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Though it was immensely popular after its 1994 release in Japan, EarthBound's 1995 release in North America only managed to produce a small (if curiously devoted) cult following. For the most part, the gameplay followed the traditional RPG formula, but it differentiated itself from other games of the time with its lack of an overworld map and its semi-infamous "rolling" hit point counters. It also featured a unique style that fell somewhere between a bizarre parody of American culture and an all-out drug trip, as well as one of the best and most varied soundtracks on the Super Nintendo.

 

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Single-segment: 4:11:02 by '_sdfg'.

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Author's comments:

Hey, everyone! This is a speedrun of EarthBound for the SNES in the glitchless category. "Glitchless" in this case means that you are not allowed to exploit the bugs in the game's movement engine that allow you to clip through walls or go completely out of bounds. Because of this restriction, glitchless runs cover most of the plot points one would see in a typical playthrough. If you've played EarthBound, but haven't seen an EarthBound speedrun before, runs in the glitchless category will look the most familiar. If you'd like to see how the game looks when you can take advantage of those glitches, please check out the any% major-skips run on SDA. It's quite a bit different from this run.

I want to thank a bunch of people who've worked on speedrunning this game (both realtime and tool-assisted) over the years and I don't want their names to get buried way down the page, so I'm gonna thank them now. Going alphabetically:

If I missed anyone, I do truly apologize! Those were the names that came to mind when I wrote this up, but I know many other people have been involved. Even if I forgot to list you, your contributions are no less appreciated! Feel free to PM me on the SDA forum and complain, though. >_>

I also want to thank everyone in my stream chat for keeping me company — and reminding me of stuff — while I was recording attempts. Names redacted to protect the innocent. KappaChamp.

Now that we're deep in tl;dr territory, I suppose I should talk about the run itself. The most noteworthy thing about this run, and the reason I decided to submit it to SDA, is that I believe it is the first single-segment, glitchless run of EarthBound to beat the game faster than the segmented run I submitted way back in 2008. The reason I was able to get such a time in one segment despite needing forty-two segments to do it five years ago is that modern EarthBound speedruns are based on a much better understanding of the game's design and mechanics than my old run. Also, the route has gotten more aggressive and skips a bunch of equipment and consumables that I got in the old run (yes, I just said that people now use more aggressive routes in single-segment runs than I used in my segmented run — speedrunning has come a long way in the past five years).

I don't want to cover my route in detail here because there's already a better place to go for EarthBound route info! The SDA Knowledge Base page for this game has complete route notes for glitchless and other categories. If you'd like to know what I'm trying to do at a given point in the run, you can pull up the notes there and follow along. Depending on how much the route has changed since I recorded this, though, you might have to use the history feature to look up the notes as of January 29th, 2014. :P

I do, however, want to give my opinion on each of the different segments of the run, so everyone has an idea of what they should expect from this run and from future runs.

