1307: Earthbound: The War Against Giygas – OneshotPosted: January 20, 2016
Title: Earthbound: The War Against Giygas
Author: G. Reaper
Media: Video Game
URL: Earthbound: The War Against Giygas
Critiqued by TacoMagic
Today we feature a fic written about a game that is very dear to my heart, Earthbound! Earthbound is a neat little RPG published for the Super Nintendo back in 1994 and represents the very first launch-day title that I ever purchased. I literally spent a week begging my parents to take me to the store on launch day so I could get my copy. I honestly have no idea who I thought I’d need to beat out for the game, this was a solid six years before people even dreamed of camping a store to buy a release title, and about three years before doing pre-orders were much of a thing.
Anyway, Earthbound is a tongue-in-cheek RPG that follows the adventures of Ness and his companions, Paula, Jeff, and Poo in their quest to save the universe from the evil machinations of the Giygas Super-Conscious. It’s a great game and I think it’s aged pretty well, so I highly recommend people give it a play. If you rush it, you can actually get through it in about fifteen hours without much problem, though expect around thirty if you want all the best items and to knock out all the side-quests. Relatively short by modern JRPG standards.
It’s easy to pick up if you have a Wii U as it’s an offering in their virtual console along with the first game: Mother. If you don’t have a Wii U, well… you probably know how to get your hands on a SNES game without my help.
I could go into more depth here in an SC sort of way, but background information is actually unimportant for this riff. In fact, I think you’ll get the most out of this experience having never been exposed to the game. You see, this fic is a Novelization of the game, so no homework necessary! Right!? Right?
You might also notice that it’s a one-shot. Fanfiction game novelizations almost always fail, and they’re almost always pretty bad. Especially when the author decides to try to get fancy and add their own stuff. Which is why I absolutely have to look whenever I see an attempt. So, what about this one? Well, the summary pretty much speaks for itself.
Novelization of Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) with some artistic liberties taken with plot, background, and characters. Rated T for violence, mature themes, and frightening concepts.
So, you probably know why we’re here now. The thing that really caught my attention was that whole “frightening concepts” bit. Vague and pretentious; good on ya, author. Keep in mind that the original ESRB rating for the game was K-A (what is now the E rating). So if the fic is rated T, that means the author is trying to use his artistic license to make it darker/edgier/add swearing b’cuz. That always ends well, right?
In the year 20XX, the only sentient beings that remained free of Giygas’ super-conscience were the Resistance, and the last remaining group of them was about to die in a leaky, humid, and dark basement.
Author, if you’re going to try to do something different with the beginning of the game, maybe still include some build-up, yeah? In the game, there’s some build-up to this information. You gotta do a little work and be a little clueless for a while before you get the whole story. Here, not only did you infodump the basic plot arc of the game, but also told us what’s going on in the scene. This isn’t a Star Wars intro, bub, we need to be shown things!
Your artistic license is making things worse.
Of the thirty-odd sentients in that horrible cramped tomb, only three had not yet resigned themselves to death: two humans (one a genius, the other a psychoempathic), and one astral being.
Author, did I tell you we had parenthetical statements in the prose added to the list of gongable offenses? Pretty sure I did. Right?
Those remaining three sentient beings knew two things that the others did not.
That there was a pack of hot-pockets in the freezer and the microwave still worked. Trouble is, how would they split two hot pockets up for thirty people? Instant tension!
The first was that there was still hope, if only a fleeting, tiny, nearly absurd sort of hope.
And since this is happening in the future from when the game is, their hope is that none of this happened in the first place. Okay, yeah, I’ll count that as an absurd kind of hope. Just cool it with the adjectives next time. You’re not Douglas Adams, bro.
The second was that Giygas was not going to kill anyone in the basement.
The hell not? And the answer to that better not be “because reasons.”
If it did, then Giygas had clearly discovered the concept of “mercy” at some point during the last three years of desperate warfare across the multiverse.
Let’s take a look at this. Giygas has been killing everyone who stood in its way for three years. It stops just before crushing the last fragment of the resistance because to kill them now would be a mercy. That’s the long version of “because reasons.”
There was no reason to think that Giygas had learned any sort of compassion at all, because Giygas had no need for it or any other weak mortal concepts.
You mean weak mortal concepts like allowing an enemy to live longer than necessary just to spite them? I could see how it would be useful not to have those; it would prevent things like McEvil level overconfidence.
