same selection category as the last track, but it has two very deep beats at the end that loop back to the introduction theme --- or Giygas’s musical presence if you will. An echoing ‘Wow’ is heard, followed by said beats.

Track #8 – “Onett at Night Pre-Meteor” – 1:22
Most Prominent Appearance – The crickets

This is an ambient track for the outdoors, and there’s distinct hum in the background that plays into the whole ‘town among saucers’ thing that the game basically shoves in your face during the Intro music. The crickets ground this track in a fashion where noise transitions into music. There’s also a sudden (albeit silent) shift about forty-eight seconds in as well, which signals the falling of the meteor in Onett. There’s even some sirens that follow afterwards too. It really helps the atmosphere of the scene more than it initially lets on.

Track #9– “Onett at Night Post-Meteor” – 1:24
Most Prominent Appearance – The zooming sound of what I assume to be saucers

I consider every dark tone in the game (with the exception of a few) to be the influence of Giygas, just in case you haven’t pegged that yet. The background noise in this track is easily fitted to the minions under Giygas’s influence making their presence known. This track also has three distinct layers; the zooming, the somewhat primitive rythym beats, and various high-pitched squeals that are interlaced with the zooming. Altogether, they equal ‘something ominous is about!’.

Track #10 – “What an annoying knock!” – 0:33
Most Prominent Appearance – What the track manages to accomplish as it plays

The low-key hum in the background is only playing second fiddle to the Pokey’s rapping on the door. The way the sound blends itself into that aforementioned track is its strength and it tends to become more cacophonous as the theme goes on. Of course it turns out to be Pokey’s obnoxious ass, but this sound is engaging in the sense that it assaults the player on the simple grounds that somebody is beating on their door like a jackass --- even to the point where they may not recognize such a sound at all (I’ve heard quite a few people say that they thought it was the music itself). It’s just a further play on Earthbound’s awe-inspiring ‘reality-parody’ muscle.


Track #11 – “What Pokey’s Theme” – 0:54
Most Prominent Appearance – First four seconds

Halfway through the theme, it resets with this sort of low growl after operating on a fairly high pitched sense of urgency. The first four seconds are the strongest for me however, and they showcase that same sense of urgency with the obnoxiousness that is Pokey, even dropping off in a humorous and anticlimactic fashion before the track starts up properly.

Track #12 – “First Starman Battle” – 0:25
Most Prominent Appearance – The subdued frequency of the track

This track simply screams prelude to me. Before the 00s era, the beeps and buzzing in this track were hyperbolic cliché signifiers of our era now. You know --- that image of everyone having jetpacks, silver jumpsuits, and entirely white houses. Yet…wow, look at what the Starman is.

Track #13 – “Boss Fight: Starman” – 1:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The switch made at 0:37

The initial ten seconds of the track are only saved for me by the introducing mystic ascension that accompanies every boss fight. I just wasn’t a fan of how dissonant the beat becomes. An underlying rhythm gradually swoops into save it however, and before I became too bored with it, it switches things up around half a minute in. The beat becomes more pronounced and rhythmic, leaving the player to apply that flow to the boss fight itself, which is very cool.

Track #14 – “Pokey’s House” – 0:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The merry-go-round melody that plays twice throughout the track

Another track capturing how annoying Pokey is, it’s drastically different in that it runs at a less urgent pace. It loops through a very odd collection of sequences that serve no other purpose than keeping the player’s ears on their toes.

Track #15 – “Buzz Buzz’s Demise” – 1:43
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft hum that plays throughout the majority of the track

Three seconds in, the sound effects transition into a very soft hum that continues through the rest of the song with very slight twinkling interruptions. Given that this plays during a bug’s death, it’s actually pretty sweet --- which is indicative of how odd a quest Earthbound is actually going to be.

Track #16 – “Onett Changing” – 0:08
Most Prominent Appearance – The melody that the beats form

Another track that seeks to hide the dark nature the game loves to jab at. Its following track is far more important, but this is a nice appetizer for the player’s first experience with the town of Onett.

Track #17 – “Onett at Morning” – 2:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The low sliding beats

Onett’s music is welcoming yet somehow still feels as if it’s always trying to steer just shy of being an epic track. Luckily, it manages to hit this mark dead-on. The gradual ascension that the melody makes is constantly tempered by how soft and airy the theme actually is. There are some quirky portions to this track as well, such as the rapid-fire xylophone-esque tunes (not to mention the pseudo-trumpet fanfares), but it succeeds in defining a town that the player is meant to call home.

Track #18 – “House” – 1:56
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft melody the song is based around

The melody of this song is its strongest part, and is actually comforting. In fact, if it has one flaw it’s that it can sometimes be too comforting --- even bordering on soporific levels. The actual tools composing the melody keeps this from happening too much though, so I can leave it at that.

Track #19 – “Fight: Dog or Crow” – 1:10
Most Prominent Appearance – The reshuffling that the track constantly makes


This is one of the most annoyingly-under-my skin tracks I’ve ever heard in a game. It’s an extremely upbeat song that fits the mood of fighting menial enemies in the early areas of the game. What initially confused the hell out of me was its tendency to constantly reset itself or reshuffle, almost as if someone hit rewind for half a second and let the song start again.

Track #20 – “Arcade Noise” – 0:30
Most Prominent Appearance – The ‘solid’ melody in the track’s background

Like Pokey’s obnoxious knocking above, this track blends a sound we’ve all heard before into a near unrecognizable strip of music. This one is probably more evocative to any gamer over twenty years old though; as it’s basically ambient arcade noise.

Track #21 – “Frank Fly” – 1:19
Most Prominent Appearance – The echoed tones

Everybody has heard this in some form or another; the fact that it humorously plays over hippie combat and the Frank boss fight is even more smirk-inducing. It’s one of those battle tracks that easily lends itself to letting the player apply their own sort of ‘play-rhythm’ to the music as they fight.

Track #22 – “Cave” – 1:17
Most Prominent Appearance – The consistency of the background hum

The hum in the background of this tack provides a rather fitting cavernous feel to it. It comes off as a hollow and ambient track which is perforated by the signature beeps and buzzes that this game adopts for itself.

Track #23 – “After Boss” – 0:47
Most Prominent Appearance – The two levels of the background hum

This basically combines what ‘House’ does well with what ‘Cave’ does. It’s distinct in that the song has two levels to its hum which accommodate its soothing melody. It’s a nice track to use in order to accompany the natural high that succeeds a boss fight.

