A young boy in a red baseball cap with a baseball bat and a yoyo. A young girl in a pink dress firmly holding tight to a teddy bear. A boy genius dressed in a school uniform, glasses hanging loosely from his face, gripping a custom made toy gun. Another boy with a long black braid in his dojo uniform ready to fulfill his destiny. A godlike alien named Giygas who stands in their way, and threatens to destroy the world. And a magical Soundstone given to them by a bee from 10 years in the future to record it all.
These four children are Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo. The weight of the world rests on their shoulders.
Many may know Ness from Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers series after his debut in Melee. Some may even know the Game Boy games released several years later. But Ness and the others actually came from a game known largely to the world as Mother and more specifically to the United States as Earthbound.
This game is a hidden gem among Super Nintendo RPGs. It has everything from difficult battles to puzzle solving, and a really good story to boot. But most of all, it has a tale that could touch the hearts of those who would even turn up their nose to the world of gaming.
I first played all the way through this masterpiece when I was somewhere around eight or nine years old and since then I have revisited the world of Earthbound many times over. Each and every time, though, I find myself growing more and more attached to the world the game creates. I find myself falling in love with the characters and the strange devotion these young children have to saving the world and nearly tearing up at the power of their sacrifices—brought on only by the love and immense bravery they possess. In a nutshell, for many years this video game has given me hope.
One night in a small town aptly named Onett, a young boy named Ness awakens to the crashing sound of a meteor hitting the earth nearby on a cliff side. The town is all astir as he ventures to the crash site with his dog and a cracked bat he snagged from his little sister’s room. The animals in town are starting to behave strangely and attack him along the way. He can’t get in because the police are blocking the path forward. Giving in, Ness returns home.
No sooner had Ness fallen asleep that he was awoken by the pounding at the door from the neighbor kid Pokey who insists they must return to find his brother. They find his brother next to the meteorite and a bright light shines. Buzz Buzz, a seemingly ordinary bee, appears and greets them with ill tidings of an evil alien named Giygas that has taken over the world ten years in the future. He informs them that it is up to them to stop the evil being in the past. As they return home, one of Giygas’ henchman confronts them: a Starman Jr. Buzz Buzz protects them all with a psychic shield and they valiantly defeat the Starman Jr. At this point, Ness starts to realize his psychic powers for the first time and knows that this gift will make him the savior of mankind. All thanks to this messenger, this godsend, this…bee.
The lot of them enters Pokey’s house where his parents are scurrying around scared for their children and backhandedly talking about Ness’ family. Buzz Buzz the whole while is innocently flying around being a bee, which costs him his life.
Pokey’s mother smashes Buzz Buzz to death. In his last words, the future born bee imparts to Ness the Soundstone and the knowledge he needs to save the world: he must record the songs at each of the eight sanctuaries in the world on it. Only then can he be powerful enough to face his foe, with his friends at his side, of course. With a few lines of dialogue, Buzz Buzz left this world and placed an immense weight on this extraordinary child’s shoulders.
Ness would gain access to the first sanctuary after battling his way through dark caves at the northern edge of Onett and claiming the Giant’s Foot, the first part of the eight sounds. That night, he would receive an urgent outcry for help from a girl named Paula who also had powerful psychic powers. From there, they would battle and travel far and wide. They would eventually party with the boy genius Jeff from the far north reaches of Winters and the Monk-like boy prince named Poo from the distant and exotic land of Dalaam.
Just like any adventure of epic proportions, they make many friends as well as enemies along the way. Most notably, however are the number of people who appear to be evil or make a dynamic change through the story because of the influence of the alien overlord. These four children travel far into places from which they might never return and in the end are willing to give everything to stopping this menace once and for all.
The fact of the matter is this: when you grow up, sometimes you forget about what it’s like to be a child and the strong bonds forged with your childhood friends seem all but important to you after you have found your purpose in life be it your job, your art, or your family. It seems that becoming a grown up makes one become detached from the world and separates us almost naturally from each other.
What this game can tell us about ourselves is that we might all be different and have our own views and opinions. Our own bias and prejudices and even things we love more than others. But when we have a common foe that threatens the world we live in and the people we love or even something as simple as our lifestyle, there is no limit to the power that humans possess in a time of need. It is the fact that even in the darkest of times and in the most cynical of perspectives, humans can be totally selfless, a concept that seems to be lost on us after we reach a certain point in our lives. It is the concept of unity.
At the end of this journey, it is unity that pulls the children through. It is sacrifice and love that drives them and makes them do the impossible. It is the unspoken connection to people and their deep nature to be selfless and love one another, even if it is an entirely unrelated person or situation. What Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo have known all along is something we shouldn’t ever forget: how to love.
You don’t need psychic powers to see that. Maybe you just need a Super Nintendo and a copy of Earthbound. To me, this game isn’t just about the amazing battles and the clever dialogues or the incredible musical score. It’s about the nostalgia and the feeling it gives me when my heart swells and I feel like I’ve made a connection to someone. To anyone who has ever been touched by this game. I highly recommend playing it and having a deeper look at yourself because of it. I know this game has made me a better person and I can say it has honestly had an enormous impact on my life.