Giygas was power incarnate, and power lusted only for more power.
Authors, if you say something that profoundly stupid in your narrative, you need to support it with something. You also have to relate it back to why that is a reason for letting them live longer than is strictly necessary.
The appropriation and domination of minds and souls was the only power that Giygas still desired, perhaps because it loved hurting things the way a quietly disturbed child might break a frog’s leg and watch it hop in circles.
That’s… actually not a bad simile. It’s just disturbing enough to catch your attention and evoke a response without bashing you over the head. The simile, by itself, is evocative enough to earn a redemption cookie.
*Hands over a cookie*
The thing is, if you want to do a good job novelizing the game, you should actually have done your research. Giygas’s MO is not the suffering of all things. Especially not on Earth. See originally Giygas was an alien who got stranded on Earth as a youngling and was raised by human parents. However, once his people finally get him back several decades later, they force him to betray his mother and attack Earth. The only way he could cope with that was to turn evil to justify his attack. Eventually he’s stopped by Ninten who uses the guilt and sorrow over that betrayal against Giygas, and forces the alien to retreat. Some years later, Giygas returns and, over the course of ten years, succeeds in destroying all life on the planet. Due to some time-traveling shenanigans involving an apple that tells the future, Giygas learns about his inevitable defeat at the hands of Ness. Fearing this, he travels back into the past to prevent it, but in so doing, destroys his own guilt-ridden mind reducing himself to essentially a gibbering mass of evil bent on complete destruction of everything.
10 years into this new future, an extraterrestrial by the name of Buzz Buzz bears witness to the final destruction of pretty much everything, and travels 10 years into the past to kick Ness into gear so that Giygas is stopped. At this point the prophecy foretold by the apple is now set to self-fulfill.
So, given that we’re talking about the “writhing mass of evil” Giygas in the second future (which is the one described in in the fic), it doesn’t care if you suffer. Likely, any individual, suffering or not, is so trivial to its addled senses that you don’t register beyond something to crush. It just wants to destroy you, and everything else.
Not a huge deal in the grand scheme of the canon, but I can see this novelization is starting to drift off point, which is not a great sign in the second paragraph.
Perhaps because Giygas no longer had a sane mind of its own, and simply wanted to touch, if only briefly, something shining and solid and rational like a sane sentient being’s mind.
Again, not really. It wants to destroy everything, not mind-meld with it.
Perhaps Giygas no longer had need for reasons.
This is actually true, and in direct conflict with everything you just wrote. MAKE UP YOUR MIND!
The three hopeful beings in the basement of what was once a laboratory (now a smoking ruin below a writhing red sky) were deliberately not concerning themselves with whatever private theories they had about the nature of Giygas.
Don’t worry, Cerbs, I’m almost positive we invited him to the secret meeting where it was added to the list.
Look, author, if you can’t be bothered to set an actual scene within the prose itself, just embrace the void and keep going without the parentheticals.
They knew it was immaterial; they had a job to do.
Big words do NOT make you sound smarter, author. Especially when you could have used a bigger word that would both sound more natural and have a meaning a lot closer to what you actually wanted there. Doubly because the pronoun confusion you introduced there makes the sentence say that Giygas is immaterial, which, while true, has nothing to do with the fact that they aren’t addressing the point you brought up about the nature of Giygas.
For those playing at home, the word I’m talking about is “inconsequential.” See, it’s longer AND means what he actually tried to say.
Unfortunately, the job was a terrifyingly complex and slow one.
Maybe it’s just my engineering background, but I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve found complexity overly frightening.
And given that we’re most likely going to see the future Jeff, Paula, and Poo here, I’d hazard that Jeff, being a boy genius engineer, would find the complexity thrilling, not scary.
So, author, stop using big words to sound smart. You’re having the opposite effect.
“Doctor, why have you stopped?” the shining blue astral being whispered to the human who had just been tinkering with what appeared to be a large metal-plated box.
Blue astral being? Okay, either Poo went nova, or I missed the mark a bit.
Or… I hesitate to even consider it. Please, author, don’t have gone there.
The being was perhaps the most frightened of the three, because it alone existed simultaneously at two points in the fourth dimension.
Dude, if you want to say two points in time, say two points in time.
I do hope the prose decides to explain why existing in two points in time is so frightening.
Its body was ten years in the past, while its mind was in the now.
