EarthBound: I don’t feel well
I was going to give up on this whole “my life is a lot like EarthBound right now” thing, or at least dial it back a little. Really I was. And then last Monday, as I was having pizza with old Lansing friends who no longer live in Lansing at our favorite Lansing pizza place one last time before I left Lansing, I found myself losing my appetite. It wasn’t the food, which was exactly the way it should have been. I started to get the shivers too. In short, I felt like I’d been hit by a beam that causes night-time stuffiness.
I’ve never been much a fan of status ailments in RPGs, which always seemed like an arbitrary battle mechanic just for the sake of some added difficulty. As anyone who has ever run into a Malboro in a Final Fantasy game knows, status-inflicting attacks can hit you hard, but the specific statuses always seemed to me rather random. Unless you’re fighting a medusa (which happens!), a attack that turns the player characters into stone seems like the designers are being mean, rather than an organic combat design element.
By the end of the night, I had a 101.8 degree fever, which persisted through the next few days. My life couldn’t stop — the movers were coming, utilities needed to be canceled, daughters needed to get to school and back (I disinfected heavily before each trip, and I’m a keep-to-myself kind of guy anyway) — the world needed to be saved, no matter how I felt.
A cold, in EarthBound, costs you HP each time you sneeze, and if you don’t use the PSI Healing ability or a cold remedy to cure yourself of the status, you continue to lose HP as you walk around even after a battle has ended. Which is a pretty good description of how I felt. I was up and about, I got things done, but every step cost me something.
There’s another noteworthy enemy you run into a little before you start fighting the Li’l UFOs (which can give Ness a cold) — the Ramblin’ Evil Mushroom. They’re not terribly difficult to beat, but they have their own status attack, which leaves Ness with a mushroom growing on his head. This mushroom effect doesn’t seem to do much at first, but before long, when you tell Ness to walk to the right, he starts walking up, or to the left, or down. Once you get a handle on Ness’s new control scheme, it changes again, and to keep up you have to keep rotating the controller in your hand. It’s not impossible to deal with, and I haven’t found it to have any negative impact in battle, but it’s, um, weird.
By the middle of the week I was seeing things every time I closed my eyes. It was like the part of me that dreams wasn’t concerned anymore with whether I had actually fallen asleep or not. The list of things I still needed to do got mashed up with strange images that disappeared as soon as I realized that I might want to remember or describe them. Most of us have a few minutes of that indescribable, hallucinatory state every night, which we forget by the time we wake up again, but for me it was stretched into what felt like hours at a time. I couldn’t rouse myself, and didn’t really want to — I was trying to get to sleep after all — but it was hard to know where I was, where I was going, or when it would end. It wasn’t entirely pleasant, but it wasn’t entirely unpleasant either. When I have a hard time sleeping, I normally find myself rehearsing the things I’m worried about, running mental lists to make sure that there’s nothing I’ve missed or forgotten. In my fever state I was doing something similar, but my rehearsals and lists were mutating into unrecognizable shapes.
I never actually turned on EarthBound this week, but by the end of it, I felt like I understood the game a whole lot better. (I also had a diagnosis of pneumonia, for what it’s worth. I’m on antibotics now and feeling much better, thank you.)
Where You At?: Peaceful Rest Valley
Sanctuary Songs Recorded: 1 of 8
Party: Ness and a teddy bear or two
Gavin Craig is co-editor of The Idler. You can follow him on Twitter at @craiggav.