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Chapter 2: Good and Bad Vibrations

Poltergeists, zombies, and now ALIENS?! How much genre-fusion can one kid take?

At the apex of classic sci-fi like The Day the Earth Stood Still and heartrending musical narratives like The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars... There is... EarthBound Beginnings.

CREDITS

Written, Produced, & Performed by:

Cat Blackard & Jessica Mudd

Original Score & Sound Design:

Jessica Mudd

"Benjamin Franklin Music" by Grand Buffet

Additional Sound Effects

Album Art: Cat Blackard

Sprites: Benichi

Special Thanks: kenisu

TRANSCRIPT

[Omniverse Audio Brand]

 

[90s phone ring and pick up]

 

CAT

Hey, this is Cat!

 

JESS

And Jess

 

CAT

You know, “MOTHER,” She Wrote is free to listen to, but it’s not free to make.

 

JESS

So please consider supporting our work on Patreon.

 

CAT

You’ll get early, ad-free episodes of this show and all the storytelling podcasts we create. 

 

JESS

Head to Patreon.com/OmniverseMedia to chip in and join our community of world-saving wunderkind.

 

CAT

Oh and - heads up: this episode contains brief mentions of death and violence.

 

JESS

Please use your best judgment when listening… and take care of yourself.

 

CAT & JESS

Love youuuu.

 

[phone disconnect sound]

 

[strange, eerie, alien tones]

 

NINTEN:

Dear Mom,

 

Aliens! ALIENS! Mom, I fought an alien! Is that what’s doing all of this? Is it aliens? Or are the poltergeists and the zombies and… people and animals acting weird all… different things happening at the same time? Does that make sense? Does anything make sense anymore!?

 

Okay, I’m gonna back up - 

 

[chiptune action music]

 

It wasn’t just zombies in the graveyard, it was ghosts too! 

 

[ghosts how and zombies hiss]

 

NINTEN:

See-through shapes hovering in the air. I couldn’t find Pippi anywhere, and the place was crawling with zombies and there were bats flying around like maniacs.

 

[Bats flapping]

 

NINTEN:

Anyway - Eventually, I found a crypt, climbed down in it, and there was Pippi hiding in one of the coffins. She was really scared, but when she saw me fighting the zombies, she joined in! 

 

She’s pretty tough! Between the two of us, we were able to escape the graveyard fast. Hopefully Mayor Goodman can keep anybody from going back there… though - there’s a minister still out there. He won’t leave the chapel. 

 

[Music changes to peaceful, whimsical tones]

 

NINTEN:

Pippi gave me something to thank me for helping her - it’s like a family heirloom, I guess. It’s a badge with a lightning bolt on it and she said that Benjamin Franklin wore it when his kite was struck by lightning. I don’t know if I believe her - but… Well… I’ll come back to that. 

 

By now you’ve probably heard Mayor Goodman saying that he saved Pippi. You were right about him. He IS a liar. But he paid me $100 to keep my mouth shut. So, it could be worse. Everyone in town is still on edge - because it’s not just the stray dogs that are running wild - it’s the zoo too. The gorillas, elephants, hyenas… they all went berserk and smashed out of their pens. It’s a good thing the zoo’s so far outside of town. 

 

I was heading there to check it out, and on my way I passed the Canary Village Wildlife Refuge - it was anything but wild. It’s usually filled with birdsong, but now it was totally quiet. 

 

[Ambience - wind through grass and trees]

 

NINTEN:

The canaries were all there, they weren’t dead, they weren’t attacking me - they were sad. That old guy who… I guess lives there? He said someone stole a chick from a canary named Songbird Laura. And that made me think: I’d seen something strange at the department store in town. 

 

[Music begins again - upbeat, mellow, and a bit mysterious]

 

NINTEN:

At the pet counter, all the cats and dogs had freaked out and ran away. All that was left was one sad-looking canary chick. So I marched back to the store. 

 

They said they didn’t know how the chick got there and when I said I wasn’t paying for a stolen bird, they just gave the chick to me. It turned out it was Laura’s baby - and when they reunited… it was so nice. She put her wings around her baby and started to sing. This is why I’m mentioning it, Mom. The song she sang - it reminded me of something. It was like I’d heard before. Like there was this beautiful, bigger song, and this was just a piece of it. The kind of song a mom sings to her kid. It reminded me of you.

 

[An ugly, droning noise emmenates] 

 

NINTEN:

Meanwhile there were awful noises coming from the zoo. There was this weird, high-pitched sound echoing from somewhere and I could hear the animals making all kinds of cries  - screeches, growls, sounds I don’t even know the words for. The cage bars were bent and trampled, and pretty soon they knew I was there. A tiger dove at me from somewhere. The only thing that saved me was a new PSI ability - it just popped in my head. I don’t know what to call it, it’s like… I just kind of shift somewhere else. 

 

[A tiger growls]

 

NINTEN:

Like one minute I’m about to be attacked and then-

 

[A shifting noise]

 

NINTEN:

I’m somewhere nearby. 

 

[The tiger roars and then heavily crunches into cement]

 

NINTEN:

The tiger faceplanted into the cement and knocked itself out. 

 

[The droning intensifies]

 

NINTEN:

It was dicy, but I managed to make it to the tallest building there, the superintendent’s office - where that terrible noise was the loudest. In this office on the top floor - Just a normal looking office, nothing important about it, but… there it was. This blue and silver capsule - as big as a person - it was hovering above the ground and the noise… 

 

[The electronic sounds of “Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet plays under dialogue]

 

NINTEN:

It made my brain want to explode.  And then… out of the capsule stepped this sleek, silver man. Maybe it was wearing a suit? 

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet swells, spotlighting the verse: “If it is inevitable, bring it to my doorstep promptly. My wristwatch is broken. It reads what my pastimes have cost me. Deprive me of oxygen slowly, I’ll think more like you - they will soon come to know me.”]

 

NINTEN:

It extended its arm and this beam of energy shot out of it. 

 

[A beam fires and sizzles]

 

NINTEN:

All my hair stood on end and everything around me melted in an instant - like a microwave! I thought I was dead, but the beam hit the Franklin Badge-

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet swells, spotlighting the line: “I’ve got the lightning inside. That kind of power can’t hide...”]

 

NINTEN:

-And it bounced right back at the alien!

 

[An electric, reflective noise, followed by more sizzling]

 

NINTEN:

It was totally evaporated. Then - the capsule shot through the ceiling and the noise stopped. 

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet swells, spotlighting the line: “Feel the lightning inside.”]

 

NINTEN:

They didn’t come in peace, so I sent them back in pieces. 

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet swells, spotlighting the line: “Feel the lightning inside.”]

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet continues underneath the hosts]

 

JESS

Welcome to “Mother,” She Wrote - a travelog through the strangest, most thought-provoking, most heart-rending video games ever made - the Earthbound series - as it’s called in English speaking countries, and Mother as it’s called in Japan. This is the story of the first game in that series: Earthbound Beginnings.

 

[“Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet swells and ends, spotlighting the final lines: “Feel it inside. Mama don’t mind. Let the high voltage rock you… It’s as simple as that, baby….”]