Onett
Mediocre, but not too bad. I used luck manipulation to guarantee a quick trip up to the meteorite and a fast Starman Junior fight. After that, things were maybe a little slower than average. I got some tough luck with spawns toward the end of Giant Step and had to fight a few more Black Antoids than I wanted. Also, the Titantic Ant and cop fights were a bit more tense than usual. Still, I came out of Onett alive and I was only about a minute and a half behind the best time I've ever had at that point. A minute and a half sounds like a lot, but it's common to see swings of a minute or two from split to split simply based on where the game spawns enemies, so I didn't see a need to reset even this early in the run.
Twoson
All right. I got pretty good luck with enemies not spawning while picking up the Pencil Eraser, and kind of crummy luck on the way into Happy-Happy Village. After that, the run was about average. Getting through any part of the game without anything going wrong is always a good thing, though.
Winters
Good. I wasn't able to skip any of the enemies in the Brick Road dungeon, but the fights were all pretty fast (and Jeff didn't die). I spent a while trying to despawn enemies in the Rainy Circle cave, but that's honestly normal.
Threed and Grapefruit Falls
Not good. Boogey Tent decided to one-shot Paula, I got in three fights in the tunnel to Grapefruit Falls (you normally hope for one or two), I got in several fights around Grapefruit Falls (you normally hope for zero)... I could keep going, but this area could have gone much better. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to escape a few situations that could have ended the run. Also, I guess Belch's base didn't go too badly.
Dusty Dunes Desert
Par, I guess. It's rare to get in fights outside in the desert, so this run was not special there. I had worse luck than usual despawning enemies near the fourth mole and maybe slightly better than average luck despawning them before the last mole. The rest of the mine was typical.
Fourside
Really up and down. The department store, a common run-killer, was kind and gave me the best enemy group I could've hoped for (though the ideal pattern would have let me ambush them). Moonside started out well, with the Robo-pump in the café deciding to leave me alone. However, things turned ugly when Evil Mani-Mani paralyzed and then killed Jeff, who's supposed to be the main damage-dealer during the fight. As a result, I had to wait for Ness to get a Smaaash to end things, which used up the time I had "saved" by not healing in the shack after the mine (if I had healed, Ness could've used Rockin instead). After that, I had the worst Clumsy Robot fight of my life. Paralysis has a 50% chance of working on Clumsy Robot and it took Ness five tries! I've never seen it take more than three before. Incidentally, there's another strategy you can use for that fight where you chuck Super bombs until the robot dies. I'd thought it wasn't worth the time spent juggling inventory to make it work, but after this run, I think I'll have to look at it again. On the upside, I managed to slip past all the Sentry Robots in the Monotoli Building (one of them sometimes spawns in a place that makes it very difficult to dodge).
Rainy Circle and Summers
Worse than usual. Shrooom! isn't normally that hard. I tried to make up for the bad luck with Clumsy Robot by having Jeff continue firing rockets despite being mashroomized, and it backfired a bit. I also got more Mad Taxi spawns in Summers than I think I've seen before.
Kraken and Pyramid
The Kraken breathed fire immediately, so I lost time healing people after the battle. At least it was a one-round fight. The pyramid went well, though. I dodged most of the encounters that I could have dodged and I didn't waste much time paralyzing and running from the enemies I did fight.
Southern Scaraba
Fair to poor. Spawn luck has a big effect on your time through this area and I did not get good spawn luck in Dungeon Man. I also don't think I did an effective job dealing with the spawns I did get. So, I lost at least a couple minutes compared to an ideal run through this area.
Deep Darkness
Terrible. I got tripped up in the shop menu a couple times, which is uncharacteristic for me (I normally get tripped up in all of the other menus :P). I also got a lot of spawns in the first part of the swamp and wasted a lot of time trying to figure out how to teleport around them. I'd say the swamp should normally go a minute faster than this. The part of the swamp after Master Barf went according to plan, though.
Stonehenge
Great! I didn't get have any trouble getting past the enemies on the way to the base. Once inside, I only got two black-swirl encounters, and I was able to run from both of those on the second round. I also spent less time than usual trying to despawn enemies in the earlier parts of the base. This is definitely one of the strongest parts of the run.
Lumine Hall
Pretty good. I spent a while trying to despawn enemies, but I only got in two fights, and one of them was an ambush. I did get rough luck in the Electro Specter fight and need to use a third Multi-bottle rocket to finish it off, though (I probably should've had Paula throw her extra Super bomb instead). That's the risk of waiting until after the fight to get the Rabbit's foot like I do.
Magnet Hill
Decent. I was able to avoid fights throughout most of the sewer, but I also had to despawn several enemies, which takes a while when your party is neck-deep in sewage. Also, I got a little careless and let myself get too close to a cockroach at the end to be able to despawn it efficiently. Still, getting through here with only one fight is reasonable.
Pink Cloud
Good. The enemies in here only got a couple turns to attack before I ran from them, and I didn't take enough damage to have to worry about healing. It is possible to get through with fewer fights, but it's also quite rare.
Lost Underworld
I had a bit of bad luck getting to Fire Springs and needed to fight a Chomposaur. After that, though, this area went very well! Several enemies gave me patterns that allowed me to ambush them or move by them completely. I also got lucky despawns in a couple of the tunnels on my first try. The one ambush I took didn't hurt much because I was able to run immediately. Because of all this, I had one of my fastest runs through this area. Jeff dying against Diamond Dog was pretty funny, though.
Lilliput Steps
Since the enemies all hide from you if you come through late in the game, it's pretty hard to have a "good" or "bad" run through here. I guess I did avoid accidentally running into any bears.
Milky Well
Not good. The enemies in here can randomly decide to attack you or run from you, and most of them chose to attack. You can compensate for this by eating a Skip sandwich and running in for ambushes during your invulnerability period, but I did a poor job of timing my approaches and only got one ambush. I also ate the Skip sandwich DX too early. This part can be done a lot better.
Magicant
I was supposed to give Ness the Rabbit's foot before starting Magicant and I didn't. I haven't bothered to time it, but I'd guess I lost about a minute trying to run from enemies compared to what would've happened if Ness had been carrying the +40 speed boost. Because of that one mistake, I think I have to call this the worst part of the run. It didn't help that I forgot you can hypnotize the French Kiss of Death >_<. At least I did a decent job dodging enemies and I got a good Nightmare fight.
Invaded Onett
I did maybe a couple more teleports than I would've liked, but I got through without any fights and I got surprisingly few spawns as I approached the summit. So, I'd say this part went okay. One side note: I accidentally picked up an extra Brain food lunch earlier in the run. I moved it to Jeff here so he could use it to recover Poo's PP during the Giygas fight if the need came up. Normally, though, I wouldn't have the lunch at all.
Cave of the Past
Incredible. I don't think I've ever seen so few enemies in the cave. In a typical run, I would've fought three more enemies before getting up to where I had the first fight in this run. The above-average spawn luck continued through the rest of the cave, and I was able to run from any Starmen I fought on the first turn (watching each of your party members take damage from Starstorm and then having to heal your party costs a lot of time). I also had a very good Giygas fight, only a couple rounds slower than I would expect to ever get with the strategy I used. To give a better idea of how well this part went, I reached Giygas more than a minute faster than I had in any previous run, and my Giygas fight was only two seconds slower than my previous best. It will be very difficult to save time over this part in future runs, especially considering that it comes at the very end of the game!

