A SHORT INTRO
First of all, it recently occured to me that I haven’t posted here in almost a month. So I decided to use that as an opportunity to finally make this thread. To be honest, I’ve been dying to make it for the past couple of months. As you can tell from the title, I’m going to talk about a certain series of games. A series that doesn’t get enough love and appreciation here in the States. Hell, only one of those games was even released in the States! So without further ado, I think I’ll start from the beginning…
Created by Shigesato Itoi, Mother was released for the Nintendo Famicom (the Japanese NES, for those who don’t know) in 1989. It was about a boy named Ninten, who went on a quest to discover why his home was attacked by a poltergeist. On the way, he meets friends who accompany him on his journey and in the end, they wind up thwarting an alien invasion. The game had turn-based, menu-driven combat, similar to Dragon Warrior/Quest, but instead of a medieval fantasy world and the swords-n-sorcery seen in most other RPGs, Mother took place in a modern-day setting, where instead of swords and magic, you use baseball bats (or yo-yos) and psychic powers, which are referred to as PSI. Many other real world objects were utilized in the game, like ATMs, telephones, and using trains to travel long distances.
Overall, the game was a breath of fresh air from traditional RPGs and was really popular in Japan. A year later, Nintendo of America considered releasing it here, under the name of EarthBound, but they changed their minds at the last minute, even after they translated it and everything! Many years later, the only cartridge ever produced wound up in the hands of someone who dumped the data and created a ROM out of it! The title screen was hacked into EarthBound ZERO, so people would know that it’s the prequel to the game that prompted me to start this thread!
To be honest, if it wasn’t for emulation, I wouldn’t have known this game ever existed!
Mother 2 was released in '94 for the Super Famicom (Japanese SNES). Nintendo of America released the game as EarthBound in '95, but the game was pretty much a huge flop. Part of this can be blamed on consumers brushing the game aside for its lack of hardware-pushing graphics, and NoA themselves, whose crappy advertising campaign focused on the wrong aspects of the game, like using scratch-and-sniff magazine ads to plug the fart jokes and toilet humor. In fact, the US slogan for EarthBound was ‘This Game Stinks’ (Yeah, nice one). They went as far as throwing in a FREE Player’s Guide with the game, but even THAT wasn’t enough incentive to get people to buy it! It really sucks because the people who overlooked this gem missed out on something special.
The story begins with Ness, who is awakened in the middle of the night by a meteor crashing into the hills near his house. After checking it out, he learned that the meteor contained a messenger from the future, bearing news of the Earth’s destruction at the hands of an alien menace named Giygas. However, this messenger also delivered a prophecy, stating that Ness must join forces with three other children, unlock the full potential of his PSI abilities by claiming eight Sanctuaries located around the world, and defeat Giygas himself. There are several foes standing in Ness’s way, such as Giygas’s minions, humans and animals under his influence, and Pokey Minch, Ness’s fat, obnoxious next-door neighbor.
Despite its failure in the US, EarthBound was–and still is–a great game! It continues the tradition of its predecessor, while also improving upon it. The biggest and most notable improvement is the lack of random encounters. Enemies could be seen walking around onscreen, but they’d chase you down unless you had some means of outrunning them! Then again, it’s an RPG, and you’d probably want to get that EXP. This game may look childish and cute, but it’s just as challenging as any Final Fantasy out there (maybe even harder)! Don’t you DARE underestimate this game or else it will stomp the shit out of you, shove it back up your ass, and stomp it back out again!
So, yeah… the game’s pretty damn difficult, but it still manages to be as lighthearted and humorous as the previous installment… Until you get to the final stretch of the game and things do a COMPLETE 180 on you!
[details=Spoiler]The battle with Giygas is one of the most psychologically disturbing things I’ve ever seen in an RPG! Mr. Itoi must be some kind of genius to pull that shit! For about 95% of the game, it feels like a fun ride, with some tough challenges, good laughs, and even some WTF moments (like fighting a gigantic, living mass of vomit, named Master Belch), but everything gets really creepy and nerve-wracking once you get to the final battle. Giygas’s power has grown so much that his mind and body have been destroyed, transforming him into the embodiment of evil itself!
INTERESTING FACT: Giygas’s insane rambling is based on a traumatic childhood experience involving a young Shigesato Itoi wandering into an adult movie theatre and catching a glimpse of a violent rape scene.[/details]
After the final battle, the chosen four go their separate ways (but they promise to see each other again), Ness returns home to share the stories of his adventure with his mom, and everyone lives happily ever after…
OR DO THEY?!!
The third game in the series was originally announced in '96, and was intended to be released on the N64DD, a planned Nintendo 64 console add-on. Many problems stood in the way of Mother 3’s development, like canceling the release of the N64DD, and the development team’s difficulty with the 3D hardware. Eventually, the game was scrapped in 2000. Three years later, the game went back into development for the Gameboy Advance. In 2K6, the game was finally released in Japan, with the slogan ‘Strange, Funny, and Heartrending.’ Truer words were never spoken about a videogame. I’ve played it and it was definitely full of weirdness. Since it’s a Mother game, the humor was also there. As for that last part… Well…
I have no clue what the characters are saying, but in certain situations where I can pretty much figure out what’s going on, I was almost moved to tears! It’s also darker than the previous two games. The only thing more heartbreaking than this game is the fact that Nintendo is showing no signs of releasing it outside of Japan! However, a group of fans have decided to take matters into their own hands and are working on an English translation patch as we speak!
I’m not going to say anything about the plot, but as for the gameplay, there’s a sweet combo system that requires you to learn the different rhythms of each battle theme (oh, and there are TONS of 'em)! Speaking of music, this game has the most memorable theme for an evil army since the Imperial March, from Star Wars!
In closing, I’d like to say that a few months ago, I had an epiphany: EarthBound is THE greatest RPG I’ve ever played in my life and the only other RPG that equals its greatness is Chrono Trigger! I’m not sure what it is about the game, though! Maybe it’s the catchy music? Maybe it’s the satisfaction of nailing an enemy with a* SMAAAAAASH!* (critical) hit? Maybe the modern-day setting clicks with me? Maybe it’s the first game that let me beat up HIPPIES? Either way, it’s such a sorely underrated game series, but the fans ARE out there! If there’s any EB fans here on SRK, then don’t hesitate to share the love!
LINKS OF INTEREST!
http://starmen.net/ <—Largest Mother/EarthBound fansite on the net!
http://mother3.fobby.net/ <—Home of the Mother 3 Translation Project
http://www.wushuplaya.com/boundtogether/ <—Check out Bound Together, it’s full of some nice EB remixes!