So, either this is disembodied Ness, which would be hugely breaking canon or… please, author, no. Not the other thing.
Maintaining this state required a heightened sense of time, allowing (or rather, forcing) the astral being to glimpse a short ways into the immediate future.
Because bullshit power.
Wait… bullshit power… shit, it’s the other thing isn’t it.
I’m calling it now, this is an OC. And by the setup, it’s going to be an author insert that replaces Buzz-Buzz as the herald from the future that kickstarts everything.
So much for a faithful novelization. You may as well have said: “I’m going to shove myself in this thing and follow the on-rails plot while stealing all the glory.” At least then it would have been honest.
It’d still be total shit, but the honesty would have been refreshing.
“You have to hurry, they are looking for us.”
Why are they looking? They don’t need to! The prose just said Giygas knows where you are and has stilled his hand because… evil reasons. It’s a different thing to Giygas just hasn’t found you yet.
And, all things considered, a basement on Earth is not a great place to hide because Earth is where Giygas’s destroying of the galaxy STARTS. See, Buzz Buzz was an extraterrestrial and the only sentient thing left in the future and knew that Giygas’s reign of death started on earth. He says as much when he meets Ness.
DO YOUR RESEARCH!
You can’t novelize something if you get this very basic plot point completely wrong!
“I need to think,” the tinkering human replied, wiping sweat from his brow with a sweep of his right hand. “I think it’s almost ready, but I have to think now.”
I’d say that it’s a better idea to know what you’re doing before you’ve started doing it, but this is actually pretty classical Jeff; he kinda invents on the fly.
And I’m not even going to pretend this isn’t Jeff. Having this be a different character wouldn’t be cliché, and we all know that clichés are the bread and butter of this kind of fic.
“I know, Doctor, but-”
“Jien, remember your training,” the other human said, sitting cross-legged and appearing calm. His lips quirked into a small sardonic smile. “Or have you actually forgotten that you are supposed to be a master of Yi?”
Fuck, I was right. This is an OC. I’m so glad this fic ends after this chapter. I can’t take another fic where the on-rails plot is stolen by a worthless insertion.
So, we get to add “Master of Yi” (Earthbound’s version of Chi) to his growing list of powers. Might as well add martial arts while we’re at is, since it generally comes with the Yi Master package.
And this other human would be Poo.
“Yi is helpless before this,” Jien, the astral being, whispered.
Thank you, author, we totally missed it two sentences ago when you told us that Jien was an astral being. We are indeed that stupid.
“My ego is rallied despite my best control, Prince Poo.”
The hell does that mean?
Let’s see here, ego is the sense of self and rally is to recover from a setback. So, my best guess here, he was unable to maintain his connection to the hive mind due to a sudden recovery of his sense of individuality.
Sure, let’s go with that.
“It surely could not hurt to at least keep a sense of humor,” said Poo.
Who are you and what have you done with Poo!?
“Was it not you who taught me-“
Ahh, Stufluence, I should have guessed.
“Poo, Jien, for God’s sake, let me think” said the doctor.
They all fell silent. The doctor had his eyes tightly shut, his head now resting on the box as if in prayer.
So what, communing with the… thing? Wait! That’s a darkside ability! Jeff, why!?
Jeff, there are times when both scientists and believers alike must make a leap of faith. The only difference is that a scientist calls his leap intuition, and makes up a reason for it in the lab report later.
Um, no. Not even close. It’s called an educated guess, and if it turns out to be right, and you can’t figure out why, it’s called bad science. Much different thing than what you’re talking about here. What you’re talking about here is just plain bad science without the education.
“There won’t be a lab report this time, father,” muttered Doctor Jeff, and chuckled despite himself.
Nor should there really be. Real science/engineering has studies, journals, projects, and the like. Lab reports are what you turn in for a class.
Also, I guess the whole part of Jeff’s character where he and his father don’t have much of a relationship was completely lost on our author. The few times he talks about his father, he uses the name Dr. Andonuts, not father. He starts to say “dad” a few times but always corrects himself to Dr. Andonuts. It’s a pretty important thing for Jeff’s character.
I’ll pretend to be surprised that the author didn’t understand those nuanced character building moments later. Probably over a glass of whiskey with a large drunken feline.
“Jeff…” Poo said, resting a hand on the back of Jeff’s shirt. It was soaked with warm sweat.