You probably noticed that I said much of the run went worse than I wanted it to. As it turns out, it's extremely unlikely that every part of an EarthBound speedrun will go the way the runner wants it to. Running this game is all about managing the bad luck you get and taking advantage of the good luck when it comes, and I think I was able to do that for the most part. I did lose a healthy (unhealthy?) chunk of time to mistakes, but I still feel this is a good representation of what an EarthBound speedrun should look like as of early 2014, and it's certainly a better representation than the segmented run it obsoletes.

I have no doubt that this run will be improved, and likely soon. For now, though, break out the eggnog and enjoy! :)

Single-segment with resets and large-skip glitches: 1:25:31 by 'nemi'.

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Author's comments:

This is a speed run of EarthBound using the stairs glitch. The stairs glitch causes your party to enter a "ghosted" state in which your party is able to walk through almost all solid objects, including walls, NPCs, trees, cliffs, etc. This allows for major skips and sequence breaks because every location in this game is laid out on a single large map. Normally, the party is unable to walk directly between adjacent locations because each area is surrounded by an impassible boundary of some kind, but entering a ghosted state allows the party to walk unimpeded by these boundaries.

I first got interested in this category after watching Mickey Mage's AGDQ 2012 run. Before watching his run, I had no idea EarthBound was so broken for speed running. The route I use is based on one devised by the Japanese runner ピロ彦 (Pirohiko), as shown in his 1:48:52 run (Nico timing) on the Japanese version. I also made use of a Lua script written by Pirohiko to devise the luck manipulation methods I used in this run.

Overall, this run has pretty good luck but has more menu navigation errors than I'd like. The amount of time saved due to luck more than makes up for the time lost from silly menu mistakes, however, and the run is definitely faster than what I can get on average.

Onett

4:58 - During nighttime Onett, I used luck manipulation to avoid unnecessary fights and ensure a 4-round Starman Jr. fight. Opening and closing the main menu and talking to no one for seemingly no reason were done to adjust the RNG.

12:59 - Frank fight: I accidentally selected "auto-fight" at the start...and I was lucky to get away with it. Frank can 2-hit KO Ness with his knife attack, so recovering after each hit is the safest strategy. The fight against Frank was about average, but I got a lucky SMAAAASH!! hit against Frankystein.

16:02 - First Sanctuary cave: This is the only part of the run were grinding is needed. The Titanic Ant is accompanied by 2 Black Antoids that use only Lifeup, so Ness should learn PSI Rockin α at level 8 before that fight.

In terms of time, this is also probably the most luck-dependent part of the run. Fighting Attack Slugs is the most efficient way of earning experience points, but they aren't the most common enemy in the cave. A couple of minutes can be gained or lost depending on how often they appear. This run actually had good luck in this regard.

Titanic Ant luck was below average. Ness's second PSI Rockin was blocked by PSI Magnet, and the Titanic Ant used Shield once. It also got a SMAAAASH!! hit, which has only a 5% chance of happening per hit. The risk of death is pretty high in this fight, so I'm just glad Ness survived.

25:52 - Police: There is some risk of death against the police, but it's not as bad as the Titanic Ant. Police luck was about average.

Twoson

29:38 - I discard everything I can from Ness's inventory and buy 8 Salt Packets and 3 Skip Sandwiches at Burglin Park. The Skip Sandwiches are used to skip Twoson and trigger the stairs glitch in Summers; the Salt Packets are used to exploit the condiments glitch to dupe a Brain Food Lunch later in the run. The condiments glitch can be used with any condiment, but a Brain Food Lunch with a Salt Packet recovers full HP/PP.

30:38 - Twoson skip: the walk-through-cliffs glitch is used to cross the cliffs south of the bus station. Crossing the cliffs leads to a road section that connects Threed and Dusty Dunes Desert.

One of the biggest time losses in this run occurs at the third cliff. I can usually cross this cliff after a few tries, but it ended up taking about 30 seconds in this run.

Threed

32:08 - I buy a Cup of Coffee to prepare for the first use of the stairs glitch. Coffee works well because it doesn't recover too few or too many HP and it doesn't consume a Salt Packet.

