Of all the series represented in the Super Smash Brothers franchise, the Earthbound series is the only franchise that has more than one game and has all of those games be represented with a stage. From the NES title, Earthbound Beginnings, we have Magicant (3DS). For the SNES sequel, Earthbound, we have Onett (in all of home console releases starting with Melee), as well as having Fourside (Melee only). Finally, we have New Pork City in Brawl based on the final area of the game in the Japan-only GBA title, Mother 3.
Now that every game is represented, Sakurai and his team no longer have to use that factor when deciding what level to base a new Earthbound stage on. With the recent Western release of Earthbound beginnings, two of the three Mother titles have left Japan. Therefore, a larger audience is aware of additional areas from the Earthbound series. This has all led me to choose Mt. Itoi (a.k.a. Holy Loly Mountain in the Japanese version) as the next potential Earthbound based arena.
As an RPG franchise, the Earthbound series has explored many different areas through-out its games–from snowy mountains to abandoned cities to old castles. This gives the Earthbound series a broad range of choice for where to base its next arena.
However, many of the iconic areas from each game have already been used. Magicant is arguably the most visited area in Earthbound Beginnings. It is a safe haven that you can warp to during any point of the game. It houses a major character, Queen Mary, and is designed to be important to the main hero, Ninten. Speaking of important places, Onett is the home town of Ness from Earthbound and where his adventure begins. It is where the player learns all of the basics and so a lot of time is spent here. As well, in a game where the player can suffer from homesickness, ‘what is ‘home?’ plays an important factor and Onett is home to Ness and Earthbound. It is where the game both starts and ends.
Fourside is definitely the least important area from the Earthbound series represented in Smash however it is still a major landmark of the game. It is the biggest town in the whole game and also the point where you realize that the enemies have more presence than you initially thought. It can also represent two areas of the game, Fourside and Moonside, the latter of which is a very strange but memorable location in the Earthbound series. Finally, New Pork City is the area where the final chapter takes place. It is home to the main villain of Mother 3 and where all of Lucas’ troubles came from. It is where all of the endgame takes place as well as everything that comes with that both from a story and gameplay perspective. It is the only definitively evil area from the Earthbound series represented.
I believe that Mt. Itoi represents the same kind of stage as New Pork City. It is the end game of Earthbound Beginnings where all of Ninten’s greatest trials and revelations appear. The enemies here are the toughest you will fight in the whole game, with Giygas waiting for you at the peak next to the final melody and the grave of your grandfather George who helped cause all of this. Many iconic moments happen on Mt. Itoi such as Ana’s confession, the battle with the giant robot, EVE and everything that happens with her as well as the previously mentioned Grave and Giygas battle. The mountain itself is also iconic to the game, appearing in the background early on and being talked about throughout the title. It even appears as the central focus of the games advert, with our three heroes fighting the giant robot coming down from the mountain and then staring off at its imposing figure.
Mt. Itoi: Hazards and Statistics
Before going on any further, I thought I would list the sort of music you could expect to find on this stage so you can listen to them while you continue to read. The first two tracks would be the ones found on the 3DS as well, so enjoy:
-Mt. Itoi theme (remix)
Next, here are some general statistics before we get into the nitty-gritty of the level:
|Stage Size||Small (e.g. Dream Land 64, Battlefield, Planet Zebes)|
|Blast Zones||the Mid-Range|
|Gimmick||Whirlpool & Geyser, water-based hazards|
You might be wondering where on Mt. Itoi a stage would appear– would it be the whole mountain; just the peak; or the foot? Thankfully, there is one area of the mountain that stands out greatly and can lend itself to an interesting stage mechanic. Half-way up the mountain is a gigantic lake the houses a secret. A giant underground lab that not even the enemies have found. The only thing of interest in this lab is the giant robot EVE. However, to get into this lab you have to steer your boat into the middle of the lake where a whirlpool awaits you. This will be important to the stage as the whirlpool will be the central hazard of our level.
The stage itself has a very simple layout. Floating above the lake is three platforms, 2 that are of equal length and height that make up the middle of the stage. One is on the left and the other is on the right with a space in between. Above this is a moving platform that is just a tiny bit smaller than the central platforms. This platform will move from left to right and then back again. Its design is based on the unknown lab that is below the lake, to look like it may have come from there. At the bottom of the stage is a big body of water, obviously the aforementioned lake. Players will be able to swim in it, making spikes and meteor smashes not as effective in this arena. There will also be a boat that floats in the center of the stage, within the space between the two central platforms. This boat itself is a platform but it is the most risky platform.
