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So maybe you think Earthbound is just like every other SNES RPG – but that’d be far from the truth.
This second game in the Mother series is about as quirky as it gets. The story borders on the ridiculous, and the enemy designs are some kind of fever dream.
As for the combat, it isn’t too far away from the 8 and 16 bit RPG standard.
You and your opponents take turns trading blows until either you or them are victorious.
Earthbound adds its own flavorsome spin on this system though, and some mechanics can be confusing for first time players.
We’ve put together this handy guide in the hope of making your journey to save the world with Ness and co. as easy as possible.
- How Earthbound’s Turn-Based Battles Work
- Stats & Their Effects In Battle
- The Rolling HP & PP meter
- Basic Attacks
- PSI Abilities
- Goods/Defend Commands
- How Auto Fight Works
- Status Effects in Earthbound
- Unique Battle Skills
How Earthbound’s Turn-Based Battles Work
Enemies will be freely visible on the overworld, and if they come into contact with your party you’ll engage in a battle.
- If you approach the enemy from behind, you’ll gain a free round of attacks
- Likewise if they hit you from behind, they will have the first move
Battles are made up of “rounds”. At the beginning of each round, you will choose the action of each of your party members.
Those with the highest Speed will act first, and then each participant in the battle will take their turn until the round is over.
Your aim is to reduce your opponent’s HP (Hit Points) to 0, thus knocking them out. When all opponents are knocked out, you will be victorious and receive various post-battle spoils.
This usually comes in the form of EXP (Experience Points) and money, but there is also a chance that you’ll receive an item drop. The chance of this varies across all enemies.
If all your party members are reduced to 0 HP, you’ll lose 50% of your money and be returned to your last Save Point.
Aside from attacking in battle, you can also choose to “Run Away”, which returns you to the overworld. This only has a chance to work on regular enemies, and will not work on bosses.
If enemies on the overworld are significantly weaker than your party, they will actually run away from you. If you manage to touch them, you have a chance to gain an instant victory.
This automatically gives you the post-battle rewards, while completely skipping the battle itself.
Stats & Their Effects In Battle
There are 7 core stats in Earthbound:
Each one affects various battle mechanics. Some are self-explanatory, while others take a little bit of mental arithmetic to figure out.
This stat determines how much damage you do with your regular physical attacks.
The higher the Offense stat, the more damage you will do to an opponent.
Your Defense determines the amount of damage you take from incoming attacks. The more Defense you have, the lower the damage will be.
The turn order in battle is determined by the Speed stat. Those with the highest Speed stat will act first.
The probability of running away from battle is also based on your character with the highest Speed stat.
The Speed stat also determines the probability of dodging an attack in battle.
The accuracy of certain abilities are determined by Speed. These include PSI Rockin’, as well as Jeff’s Bottle Rocket items.
Your chances of landing a critical hit (SMAAAASH!) increases with your Guts stat.
Your Guts stat also has the chance to protect you from damage that would normally kill you. The chance for this increases the higher your Guts is.
This one is simple: for every point of Vitality, you’ll gain 15 HP.
Similar to Vitality, for every point of IQ, you will gain 5 PP.
Jeff can also occasionally fix broken items, and his success comes from his IQ stat. Feel free to check out our IQ guide to find out more!
IQ also determines the chance of being confused by the Brainshock PSI.
The Luck stat determines the chances of avoiding status ailments.
Your party member’s stats will increase naturally through leveling up. You can also increase them with the equipment you wear.
You can also use stat capsules to permanently increase a stat by 1. There’s only a limited supply of capsules, so be careful who you use them on.
For the best characters to use them on, as well as their locations, check out our handy Capsule guide.
The Rolling HP & PP meter
This is undoubtedly one of Earthbound’s more unique mechanics – the rolling meters add a new layer of strategy in battle.
You’ll see your character’s status boxes displayed at the bottom of the battle screen. These contain each member’s current HP and PP amounts, as well as the status ailment they may be suffering from.
