When I was little I loved to watch my brother play Earthbound on his SNES. He very possessive and would not allow me to play for myself, so I was delighted when, on my seventh birthday, my parents finally bought me my own SNES. They assumed my brother’s possessiveness would no longer be an issue, since he had a Playstation now and barely even played his SNES games anymore. But he still refused to lend me Earthbound and even hid it from me. I knew he just hid it to be a jerk, so when he wasn’t home I would sneak into his room and search for the game. It took a few weeks, but finally I found the game in an old backgammon box.I raced down to my room, so excited that I would finally be able to play the game for myself.
I did not have the strategy guide so my progress in the game was slow, and it took several days for me to make it through Peaceful Rest Valley. On the morning I made it to Happy Happy Village I saved at the drugstore and powered off, since I had someplace to go.I pulled the bottom drawer of the dresser I kept my TV on open when I saw a sudden black flash and instinctively jumped back as the TV fell from the top of my dresser and landed on the floor with a crash. It took a few moments for me to process what had happened as my heart pounded within my chest.
Once I got over the shock of almost having a TV fall on me my thoughts immediately turned to my SNES and my brother’s game, which were on the floor in front of the dresser. The TV landed smack on the Earthbound cartridge and half of it had snapped clean off. Miraculously my SNES remained intact; it seemed the game cartridge had taken the blunt of the fall, but all I cared about at that time was that I had broken my brother’s game. He’d be FURIOUS if he found out what happened. My mother felt sorry for me, blaming my dad for putting a TV on a dresser that was clearly too small for it, and took me to a used video game store to see if they had a copy of Earthbound to replace my brother’s with. Luckily they did and I managed to replace his game so that he never knew what happened. I never felt quite right about throwing the broken cartridge away, so I wrapped it in a cloth to keep the pieces together and stuck it in the bin I kept my other SNES games in. Eventually I forgot about it.
Years passed and I was in my sophomore year of college when I decided to dig out my old SNES and my bin of games to set up in my dorm for my friends and I to play. One weekend my roommate left to spend the night at her boyfriend’s, and since I had no other plans so I decided it would be fun to play some of my old favorite games. It took out the bin and went through the old cartridges when I noticed the cloth at the bottom.
I chuckled to myself- I still hadn’t told my brother what I had done, though so many years had passed I was sure he wouldn’t care anymore. I carefully unraveled the cloth and examined the cartridge. Somehow, it wasn’t quite as damaged as I remembered it being. Sure, the gray plastic of the cartridge had snapped off, but upon close inspection the inside appeared intact. I fit the plastic in place over the cartridge and cover it with a piece of masking tape and on a whim, stuck it into the SNES to see if anything would happen.
To my surprise, the Nintendo logo as well as the familiar red static and the words “The War Against Giygas” appeared. The game was working! A rush of excitement came over me as it had been years since I had played Earthbound. But instead of the normal music and sound effects that typically played during the opening sequence, the game was completely silent. I immediately tried to adjust the volume controls, hoping it was just the TV, but my heart sank when I realized the volume was on a normal setting. Disappointed, I continued to the opening screen and amazingly, my game from all those years ago appeared to still be there. But before I started a faint sound began to come through the speakers. It was not the normal music that would play in the opening screen but I couldn't quite place it, so I turned the volume up to make it out. Then I realized- it was the sound of running water. The same sound that would play along with the background music in Peaceful Rest Valley, except there was no music, just the sound of the water.
While it seemed odd, I continued, figuring the game was bound to have a few problems due to the damage it sustained. The screen cut to my last save point, the drug store in Happy Happy Village. I recalled that I had just made it to Happy Happy Village after the long trek through Peaceful Rest Valley and where I saved before powering off. I spent a few moments wandering around Happy Happy Village before remembering the next step- I had to go to Paula, who had been kidnapped, to get the Franklin Badge so I could fight Carpainter and free her.