In terms of size, this arena is approximately the same as the Battlefield proportions, but with slightly bigger central platforms and no large bottom floor to fight on. The water plays a major component in this level as falling in it is a major Hazard. You cannot just jump straight of the water to get back up to the safer platforms, you will have to use the boat or your recovery move in order to make it up. To tie into this difficulty, the central platforms cannot be jumped through. They are solid. The moving platform is not however. Overall, the idea of the water is to make it like a spider’s net (not literally). Falling into it means your chance of death increases however you are not helpless; escape is a possibility for those who try. This means it is still worth spiking and meteor smashing opponents into the water as it is not safe. Why is it not safe? Well…
As I mentioned earlier, there is a secret lab underneath the lake, and the only entrance to it is through a whirlpool that is in the center of the lake. At the beginning of the Hazard cycle, a whirlpool will begin, and suck players to its center. You know the hazard is about to start when the boat in the middle of the lake begins to break and capsize. The whirlpool starts of slow, slowly sinking the boat and slowly pulling in players. At this stage, it is manageable and you can still escape. However, once the boat has sunk, the current will get stronger, and the chance of escape from this water will go to as low as 1%. A well timed jump may save you but for most players, you will be dragged below into the secret lab and KO’ed. The whirlpool is the major hazard of this arena and is comparable to the current of Jungle Japes from Melee.
With the first stage of the hazard out of the way, the players now get a brief pause, a moment to fight it out without worry. The boat platform is still missing meaning all that is left are the other 3. Eventually, the water on either the left or right hand side of the stage will begin to bubble up and dips down a bit. This is a signal that the next stage of the Hazard will begin and also what side it will happen on. Whether the Hazard happens on the left or right hand side is random, but a giant geyser of water will burst through the lake, sending any player caught in it skyward, leading to a Star KO. Due to the moving platform not having a determinable location, this means that during this stage of the Hazard, only 1 platform is 100% safe, so I imagine every player will be scrambling to get on it.
So, what is the cause of this watery explosion? Why it is the friendly robot EVE, emerging from the secret lab below the lake. And do not worry, as my epithet for her shows, she will not harm any players but in fact, will help them. From this point on, there is no more hurting hazards until the cycle begins anew. EVE will move across the bottom of the screen, essentially becoming another moving platform and replace the boat for a period of time. Her large, oval shaped head makes for a good platform for players to fight on or just use as a means of getting back into the fight. Eventually, EVE will begin to move off the right hand side of the screen so make sure you are not on her when she does. She will always move off to the right. After a few seconds she will come back, pulling behind her a brand new boat that will take the place of the missing boat from before. With her mission done, she will sink back below the lake and the Hazard cycle will have come to an end. The whole cycle will take roughly 2-2 ½ minutes and another minute will pass before the next cycle begins. This means that in a normal 2 minute game you will be able to see all this stage has to offer.
The background of the level contains many of the key landmarks from Mt. Itoi that I talked about earlier in the article. On the left hand-side of the stage are the ruins of the giant enemy robot R7038 that Ninten and his party will have fought before. He is sitting in a pose similar to the one he takes in the Mother 1 advert as seen previously in the article. On the right hand side of the stage is the healer’s house. This house is usually found before the lake but it has been moved here to give the scenery some added elements. The house will have some trees around it. In the center of the background you will see a path heading up behind a rock, showing that the mountain continues on from this point. Also showing this is the top center of the stage, where George’s grave can be found, shining much like it does in the original game. Although it is hard to view this properly during battle and is more visible if the game gets paused and the camera moved. The same for the clouds that surround the peak of Mt. Itoi as seen in the adverts for the game and from in game sprite as seen from the top of Twinkle Elementary school.
Lastly I will talk about the Omega form and 8-Player Smash version of this stage. The Omega version would be in the floating style and would be higher off the lake. This means you will be able to see the peak more clearly and you will not fall into water. You would be on floating ground rather than something metallic, similar to the central platforms in this level. As for 8-Player Smash it is hard to guess what, if anything would be removed for it to work. If I had to remove something it would be the geyser hazard, but the rest could easily stay.
That is my idea for another Earthbound stage. It seems unlikely that Ninten will be added to the game because we already have Ness who is very similar. So it makes sense to represent the first game in the Earthbound franchise through stages and let Ness and Lucas represent each sequel respectively. But, do tell me what you think in the comments below. Would you fight on this stage? Does it sound fun? Does it represent the Earthbound series well? Let me know and i hope you look forward to the next edition of Dream Arenas!