Instead of taking damage, and having the amount subtracted instantly from your HP, your HP meter will start to roll down.
Likewise, any action that increases HP will lead to the meter rolling upwards.
The battle will continue as normal while this happens.
What this means is that even if you sustain enough damage to kill a party member, they can still act until their meter actually rolls to 0. This allows for a certain level of strategy.
Let’s say you’ve taken damage, and your meter is rolling down towards 0. If you can act quickly enough and use a healing item or PSI, you can not only survive the mortal blow, but also get your HP meter rolling back up.
Also, using the Defend command will actually slow the rolling meter, but the speed will return to normal on your next turn.
Although the PP meter also rolls, it doesn’t allow for such sneakiness.
When using a PSI ability, the PP cost is subtracted automatically.
This is your standard form of dealing damage.
Ness, Paula and Poo will have the Bash command, whereas Jeff’s will be called Shoot.
Basic attacks can be used against a single target, and the amount of damage dealt is determined by the user’s Offense stat vs the target’s Defense stat.
Basic attacks from an unarmed party member have a 1/16 miss chance, and if armed then the accuracy is determined by the equipped weapon.
The Crying status will drop the accuracy of basic attacks by 50%.
PSI is Earthbound’s unique twist on magic, and requires PP to use.
There’re a variety of PSI abilities in Earthbound, which can be used by enemies as well as learned by the party.
Each party member can use their own selection of PSI abilities, and they learn them by leveling up. Jeff is the only character who can’t use PSI.
PSI abilities come in four different categories:
- Offense PSI – attacks that deal damage.
- Recover PSI – abilities that restore HP, PP or cure status ailments.
- Assist PSI – used to increase or decrease stats, put up shields or inflict status ailments.
- Other PSI – PSI that can only be used outside of battle.
PSI abilities increase in level, which is signified by Greek letters. In order of power – Alpha (α), Beta (β), Gamma (γ), and Omega (Ω).
All PSI attacks deal fixed damage ranges which are determined by their level. Stats have no bearing on the amount of damage dealt or HP restored from PSI.
PSI Fire, PSI Freeze and PSI Thunder form the elemental backbone of Earthbound.
Ness also has access to PSI Rockin’ which is non-elemental, and deals huge damage to all enemies.
He can also learn PSI Flash, which doesn’t deal damage but instead has a chance to inflict Crying, Numbness or outright kill enemies.
Poo can use PSI Starstorm, which not only deals more damage than PSI Rockin’, but also doesn’t miss and targets all enemies.
Healing is used by Ness and Poo, and is used to heal status ailments. The effects increase for each level.
Ness and Poo can also use Lifeup, which is your staple method of restoring HP to the party.
PSI Magnet is learned by Paula and Poo, and absorbs PP from enemies.
Paula has access to both Offense Up and Defense Down, which can be used to make your party stronger and your opponents weaker.
Ness can learn Paralysis to inflict the Numb status, and Hypnosis to put enemies to sleep.
Shield protects you from physical attacks, with higher levels even dealing some damage back to the attacker.
PSI Shield offers the same protection but for PSI attacks, and higher level versions can reflect all the damage back to the user.
I’ll pair these two commands together since they’re both fairly self-explanatory.
Using Goods with a party member will open up their inventory menu. From there, you can use any item they currently possess.
Items come in many forms and have many different uses, from dealing damage, restoring HP, inflicting status effects and increasing stats.
Earthbound features a large selection of Food items. You can supplement the effects of these using Condiments. Our Condiment guide will help you choose the right combinations.
Some items can only be used by Jeff. These come in the form of gadgets, which Jeff himself has fixed from broken items.
When you Defend with a party member, they will take less damage from attacks for one turn.
It also slows down the rolling HP meter for the remainder of that turn.
How Auto Fight Works
Personally, I think this command should be mandatory for all JRPGs.
When you use Auto Fight in Earthbound, the battle will commence without your input.
Your party will follow a set script depending on the conditions of the battle.
