Onett is a location in the video game EarthBound, and is the hometown of the first protagonst, Ness. One of Earthbound's major differences with other 1990s JRPGs is that instead of being set in a fantasy or science fiction setting, it was set in a version of The United States of America (called "Eagleland"). Onett is then a typical small American town, as it might be idealistically portrayed by a Japanese man with a fondness for American culture. Its name is derived from the number "One", and the next three towns you visit are all named with variations on numbers as well.

The exact era and setting of Onett is not explained, and in some ways is left ambiguous. It seems to be based on a version of the 1950s, with small town diners and gangs of rockabilly teens, but it also includes technology that seems to be more from the era of its release. Its size is also ambiguous: Ness' neighborhood only consists of a few suburban homes, and there are a few more scattered around the map, but the center of Onett has a large town hall, courthouse, hospital and several other buildings that seem to be from a larger city. In some ways, this seems typical of the mixed view that Americans have had of their cities: quaint and cozy, yet technological and growing, nostalgic yet modern. I can imagine that this disparate view is amplified for a foreign fan of the United States, although given EarthBound's overall tone, there could be some gentle mocking here, as well.

It was a cliché in JRPGs that the plot would begin with a seemingly naive or unconcerned young man, whose small town existence would be disrupted when his hometown was destroyed by some disaster. In most games of this era, this was a dragon attack or imperial squadron. In EarthBound, the life of the protagonist is disrupted when a strange but seemingly harmless meteorite impacts just outside of the city. A comet was already on the way to becoming a motif in Japanese culture when this game was designed: comets presaged the events of the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion and Final Fantasy VII, and they would later be used in the same symbolic role in works like Adventure Time and (of course) Homestuck. Here, the comet seems to herald the end of the pleasant illusion that Ness is living in the town of Onett, as its introduction compels him first to learn more about the town he lives in, and then to move into the wider world. Onett, like the game itself, serves as both a tribute to, and a gentle warning about, the safe, idealized world of childhood.

I first played this game on my first Linux laptop, and I remember taking the train home from Portland, and playing this game. In Onett, and Spokane. This was a few weeks before the 2012 Election, and was the last time, I think, that my life was normal, or rather that I could live in a world that was an extension of the world I grew up in. Soon after, things would begin to change, and the nostalgic small town life I kept wanting to return to would be closed to me forever. And my visit to the town of Onett would be, in retrospect, my goodbye.

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