The story begins when Ness is awakened by a meteorite that has plummeted near his home, whereupon he proceeds to investigate the crash site. After going there, he encounters a roadblock and Pokey (known in Japan and in later games as "Porky"), Ness's neighbor, who states that Ness should simply go home. After he goes to bed, he is then woken up by Pokey knocking at his door. He states that his little brother is missing, and he needs Ness' help to find him. Ness, along with his pet dog, King, accompany Pokey and set out for his younger brother. After searching, they go to where the meteorite landed. After arriving, Ness encounters an alien named Buzz Buzz, who informs Ness that he is from the future where a hostile alien, Giygas, dominates the universe. Buzz Buzz instructs Ness to embark on a journey to defeat Giygas in the present, because he is too powerful in the future. Ness then proceeds to seek out eight "sanctuaries," to unite his own powers with the Earth's and gain the strength required to confront Giygas. Buzz Buzz is later killed by Pokey's mom, who mistakes Buzz Buzz for a dung beetle. Dying, Buzz Buzz gives Ness the Sound Stone, an item that is vital to the completion of his quest.
Ness proceeds on his quest through a variety of locales, including the towns of Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside, an icy country called Winters, a beach resort called Summers, an Eastern Asian-esque land called Dalaam, a far-off place called Scaraba (which is based on modern Egypt and includes mulukhiyah and pyramids), and a dream world called Magicant. As he goes on his journey, he encounters a variety of characters, including the other three chosen ones, Paula, a fellow psychic girl from Twoson, Jeff, a young mechanical genius from Winters, and Poo, a young prince from the far off land of Dalaam. There are several enemies that Ness encounters in EarthBound, including Giygas' army of Starmen. The group often runs into a blues band called the Runaway Five, helping them out and being helped out in return. Throughout the game, Ness runs into Pokey, who had joined with Giygas to take over the world. Ness eventually activates all of his "Sanctuary" locations, discovers Magicant within himself, and defeats his "Nightmare", which represented all of the evil hidden away in Ness' heart, unlocking his true power. Jeff's father, Doctor Andonuts, creates a device that will allow them to travel to the past to battle against Giygas - however, they are forced to transfer their souls into robot bodies, as organic material cannot withstand the warp through time. In the past, they encounter Giygas and Pokey (commanding a giant spider mech), who informs Ness and the others that Giygas has consumed so much evil power, that his mind was completely destroyed and is being held in a somewhat stable form using a machine called the "Devil's Machine". After defeating Pokey, the machine turns off, unleashing Giygas' power which destroys the machine and creates a chaotic, bizarre dimension, trapping himself and the four children in darkness. Giygas uses psychic attacks that Ness and the others can't defend against, and speaks in a confused babble. Paula then prays reaching out to a variety of people on Earth, such as their family and friends, who all pray for their safety, and eventually, she reaches out to the player, whose prayers defeat Giygas, due to his weakness to human emotions. Pokey escapes into a time warp, and Ness and his friends manage to have their spirits returned to their bodies, and they all return to their homes (with the exception of Paula, who Ness escorts home). After the credits, Picky gives Ness a message from Pokey, daring him to come looking for him.
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“Mr. Wiggam, I want you to change the policy of The Clarion. I want you to write a story I should have written myself long ago. I want you to tell the people of San Francisco that no city can exist without law and order. Write a story about that flag, write about what verifies and brings a promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are some people in this town who dont seem to know that. Let The Clarion tell them.”
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