Track #24 – “Twoson” – 2:21
Most Prominent Appearance – The pacing of the background beat

Twoson’s theme is specious in that it could easily be one of those sleep-inducing tracks, but it always manages to keep its pacing head just above the water so it doesn’t drown. It also has a progression more akin to whatever Earthbound might approach in normality. It’s just long enough to not become too annoying as well, which always surprises me when I hear it.

Track #25 – “Hotel” – 0:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The disguised looping of the track

Another rather cliché tune, its frequency of exposure to the player is only topped by the rate at which they’re exposed it. This means that it’s only heard in passing when the player makes their way through a hotel for rest and such. It could easily become annoying as hell, but thanks to its placement here (and its deteriorated doppelganger below), it remains one of Earthbound’s more memorable tracks.

Track #26 – “Hotel Morning After” – 0:30
Most Prominent Appearance – The usage of birds chirping

The soft flow of this song along with the birds chirping in the background let the track usher in a simulated sense of rest. The game beats most other titles by letting a track complement another (i.e. the game could just have easily kept ‘Hotel’ playing instead). It should also be noted how the audio supplements the visuals, which usually portraying a nice sunny room in hotels to suggest such progression as well.

Track #27 – “Random Homes” – 0:37
Most Prominent Appearance – The partially buried funky tunes in the background

Not really one of my preferred tracks, but there is a unique tone that consistently keeps the pacing up to snuff in the background. It sounds like comical and synthesized water drop. Considering that this is made for random house exploring, it’s certainly a fitting track. It’s always ‘new’ enough to go along with whatever house the player feels compelled to wander around in.

Track #28 – “Bicycle” – 1:25
Most Prominent Appearance – It never capitalizes upon itself

Keiichi Suzuki actually cites this track as his favorite among the majority that he composed for the game (it was also made before the game was developed). The one thing I admire about this track is that it never seems to go anywhere despite always leading up to something; rather fitting for a theme that only plays when Ness is on a bicycle. What kid really goes anywhere when riding one anyway?

Track #29 – “Forest before Saturn Valley” – 1:21
Most Prominent Appearance – It deflates about thirty seconds in

Funny how this track follows ‘Bicycle’ on my listing as it also builds up, but as it reaches any kind of height --- it just droops and comically deflates itself through a moderately-pitched hum. This is starkly contrasted to the rather ominous melody as well. Throughout the track there’s even a layer of running water housing this --- making it all the more dynamic.

Track #30 – “Fight: Robots” – 1:47
Most Prominent Appearance – The first fifteen seconds


This track is rather cool to me because it ‘slides in’ and has a sort of cold sleekness to it that fits well with it playing amongst combating robots. The track itself jumps into a contained rhythm that keeps things interesting throughout, but those first fifteen seconds are just awesome; that ‘sliding effect’ is simply priceless.

Track #31 – “Happy Happy Village” – 2:34
Most Prominent Appearance – The wavering tone in the background

Despite the title, this track is damn ominous. It has a organ-esque sound that holds its intensity for most of the track, but just after that it goes into a rather flimsy fanfare worthy of a bad church dream. This track definitely proves that Happy Happyism is indeed the devil’s playground.

Track #32 – “Fanfare” – 0:08
Most Prominent Appearance – The slight crack at the end of the melody

A good accomplishment theme, it definitely signals that the player has done something right, and that crack is just characteristic of Earthbound’s excessive quirkiness. It’s a nice quick high, which is about as much as I can say for any track of its genus.

Track #33 – “Another Cave” – 0:56
Most Prominent Appearance – The ghostly moans in the background

This track is almost completely devoid of anything light-hearted, but it does have small high pitched squeals surrounding about a minute of nothing but cavernous moaning. The ghostly sounds being made amongst it are just frosting, but sometimes that’s the best part.

Track #34 – “Fight Boss” – 2:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The heights that the song never exceeds

This is one of the most relaxed boss themes I’ve ever come across. It’s also one of my favorites on the OST, mostly due to how stable it makes boss fights themselves --- conflicts meant to be challenging and well --- unstable. As odd as it sounds, the music actually facilitates organized thought, which is pretty damn icy (not to mention handy) when facing some of the harder bosses. It’s meant to be cold and pensive, even if the player is getting the living hell beat out of them.

Track #35 – “Chaos Theatre” – 1:59
Most Prominent Appearance – The laziness of the entire track

This theme seems to be humorously ‘chillax’, and it has a slight twang to it that gives the flavor of it being music that Earthbound uses as another jab at American pop-culture. There’s even some of the door knocking effects from above used in this track, but they’re so effectively hidden, the player won’t notice it unless they’re actively looking for them.

Track #36 – “Runaway Five (Live)” – 1:00
Most Prominent Appearance – The abrupt jump the track makes twenty seconds in

Acknowledgement to the cool, quirky, and somewhat dim-witted Runaway Five, this is actually a pretty fun track to listen. It’s not what one expects until that twenty second mark, where it hits a very up-beat ‘jam-time’ tempo.

Track #37 – “Runaway Five (Enters)” – 1:09
Most Prominent Appearance – The short intervals between the melody’s composing beats

Feeding off that ‘cool’ image the last track established for the band, this theme kind of weighs the group down in the humor they’re associated with. It even evokes that same sense of flakiness the gang is known for. The only thing I find slightly amusing about this track is that its title should be switched with the next one. It’s a gradually subdued beat meant to be heard amongst their humorous text. It was most resonant for me when one of the band’s members asked the local theatre director for more money, only to be dragged back out by another member coming to get him.

Track #38 – “Runaway Five (Leaves)” – 1:27
Most Prominent Appearance – The ‘trumpets’ in the background

I remember this mostly from the bus ride the Runaway Five gives Ness and Paula to Threed. It was oddly carved out in my head since it was their music that allowed them to drive Ness through the ghost infested tunnel (they were afraid of the loud music). The trumpet-esque tones are what carry this one, despite their scarcity throughout the track. They come ringing through the theme every time they play.

Track #39 – “Threed Before Fixing”– 1:25
Most Prominent Appearance – The warped melody that kicks in at 0:25

This was another personal pick of mine because it’s ominous and silly at the same time. The MPA in particular is draining in a hopelessness kind of way, but the growls and saucer tones save the track from becoming just a depressing ambient tone.

Track #40 – “Monotolla Building”– 0:55
Most Prominent Appearance – The saucer background hum

There’s an ominous ambient background tone that accompanies an otherwise humorous set of sound effects. It’s almost as if something is about to come busting through a door at any second. At the same time, it makes the player smile at that fact while still being afraid of such a thing happening.