 

JESS:

I'm Jessica Mudd, just a ghost-busting, casket-cracking cowgirl in the xeno rodeo. And with me is my simply smashing co-host:

 

CAT:

I'm an alligator. I'm a mama papa coming for you. I'm a space invader and I'm making trouble at the Podunk Zoo. It's your favorite Stargirl Jr., Cat Blackard. I'd like to come and meet you, but I think I'd blow your minds.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

And speaking of mind blowing, what you've just heard, segueing us out of Ninten's latest postcard to mom was "Benjamin Franklin Music" by Grand Buffet. The song doesn't have anything directly to do with the MOTHER series, but it's clearly forged from the same energy as the most iconic item in the series, the Franklin Badge. If I'm thinking about the badge, I'm thinking about this song, and if I'm thinking about this song, I'm probably thinking about the badge. And if that track fried you to a crisp, you should definitely check out Grand Buffet. Their arthouse antics and social messages are cut from the same cloth as MOTHER. You're gonna love them. And we'll talk a bit more about that later in this episode. But here we are, the continuation of our journey.

 

JESS:

Here we are <laugh>.

 

CAT:

Yeah, here we are fighting at the zoo, fighting aliens...

 

JESS:

<Laugh>.

 

CAT:

...And zombies. And, uh, wow. It's been- Jess, we just crossed a lot of genres in quick succession.

 

JESS:

It's true. We went from picking up in the graveyard where we left off last session, and we got some survival horror antics there, zombies and ghosts and, you know, all kinds of like undead coming after us. And then we have some animals gone wild, you know, some, unhappy birds. And then now we're encountering UFOs and bionic centipedes and all kind of weird sci-fi stuff. So it's like - I knew this game was going to go all over the place and I was kind of prepared for that, but oh my gosh, did they just lean into this genre hopping thing. It's just, it's, it's bonkers.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Especially with this game already challenging everybody with the, "it's an RPG in modern times," they went buckwild from the start. And I'm gonna make it a point to not compare it to EarthBound too much, because I know we'll have listeners who are going with us in this journey. But I think it's safe to say without spoiling anything that EarthBound does kind of have a more natural escalation, whereas EarthBound Beginnings goes headfirst into some wild directions. It's really surprising that this first entry does what it does, when it does. Whereas the follow-up eases you from being a kid in like a suburban setting into weirder, and weirder, and weirder, and weirder things. There's a natural escalation, but this is like: Nope. Gloves are off. We got a problem and it is enormous.

 

JESS:

And it makes sense that crazy things are happening in Podunk and in the wider world. Like clearly there's some stuff going on that needs to be figured out, and if you kind of have the background on what's happening in the wider story, that makes more sense. But if you're just playing this game without any sort of context to it, then you're probably wondering what in the world is going on? What is this fever dream of a game I'm experiencing right now?

 

CAT:

Yeah. Which on the one hand, I'm sure inspired a lot of people to read into it more. And if the Japanese folks who were playing it for the first time, you know, were like, "oh, well gosh, I know there's a book out. I should probably get that book." And then maybe it all played out as it was supposed to. Something we're gonna talk a lot about in this episode is the different ways that this game continues to be, let's say, "impressionistic" - the way that it uses different tactics to tell a larger story than the software has the power to be able to convey.

 

[music starts playing under hosts]

 

CAT:

And as you could tell by the scope of the story we've described so far, it is conveying a lot and it's doing it, again, on the Nintendo where it has some extreme limitations.

 

[transitional music fades out under hosts]

 

JESS:

So when we started playing this session, we pick up in the graveyard, we're looking for Pippi, and we don't really have a whole lot to go on going into the graveyard. There's one building that is pretty close to the entrance and inside there's a person there. Now you said that that's like a pastor or something.

 

CAT:

It's in the encyclopedia. They specifically say it's a minister.

 

JESS:

Okay. It's a minister and all we know is that the minister is reluctant to leave and hasn't seen Pippi around anywhere.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Well, and the minister's one of those many wonderful tiny little character fragments of stories inside of an EarthBound game. The minister says: I'd like to stop the zombies evil ways, but they do not listen to me or won't even talk to me.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

Now I'm too scared to leave this place.

 

JESS:

<laugh>

 

CAT:

And it's like- there's a whole story there and it's great and I wanna see it.

 

JESS:

<laugh>The minister's like, "Y'all need Jesus." <Laugh>.

 

CAT:

Yeah <laughs>.

 

JESS:

So as you start to explore the graveyard, it's a bit of a maze. Amd of course, you're fighting random encounters the whole time. There's the gang zombies that we talked about last time.

 

CAT:

Mm-hmm.

 

JESS:

There's also "pseudo zombies" and I'm kind of curious like, what is pseudo about them?

 

CAT:

I tried to figure that out and I'm not sure. There's an argument that maybe they're people that are like, not quite turned into zombies, but there is nothing in any of the official materials that I've read that makes that more than just a cute little naming quirk. Are they people who are like half-dead or like newer zombies from fresher corpses? Are they people who've been possessed? Are they deadites from Evil Dead? I mean, they talk like them kind of. I do kn ow that they turn to dust, and to me that indicates that you are all the way dead.

 

JESS:

Well, it kind of made me think that perhaps there was something more sinister going on because as you explore the graveyard more thoroughly, you eventually find a crypt that you can walk down into. And inside there are six caskets. Each of them, except for one, contains a pseudo zombie. And the last one, that I opened anyway, had Pippi inside of it. And my first thought was, "oh my gosh, is somebody turning people into zombies here? Are they pseudo zombies Because someone is trapping citizens in these crypts and turning them into mindless zombies in some way."

 

CAT:

If someone was doing a full-scale adaptation of the story, there's a ton of room to better explain the graveyard sequence. I can say that much. What you've just suggested: that's totally valid. Is that what's been implied anywhere? Really nothing's been implied. We just know that a paranormal event took place and the dead are coming back to life.

 

JESS:

So when I popped open the last casket, I was prepared to find Pippi down there, and I assumed that she was gonna be okay, but I was like, "oh, do I need to be prepared for like, you know, some worst-case scenario here or something, you know, am I gonna open up the casket and there's like zombie Pippi in there or something like that?" I hoped that wasn't the case, but turns out, nope, she was just trapped in there and she's fine. But then that led me to question why was she in there? Who put her in there and why?

 

CAT:

She put herself in there.

 

JESS:

She put herself in there?

 

CAT:

Yeah. She was hiding,

 

JESS:

Hiding from what?

 

CAT:

Hiding from all the zombies.

 

JESS:

Okay. So she thought the best place for me to hide from the zombies is to go into the graveyard. They'll never suspect that.

 

CAT:

Well, I mean, I don't really know why she was in the graveyard to begin with, but in being in the graveyard, when the zombies are coming out, then like you can't really get out of the graveyard when you're in the graveyard, if you're feeling defenseless and scared. So, you know, hide somewhere, they wouldn't think to look.

 

JESS:

Okay.

 

CAT:

Like a coffin.

 

JESS:

That makes more sense.