32:36 - My luck in the graveyard wasn't very good. More enemies appeared than usual, and it took about 30 seconds before I could proceed.

Winters

40:10 - With Jeff at level 1, the first Worthless Protoplasm is actually pretty dangerous. I have no use for the Big Bottle Rocket later in the run, so I use it here.

40:36 - It's possible to skip the Mad Duck, but setting up the skip can take more time than the fight itself depending on where the Mad Duck spawns.

41:16 - If I had waited for the Bubble Monkey to catch up to Jeff before walking past the second Worthless Protoplasm, I might've been able to skip this fight.

41:57 - Fourth Sanctuary cave: my luck with enemy spawns was quite bad in the second and third rooms. I spent almost 2 minutes trying to de-spawn enemies.

45:13 - I save and reset the game in Dr. Andonuts's lab to reset the RNG and set up for luck manipulation.

Stairs glitch

48:21 - Luck manipulation is used to enter a fight with 2 Urban Zombies and leave the fight with Ness at critical health with a cold and Paula and Jeff at 0 HP. Having Ness at 10 HP with a health-draining status effect triggers the critical health warning used to activate the stairs glitch. Having Paula and Jeff at 0 HP makes it possible to set up the stairs glitch later in the run.

After glitching to the museum in Summers, I save the game, reset, and make a copy of the save file. The second file is used as another way to trigger the glitch. Using a second file might seem questionable, but I think it's reasonable as long as the file is made during the course of the run. It's possible to have a file prepared beforehand, but I avoid doing that.

Once the glitch is activated, it's possible to go straight to Giygas, but the game will hang up during the first prayer. This is because each area that appears in the prayers needs to be "prepared" to run the scenes.

This preparation occurs when the party travels back in time with the Phase Distorter. Two events are needed to initiate the Phase Distorter quest:

  1. In Lumine Hall, fall through the hole leading to the Lost Underworld: this causes Dr. Andonuts to appear in Saturn Valley.
  2. Defeat Ness's Nightmare: this causes the Phase Distorter to appear.

Lost Underworld

49:57 - After the second file is made, the first file is loaded and the glitch is triggered again to go to Lumine Hall.

50:55 - While in the Lost Underworld, I get a Brain Food Lunch, a Horn of Life, and a Sea Pendant. The Brain Food Lunch is used with the above-mentioned Salt Packets to maintain Ness and Paula's PP during the Ness's Nightmare and Giygas fights. The Sea Pendant is used to protect from Ness's Nightmare's glorious light attack and Giygas's attacks.

Magicant

53:00 - The second file is used to activate the glitch. Before leaving the museum, I wait a bit because this makes the RNG less active.

Luck manipulation is used until the end of the first Kraken fight because enemies spawn very frequently otherwise. I also need the experience from the Kraken to let Paula learn PSI Shield Σ after defeating Ness's Nightmare.

57:59 - Luck manipulation ends once Ness levels up because the stats he gains depends on how he levels up throughout the run, which introduces randomness. That means I have little control over how the last 2 Krakens move. My luck with these Krakens was below average, and I lost about 30 seconds before they moved out of the way.

59:24 - My Ness's Nightmare luck was pretty good. I try to put it to sleep before using a Bag of Dragonite just in case Ness's Nightmare uses Shield β.

Giygas

1:14:08 - My luck against Giygas was the best I've ever had, and I ended up saving a minute over how long this fight usually takes me. Two SMAAAASH!! hits by Ness in the first phase is rare, and Poo managed to stay alive through the second phase. Paula also never fell since Giygas used his electrical shock attack only on the last round.

The only hiccup was Poo feeling strange during the second phase. This rarely happens, and I wasted a round before realizing Ness can use Healing β.

Single-segment with uber-large-skip glitches: 0:09:58 by 'nemi'.

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Author's comments:

This is a speed run of EarthBound using the "check area" glitch, which can give you access to the debug menu. The debug menu has an option to instantly warp you to certain events, one of which is the epilogue after the credits. Details on the glitch and how to exploit it to access the debug menu can be found at TASVideos (1, 2) and on SDA's Knowledge Base.

For a while, this glitch had been used only in tool-assisted runs, but a Japanese runner named 脳 (Nou) found a way to complete this run on console with the Japanese version of the game. His run can be found on Nico video.

Outline:

The "check area" glitch took a while to open the debug menu. I've seen the glitch open the debug menu after only 3~5 checks, but I never got that lucky in a successful run. If the glitch had behaved more optimally, this run could've been nearly 30 seconds faster.

Additionally, there are a couple of major tricks I excluded from the run: with a technique called "Stutter Walking", it's possible to skip the Starman Jr. fight and Buzz Buzz's final words. When I attempted these skips, however, I found my success rate was very low and ultimately decided against including these skips.

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