Track #41 – “Fight: Music Notes”– 2:08
Most Prominent Appearance – The bongo-like beats

This track is just plain goofy. It distinctly hits a nerve to make the player feel as if they’re in a fight they’re not supposed to be in, as if they have far more important things to be fighting (which they do). About a 1:20 in, the bongo beats take over and start driving the song’s progression all over the place doing figure-rights, u-turns, and peel-outs.

Track #42 – “Hotel in Moonside”– 0:58
Most Prominent Appearance – The dead organ tunes

Like I alluded to above, the hotel theme gets some dynamism here through a purposefully skewed playing. It erratically speeds up, slows down, and the synth completely breaks in some areas. The best parts to me where the dead organ tunes, as if a two-year old sat his/her ass down on a keyboard. The song will definitely make one cognitively reach for how they know the theme should be played, which is the most important part.

Track #43 – “Sleep in Moonside”– 0:07
Most Prominent Appearance – The wet plop at the beginning of the theme

This theme will almost make the player question if they just died or not. Being that everything is backwards in Moonside, it’s not such an irrational stance to assume either. It’s a quickly descending tone that that doesn’t have on note of accomplishment or success in it. What I’m describing as the wet plop at the beginning of the song is pretty much the only other thing that plays besides the long descending track. There’s one slight ascending screech in here as well, but it’s so oppressed that it just helps the main tone through contrast alone.

Track #44 – “Winters Boarding School”– 0:29
Most Prominent Appearance – The jingle tunes

The next track is what this theme is basically introducing in the background, but the jingle tunes are playing front and center. There’s a sense of distance in this track due to how low the melody is being played in the background. This is fitting since the track surrounds Jeff’s introduction, a kid in a cold town, most likely hundreds of miles away from Ness and Paula.

Track #45– “School Again”– 2:26
Most Prominent Appearance – The majority of the melody

I‘m not sure why, but if I had to put a main theme on the face of Earthbound for myself, this would be it. It’s a pensive and ‘cool’ track that’s very fitting of the player’s introduction to Winters. There’s also a sense of solitude that comes along with it, which plays right into Jeff being a lone character when the player first gains control of him. A very soft melody is what defines the track, with distant high-pitched twinkles that give the music its appeal.

Track #46– “Winters Outside”– 2:28
Most Prominent Appearance – The introductory jingles


The melody itself doesn’t grab me, but the way the jingles are placed throughout the track make this a standout theme for me. The song just seems to bend to their will, which gives the entire song a rhythmic pace. There’s also a flute-like tone helping out the music here as well, which is probably the most ingraining aspect of the track overall.

Track #47– “Scary Winters”– 0:25
Most Prominent Appearance – The volume of the underlying melody

Again, despite its title, this track is actually very comforting. It’s just a low and soft leitmotif for ‘Winters Outside’. The jingles are in this track as well and are still helping stabilize the melody in the background. It rounds out the musical experience that is Winters in the end; which I describe as my lowest point in the game --- yet I love its music the most.

Track #48– “Tessie Coming”– 0:28
Most Prominent Appearance – The duo of beats composing the track

There’s a slight shift in how the two MPA beats move, which fall just shy of being ominous. They transition from, away, and back into being a rather soft and upbeat introduction theme. The water rippling effect in the background helps keep the theme from becoming too stale as well.

Track #49– “Tessie”– 1:01
Most Prominent Appearance – The water effect becomes more pronounces

The previous track simply melds into this, but somehow the water sound effect becomes more pronounced and weighs the song down a bit more. There’s a standout trumpet-like fanfare halfway through as well, which quickly dissipates and falls into a soft-toned melody for a short while just before ending.

Track #50– “Spaceship Music”– 1:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The main beat carries the weight of the song


Another on my list of favorites, this track is catchy as hell and perfectly summarizes the joy that the Sky Runner evokes. In fact, I’d call it the most adventurous slice of music in the game. The theme even moves along with Sky Runner’s tendency to descend and skim over the rooftops of nearby cities which the player has yet to reach (a nice little trick mind you). The most humorous part of this song is that the crash sound effect plays at the end. Those rocky landings always tend to happen at the end of Sky Runner trips.

Track #51– “Saturn Valley”– 1:36
Most Prominent Appearance – The drum tones in tandem with the melody

I half expected be tossed into fights with Mr. Saturns when first confronted with them, but this this theme isn’t misleading at all. It’s Earthbound equivalent to emerging from the rabbit hole. The background beat crawls along like a Nick Jr. show’s mini-game while the drums keep things from becoming too ridiculous. In fact, those drums are pretty significant when viewed in the whole experience that comes with Saturn Valley.

Track #52 – “Another Cave”– 2:12
Most Prominent Appearance – The underlying pulse in the track

This is a track that I enjoy not liking and its appeal to me lies on the low pulse being set in the background. The rate at which the theme moves is irritating to me, yet it has these instances of a melody poking its head through, which is kind of attractive at the same time.

Track #53 – “Fight: Ants”– 1:37
Most Prominent Appearance – The ‘bit beats’

This track is pretty cool for being so empty. It’s mainly a soft hum being broken up by small sparks of tone here and there (e.g. the bit beats). It’s a slower paced fighting theme that showcases how often the fights in Earthbound are sometimes the most relaxing portions.

Track #54 – “Coffee”– 2:18
Most Prominent Appearance – The looseness of the primary beats.

This track is a soft theme being played at a very grating volume. Thanks to that, it becomes piercing and sort of undulating at the same time. It shares some relation with the Sky Runner theme song from above, but it’s much simpler. As much as I prefer the Sky Runner track, this one is essentially catchier, granted the player hears it enough.

Track #55 – “Threed Post Saturn Valley”– 3:18
Most Prominent Appearance – The simplicity of the main melody

The most appealing portion of this track is how deceptive it is. It’s actually not as rich as it initially plays. It’s a simple and placid track composed of some hopeful-sounding tunes. The melody they form flow along pretty steady, but do fluctuate pretty well too.

Track #56 – “Bus Music”– 1:40
Most Prominent Appearance – The pacing of the theme

Fitting of being on a bus, this theme is almost shifty in its emulated road-trip tune. It has a couple of quick ascensions then it layers them over with similar tunes over before tossing the main melody into the mix. The illusion of travel in this song is granted by its stalwart pace, which doesn’t stop for anything.

Track #57 – “Desert”– 1:50
Most Prominent Appearance – The out of the way tune playing in the background

Technically I consider this an ambient track, as it’s manipulating the same tools that themes such as ‘What an annoying knock!’ does. The music playing is separate from the random beeps and buzzes being heard, so it’s recorded in the sense that it’s a periphery sound. This amazingly gives the illusion that the player is out in the desert somewhere.