 

CAT:

There's lots of interesting things about the graveyard. Like the crypt, for example, in the Encyclopedia - and again, this is thanks to the incredible translation work by kenisu that has enabled us to like crack open the Encyclopedia and really get the depth to this game that we are enjoying here in the show. "A long time ago, it was made as a temporary shrine for the coffins of nameless soldiers in John Does. These days it isn't used for any such thing, but I hear it wasn't closed up so that it could be used as a shelter in case of emergency."

 

JESS:

Hmm. Okay.

 

CAT:

So it's like a tornado shelter now.

 

JESS:

I see.

 

CAT:

It just also happens to have been a crypt and yes, it does still have coffins in it, so maybe they didn't finish working on it. I don't know.

 

JESS:

That makes a lot more sense actually - why a little girl who's scared would seek shelter there.

 

CAT:

Another detail about Pippi and her getting trapped in the graveyard is according to the Encyclopedia: "the day after Pippi went missing, several people from a Mother's Day youth group combed the area checking all 131 of the cemetery's headstones one by one, but couldn't find a single lead." I don't know if there actually are 131 headstones, but it does seem possible.

 

JESS:

Yeah, there's quite a few in there. One thing that Pippi did say though, that is my Mother She Quote for this session is: "don't get so swell headed."

 

CAT:

Mm-hmm.

 

JESS:

And she says that after making a comment about, or asking a question about, "so you're pretty strong, huh?" And, if you say "yes," she says, "don't get so swell headed."

 

CAT:

It's very strange. Right? Like, I have a lot of questions about that, and that could point to the translation being like a little lacking or too literal, but it clearly means don't get so big-headed.

 

JESS:

Right.

 

CAT:

"Big-headed" is the common parlance of how you express that. Swell headed sounds... I wouldn't have said it. <laugh>.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

Something about the word "swell" is just... Not quite right for the situation, but is that maybe an expression somewhere? Is that like how it's said in certain places? If she told me that, I'd believe you. But I don't think that's the case.

 

JESS:

It was a funny line and it just - it made me chuckle, but there was something that was just very innocent and youthful and kind of teasing about it coming from Pippi.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Well, 'cause Pippy outright calls Ninten "cutie."

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

-Later on. And so like, there's clearly something going on there, and if she pays you a compliment and if you agree with the compliment, she then teases you about having a... Swollen head. But it's clear that she's teasing you. And then if you say "no," she's like, "oh, you're too humble," so you can't win. But either way she likes you, so that's cool.

 

JESS:

Yeah. <laugh> for sure.

 

CAT:

Interesting mechanical thing about rolling with Pippi is that Pippi fights alongside you. All of a sudden, boom, you've got another player in your party and in theory - provided that you don't let Pippi get hurt and faint - then you can get outta the graveyard quicker. She levels pretty fast. And in fact, the encyclopedia recommends having bought a slingshot to give to her specifically because any player can use a slingshot.

 

JESS:

Interesting. Yeah. I definitely had the chance to level her a bit because I got lost heading outta the graveyard and couldn't find my way back to Pippi's house. The map is... Confusing.

 

CAT:

It's okay to say it's awful.

 

JESS:

Okay. It's awful.

 

CAT:

This is one of the most confusing overworld maps of any game I've ever played.

 

JESS:

And as I'm sort of checking the in-game map to figure out where I am, there's one dot like showing where I am that's just clustered around the three areas of like Podunk, Ninten's house, and the zoo. And it does not tell you at all like where you are relative to those things.

 

CAT:

Well 'cause in between there there's forests and streams and paths that don't connect. It's big!

 

JESS:

And so I ended up finding myself in the zoo because I was wandering around trying to find my way back home and ended up fighting a lot of enemies and actually leveled Pippi quite far.

 

CAT:

I'm sure people have leveled Pippi to 99 after all this time. Why not? But, uh, I've never seen anybody have Pippi level that high. She was starting to catch up with Ninten.

 

JESS:

You know, it's actually a good strat because if you want to power level yourself a little bit, then it's good to have a companion early on.

 

CAT:

That's true. That's actually a really good technique. What's interesting also is that you didn't encounter the zoo any earlier than that. Typically, no one finds the zoo on purpose. I would say.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

Because while exploring this first area of the game, while exploring Podunk and the surrounding wilderness, there's actually a lot there. And there's stuff that gets referenced like Canary Village and the zoo and people are mentioning stuff - they're mentioning the next town over even. But it's hard to tell exactly where it is, how far you can go, and the enemy battles are so persistent that aside from leveling, you don't feel particularly encouraged to like walk around too much. But if you do, you can find yourself up by the zoo. I definitely made the mistake of thinking maybe I could level up there in the prior game session. And the zoo quickly reminded me why that was a very bad idea.

 

JESS:

Yeah, those enemies don't joke around. But eventually I made my way back to Podunk, returned to the mayor, and the mayor was like, "oh, great job kid. You did great. Thanks. And here's a hundred dollars as a reward." And uh, and then you just leave.

 

CAT:

When you talk to the mayor, you know, you show him Pippi, he gives you the money, and then he is like, "hey, how about taking care of the zoo as well?" And you think, "oh, okay, sure." You're like, "I'm working for the mayor now, cleaning up the town for him. He's paying me to keep quiet, but sure, that's fine." Yeah. He's awful. The zoo is a much bigger ordeal than the graveyard. And afterwards when you get back from the zoo - this is my Mother She Quote: he just says, "why, if it's not our hero, Ninten. You have tiger droppings on your clothes. Ha ha. Just joking. Now run along kid."

 

JESS:

<laugh>

 

CAT:

"You got tiger poop all over you. And you're stinking up my office. Get outta here." <laugh>.

 

JESS:

<Laugh> More of that toilet humor that never would've been accepted in the United States at that time.

 

CAT:

Well, you say that, but this is an official translation. It was ready to go. There was no ratings board stopping it.

 

JESS:

But they didn't release it.

 

CAT:

They didn't release it - But they were gonna. I think this would've just been a revolutionary game kicking off the edge lord nineties toilet humor with aplomb. NOA made this translation in-house. It was signed off on.

 

JESS:

After leaving the mayor's office, if you head back up to Pippi's house, you can see that Pippi has returned there and she's standing next to her mom outside. Now, I heard you mention that at this point, if you talk to Pippi, she gives you the Franklin Badge. I did not receive that.

 

CAT:

Yeah. This is something that I didn't know could happen. And is another great example, of the many examples we're gonna discuss in this episode, as to like - how this game has some very unusual places in it where you can miss some important things. It's possible to not get this really important item item that makes an upcoming boss extremely difficult if you don't have it.

 

JESS:

So how does that work? Like how, how do you just miss it? Did I like choose the wrong conversation dialogue option or something like that?

 

CAT:

Yeah. Usually in this game when a character asks a yes or no question, I mean, there's very little that you can never come back from. But basically when Pippi's paying you a compliment, you can either agree with her, or be humble. When you say "no," she gives you the Franklin Badge.

 

JESS:

She's like, "you need some help."

 

CAT:

Yeah. And when you say "yes," she says you're swell headed.

