Building Character: Earthbound’s Defining Citizen

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

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Earthbound Boxart

The Mother/Earthbound games have been heralded as some of the greatest video games of all time. They are absurdist, bizarre, insanely original, and are also some of the deepest games many gamers have ever touched. The story of young boy Ness and his group of friends is the childhood we always wanted: psychic powers, a meteorite that  crashes down to Earth, and an alien on board that has come to tell you that you are a special snowflake.  The adventure that could take place in any town — in any city — is happening… But most importantly, it is happening in yours. The taking on of corrupt adults and evil bullies; the loving mom that will make your favorite dish whenever you come home; the absent father who will call you and tell you that he’s proud of you — these are all things that we have wanted since the day we gazed out into the ever expanding horizon standing on our own two feet. Which is why the Mother/Earthbound series appeals to anyone who’s desired adventure in our world where all maps have been charted. At first glance, there are so many great characters to discuss that it is hard to pick just one — however! You. You the true Earthbound fan.  You know right away who best symbolizes the game. Who best reminds us of ourselves and who is easiest to connect with. And that character, dear friends, is The Black Sesame Seed.

earthbound black sesame seed

No, that’s not a speck of dust on your screen. That is a one pixel large character. You find The Black Sesame Seed in the Dusty Dunes Desert. Trying to avoid the longest traffic jam in history, Ness and crew take the pretty foolish route of charging into the hot sands. Right away the characters begin to sweat and soon at least one of them will get heat stroke. Even the music itself is reminiscent of heat and mirages. And then you bump into something. You look at the screen. You try to walk again. You walk away. No, you tell yourself, that’s in the game and my screen isn’t broken. So, you talk to it, because why not? This is Earthbound and we just stopped a zombie invasion by using large fly paper.

Why would you feel like talking to a tiny black sesame like me.

Well, why do we? Right away this mere seed hits us with questions we may not be ready to face. Why are we talking to a seed? Why are we playing this game? Why are we not choosing to do something else? Yet the seed continues talking, lonely, and we listen.

I wanna apologize to the white sesame that I hurt before.

There is so much going on here. This Black Sesame Seed has a history, a past, a life before we came along.  You feel a bit of guilt. Seconds ago you thought that this character was a malfunction of your TV. Isn’t this seed but a symbol for the thousands, no, millions of people we pass by every day? People whose names and stories we will never know? The seed never tells us what happened. That is a private thing for him. After all, we cannot expect complete strangers to go into the intimate details of their lives.

If I could just see her.

There is guilt here, a strange sadness that I could not grasp at as a child. He knows he hurt this White Sesame Seed and wants nothing more but to make amends. This is regret. Deep down he feels that it is a hopeless wish that will never happen. So what do we, the players, do? We go out in search of this White Sesame Seed. We will find her and we will return them so that he may give out his apologies for whatever he did. The first time I played this game, I never found her. I got fed up with all the heat stroke and battles and dying. I gave up. I gave up but I did not forget. Now I was the one with regrets. I knew I was missing some great item. Years later when I went to pick the game back up, I ran into him again. I told myself I would find his White Sesame Seed. I didn’t care so much about the side-quest’s item anymore. I just wanted to see what would happen. So I trekked through the desert, sweating and cursing my way through. I looked at a FAQ, but what good is a FAQ for finding something one pixel large? When I bumped into her, I smiled. This would be a happy ending.

earthbound white sesame seed

I heard that the black sesame I used to love is somewhere in this desert. If you see him, please tell him that I still love him.

One cannot talk about The Black Sesame Seed without talking about The White Sesame Seed. Her tone is so different from the Black. She is calm, composed and has not let her emotions turn her into a mess as The Black Sesame Seed has. And she loves him still. I remembered my grin stretching to the edges of my face. Yes, yes! A happy ending! Maybe a cool item!

Really? You’ve seen him already? Was he okay? …Hmmm, I see.

While she is excited at our news that The Black Sesame Seed is okay and that he wants to apologize, she only acknowledges the words with careful thought. Wait, I remember saying aloud, Why aren’t you coming with me? Why can’t I fix your problem? Your relationship? I shook my head, I had to find The Black Sesame Seed. Maybe I could move him instead.

What? The white sesame still… loves me?! Weep, weep…

The Black Sesame Seed did not leave his spot. I felt a little embarrassed. Here was this character, whom I didn’t even realize was a character, who I now wanted to help (and did), sobbing in front of me. He gave me no item and yet I didn’t care. All this emotion was enough. I had done something nice. Wasn’t that a reward in and of itself? Wasn’t it silly of me to think that I, some great hero, could fly in and solve this couple’s problems? Who the hell was I anyway? I walked away, back into the steaming desert. The seeds would never be reunited. Their love stayed with them while they would forever be apart. They were just seeds tossed about by the wind. What chance did they have? You will always have moments in your life when you realize that you have grown up. This, for me, was one of them. There were some things beyond my control. Sure, we could go and save the world, but the heart of man would forever remain unknowable, undefeatable. Maybe — just maybe — the seeds would choose to get back together. Maybe they wouldn’t. Maybe they were more like us in the way that we can be slaves to fate; the way forces beyond our control and understanding would constantly throw us about and separate us from people that we care about. The desert felt cold then. Cold and so impossibly alone.   A few years later, however, I picked up Mother 3’s fan translation. Lucas and crew were climbing that tower in New Pork City. We were getting ready to take down that jackass Porky. Ugh, I hated him so much. We sat down in a boat after playing his stupid games and I watched as familiar objects passed us by: Tess, the Runaway Five’s van, even our old bike. And then there, in that last stand, was maybe the only nice thing Porky had ever done. The two seeds were reunited once more.

 mother 3 reunited

    Thanks to for the insanely helpful script dump.

We hope you enjoyed this humorous entry in the Building Character series! Stay tuned for the rest of this month as we continue to focus on silly characters in the spirit of April Fools’ Day!

About Antonin Kořenek

Antonin has been playing video games since before he could read. Once he did, he fell in love with their stories and worlds. He spends most of his gaming time with either story-based or strategy games. As an aspiring novelist, he blames games like Earthbound and Final Fantasy Tactics for getting him started. Antonin graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI with a degree in English Literature. When not gaming, he can be found reading, obsessing over something on Twitter, or researching strange folklore.