Track #58 – “Photo Music”– 0:42
Most Prominent Appearance – The initial five seconds

This song signals the travelling photographer that takes pictures of Ness and gang throughout their journey. It’s a upbeat song with an endearing melody that gets heard frequently over the course of the game. Surprisingly, it doesn’t get annoying as it should. Instead, its actually implicit of how timeless Ness’s epic journey actually is.

Track #59 – “Inside Dungeon Man”– 1:02
Most Prominent Appearance – The fluttering tones in the background

This song actually annoys me to no end, but most of that is because of the accompanying layers to the track don’t mask that I simply don’t like the main melody. There’s also some very oppressive tones that are randomly played throughout the track which make the music sound more cacophonous in a way I just couldn’t stand.

Track #60 – “Department Store”– 1:15
Most Prominent Appearance – The song’s primary rhythm

It has every reason to be annoying as hell, but this song simply isn’t. It’s just a memorable and characterizing slice of music meant to play as Ness handles business in various stores. The song’s greatest strength to me is that it never makes my ears bleed no matter how long I listen to it.

Track #61 – “Fight: More Robots”– 2:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The echoing tones.

The initial set of tones in this track distinctly echo each other and almost elicit the emotion of being surrounded. Just after this, the song transition into some sci-fi horror screeches which get followed by a nice little techno layer. This is probably my favored normal fight theme, as its rich with response. The structure’s simplicity is only outdone by how much it still manages to get done.

Track #62 – “Fourside”– 3:25
Most Prominent Appearance – The softness of the entire melody

For being the big city in the game, Fourside has a pretty soft tune overall. It does break halfway through to suggest some sense of progressive struggle but goes right back in the gradual ascending tune from before. It’s relaxing and surprisingly charming considering all the crap that goes on in the city.

Track #63 – “Hospital”– 2:04
Most Prominent Appearance – The Fourside motif

This is probably next on the list of songs that don’t really catch my fancy (along with Inside Dungeon Man), and its only saving grace is that it has Fourside’s theme buried in it. The introduction (a collection of trumpet tones) is really what I find irritating though, as after that the song kind of goes into a slow crawl of Fourside’s tune.

Track #64 – “Road to First Boss”– 2:28
Most Prominent Appearance – The low hum that picks up thirty-three seconds in

This can join Hopsital and Dungeon man by becoming the third title I have no real liking for. It shares traits with the hospital theme in having a very irritating introduction that it never quite recovers from. The rhythm in the background has a lot in common with various Zelda dungeons though. That’s about as close of a compliment as I can give it.

Track #65 – “Onett House Before Cave”– 1:13
Most Prominent Appearance – The broken melody

There is something mildly charming about how unorthodox this theme is. It’s almost indicative of an awkward moment, plain and simple. It uses a consistent melody being constantly interrupted by various beats.

Track #66 – “Leaving Theatre”– 2:28
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft background beat

The MPA forces a very distinct post show feel to this track. The light cymbal taps help the song formulate a sort of lounge-like flavor for itself too. It never moves beyond this as well. The pacing in the melody even changes to reflect those beats as well.

Track #67 – “Runaway Five”– 1:10
Most Prominent Appearance – The sax-like tune

For some reason this track fits the Runaway Five best to me. If I had to guess why that is, I’d say it’s because of how jazzy this song in particular feels in comparison to their other tracks. It travels along fairly solidly and then makes a break in various directions as the song winds down. It kind of twirls itself at the thirty-second mark, and it doesn’t stumble with it either.

Track #68 – “Moonside Cafe”– 1:42
Most Prominent Appearance – The first three seconds

The underlying melody of this song is composed of a rather creepy and distorted tune of lounge music (it wouldn’t feel out of place in BioShock). This is a Moonside track though, so everything is pretty much weird here. The theme manages to soothe the player while bathing them in some eerie ambience as well.

Track #69 – “Moonside”– 0:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The twinkle-like tones

Moonside is full of very creepy and off-putting music, which seems to aim directly towards a corollary between it and how odd Moonside actually is. The twinkle-like tones in this track are reminiscent of the man in the Hawaiian shirt, who teleports Ness from place to place in Moonside. It’s certainly more ambient than other themes, but it’s ten times more pungent as well. Gamers will remember Moonside for a lot of reasons and its theme song is definitely one of them.

Track #70 – “Sleeping in Moonside”– 0:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The consistency of the pace

This track actually stands out amongst the creepier Moonside themes in that its melody is actually consistent throughout. It’s still distorted and wonky, but the track doesn’t break or anything --- at least not to any extent worth mentioning.


Track #71 – “Fight: Hula Hoop Shark”– 1:12
Most Prominent Appearance – The short intervals between the track’s primary beats.

This song probably gets my vote as the most annoying song on Earthbound’s OST. It’s filled with a cascade of obnoxious melodies that don’t really feed off each other. If I had to grant any one compliment to it, it would be the first few seconds, which suggest a rather upbeat song in the same way ‘Fight: Dog or Crow’ does, but in a far more abrasive manner.

Track #72 – “You Win!”– 0:21
Most Prominent Appearance – The lingering that the theme leaves behind

Most level up themes manage to follow up their fanfare with a low-key retread of game’s respective main theme. Earthbound is no different, but still manages to distinguish itself by turning the ambient tone down to a very low melody.

Track #73 – “Level Up”– 0:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The stark sounds the twinkle tones make

The piercing tones and somewhat random ‘Oh, Baby!’s’ help string along the quirkiness that comes with leveling up in this game. Even when set into context against other RPGS, leveling up is still a distinct audio treat in Earthbound.

Track #74 – “Escargot Express”– 0:56
Most Prominent Appearance – The three punctuating tones at the end of each passage of melody

The Express is a track that I love to dislike, mainly because it cognitively intertwines itself with the notion of receiving a package I just ordered. The three tones at the end of the melody always suggest an urgent sense of hustle and bustle for the delivery boy.

Track #75 – “Jailhouse”– 1:14
Most Prominent Appearance – The passage that kicks in at the 0:16 mark


Jailhouse goes on the list of my favorites. It’s cleverly speckled with light tunes amongst a sort of pensive and dark melody. It’s also one of the few tracks in the game that doesn’t rely on the game’s idiosyncratic sense of humor either. It seems to effectively bounce back and forth between being a hollow ambient theme and a rich composition of Earthbound’s more solemn side.