 

JESS:

I see. <sighs>

 

CAT:

You can go back.

 

JESS:

Gosh.

 

CAT:

You can talk to her again in front of her house.

 

JESS:

Oh, I will. I will. I'm gonna go have words with Pippi. I'm gonna say, "look, I dug you out of that hole. Helped you to escape from all the zombies and ghosts and stuff. And, you know, I'm fighting some nasty stuff here. Look, you're gonna stay here with your mother. I'm still going out into the world. So yeah, I may be swell headed, but I also can't absorb psychic power attacks. So please, can I have that?"

 

CAT:

That's only gonna work if you answer "no" to her first question and "yes" to her second question. And then you get the Franklin Badge. Otherwise forget about it.

 

JESS:

They should call it the humble badge.

 

CAT:

<laugh>.

 

[music plays under hosts]

 

JESS:

All right, well I will try to deflate my swell head a little bit and-

 

CAT:

<laughs>

 

JESS:

-Go back and beg for the Franklin Badge, 'cause I know it is an important item.

 

CAT:

It's fortunate that you managed to get through this section of the game without it. So good job, you.

 

JESS:

Yeah, I feel pretty good about that. See - I earned that swell head.

 

CAT:

<laugh>.

 

JESS:

[music ends]

 

CAT:

So obviously you've been given the directive to go to the zoo, but there's, as you found out, a couple different ways to get to the zoo. One way involves a side quest that is critically important to beating the game, but seems totally unassuming and is very easy to overlook, as you learned.

 

JESS:

I assume that you're talking about Canary Village.

 

CAT:

Yeah.

 

JESS:

Which I missed <laugh> probably not surprisingly, the first time that I played it.

 

CAT:

Yeah. You took care of the zoo and then you found Canary Village, which I mean, any order's fine -

 

JESS:

I found Canary Village, but didn't realize that I was supposed to do anything significant there.

 

CAT:

The Canary Village Wildlife Refuge is a very strange place. It adds a greater depth of character to Podunk. This is a very rural town that has this like wildlife attraction, that then also has a zoo as like a more formal attraction, and the Encyclopedia does paint it as like: this town is trying very much to be up and coming and have these things.

 

JESS:

Sure.

 

CAT:

Now Canary Village has an interesting history. According to the Encyclopedia, "in the early 1900s, in the midst of the Black Cloud Disturbances," which I really, I really like that they're called "the Black Cloud Disturbances" - that sounds like a paranormal television show title. But - "there was an incident where all the household pets in Mother's Day, and other places, ran away at the same time. It's said that this was when the canaries who flew the coop first made nest here and became wild." So that's where it comes from and people around town mentioned this guy who... he doesn't really have a name, but-

 

JESS:

The canary speaker.

 

CAT:

Yeah. He's a guy who basically like lives there and takes care of the canaries and people instead of being like, "oh, who's that weird guy?" People seem to really look up to him.

 

JESS:

He's the old wise man hanging out with all the canaries. He's seen some things and you should listen to him.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Well he's the guy who tells you that there is something wrong about this place 'cause you, the player, wander into this joint and just talk to a bunch of birds walking around and they just give you ellipses and...

 

JESS:

Yeah. They don't say anything. They're just quiet.

 

CAT:

They're also just birds.

 

JESS:

Right.

 

CAT:

They're not like your dog communicating to you telepathically or anything.

 

JESS:

But they're also sad. Yes.

 

CAT:

Yes.

 

JESS:

They're not singing because they're sad.

 

CAT:

And they're sad because a specific canary named Songbird Laura is sad because her baby was stolen. The Encyclopedia says: "Songbird Laura is hardly showing herself to people at all. On the rare occasion, people do catch sight of her she isn't singing. She appears to have been through some kind of significant shock. There are some people who say it's because her baby chick, who'd just been born, was taken away by cruel people. What do we do to get the canaries to remember their songs for us? It isn't like the people of Mother's Day have been just standing by idly. There was a man who played his flute for the canaries all day. There was also a woman who let her pet canaries who sing a lot loose in the village. But efforts have ended in vain."

 

JESS:

And of course, the Canary Chick can be found in the pet store at the department store.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Now, this entire quest is one of the things about EarthBound Beginnings where, you know, I've been calling it "impressionistic", and in some cases it's impressionistic qualities are really cool. And in other cases it just lets you feel like you never have any idea what you're doing. It's too open, in a lot of ways, to know when and how you need to solve problems. It would be very easy to miss all of this, to forget about it, even if you saw it, and then to not be able to beat the game because you didn't know where to go back to take care of this. And if you go to the pet store and try to buy something, they're like, "we don't have anything left except for this canary." And that doesn't even sound like much of a clue unless you've already been to Canary Village - and they're charging $85 for the canary.

 

JESS:

Which I paid,

 

CAT:

Which you paid. But you don't have to.

 

JESS:

What?!

 

CAT:

<laugh> When they ask you "it's $85, do you want it?" You said "yes." But if you say "no," they're like, "here, have it anyway." If your inventory has space for it.

 

JESS:

Oh my gosh. Always be closing the deal. <laugh>

 

CAT:

<laugh> At the very least, this important game item, that is also a living creature, is not something that they're making you pay money for to beat the game. It's kind of funny.

 

JESS:

So I acquired the Canary Chick before I even visited Canary Village. So I already had the Canary Chick in my inventory. And so when I went and talked to the old man that was there, he immediately recognized it and said, "oh, that's Singing Laura's chick. You should go find her and give it back to her." But I'm curious, what does he say if you don't have the Canary Chick in your inventory?

 

CAT:

He basically tells you the story of like, oh, everybody's really upset 'cause Laura's baby got stolen.

 

JESS:

I see.

 

CAT:

He probably also says something about her having hidden herself away or went into solitude or something.

 

JESS:

Yeah. And when walking around Canary Village, you can see... of course there's a bunch of canaries that are all walking around and none of them say anything to you, or if you try to talk to them, it's just like, you know, dot dot dot dot, or whatever.

 

CAT:

And it's not a village. It's a weird forest of leafless trees. And there's these like cathedral-like structures that I guess are elaborate birdhouses. That's the village.

 

JESS:

And there's a fence that goes all the way around the perimeter and outside of the fence you can see there's another canary that's wandering around. And so I was thinking, "I gotta figure out a way to get up there." And I could never figure it out - and I actually need a little bit of help with this part.

 

CAT:

Yeah. I mean, it's an old school, like calling it a puzzle is... It's just a weird little like Nintendo obstacle of: there was one of those cathedral structures, it was differently colored, it was near where you could see that lone bird wandering around outside the wall. And so far the game has asked you to check objects that look mysterious and different things like that. None of that works.

 

JESS:

Yeah. I checked it and it was just a little question mark that appeared. Like, I know it's suspicious. I don't need you to tell me that, game! <Laugh>

 

CAT:

Which only makes it more confusing because what you can't see is that behind that thing there's a break in the wall and you just keep walking - and you're outside the wall with Songbird Laura.