I went to the cave that I knew led to the spot where Paula was being held captive, before reaching the end the game stopped for a moment and cut to a dialogue box,
I hadn’t remembered that happening before in previous game plays, but I didn’t think much of it, as similar dialogue boxes appeared at other points throughout the game. However, after a few steps another dialogue box appeared.
It hurts. Please, it hurts.
Now that struck me as odd. I knew that the dialogue was coming from Paula, who had psychic abilities that she used to ask Ness for help when she had first been kidnapped. But nothing like this had ever been in the game before. After a few more steps, Ness froze and another one appeared.
OH God…. Ness... HELP ME!!
I began to feel uneasy. I continued forward and I noticed Ness was moving at a quicker pace. It was the pace that was typical after consuming a skip sandwich, but I had not given him one. It was as if he was trying to run to Paula. Suddenly the sound of running water stopped and another box appeared.
AAAAHHH EEEEE!!! NO! HELP… Hel…p.. N..ess…
With a sinking feeling, I knew that would be the final dialogue box. And I was right. Ness continued to move at his quickened pace uninterrupted and in silence.
Finally, Ness emerged from the cave to the house where Paula was being held captive. But something was wrong with the image. The roof and the top of the house were missing, exposing the inside of the house to the elements, as if part of the house had been demolished. That was odd enough in itself, but something else was off about the image, something I couldn’t quite put my foot on but decided to brush off. I directed Ness to the door of the house and paused for a moment, afraid of what might be inside. But curiosity got the best of me and I went in.
The inside of the house looked as it always had, except the top of the wall was broken, exposing the sky and the bars that had held Paula prisoner were broken. In the middle of the room was Paula, but she wasn’t standing at the bars waiting for Ness, as she always had before. No, she was lying on the floor, her eyes appeared closed. She was surrounded by the spiteful crows.
That’s when it hit me what had been missing on the outside- the spiteful crows that had always surrounded the house were gone. It looked as if they had flown inside the house from the opening at the top. They did not appear to notice Ness and instead flew about Paula. I watched as they circled her for a few moments, when one stopped, landed right beside Paula’s head. I watched in horror as it pressed its beak forward and pulled an eyeball out of Paula’s head, leaving an empty red eye socket.
I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Paula was dead. And the Spiteful Crows, the goofy looking Spiteful Crows that I had fought against so many times in my childhood, were pecking at her corpse. I wanted it to stop. I immediately charged Ness to the closest crow to start a battle. I beat all of them easily. When it was over, Ness was left in the room alone with one-eyed Paula’s body. The game was totally silent, no music, and no sound of running water. It seemed as if there was nothing else to do except to walk up to Paula and try to talk to her. But of course, Paula could not talk. When I selected the “talk” option I was met with a dialogue box that said,
“…. I was too late…
Suddenly there was a loud screeching sound and the screen went black.
The typical lost battle music began to play while a heavenly light shown down through the black screen onto a shadowed Ness.
“Ness, it looks like you got your head handed to you. So how about giving it another shot?”
Relieved to see something familiar in the game, I selected “Yes,” curious to see if the game would go back to normal. The screen cut back to the drugstore in Happy Happy Village, to the payphone where I had last saved. For a moment everything seemed normal, but when Ness stepped out of the drugstore I saw it- Paula’s ghost. No, not the normal angelic ghost that floats behind Ness when one of his companions collapses. This was a vengeful looking ghost that flew about Ness in various directions, disappearing and reappearing at will but never leaving for good.
I futilely used PSI healing and the herbal remedy in an attempt to get rid of the ghost, but neither worked. I was at a loss as to why Paula’s ghost was haunting Ness and what I should do to get rid of it. Then an idea occurred to me. I pushed the start button and selected “Talk to.” Instead of getting the normal “Who are you talking to?” a message appeared, “… They killed me.”
I had been able to talk to Paula! I tried to do it a second time, but this time the “Who are you talking to?” dialogue box appeared, indicating that there would be no further clues as to what to do next. But after contemplating her words for a few moments I think I understood. I had to avenge Paula by going after the one who did this to her.