Track #76 – “Summers”– 0:23
Most Prominent Appearance – The beach background ambience

The whole coastline motif of Summers is carried somewhat flimsily by its melody alone, but the use of background noise such as seagulls and distant waves really help hammer the track home for me. Surprising in the same case as Fourside’s theme song, this track’s surprising nature doesn’t work in its favor. It just comes off being too relaxed for my tastes. The funky organ-like tune doesn’t help matters either, it just exacerbates why I always want to go to sleep when I hear this track.

Track #77 – “Dalaam”– 2:25
Most Prominent Appearance – The drum depth


Dalaam is a heavy track. It has an abundance of substance granted by the oriental toned mountainous city. The harmony presented by its layers are so in tune, they almost become one extended melody.

Track #78 – “Poo’s Testing”– 0:21
Most Prominent Appearance – The drop off the theme makes twice throughout the track

This song is creepy in that it sounds basically like an extremely large cricket. It has a mystic appeal that gets helped along humorously by the force which questions Poo during his training. It’s another track that becomes very encompassing as the player listens to it.

Track #79 – “Boat Ride”– 1:53
Most Prominent Appearance –The plucks being made throughout the entire track

Boat Ride is actually pretty cool and has a very odd flavor which sticks. Its maritime motif is led along by a rather catchy melody which manages to stay pretty fresh throughout. The game actually has the boat’s captain making very odd dialogue to this music which gives it a humorous edge it wouldn’t have otherwise.

Track #80 – “Scaraba”– 2:19
Most Prominent Appearance – The background beat

I’m a bit indifferent towards Scaraba, but it does have a nice shifty moment about forty-five seconds in. This kind of breaks up the rather mundane translation of a game theme attempting to sound Egyptian (which works to its favor immensely).

Track #81 – “Scaraba Desert”– 2:19
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft taps which begin about twenty seconds in

The desert has a pretty relaxing theme song, which is pretty stark when considering how the previous track bends to the common conventions of making desert based game music.This still falls into some common ground, but the song’s softness manages outrank everything else.

Track #82 – “Lab”– 1:53
Most Prominent Appearance –The consistency of the track overall

Another relaxing track, ‘Lab’ manages to take one hum and do absolutely nothing with it, yet it remains extremely soothing. There’s some slight ‘tweeps’ and beeps here and there, but it’s really just one long and relaxing hum.

Track #83 – “Scaraba Pyramid”– 1:47
Most Prominent Appearance – The low growl that introduces the song

The pyramid theme is something else I’m rather indifferent to as it falls right back into those common conventions mentioned above. However, the introduction is a little more playful Scaraba’s main theme (yet it’s still less successful than the desert theme).

Track #84 – “Fight: Floppies”– 1:26
Most Prominent Appearance – There’s definitely a background distortion going on with this one

I’m pretty sure this is what I classify as the most mundane battle theme. It crosses no grounds to just outright be bad or anything, but it doesn’t do anything to afford itself any kind of character either. It’s just a goofy tune that meanders along while the player fights to it.

Track #85 – “Game Over”– 1:28
Most Prominent Appearance –The sameness of a distinct tone throughout the track

This track’s unified tone manages to be the theme’s strongest point. It’s not a sad and melodramatic crooning, it’s just a simplistic theme song that actually confronts the player with death rather than beating them over the head with it narrative-wise.

Track #86 – “Inside Dungeon Man”– 0:55
Most Prominent Appearance –The scratchiness of 90% of the track

The second Dungeon Man theme actually tickles my fancy quite a bit and is composed a very rough march-like track with stretched high-pitched buzzes and squeaks. There’s also a slightly warped voice being played in the background; it obfuscates the entire song in a pretty creative way by silencing the track’s strong flavor.

Track #87 – “Dungeon Man Walking”– 0:32
Most Prominent Appearance –The rhythm of the theme

I’m dubbing this the most rhythmic track in the game, as its composed of a very ‘hip’ string of beats being decorated with a thinly overlaid moaning in the background. The only flaw I’d place on it is that its length limits anything else it might be capable of.

Track #88 – “Deep Darkness”– 0:55
Most Prominent Appearance –The rhythm of high-pitched tones

When this track lets go of the MPA, it becomes rather loose which serves as a benefit. It also transitions into a very horror-inspired shrillness before looping back into its formulaic introduction. It’s pretty varied as far songs on this OST go, but it doesn’t have the durability of some tracks either. In other words, it’s pretty easy to get sick of.

Track #89 – “Tenda Village”– 1:54
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft squeaks in the background

Tenda Village is odd in that it’s very addictive yet, it only reaches so far in becoming an endearing track. It’s fittingly peaceful considering how the Tenda’s themselves present to the player as. The village is a small underground cave and meshes with hollow/echoing tones as well.

Track #90 – “Underworld”– 1:37
Most Prominent Appearance – The track barely ‘sits still’

This track is extremely weird and is built on a hum that carries the majority of the music. That hum is reminiscent of Tenda village and the only consistent effect the track has on the player is a jarring set of ascensions the track makes a few times over the course of a single listen.

Track #91 – “Venus”– 2:12
Most Prominent Appearance –The eerie melody that composes most of the track

Venus’s track is actually pretty catchy as far as that night-club-esque sultry air goes. The only thing that dampens its impact is how the song introduces itself before the melody begins playing. This and the ascension the melody makes halfway through is pretty odd.

Track #92 – “The Underworld”– 3:11
Most Prominent Appearance – The changes the melody makes when it ascends

This is what happens when Tenda village’s music opens up. It’s a very quaint track that makes use of a simplistic melody. It’s surprising how many changes this song actually makes despite being roughly the same throughout.

Track #93 – “Cave in Underworld”– 1:33
Most Prominent Appearance – The hollow growls that play throughout

I’m not a big fan of this personally, but the way the beats are composed setup a nice overall theme that doesn’t get stale as time goes on. Given that this is a dungeon theme, that’s pretty important, as ear-bleeders can make or break some RPG dungeons.

Track #94 – “Complete Soundstone”– 0:30
Most Prominent Appearance – The low strikes that act as rhythm

The distorted effect that is obviously going on here is what’s meant to be its defining trait. Unlike Moonside however, there’s simply not enough context to support the oddity of this song, especially when the memory track is so endearing.

Track #95 – “Road to Dreamworld”– 0:14
Most Prominent Appearance – The previous melody being sucked away as the track ascends.

This is what signals Ness’s transition to Magicant and takes the last track and basically stretches it away as the world melts away. The rushing of air comes through this track seeming to act asa catalyst. It simply manages to suck away the distorted effect that the previous track used.