 

JESS:

Yeah. I thought that maybe I needed to like place the chick on the structure of the birdhouse, or whatever it was, or do something with that. And I kept walking around it, trying to check it, trying to talk to it, trying to use items on it and everything. And nothing just seemed to work. I spent probably about 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get to that bird on the other side of the fence before you just kind of dropped me a hint. And uh, I was able to figure out, "oh, there's a break in the fence on the other side of that thing." Arg!

 

CAT:

Yeah. And it's not complicated, but they did something extremely simple, which was really hard to grasp because up until that point, everything had been super complicated. Like in terms of thinking about how to interface with this world, what to do with items... There's a language that had not been yet established.

 

JESS:

But once you do eventually figure out that you can go through the fence there and you talk to singing Laura and you return her baby chick to her, she becomes happy again, and she starts singing again, and she sings a piece of a tune that you remember.

 

CAT:

Yep. Where you'd least expect it, all of a sudden, very early in the game - you get another of the Eight Melodies.

 

JESS:

Have we talked about the Eight Melodies? Have we talked about what the significance is there?

 

CAT:

Well, I mean, that's the thing is that, as you may remember from the prior episode, when there's that doll that you fight in your house-

 

JESS:

Right.

 

CAT:

-And there's a music box inside of it, if you check it. And that's if you check it, because you totally could miss that and not check it, and you hear a melody and you remember it. And if you go to the screen that lets you look at all your stats and what PSI attacks you have and everything - there's a little thing that shows several dots and puts a music note down when you have remembered a melody. But this is one of the many ways the game does not instruct you on things and - you as a player, it's meant to be mysterious - You as a player don't know why that's important.

 

JESS:

Right.

 

CAT:

You don't know what you're building towards. You don't know what's going on.

 

JESS:

But Ninten knows to remember it.

 

CAT:

It just- it seems important. When you hear any fragments of these songs, the whole screen gets all like trippy and colors change and it's like someone crawled into your brain and made a good feeling happen.

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

So the Canary Village diversion is critically important to beating the game, but 100% missible and arguably very confusing.

 

JESS:

[ominous music segue]

 

JESS:

And after that you head to the zoo and have some more fun wildlife encounters.

 

CAT:

Yeah. The zoo's pretty buck wild 'cause I mean like, okay - you're fighting zombies right away, but prior to this, you know, you've been fighting centipedes. That's small potatoes. Crows. Okay. No big deal. Stray dogs. A little scarier, but all right. And now it's like, okay, you're literally surrounded by a pack of hyenas. The average hyena encounter involves three hyenas, and you know, that's a hassle. There's alligators, there's gorillas, there's elephants, there's tigers.

 

JESS:

Oh wowza! <Laugh>

 

CAT:

<laugh> It's dicey out there. So it's really surprising how very dangerous that place is. Not just conceptually, but also chances are by the time you get there, you're probably gonna haveta be really careful with these battles.

 

JESS:

Yeah, for sure. And as you walk into the zoo, it's another meandering path to where you're supposed to go. But there's all sorts of enclosures - some of them have been broken open indicating that the animals inside have escaped. And there's a few that still remain whole. Notably the structure that contains the monkeys, and the penguins, and the flamingos.

 

CAT:

And the bunnies.

 

JESS:

And the bunnies, yeah. The bunnies, like as soon as you walk in.

 

CAT:

And the pandas.

 

JESS:

And the pandas, yes! All the cute animals stayed behind.

 

CAT:

Presumably these creatures are also still freaking out, but they have not seen fit to destroy. Everyone else has managed to - I think by virtue of being a little bit more prone to that. The Encyclopedia says that, "the zoo was just barely established three years ago on the previous mayor's efforts." So it's still new. On holidays and such, "the people coming in from other towns make for quite the turnout" and, the zoo, like all of the towns in this game, actually has a different name. You wouldn't suspect it because it's just called "the city zoo" in EarthBound Beginnings, and that makes sense. But in MOTHER it's called the Choux Cream Zoo. And choux a la creme are one of the most consumed desserts in Japan.

 

JESS:

Oh!

 

CAT:

They're hollow inflated balls of choux pastry, traditionally filled with thick custard cream or freshly whipped cream.

 

JESS:

You're talking my language. Okay.

 

CAT:

And this French delicacy has been a staple in Japan since the mid-1800s when Samuel Pierre, a Frenchman living in Yokohama's foreign settlement, opened a French-style bakery, and his choux a la creme quickly became a hit to the degree that Japanese bakers came to him to train, taking the pastry back to their corners of Japan.

 

JESS:

So I'm assuming they must serve this delicious treat at the zoo.

 

CAT:

I mean, maybe. There are no concession stands on the premises in the game as we understand it, but I was really confused by this, right? Like, okay, so calling the zoo the Choux Cream Zoo is odd and it could just be a whimsical thing. And the MOTHER series is full of very whimsical things, but there's usually kind of a point or some sort of a joke, and there aren't really any other locations that have this naming convention in this game. So it begs a question: is there some kind of deeper meaning? And I asked around about this and no one could tell me. I thought, well, maybe choux a la creme are a dessert that you give to moms on Mother's Day. Or maybe there's some kind of a pun. In Revolutionary Girl Utena, there's a monkey named Chuchu who says "chu" all the time, but that's not the onamonapia that's typically assigned to monkeys in any Japanese dictionary that I looked at. So I don't know. But I feel like there's something there. There's

 

JESS:

There's something there. It's gotta be.

 

CAT:

And the reason monkeys are important is because actually when you get to the gate, you try to use the key and a monkey's there, and it steals your key, but fortunately the lock was broken anyway - so you can just get through.

 

JESS:

We already mentioned how formidable the zoo enemies are, but I will say that my Smashable Enemy of the session is the tiger from the zoo.

 

CAT:

Right.

 

JESS:

And the reason for that is because the pixel art was so impressive. They did a really great job with the pixel art for the animals in the zoo. They were very detailed. They were expressive. It definitely felt like a step up from what had been encountered so far.

 

CAT:

Yeah. They were nicely detailed. I love the, the goofy expressions on the alligators. My most Smashable Enemy this week is actually the hyenas. I love their whole vibe. They have this dopey grin.

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

And one other trait of all the animals at the zoo is that they all behave really differently - in that classic way that the enemies in these games, even though it's turn based combat, are actually really expressive. The hyenas - you might just encounter one of them, but they typically travel in a pack. They will incessantly bite you and it won't do much damage, but it'll like, make it harder for you to just do anything. And sometimes they have the kind of like non-action of "the hyena just grins and bears it," which I love.

 

JESS:

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

 

CAT:

And they also have a propensity towards running away. And if they do, they all run away.

 

JESS:

Yeah. The hyena was a close second for me, I would say - as far as the animals in the zoo go. They really did a good job of designing the behaviors and, like I said, the art style and just everything with the enemies in the zoo. It's kind of a shame that it's such a short section because it would be fun to get to see those more often.

 

CAT:

Yeah. Well, I spend a lot of time leveling there, so I got real cozy with all of them. Enough to see a good representation of all their attacks. Like, the tigers have a high likelihood of having a continuous attack. The gorillas are more likely to steal stuff from you.