- Paula and Jeff will always attack a random enemy
- Ness and Poo will do the same, unless certain criterias are met
- They will use Lifeup on characters with low HP, and Healing on characters that have status ailments or flat out Unconscious.
You can leave this until the battle is over, or you can press B to end Auto Fight prematurely, and continue manually choosing commands.
Status Effects in Earthbound
Just like any other JRPG, Earthbound features its own selection of status effects.
These can be inflicted by both the party as well as enemies.
|How To Cure
|You cannot act at all in battle. Signified by a “zzz” in the character’s Status Box
|Heals automatically at the end of the battle or after a few turns; Healing PSI; Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Unable to use PSI abilities. Signified by a large X over a character’s PP meter
|Heals automatically at the end of the battle or after a few turns.
|Afflicted characters take 4 HP damage per turn. Signified by a runny nose icon.
|Heals at the end of the battle; PSI Healing PSI; Cold Remedy, Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Drops Basic Attack accuracy by half. Signified by a crying eye icon.
|Heals at the end of the battle; PSI Healing PSI (β and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Exactly the same effects as Unconscious. If all characters are Diamondized it’s a game over. Afflicted characters will take the form of a walking diamond.
|Blue Haired Healers; Hot Springs; PSI Healing PSI (γ and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Secret Herb.
|Afflicted characters will use random attacks on random targets, including other party members.
|Healed at end of battle; PSI Healing (β and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Only Ness can be affected by this if he hasn’t called his mother for a long time. He will waste turns in battle instead of acting.
|Talk to Ness’ mom either in person or on the phone.
|Afflicted characters will have a mushroom on their head, and will sometimes attack allies instead.
|Blue Haired Healer; Talk to mushroom-picking girl in Peaceful Rest Valley; Hot Springs.
|Causes afflicted characters to take 20 HP damage per turn. Indicated by a ‘cross-eyed, frowny face icon.
|Hot Springs; PSI Healing (β and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Prevents you from using your basic attack command. Indicated by a jagged line icon.
|Hot Springs; Blue Haired healers; PSI Healing (γ and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Secret Herb.
|Causes afflicted characters to take 20 HP damage per turn. Indicated by a skull and crossbones icon.
|Hot Springs; PSI Healing (β and up); Vial of Serum, Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Causes a Tiny Lil Ghost to periodically attack you or attempt to solidify someone. Indicated by a ghost icon.
|Hot Springs; Blue Haired healers; The Tiny Lil Ghost can be killed during battle.
|Prevents you from acting for one turn.
|Healed at the end of the turn.
|Afflicted characters take 4 HP damage per turn. Signified by a sun icon.
|Hot Springs; PSI Healing; Wet Towel, Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Refreshing Herb, Secret Herb.
|Basically means you’re dead and can’t act during battle. If all party members are Unconscious it’s a game over. Afflicted characters will resemble an angel.
|Hot Springs; Nurse at hospital; PSI Healing (γ and up); Cup of Lifenoodles, Horn of Life, Secret Herb.
Unique Battle Skills
Paula, Poo, and Jeff all have a unique battle command.
We’ll end this guide by briefly covering each of their unique commands below:
Pray has a variety of effects. When used by Paula an effect is chosen at random.
The most common outcome is a small amount of HP restoration for the party. It can also revive all Unconscious allies to full HP and restore PP for the party.
Occasionally it has the chance to inflict Sleep and Feeling Strange on all enemies.
Pray also plays a vital part during the final encounter with Giygas.
Spy will reveal an enemy’s Offense and Defense stats. It will also reveal one of their PSI weaknesses.
But its most useful function is that it will steal an enemy’s item if they’re carrying one in battle. This is great for items with 1/128 drop rates, and negates the need to actually defeat the enemy.
Mirror is a rather situational skill that transforms Poo into one enemy he’s currently facing.
It has a low success rate though, and can’t be used on bosses.
When it’s eventually successful, it renders Poo uncontrollable during the battle. He will then auto attack using the enemy’s moveset at random.
This can be useful if Poo has low PP, because all abilities other than PSI will not consume PP.