|Release date(s)||March 22, 2000 (cancelled)|
"EarthBound 64" (officially known as MOTHER 3 豚王の最期) was a role-playing video game in development by Nintendo and HAL Laboratory for a variety of consoles including the Super Famicom, Nintendo 64DD and Nintendo 64. It was to be the third game in the EarthBound series which includes Mother and EarthBound for the NES and Super NES respectively. It was designed by series creator Shigesato Itoi and its art was done by Benimaru Itoh. The game suffered numerous delays due to the 64DD's failure and the designers' inexperience with the consoles' 3D technology. It was ultimately cancelled. The project was revived for the Game Boy Advance under the name Mother 3 with assistance from developer Brownie Brown in 2006. It used a 2D art style instead of this version’s 3D graphics.
The game would have featured 10 characters across 12 chapters including Lucas, Claus, Flint, Duster, Kumatora, Boney, and Salsa among others. The named characters would go on to be playable in the Game Boy Advance version. The main antagonist in both versions was Porky Minch and his Pigmask Army.
EarthBound 64 used a fighting style similar to its predecessors. Enemies were encountered by interaction on the overworld where they would have an exchange with the enemy. Upon entering battle, players would view the enemies from a first-person perspective and would have to select which actions they wished to execute in order to initiate combat. Commands included Fight, Stand, Check, Strength, Goods, Magic, Speak, and Call (of which the latter four were never available in playable demos). The game was intended to use the Nintendo 64’s Rumble Pak; the designers worried however that it would interfere with the battles. Designers planned a timing-based mechanic for use in battle. They utilized a “3D stick” that players would strum like a guitar chord. Characters featured several abilities, including jumping and spin attacks. Developers stated that the game would have taken 40 to 60 hours to beat for experienced gamers.
The designers wanted to make it a unique experience for every player. An example was that players would have been able to plant seeds to cause a tree to grow which players could climb to get up a cliff, while other players could find a way around the cliff instead. Another example was that players could drop food on the ground and attract hungry monsters.
The designers wanted players to be able to use the Nintendo 64DD’s features such as the ability to design faces for characters with Mario Artist and the console’s internal clock. After it was moved to the Nintendo 64, the developers began work on an add-on disk for the 64DD that would allow players to continue playing the game after completion with new quests tentatively titled Mother 3.5.
Story and setting
EarthBound 64 was to be set on Nowhere Islands and was going to take place 200 years after the events of EarthBound. It would have shown a ruined Onett, a town from ‘’EarthBound’’. The setting was described by IGN as futuristic and western. The plot of EarthBound 64 was written before development started. It would have featured 12 chapters spanning 10 years. It followed a man named Flint, his wife Hinawa, his twin sons Lucas and Claus, and his dog Boney. Other named protagonists included the thief Duster, the princess Kumatora, and the monkey Salsa. The antagonist was Porky Minch who led the Pigmask Army to enslave mankind. The main protagonist had not been chosen at the time; Itoi stated that he would have given Lucas that role. The first two chapters would feature different heroes and it would have 10 main characters One of the character’s plot was that his 40-year-old father mysteriously disappears during the course of the game. The settings included fantasy, medieval, and futuristic worlds.
The game was designed by Shigesato Itoi and its art created by Benimaru Itoh. Development of the game began on the Super Famicom shortly after the Japanese release of Mother 2. Development shifted to the Nintendo 64DD and the game was titled Mother 3: Chimera no Mori in Japan. It was planned to be one of its four launch titles. The subtitle was dropped due to copyright issues over the word Chimera. The game's title was changed to Mother 3: Kikai Seibutsu no Mori. The final title was Mother 3: Butaō no Saigo. After the commercial failure of the 64DD peripheral, the project was migrated to the Nintendo 64 cartridge format alone. Nintendo Power expected it to be one of the first 100 video games released for the Nintendo 64. It would use a 256 megabit cartridge similar to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Itoi's team ran into trouble while developing this game due to their inexperience with 3D games and their inexperience with the Nintendo 64. They received assistance from the development tools and the Pokémon Stadium development team to improve its visuals. Itoi stated that a Super Famicom version would have released much sooner. It was playable at Spaceworld in 1999 but was later delayed to March 22, 2000. It was revealed that the game would not appear at the 2000 E3 convention.