 

JESS:

Yup. Gorilla stole my bread.

 

CAT:

Now you feel my pain.

 

JESS:

Yes. I was so excited to learn how bread works.

 

CAT:

I used bread to great effect, actually.

 

JESS:

You did?

 

CAT:

I did. Yeah.

 

JESS:

Tell me! Tell me! Explain to me! I have to know how bread works.

 

CAT:

Using bread in this game is so satisfying. So like, I was in a position where I'd used all my PSI power, I'd had a good run of leveling at the zoo, and I wanted to go home to like, go eat some okonomiyaki and get my power back. So, standing outside the zoo, I used the bread, I left a trail of crumbs, I walked home, my mom tucked me into bed, I got fully restored. And then - when you do that, it puts "crumbs" in your inventory, then you "use" the crumbs and boom, there I am right back at the zoo.

 

JESS:

Amazing.

 

CAT:

I don't have to slog through all the stupid centipedes and Wally, the farmer and everything.

 

JESS:

That is such a great mechanic because I've seen a lot of RPGs where they include an item that will get you out of a dungeon, but I don't think I've ever seen one that lets you leave a dungeon and then get back to where you left off.

 

CAT:

Yeah. It's like, it remembers your coordinates, and it just returns you to those coordinates. It's fantastic. I've never seen this.

 

JESS:

Yeah. That's great.

 

CAT:

One other enemy that's worth mentioning is the flies. They're awful.

 

JESS:

Mm-hmm.

 

CAT:

They're there just to be annoying, which is another way that they're like: it might be an annoying battle, it might be difficult gameplay, but it also is highly expressive and it is the experience of dealing with flies.

 

JESS:

Sure.

 

CAT:

If you've ever had an infestation of like, let's say fruit flies or something in your home, you know, they're really hard to get rid of. So even if you start a battle with only one fly, they only deal one damage. They only give you one experience, but one of their favorite things to do is call for help. And then all of a sudden you're dealing with two flies. And even if you manage to defeat one, so you still have one more fly, that fly is probably gonna call for help. And next thing you know, you've got a whole bunch of flies and you don't know what to do. <laugh>.

 

JESS:

<Laughs> Yeah. Not much more to say about that <laugh>

 

CAT:

One more thing I can say about it though, <laugh> is that in the Encyclopedia, when you go to the entry for the fly, it says: "it's that fly! Now a household name thanks to a starring role in The Fly."

 

JESS:

Oh, wow. Okay.

 

CAT:

A weird place to reference David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly. But they sure as heck did it.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

And I love it - that they did that. There's lots of pieces of media that are notable components of the pop culture fabric that make the MOTHER series, but The Fly isn't one of them. But even still, it gets mentioned.

 

JESS:

So as you're traversing through the zoo and you're looking at all the enclosures, I noticed that most of the signs in the zoo are unreadable except for one. There is a small enclosure, and if you go read the sign, it says something about a singing monkey. And when you first go into the zoo, the enclosure is empty. I'm guessing that was the monkey that stole your key.

 

CAT:

Yeah, it is.

 

JESS:

Okay. And you do get to encounter that monkey later, but continuing on a little past that, you make your way to the superintendent's office, which is obviously the destination that you're trying to reach in the zoo.

 

CAT:

It's a very tall building. It's three stories and it's a very distinct experience. It's another one of those unique experiences in the game that tells you that you can't really judge what you think is gonna happen or how it's gonna happen.

 

JESS:

Going into the superintendent's office, something I noticed is that this game - a lot of RPGs have treasure chests that you can collect loot from. They're scattered around the world or whatever, but EarthBound Beginnings does that a little bit differently. Instead of treasure chests, they have presents that you can open up.

 

CAT:

Yeah. It's one of those weird quirks, right? They're like, "well, it's a role playing game. We need to have things that clearly look like places where you can get items, what kind of universal graphic can indicate that?"

 

JESS:

And there were some useful items in the superintendent's office - including a rope that became very important for me later on.

 

CAT:

<laugh> Lucky you.

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

The superintendent's office is a really, really unique experience. When you go in there, your system is gonna be spitting out a horrible noise. Like a really, really horrible, atonal siren thing that sometimes has a little bit of percussion and sometimes has a little bit of something else going on with it. But like, mostly it's like: this is not comfortable to listen to. As a gamer, you probably don't realize that's not just a bad piece of music. It's entirely intentional. Most music in media isn't diegetic. Meaning that: if you're hearing score, that's music for the audience to feel that a feeling's being evoked. If you're hearing a band that's playing in a scene that is diegetic music. And in this case, whereas the overworld music has always been non-diegetic music, this siren is diegetic music.

 

JESS:

Yeah. It definitely conveyed a sense of unease and tension that was hard to ignore.

 

CAT:

And they also changed the battle experience because - outside you're fighting really ferocious enemies. Then, inside you're fighting centipedes, you're fighting flies - both of which are annoying, but not a big deal. And there's a new enemy. You're fighting rats, which are also, even though though they're new, they're not a big deal. But you're fighting a lot of them. And if you allow all of that happening to tell you the sort of cinematic experience the game would like you to have, it's that this building is now overrun with pests in a very, intense and perhaps disgusting way.

 

JESS:

Yeah. And what is the attack that the rat uses? It's like, it "talks dirty words to you" or something like that.

 

CAT:

"The rat uttered dirty words."

 

JESS:

Yeah! "The rat uttered dirty words."

 

CAT:

Which I love. And that's a status attack - it made my fight drop up to 18 units.

 

JESS:

Wow.

 

CAT:

Fortunately the rats are still weak, but like, it makes it so your capacity to get in there and do some damages is very diminished.

 

JESS:

When you finally make it to the third floor of the superintendent's office, you find a strange object.

 

CAT:

What did you think about that, Jess? I mean, this is a very interesting moment.

 

JESS:

It was like a shiny, oval egg UFO-type thing. It clearly looked like it came from another world. I assumed that it was some kind of device. It was making the noise and it was causing the animals to lose their minds. And as soon as you go up and interact with it, you are immediately attacked by, probably the most iconic enemy of the EarthBound series, the Starman. In this case, it was a Starman Junior, but still a Starman, all the same.

 

CAT:

Yeah. I remember encountering that room for the first time because it is deeply haunting. You don't see it coming. You've never seen anything like this in the game so far. There's a certain sort of monolithic horror to this pill-shaped object hovering in this office. "Monolithic horror" is a term used to describe when you see something that isn't necessarily conventionally disturbing, but something about the starkness or symmetry of an image makes you feel very small and deeply haunted.

 

JESS:

Mmm.

 

CAT:

Even the way it's depicted in these simple pixels, it makes you feel like you're in a mid-eighties sci-fi thriller because it enacts that feeling so intensely, especially with the siren and everything else going on. And the Starman itself also has an air of monolithic horror to it because of the featurelessness of it. The Starman are a two-fold pop culture reference. Aesthetically it is reminiscent of the smooth-featured robot, Gort, from the 1951 classic sci-fi film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

 

JESS:

Klaatu barada nik-Noooooo!