I directed Ness to the Happy Happyism Headquarters, but when I was about half way there a noticed a flash on the screen, similar to the one that would appear if Ness was poisoned or ill. A dialogue box appeared and said,
Ness felt a chill through his heart.
Then I looked at Ness’s face and noticed an ever so slight change in color. His skin was growing paler. I hurried on, fearful that my time was limited.
I entered the building which, as usual, was full of Insane Cultists who were swaying back and forth. I went through the normal rounds of speaking with them in order to make my way into the head quarters. But the dialogue was not the normal dialogue of the Cultists.
“The lord holds her now.”
“It was God’s will.”
“May her soul remain in an eternal, peaceful rest.”
They were talking about Paula, and the sickos were making it sound as if her murder was somehow the will of their God. I fought them furiously, but with each battle an odd ailment would come over Ness and cause him to lose HP.
Ness felt as if all warmth were sucked from his body.
The color of his skin also changed progressively whiter.
Ness felt an overwhelming sense of despair.
I also noticed his movements became slower, similar to how they would become after undergoing paralysis.
Ness felt an ice cold hand grab him by the neck.
It was painstakingly slow but I managed to beat them and recover adequate HP using lifeup, but my PP was running low and my HP was deteriorating at an increasing quick rate. I made it to Carpainter, who had the mani mani statue hovering behind him. I knew I had to beat him quickly, which would not be easy since Paula had died before giving Ness the Franklin Badge which would normally be used to win this battle.
As I fought Carpainter, I noticed the ailments occurred at a quicker rate, and they grew more and more alarming.
Ness felt as if his heart were being ripped out of his chest.
Ness felt his body grow cold and pallid.
Ness felt as if he were being buried alive.
Ness’s breath grew shallow.
Ness felt as if his soul was being pulled from his body.
This continued until I finally beat Carpainter who, once no longer under the influence of mani mani, cried and apologized as I continued to fight the mani mani statue, until it cracked and turned to rubble.
“I am so sorry! It was all the statue! It made me do everything!” Carpainter said, “That poor girl. Please, take her ashes. Scatter them so she can be at peace.”
I felt thoroughly disturbed as I read the dialogue box that said “Ness received Paula’s Ashes,” but knew I had to go through with this. I directed Ness out of Happy Happy Village.
As Ness went out the cave that led to Peaceful Rest Valley, his skin was white as a ghost and he was moving so slow that soon he would not be moving at all. I knew I had to do it then. I opened the menu bar, looked under items and there it was: Paula’s Ashes. I selected it, and then clicked “Use.”
The dialogue box read, “Ness scattered Paula’s Ashes.”
Once again, the sound stopped. I was no longer in control of Ness at this point, and watched as Paula’s ghost moved slower and slower, until she faded away.
The screen went black, except for Ness who stood under the heavenly light. A dialogue box appeared, reading,
“May her soul remain in an eternal, peaceful rest.”
Finally, Ness vanished. I stared into the black screen, which eventually turned to static. A mournful, depressed feeling overcame me as I wondered: what had I just played? Was this some sort of alternate ending made by the creators? It made sense when I thought about it. The game’s prophecy stated that Giygas would be defeated by three boys and a girl; if the villains already had Paula kidnapped, why not just end it there? Logically it didn’t make sense to allow her to escape so that she could team up with the others to defeat Giygas. But of course murdering her did not fit with the fun, light-hearted tone of the rest of the game and would have cut the game short. Whoever created this alternate version probably did not intend for anyone to see it. Perhaps this was where the name “Peaceful Rest Valley” had come from. I didn’t know, and continued to remain disturbed and unsettled throughout the night.
When my roommate arrived the next day I told her what had happened and attempted to turn the game on to show her. But the game would not turn on. The SNES did not even seem to register that there was a game in the system, with my TV screen remaining unchanged when I flipped the power switch on. My roommate suggested it had all been a dream, which I accepted to avoid looking crazy but never really believed.
I never did get the game to work after that. I covered the cartridge in cloth, just as I had all those years ago, and put it in storage in my closet, where it remains to this day.