Track #96– “Magicant”– 3:03
Most Prominent Appearance – The twang that hides behind the track’s main theme

Magicant is odd, but unfortunately not in a way I can get behind. What I instantly noticed about this is that my disdain for it is fueled mainly be the pace at which It flows. If it were just a bit faster, I’d probably love it.

Track #97 – “Bird House”– 0:50
Most Prominent Appearance – The various layers throughout the track

I love this track, and its goofy nature is mainly enforced by how many things it’s managing to do at once. There sandwiched melody is my favorite part as it’s what gives the theme song its main flavor. It’s a five-toned sound that echoes throughout the entire track and it never manages to get old.

Track #98 – “Road in Magicant”– 1:26
Most Prominent Appearance – The mystique of most of the higher notes as they waver

This track flows in the sense of how it manages to trickle over as its highest notes release and feed into each other. It’s a very liquid-like tune and echoes with most of its muscle. It also doesn’t last long as one would initially think. The track loops before it does anything too noticeable. This can of course, be seen as a plus or negative.

Track #99 – “Magicant Waters”– 1:44
Most Prominent Appearance – Stretched high notes

This is the first relaxing track which possesses that frequency to become nauseating after a while. Luckily, it’s only set against a short period in the game, but it’s still far too unstable to listen to for an extended period of time.

Track #100 – “Finished Magicant”– 1:00
Most Prominent Appearance – The overall melody

What this track does best is showcase how Earthbound’s soft themes welcome the player into its world. There’s also a very low grumble behind the theme, which is in line with the movement going on in the game (Ness is basically overcoming his own mind here.).

Track #101 – “Waking Up From Magicant”– 0:24
Most Prominent Appearance – Last five seconds

Though this track discordantly comes off as being suggestive of memories, its last tumbling seconds are its most important part for me. Especially considering that the track subtly accelerates in height right before this tumble happens.

Track #102 – “Robot Plains (Without Suit)”– 0:30
Most Prominent Appearance – The oddly echoing trumpet sounds

This track is certainly reminiscent of the word ‘plains’. There’s almost a desolate sense of finality to it. The only thing that really hinders this song is its length and the fact that the trumpets are the only thing that’s really playing.

Track #103 – “Life as a Robot”– 0:59
Most Prominent Appearance – The emptiness of the track

This is another track that comes off being rather cavernous, but it has a catch in that it’s very desolate. There’s also a slightly stretched arrangement of the theme’s compositional beats. It also distinctively hits sudden high notes which help play up the mood of the game’s final formal area.

Track #104 – “Inside the brain of Giygas”– 0:32
Most Prominent Appearance – The bubbling air in the background

This feeds off the previous track as well. By going much lower with the tune, it contrasts nicely with ‘Life as a Robot’. The bubbling rushes of air in the background are something more likely to be found in a Silent Hill games these days as well.

Track #105 – “Right before Giygas”– 1:24
Most Prominent Appearance – The seemingly disorderly arrangement of melody

This track is extremely reminiscent of Moonside, but being that it plays right beforeGiygas, it’s also the last eathreal track that plays before the player is finally reintroduced to the musical muscle of Giygas, something not prominently showcased since the intro of the game all the way back up there. *points to the top of this section*

Track #106 – “Pokey’s Sound Machine”– 3:42
Most Prominent Appearance – The majority of the music before the guitar riffs kick in

I like Poke’s Sound Machine before the guitar kicks in and goes all action-crazy. I don’t meant to imply that it didn’t fit, merely that it contrasts with the introduction of the song, which is reminiscent of older games’ penultimate battles.

Track #107 – “Inside Beginning of Giygas Fight”– 0:40
Most Prominent Appearance – The soft high pitched tones that play throughout the track

This is a soft and ambient version of the final battle and after coming off Pokey’s Sound Machine guitar riffs, this track seems that much more subdued. It’s just shy of representing that emptiness Giygas is claimed to have lost his mind to.

Track #108 – “Middle of Giygas Fight”– 0:59
Most Prominent Appearance – The frequency the track upgrades to

This track significantly increases in frequency after the previous one and it becomes a very anxious tune as Giygas takes on more damage. The high pitched tones from the previous track also grow somewhat more agitated with this theme as well.

Track #109 – “Near End of Giygas Fight”– 0:50
Most Prominent Appearance – The power of this track’s pulse

My second favorite track in the game occurs as Gigyas becomes more distraught and the player realizes how helpless they are to defeat him. It’s fueled by a very feral growl pushing along chimes and electronic ambience.

Track #110 – “Paula Prays”– 0:55
Most Prominent Appearance – The slight organ tune

The subdued organ tune that plays here helps the fight’s visual as well, since the player is being granted a perspective of the acquaintances they’ve met all coming together to pray for their benefit. Just like the lens the game quite literally provides, the music uses this soft organ tune as its becoming buried amongst the prior aspects of Giygas’s music

Track #111 – “Ness’s Flashback”– 2:20
Most Prominent Appearance – The gradual progression of the track

This is the theme that was being distorted as Magicant wore down. It plays when the player encounters sanctuary spots as well (I’m not sure if it plays near all of them though). If Earthbound has any emotional moments, they’ll likely be hovering near this music being played nearby.

★★★ Track #112 – “Giygas Dying”– 0:37

[***It kicks in at exactly the 2:20 mark of the video.***]

Most Prominent Appearance – The undulating and methodical pulse of noise


This is absolutely my favorite track in Earthbound. It’s made up of a looping pulse-beat of violent saucer noise as Giygas dies. The player is still engaging him through prayer at this point, but the song above all else sounds like deteriorating white noise, which I simply love listening to. It’s intense and also signifies everything I love about Giygas.

Track #113 – “Giygas’s Demise”– 1:17
Most Prominent Appearance – The high-pitched shifts that the track makes

This is a nice follow up to the previous track and basically uses it as a springboard to decay towards the point where it just sounds like white noise emanating from a television. It’s only after this track is Giygas officially dead.

Track #114– “After beating Giygas”– 1:36
Most Prominent Appearance – The warm hum of the background melody

This track gets away with ‘epic victory’ without being overly banal about it. There’s a slightly haunting tune that comes along with the party having their heads transplanted back in their bodies. The warmth in this track despite that soft haunting tune is something that works in its favor.

Track #115– “Walking After Beating Giygas”– 4:56
Most Prominent Appearance – The melody being looped

This is the other song apart from ‘School Again’ that could be seen as Earthbound’s main theme, and since the game actually ends on, I’m sure more people recall it. It’s a very soft version of the same theme that be heard in tracks such as Ness’s Flashback as well.