Uh, ew. Dude, even if this is going JeffxPoo, which is fine, let’s not introduce their relationship with the phrase “soaked with warm sweat.”
“Relax, Poo. I’m OK.” Jeff said, getting to his feet and looking down at the box.
For something so central to the scene, this poor box isn’t getting much page time. So far I’ve got the following features about it:
Google tells me that Jeff is working on this:
Poor Jeff doesn’t realize that humanity had already invented to the truck cargo box.
“It’s as ready as it can be. I couldn’t get the XYZ coordinate functions working better than 60%, so it’ll take you basically anywhere except inside a wall or similar predicament.
The hell can you build something that has only a 60% coordinate fidelity yet still have it avoid disaster? That’s like having a grenade that misfires 40% of the time but somehow won’t cause problems if it does.
For crap’s sake, is keeping tension far away from your fic really that big of a deal that you can’t allow a 40% chance of immediate death?
Could just plop you out a few miles into the atmosphere though.”
Jeff, I would call being transported several miles above the Earth’s surface a “similar predicament” to being transported into a mountain. You need to work on your definitions there, champ.
“I will be fine. We prepared for such an eventuality; I will not be defeated by something so inane as a bad fall.”
Because, being a Stu, I am completely immune to something as paltry as slamming into the ground at 120 miles per hour!
Wait, if his body is already back in the past, why not just move his astral form there, too? I mean, that’s what an astral form is all about.
The author forgot that his body was in the past, didn’t he?
Jeff turned to Poo, and looked into his friend’s small brown eyes for what he knew was the last time. He extended his hand. Poo took it. They shook.
Much feeling. Very sadness. So goodbying.
“Find him,” Jeff said.
Whoa now, they’re sending Poo back!? If you want to talk canon deviation, that’s like if the novelization of Field of Dreams featured the ghosts stopping an alien invasion by challenging them to a dance off.
Artistic license means filling in blanks and making rational changes around the core of the polt; not rewriting the whole godsdammed plot, author!
Well, at least this means the OC isn’t the catalyst of everything. Unfortunately that means the OC won’t be dying in the first chapter along with Poo/Buzz-Buzz. You know, if there was a first chapter. Which there isn’t. And you should all be thankful.
Poo smiled as he closed his eyes and gently took his hand away from his friend’s almost clinging grip. “I will Jeff. I will. Get the proxy ready.”
What the hell do they need a proxy for? Is there a vote happening somewhere that you need a stand-in for?
Jeff opened his mouth as if to say one more thing, perhaps to ask if Poo was sure he would go, then closed it again. It would have been a pointless question.
Speaking of pointless, is this thing over yet? I’ve got grass that I need to watch grow.
Jeff walked to a small wooden workbench and picked up something that looked like a metal bee. It fit in the palm of his hand.
For fuck’s sake author! So that’s our new plot. Buzz-buzz, instead of being an extra-terrestrial, is actually Poo from the future. Forgiving the fact that it’s not a proxy because Poo is actually going to be ensouled into that thing, what’s the point!? Buzz-Buzz has two big chunks of dialogue then dies! You never learn anything about him other than that he’s from the future and he calls himself Buzz Buzz. For all it matters, Buzz Buzz could be the reincarnation of Bruce Lee!
“Now remember,” Jeff said, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice and assume what his father had always called the ‘doctor’s dialogue’, “this proxy body can contain your full consciousness, but it’s very fragile. You can do as much mental arm wrestling as you like, but if the wrong person gives you a good swat, that’ll be it.”
Subtle foreshadowing is subtle.
Poo kept his eyes shut tight and said nothing.
He’s desperately trying to pretend he isn’t in this stupid plot arc.
“If…when…you find the target, stay with him as long as you can and support him, but do not intervene any more than absolutely necessary.
Because that would change the plot and, despite this huge deviation, we really do want to keep it on rails, here. Also, don’t reveal any important future stuff, we have the mystery of untold information to protect!
He has to learn as much as possible on his own, or you may endanger the prophesy.
Except that the prophecy doesn’t get fulfilled unless the future intervenes to make it happen.
If you need to say, “I’m writing this scene to seem deep, but don’t want to change things due to being unable to write my way out of a paper sack,” just say it, author.
You’ll have a month-long operational lifespan, and at the end of it…”
Which doesn’t matter because Buzz-Buzz dies fifteen minutes into the game. So why put that time restriction in? You already pretty much came out and said that you’re just going to follow that plot arc of Buzz-Buzz’s death anyway.