 

CAT:

<laughs> Have you been waiting to do that? <laugh>

 

JESS:

<Laughs> Yes.

 

CAT:

That robot fires a beam weapon from, its like eye slit and the Starman has a sleek body and an eye slit, and it fires psychokinetic beams - a whole variety of them, in fact. The other pop culture component of the Starman is in its name. It's a David Bowie reference, which is why if you didn't recognize all those weird words I said at the top of the episode when I was introducing myself - that's all stuff from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, arguably David Bowie's most famous record, featuring the song "Starman". It is a sci-fi rock opera that's rooted in a kind of tangible human experience, like EarthBound. You know, we haven't mentioned many essential texts for understanding the EarthBound series, but I'm gonna say that The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is an essential text to understanding EarthBound. It's part of what makes this game series.

 

JESS:

So after encountering the Starman Jr., It uses its PK beam on me, and one shots me. So I'm thinking to myself, "okay. We have entered into a new class of enemy here. I'm going to respawn back home and better prepare myself for this fight next time." So I went, I healed up, I purchased some new items. I marched back to the superintendent's office. I fought the Starman Jr. again and this time I buffed myself. I used the Defense Up psionic ability to fortify myself for that big PK beam attack. And he one-shotted me again. And so I thought, "okay, what am I doing wrong here? There's clearly something that I'm missing. What, what do I need to do?" And then I remembered the rope that I picked up in the superintendent's office, and that rope is used to tie up an enemy essentially - to keep them from taking actions.

 

CAT:

So you did shibari to the Starman?

 

JESS:

Yeah. I did shibari to the Starman the third time that I fought him - tied him up, and then one-shoted him. So there was a lot of drama around the Starman Jr. Fight, and I'm not really happy with how it went down, but I did make it through. And what I'm assuming is that what you're supposed to do is have the Franklin Badge equipped, and I'm guessing that that absorbs the power of that PK Beam.

 

CAT:

Well, yes and no. The Starman uses PSI Beam Gamma and PSI Beam Gamma - it's a one hit kill. Like that's just what it does. It turns your HP into zero.

 

JESS:

Hmm.

 

CAT:

And you don't have to have the Franklin Badge equipped. It just works if it's in your inventory. But here's the thing, I was at level eight and the Starman decimated me. So I started leveling. I got to level 11, and level 11 is good. You get some big numbers up to HP and psychokinetic power as well. And soon after it you learn the Fourth Dimension Slip, which is what was mentioned in the diary where Ninten, like, just kind of escaped from a battle. It's basically this thing that has a chance of, at least in a non-boss battle, Ninten can just like escape. The battle's just over. It's gone.

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

By the time I got to the Starman again, I was at level 12. I used Defense Up on myself and I was able to handle him and beat him. Uh, I did try the rope on him. He escaped immediately. This is my first battle when I was level eight. I then used the Fleabag on him, which is a rare drop from stray dogs. It's a sack filled with fleas and lice - that had no effect on him. I used Offence Down - that didn't work on him, so then he just slapped me around and I was dead. Tried to be clever, but it did not pay off.

 

JESS:

Yeah. That's the moments in the game where they're like, " Oh, you were just getting comfortable. You thought you knew what you were doing. Let me bring you back down to Earth."

 

CAT:

<laugh> Good one. <laugh>.

 

JESS:

But eventually you do defeat him and the noise stops and the animals return to their senses. They calm back down again.

 

CAT:

What it specifically says, and I like this piece of text 'cause reading this, especially not understanding what the sound was the first time. It says, "the odd sound that drove the animals insane died down." And it's interesting, this is the first time at the game, in all of its subtlety, is really acknowledging that all of the enemy encounters that you've had so far are not like the enemy encounters in another role playing game. These are not just creatures that are fighting you for no reason. These are all beings that have been motivated by an outside force that is taking away their agency, which makes it really scary.

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

And once it's gone, there's no more enemies in the zoo. If you planned on leveling up with them again. Sorry, <laugh>.

 

JESS:

Yeah. But at least you get to walk around and kind of take in the scenery without having to worry about being attacked every two steps.

 

CAT:

Yeah, that's true. And you also can take in the scenery and notice, "oh, there's something different. There's a monkey in that cage.

 

JESS:

The singing monkey, yeah. And you go up and talk to him and you learn another part of the melody.

 

CAT:

Yes. This is a very interesting, quirky thing. So the sign says, "one of a kind! See the amazing singing monkey! According to the Encyclopedia, here's what the monkey sounds like: "He will sing a one bar melody in a beautiful boy soprano's voice, you'd never guess that face could conceal. From what I've heard, his mother also sang the same melody, and her mother before her. It looks like this one bar has been handed down through the generations only to possibly come to an abrupt end with his. You see, this monkey's following today's trend of not getting married. Make sure you give him a listen."

 

JESS:

<laugh>. Wow. Okay.

 

CAT:

"Also, it appears he's got a monkey-ish side to him where he'll often slip out of his cage and steal things that humans are carrying - keys, for instance."

 

JESS:

Oh gosh, that's silly monkey. He can carry a tune, but unfortunately he can also carry your keys.

 

CAT:

<laugh>. Yeah.

 

New Speaker:

This is interesting because so far, we've learned what three melodies? Two of them came from animals and one of them came from a music box that was inside of a possessed doll. There seems to be this recurring theme of these tunes being passed down generation to generation. The doll that the music box came out of was your great-grandmother's. The canary seems to be passing the song down to its chick. And now you're telling me that in the EarthBound Encyclopedia, there's a reference to the song that the monkey sings being passed down generation to generation. There's a lot of themes in this game, in the story of this game of things recurring - the next generation having to pick up where the previous one left off or even having to repeat those actions.

 

CAT:

And also mothers. It specifically said that the song was passed down to the singing monkey by his mother, and her mother before her.

 

JESS:

Not surprising that the game is called MOTHER, I suppose.

 

CAT:

This part of the game reminded me of something - a movie that I hadn't seen the last time I played this game. It's a 1986 film called Night of the Creeps. It is a sci-fi comedy written and directed by Fred Dekker, who's also responsible for Monster Squad and the american horror film House. Not to be confused with the Japanese film, House - That film being extremely important to the EarthBound series, as we will address later.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

Night of the Creeps is a 1980s spin on 1950s sci-fi pastiche. And I think there's actually a really good argument, based on when it came out and when this game came out, that it either was an influence on MOTHER or it is cut from the same cloth as a lot of things that were happening culturally, including internationally, at that time period. Because it's about creatures from space coming to Earth, bringing the dead back to life, and making people not who you thought they were - like controlling people's minds. It has a lot of the same energy as EarthBound, including being an irreverent comedy on top of everything else that's happening, which is all relatively serious. Like people are dying, bad things are happening. There's a disabled character that's shown in a really human light throughout the film, which is just not the case with horror movies most of the time. Whereas the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is something that is explicitly referenced, Night the Creeps is kind of a, let's say - it's not an essential piece of EarthBound media, but I would definitely suggest that it is an adjacent piece of EarthBound media that everybody should check out if you haven't seen it.

 

JESS:

Scratching down my list of things that I need to watch, read, consume, listen to.