Track #116 – “Credits”– 3:52
Most Prominent Appearance – The compilation transitions

This is the typical ending credits theme which mixes various tunes from throughout the game into one track.

Track #117 – “More Credits”– 5:56
Most Prominent Appearance – Soft theme closing

This takes ‘Ness’s Flashback’ and draws it out as one long and softer closing theme for the credits.

Track #118 – “Photographer Credits”– 4:00
Most Prominent Appearance – The mixtures that are concocted

Another mix of various tracks from the game; in my opinion it has the best usage of the game’s music being weaved together. It starts just as the photos are being shown to the player, taken by the odd little man who frequently (and randomly) snaps pictures of Ness throughout the entire game

VI - Vunerable To: PSI Dissection

Earthbound is what it is --- and any attempt to glorify the game past such boundaries makes the poor thing stall out on itself in the long run. One can essentially write the game off as just another Japanese role-playing game with a rather ‘colorful’ wrapper, but that says more about their relationship with JRPGs than it does about Earthbound specifically. Dissection in Earthbound can be fatal though and is up front and center when looking at any of its individual mechanic aspects. Due to its minimal nature, people are more prone to wrap meaning around it – which leads to idealizations and romantic pedestalizing. Don’t get me wrong, the game definitely pioneers certain things for its time (e.g. the odometer, the perspective, no random encounters, etc.), but what holds up in the end is how those mechanics mesh with the context that drives the game. It isn’t the potential that the aforementioned systems showcased, as they remain things we still disregard in games today (e.g. Xenosaga didn’t have random encounters either and well --- look how that turned out for most of you). Capitalizing on ‘the mechanical game’ is pretty futile in light of whatever narrative context the game decides to skate around on. Earthbound is full of distinct design that the player can frequently project themselves onto instead. Its minimalism is just an ideal breeding ground for people to infuse the title with whatever they see fit to. This in turn makes the game personal for them and a fuel for irrational passion, both a blessing and a curse.

Earthbound is full of contextual flavor. For me personally --- it tastes damn funny, but in a good way. It’s like feeding a child Cry Baby bubble-gum for the first time. It’s a swift kick in the ass no doubt, but that kid may very well turn out to enjoy sour candy at the end of the day. I’m a fan of games that don’t just skate by on the loins of addictive and sound mechanical design, but rather they manipulate or tweak them to become servants of context. Earthbound as I said, turned that contextual dial all the way down, so we could just barely make out the music.

…but that context ---

VII – “WHOOOOOOOOA! Jolly Role-Playing Game!”

--- that context is what the game lives and dies by. It creates random bits of effective dissonance by manipulating a spectrum that games like Metal Gear Solid operate on as well. It can roll insight, cleverness, and absolute absurdity all into one ball and proceed to smack the player in the face with it (not to mention the tendency such games have to snipe at the player through the fourth wall).

Rapid-fire off the top of my head:

  • Five moles underground, each convinced they’re the third strongest fucking mole.


  • The badass warrior from the future gets unceremoniously stepped on and killed by the ditzy mother of an immature antagonist.


  • The fourth wall breaking annoyance caused by a neglectful father trying to make himself feel better with money.


  • Essentially, Threed is a jerkbutt version of a zombie apocalypse at first. “HE STARES INTO YOUR SOUL” [What the fuck?!]


  • God is essentially in this game, and he only offers to break the player’s legs. Go laugh at that damn irony.


  • Beyond Peach’s helplessness lies Paula, who is prone to becoming captured time and time again.


  • Speaking of Ms. Polestar --- the player beats the final boss through prayer.


  • While we’re on final bosses, that guy is inspired by a misinterpreted ‘sex scene’ in a movie.


  • The bold text in the definition at the bottom of this post.


  • Somebody is actually acknowledged playing ‘Earthbound’ within Earthbound.


  • The naming conventions in the game are hilarious and all over the place; One…ett, Two…son, Three…d, Four…side…


  • The fact that there are effective and functioning condiments in the damn game.


  • Having a delivery boy tell me to go get my own damn package out in the middle of the desert.


  • Moonside.


  • Link vandalizes people’s homes, often breaking pots while Ness digs around in people’s garbage; these are our heroes.


  • A meme that parodies itself; “YOU CANNOT GRASP THE TRUE FORM OF…”. The fact that it never formally caught on is a self-testament.


  • The game skates over common horrors with a rather sick-sense-of-humor kind of feel to it, something the loveliest comic strips do.


  • See above, VGA OST Analysis #4 – Earthbound


  • Awesome touchstone icons for the game include a Gort ripoff, and a damn head with feet.


  • Ness sometimes loses the will to fight in the middle of a battle, or he’ll get homesick, or may start craving steak…


  • The genuine pathos elicited from an all powerful, high-than-thou, indefinable, nihilistic, and malignant force; especially considering his origins.


  • Go read area IV of this post again.

    Okay I’m empty, go play the game for yourself if you want more.

    VIII - The Fruit Basket

    The fruit basket is the area of SP where I’ll have amassed some collection of the game’s art, music, and other various media for download. Usually, this will just be refresher-context in order to keep the reader entertained and in-the-loop. However, if I can get my hands around an abundance of media for the respective games, I’ll be abusing as much of that novelty as I can. Earthbound material was pretty damn easy squeeze, so I kept things modest this time.

    Earthbound Fruit Basket
    Size: 217.03 MB
    Contents: Podcasts, OST picks, sprites, maps, artwork, Earthbound Anthology, random snapshots
    Thanks to: Starmen.net, Earthbound Central, various deviantARTists, Retronauts, Official and fan-based mixers of the game’s music, not to mention the creators of the game too.
    Download: [Click Here]

    IX - Quotes

    “In 1995, RPGs were stuck in a rut that Dragon Quest had dug.”
    -Starmen.net


    “It's a formulaic RPG that had the best translation to date. It was also one of the first genuinely funny JRPGs (which, besides from a few comparatively unsuccessful exceptions, were the only kind on the SNES and NES) coming stateside almost two full years before Mario RPG. Also, the story was SO abnormal for its time-period, people loved being a ‘normal’ modern boy. The game itself holds up pretty well, but playing it today loses so much of the impact it would have had if you had played it back then. I never beat it though. So, perhaps there's more to it.”
    -Dustin R.