Jeff’s voice wheezed away before he could say more. He tried again, but all that came out was a sort of ghastly croak. His vision shimmered in front of him and he wiped at his eyes, struggling to regain his composure.
Author, it was Ninten in Mother 1 who had asthma, not Jeff. How did you screw that up!?
“That’s enough, Jeff,” Poo said quietly. “Activate the proxy. Your part is nearly finished.”
Then you can feel the sweet, sweet release from this horrible plot.
Without another word, Jeff nodded, and taking a straightened paperclip from his pocket, inserted an end into a minuscule hole at the top of the tiny bee body.
Really? That’s your activation method? A recessed manufacturer reset button and a paperclip? The hell is this thing made from, old Tiger games?
The bee’s wings began to twitch, then move tentatively, then with a steady but rapidly increasing pace, to beat up and down. A distinct buzzingsound whined its way under the heavy sounds of rumbling fear and destruction a few feet above.
The hell does rumbling fear sound like, exactly? Is it a prolonged utterance of primal terror, or more the sound of a soul being ripped from a living body?
And how do you make that sound heavy?
Author: less words, more meaning.
Poo, still with his eyes shut, sat down and began to breathe slowly and deeply. He sat, perfectly still, as his breathing grew deeper, and slower, and deeper still, and slower still, until it seemed to Jeff that his last inhale would aspirate the air from the entire basement.
Everyone, quick! Spot the author who owns a thesaurus!
Also, that word doesn’t mean what you think it means, author.
From the tiny bee hovering over his hand, Jeff heard a modulated, tinny voice say, “I’m ready.”
This is actually a direct copy from something that happens in the game, but much later. So the author can’t even claim this as author’s license. This is just ripping off the game while writing about the game. That’s a special blend of sucking at writing right there.
“Jien? Time to start making your way back. You’re going to have a much longer trip than Poo here,” said Jeff, as he opened a small hatch in the box.
Damn, I was hoping that the fic had forgotten about the insert.
So wait, what was the point of Jien being in this scene anyway? To be a nervous wreck? Yeah, big help.
The metal bee that now contained Poo’s mind and soul flitted into the box, and Jeff closed it.
FIRE THE BEE CANNON!
Yeah, that’s actually kind of a thing.
“What about you, Jeff?” Jien said, his voice already beginning to fade back, back not only in distance but in time.
Distance? What, is he leaving the room while traveling back in time? Is that how it works, like a slow DeLorean?
Jeff shrugged and brushed a few damp stray blond hairs from his eyes. “I guess I’ll just wait here. Wait for the end, be it heaven or hell.”
Because that’s dramatic and crap. Or something.
I bet he’s just biding his time before he cracks open those sweet, sweet Hot Pockets. Gotta wait until the idiots are gone, Jeff. Don’t do it too soon or you’ll have to share.
Jeff turned to look at the blue form of Jien, but it was already gone.
That’s kinda rude. Wouldn’t even stay long enough to hear the answer to his question. This Jien guy is kind of an ass. Which follows given the hefty Stu vibe he’s got going.
“You just make sure to do your part, too,” Jeff said to himself, and turned back to the metal box that contained both his friend and the hopes and prayers of a million-billion stars.
Which would be what? Shitting all over the plot while at the same time being absolutely powerless do to anything worthwhile to change it? Yeah, woo, big destiny.
Oh, and you can leave Carl Sagan the fuck out of this wreck!
“Lock and load!” Jeff cried, and sent his late father’s greatest invention, the Phase Distorter Mark 10, into the past.
Because it’s gotta be cooler and better than the Phase Distorter 3 that shows up in the game. Wouldn’t be properly kicking the source material in the nuts if you didn’t show it up at every possible moment, right?
Also, if you had nine other phase distorters before this… WHY THE FUCK HAVEN’T YOU ACTED EARLIER!? For fuck’s sake, you’ve had nine tries to get the prophecy started; how do you suck so hard at this!? It only takes three tries to get this thing to work in the game, and one of those doesn’t really count because it gets stolen.
And with that, the fic comes to an end. I’d like to think it was abandoned because the author came to his senses, but given the research I did on the author, he actually abandoned it to pursue a career as an indy boardgame developer. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out for him. Which is a shame. Given what I saw of the game his company released, he was far, far more talented at designing board games than he was at writing.