 

CAT:

Now, we've got a little bit of housekeeping to do because we have not discussed our favorite pieces of music, our favorite Mother Melodies, the tunes that we remembered in this episode.

 

JESS:

Yes. <Laugh> Ninten remembers the melodies and there are definitely songs that stick out to us and that we remember as we're playing through this.

 

CAT:

Yeah. So what's your favorit, Jess?

 

JESS:

So, some notable songs from this play session. I'll start off with the graveyard. That song, the beginning of that sounds a lot to me like the beginning of the Ghostbusters theme.

 

CAT:

It has the same building - like the part before it gets to the iconic Ghostbusters part, but the very beginning of that.

 

JESS:

Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da...

 

CAT:

Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch...

 

JESS:

Yeah, exactly - and then it goes off into, you know, a different direction. But, it did remind me a lot of the Ghostbusters. Every time I heard it I'm like, "oh, it's gonna be Ghostbusters, it's gonna be Ghostbusters!" And I'm just like, was that accidental? I mean given the fact that you're in a graveyard and you're fighting ghosts and things...

 

CAT:

Well, I'm not 100% sure actually because the graveyard music is my favorite piece of music from this section of the playthrough, and you hear that beginning a lot because there's constant enemy battles and every time you go into a battle screen, then the track from the overworld starts from the beginning again. And you're getting so many enemy battles, you're not getting to hear that entire song. But if you stand in the graveyard and don't move anywhere and you let that song play, you are treated to a really, really, really wonderful send up to a bunch of different styles of horror music from the 1950s.

 

JESS:

That's really cool

 

CAT:

From that basis that it's starting with that you mentioned there's a bunch of other places where the song goes that are even more interesting and all of them are sends up to other not direct pieces of music, but other pieces of music from that genre.

 

JESS:

I'll have to see if I can pull that back up in isolation and give it another listen 'cause I didn't notice all those different styles and changes that are part of it.

 

CAT:

And the average person wouldn't have. If I hadn't left my controller sitting down while I took some notes real quick, I wouldn't have been reminded of it.

 

JESS:

The song that I remembered most from this play through is the music that is playing while you're escorting Pippi back home. And I heard it a lot, 'cause I got lost. That song is called "Bein' Friends" and it is actually on the MOTHER soundtrack that featured Catherine Warwick and it's the second track on that album. It is distinct and hopefully I'll get to hear it some more because it's got some great movements in the song. It has just a really catchy melody that is upbeat and happy.

 

CAT:

Yeah. "Bein' Friends" is one of the classic themes of the EarthBound series. You'll hear a bunch of different times in a bunch of different ways and it was created under the same like edict of like, "what if instead of just making like score music, we made pop songs that we turned into the overworld music."

 

JESS:

Yeah.

 

CAT:

Which, you know - Yeah - It's highly effective. Or super effective, if you will.

 

JESS:

<laugh>.

 

CAT:

It's not normal of this style of game and it makes for some really nice moments where you can latch onto, "oh, this is punchy, this is fun, this is evoking something that's-" it does a lot with very little.

 

JESS:

For sure.

 

CAT:

On the theme of music, uh, I wanna mention again Grand Buffet and "Benjamin Franklin Music", that track that we played at the beginning. If you head to grandbuffet.bandcamp.com, you can see their full discography. These folks have been writing very unusual pop culture influenced, mind-bending, surrealist arthouse, rap music since the late nineties. They predate the nerdcore movement. They've always been doing their own thing. If there was a piece of media that I would say they had anything in common with, I'd say like The Muppets. They're funny. They also talk about some serious social issues sandwiched in with all the humor and sarcasm and so forth, which to my mind makes them very much an adjacent experience to what makes the MOTHER series great.

 

[Music begins playing under hosts]

 

JESS:

I think the main takeaway from this play session is that we're stepping into a much bigger world than what Ninten is traditionally used to experiencing. I know that it's only a matter of time before he starts making more friends and more connections, people that are going to have a big influence on his journey going forward.

 

CAT:

Yeah. In fact that lady, the receptionist at the mayor's office - she sure did, uh, say something very ominous and strange.

 

JESS:

There is a wonder girl who's going to be helping us that we will presumably meet soon.

 

CAT:

Yeah. How about that?

 

JESS:

Hmm. How 'bout that?

 

CAT:

No other details from her though. Wonder why she even thought to tell that to us. Maybe she's a little psychic herself.

 

JESS:

Definitely seems to be going around.

 

CAT:

Ninten is, like many silent protagonists in a video game, he's a tabula rasa. He's a blank slate for us to project our hopes and fears on. But I like to think that our rendition of him in these diary entries are evocative of what the game is saying, how it's saying it, and since we are Ninen - this feels like the emotions and experiences that this surprising game is attempting to communicate to us.

 

JESS:

Having you along on this journey with me, makes me feel like I'm kind of part of Ninten's experience in my own little way. And I believe in you and I believe in us. <laughs>

 

CAT:

And that's what being friends is all about.

 

JESS:

<laugh>

 

CAT:

And uh, and... Also that's all she wrote.

 

JESS:

<Laughs>

 

[Music ends and transitions to upbeat music]

 

CAT

“MOTHER,” She Wrote is made possible thanks to the generous support of our Patreon Producers: Becky Scott Fairley, Bob Hogan, C B, Joe “Tank” Ricciardelli, Josh King, McDibble Deluxe, MjolnirMK86, Patrick Webster, Sean Hutchinson, Sean T. Redd - And our Super-Deluxe Executive Patreon Producers: BigBadShadowMan, Marcus Larsson, and Jaimeson LaLone.

 

JESS

You can join the team at Patreon.com/OmniverseMedia! And if you think “MOTHER,” She Wrote is simply smashing, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser  - and be sure to subscribe via your favorite podcast player.

 

CAT

This series is recorded and produced in Orlando, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky on lands stolen from their Indigenous people: the Timucua and Seminole, and Shawnee, Cherokee, Osage, Seneca-Iroquois, Miami, Hopewell and Adena.

 

JESS

Acknowledgement of the first peoples of these lands, and the lasting repercussions of colonization is just the beginning of the restorative work that is necessary. Through awareness, we can prompt allyship, action, and ultimately decolonization. 

 

CAT

For links to aid Indigenous efforts and to learn more about the first nations of the land where you live: visit omniverse.media/landback

 

JESS

“MOTHER,” She Wrote is written, produced, and performed by me: Jessica Mudd.

 

CAT

And me: Cat Blackard. Our original score is composed and performed by Jess and this episode features the song “Benjamin Franklin Music” by Grand Buffet. Listen and purchase their dope rhymes at grandbuffet.bandcamp.com.

 

JESS

Special thanks to Kenisu for his invaluable work translating the MOTHER Encyclopedia. Find a link to his translation, other media we’ve referenced, and full episode transcripts at mothershewrote.earth

 

CAT

“MOTHER,” She Wrote is not affiliated with Nintendo, Shigesato Itoi, or any rights holders of the MOTHER and EarthBound intellectual properties. Please play the games' official Nintendo releases.

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