    “Pokey’s a fat jackass and I fucking hate him.”
    -SnakeLinkSonic

    “Earthbound is not a bad game if you like ‘cuteness’. In fact, with a little violence and some more menacing weapons and creatures, this would have been an excellent RPG. Sadly, all Earthbound has to offer is a Barney-esque romp in a McDonalds Playland.”
    - Video Games & Computer Entertainment Review

    “There’s something wrong with this game…”
    -SnakeLinkSonic

    “The girls are moved to tears by the end, and they understand why kids like games so much now. What’s more, one of them heard that MOTHER 2 had an especially large amount of work and dedication put into it, so it’s no wonder it was so good.”
    - The Three Natagiri Women

    “You can only attack him [Giygas] for a limited amount of time, he then he goes wild and the one and only hope of defeating Giygas.... is to PRAY! Yes, PRAY! Your friend Paula has that "pray" option in her battle menu that you never used because it's totally useless... until now! All of the people you've met along your journey suddenly get a feeling that you're in trouble and they start praying for you. Naturally, Giygas doesn't understand love and happiness and all that jazz so he starts imploding and stuff. OMG, I could go on, but this write-up is way too long as it is. GIYGASOWNAGE!”
    - The Purple Parrot

    “Giygas is something you can’t make sense of, you know? But there’s also a part to him that’s like a living being that deserves love. That part is the breast of Hisako Tsukuba.”
    -Shigesato Itoi

    “Red hospital crosses had to be removed, because it’s a trademark of the Red Cross organization and they’re very anal about its use.”
    -Earthbound Central

    “Giygas returns to Earth many years later as the primary antagonist of EarthBound, though he vastly differs from his appearance in Mother. In the time between invasions, Giygas gains such tremendous evil power that it destroys his entire being, including his mind, causing him to become indefinable by human standards. As such, Giygas manifests as what can only be described as pure evil; in Pokey Minch's words, "he is the Evil Power." Due to the loss of his mind, Giygas becomes irrational and incapable of thought. In the final battle, Pokey attests that Giygas isn't aware of himself or what he is doing, referring to him as "an all-mighty idiot." This is highly reminiscent of the Lovecraftian god Azathoth, who is referred to as the "Blind Idiot God.”
    -Earthbound Wikia

    “Ness is the mascot of annoyance and I fucking love him for it. Before Super Smash Brothers, I abused Oddjob in Goldeneye, and I still often enter beserker mode with shotguns in the various shooters of today. The characters that elicit that ‘YOU’RE FUCKING CHEATING’ erection is sooooo seductive. To expose rationality at its most puerile and primal is a gift he had a hand in creating for me. PK thunder stands for ‘Primal Kiddo!’ as far as I’m concerned.”
    -SnakeLinkSonic

    “…but Earthbound is a slow, constant struggle akin to reality. And, as such, a real story is often a tale of insurmountable odds and defeat.”
    -Asterick

    “Earthbound was the first RPG I played through before I could even read that well, yet I sluggishly made it to the end as my reading skills got better. Honestly, I blame this game for any good grades I got in elementary school English.”
    - Terance

    “Amongst the ranks of absurd enemies in the game Ness must face down New Age Retro Hippies, Pogo Punks, Extra Cranky Ladies, and Big Piles of Puke throughout his quest. Much of the dialogue and plot of the game pokes fun at traditional RPG and sci-fi clichés. Even the advertising campaign played off of its humor, with the slogan "This game stinks", referring to the scratch and sniff stickers that were included in the Player's Guide.”
    - Earthbound – Wikipedia

    “In my Utopia, I’d make it a graphic design assignment to reconfigure Earthbound, with a mandatory playthrough nonetheless.”
    -Thomas K.

    “Did this fucker honestly just degrade my guts - 4 by ‘complaining about today’s youth’?”
    -SnakeLinkSonic

    “To suggest that EarthBound is weird simply for weird's sake, though, is just wrong. I'm sorry, I hope I didn't hurt your feelings by being that blunt, but you needed to hear it. The best way to think of it is that the game is very aware that it's a game. It knows video game conventions, and bucks them or utilizes them to its advantage.”
    - Anthony Rogers

    “Earthbound was best known for its unusual gameplay — fantasy goblin-slaying gave way to the realities of urban life, with slingshots, frying pans, and baseball bats taking the place of swords and axes; rather than goblins, the party battled drunks, hippies, angry taxicabs, a cult dedicated to worshiping the color blue, and even a giant circus tent. The vast majority of the game's non-plot related humor is focused on the way the West is viewed by other countries (in particular, Asia/Japan), with references to the Beatles and the Blues Brothers found throughout.”
    TVTropes.org

    "This is not a game that takes itself too seriously. Light-hearted" isn't exactly right, but it's probably the best phrase we have in this language to describe it. "BOING" would probably be more appropriate, though.”
    - Anthony Rogers

    “I’m Jeff. I’m not very strong, somewhat near-sighted, and tend to be a little reckless. This is just the way I am. I hope you want me to be your friend…okay?”
    - Jeff Andonuts

    “In the case of Earthbound, Ness’s parents are given minimal personality traits because the player is expected to internally substitute them with his or her own parents.”
    -Matt Gallant

    “Yes. When I was a kid, I accidentally saw the wrong movie at a theater. It was a Shin-Toho movie titled “The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty”. After I saw it, I went back home and was silent and just really out of it. I had received such a big shock that I worried my parents. After all, a lady had been raped. By a river. In the movie. When the guy grabbed her breast really hard, it got distorted into this ball shape. It all hit me really hard. It was a direct attack to my brain.”
    - Shigesato Itoi

    “The Abstract Art stopped moving!”
    - Quote from the
    Earthbound that made SnakeLinkSonic snicker

    “The only real inaccuracy in it is ‘the only emotion EarthBound seems incapable of inflicting on someone is anger.’ I can distinctly remember a couple scenarios that made my older brother ragequit when he played through it (in particular, the Department Store Spook).”
    - RT-55J

    “I’m sick of tele-running into walls, I’m sick of my dicksnot dad calling me, AND I’M SICK OF THAT CREEPY LITTLE FUCKER TAKING PICTURES OF ME! He can take his fuzzy pickles and ---”
    -SnakeLinkSonic

    X – Denouement

    The denouement this time comes straight out of my Windows dictionary…

    Earth•bound

    earth•bound [úrth bòwnd]
    adj
    1. confined to Earth: unable to leave Earth
    2. mundane and unimaginative: exclusively concerned with or confined to ordinary everyday or worldly matters and lacking in imagination or spirituality
    3. heading toward Earth: heading or moving toward Earth

    Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

    Closing statements: ‘This game stinks!’

    ~sLs~