Itoi confirmed the cancellation of Mother 3 later that year. Itoi claimed that its delays and cancellation were because of his ambition in the project. Other reasons for its cancellation included high costs and the development staff having been placed on Nintendo GameCube projects. After it was cancelled, the development team played through what was completed and gathered screenshots, and performed a roundtable discussion about the game's development and cancellation, for Itoi's website. In that discussion, co-contributors Miyamoto, Itoi, and Satoru Iwata each expressed great disappointment and remorse for themselves and for and the gamers who had been looking forward to Mother 3. People continued to ask Itoi when Mother 3 was going to be released even after its cancellation, to which Itoi stated that he expected it to be released someday.
Prominent Nintendo producer Shigeru Miyamoto commented that while he would like to see remnants of the game come back, he felt it unlikely that they would be seen in the EarthBound series. He and others negotiated with Itoi to see if a licensing agreement could be worked out to salvage the project.
They stated that if there were 500,000 people that were looking forward to Mother 3 their attitude may have been different. Both Miyamoto and then President of HAL Laboratory Satoru Iwata expressed an interest in reviving it.
Itoi announced at a Super Smash Bros. concert that an announcement of Mother 3 would come very soon. An announcement was made at the end of a television advertisement for the Game Boy Advance game ‘’Mother 1 + 2’’. It was mentioned again in a list of upcoming titles of GBA games; it was not given a release date at the time. It was released on April 20, 2006 and retained a number of features from the Nintendo 64 version and a lot of the same settings and characters. It has only been released in Japan.
The scenario for the final battle was written while Itoi was overseas in Saipan. The design of the battle pit Lucas against his brother Claus. It remained in the final GBA version but was much darker in the Nintendo 64 version. As other aspects of the game moved forward Itoi was unable to decide on aspects of the final battle. He compared this to anime director Hayao Miyazaki directs his films. He once considered omitting dialogue from the battle to make it more vague and allow players to use their imagination. He also wanted to make players feel betrayed and disappointed by the ending.
Early in its development for the Nintendo 64DD, IGN editors referred to EarthBound 64 as stunning, comparing it to the PlayStation blockbuster Final Fantasy VII, though they remained skeptical that it could carry the 64DD. In response to short footage shown at Spaceworld 96, they called it a step up from EarthBound for the Super Nintendo, comparing some of the scenes to renders due to the high quality of the animation. EarthBound 64 made Famitsu's Most Wanted list in September 1999, ranking in the 10th spot. EarthBound 64 was fairly popular amongst Nintendo Power readers, making the top ten most wanted list multiple times.
It was well received by IGN, who referred to it as being more than a "cookie-cutter dungeon exploration fare" that most RPGs were. They called its controls intuitive and easy to master, and found the sound well-orchestrated and memorable. They specifically praised a scene included in the trailer and demo, the mine cart scene, proclaiming it one of the most impressive Nintendo 64 cut scenes yet due to its "silky smooth graphics" and "perfectly orchestrated music". They added that it may prove to be one of the most important launch titles of the often-delayed Nintendo 64DD. Yahoo! commented that it was a little too off-the-wall to appeal to everyone, but was confident that the wait was worth it for the most part. They praised its game engine cut scenes, calling them better looking than any other game on the Nintendo 64. They added that the only problem with the game was its battle system, which they considered "more confusing than anything else." Despite the title being only about 50% done at the time, IGN editors called EarthBound 64 promising at Spaceworld '99. They praised the control as both intuitive and easy to master. They closed their impressions by calling it an unusual RPG quest, and that gamers should save their money for this. In later impressions, they compared the developer's intentions to not have one set main character to the Super Famicom Live a Live.
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