Mother (video game)
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Japanese cover art
|Release date(s)||Family Computer
Mother (マザー Mazā?) is a role-playing video game developed by Nintendo Tokyo Research and Development Products in cooperation with Ape. The game was published for the Nintendo Family Computer. It was designed and directed by Shigesato Itoi and produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, with music by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka. It is the first game in the Mother video game series (otherwise known as the EarthBound series), and was never released outside of Japan. In 2003, the game was re-released in Japan as a compilation with its sequel EarthBound as Mother 1+2, containing the changes found in the unreleased English prototype. The game's taglines are "No crying until the ending" (エンディングまで泣くんじゃない Endingu Made Nakun Janai?) and "Guaranteed Masterpiece" (名作保証 Meisaku hoshō?).
Mother tells the story of a psychic boy from the fictional town of Mother's Day (マザーズデイ; Podunk in the English prototype). The boy, whose default name is Ninten, sets out on a journey to discover the cause of the mysterious phenomenon that occurred in his home one day. As the story develops, he meets friends along the way, and they fight their way to the source of all their troubles. At the time, most role-playing games took place in similar overall settings; worlds modeled after the Middle Ages and focusing on swords and magic, with very few exceptions (among them Square's Tom Sawyer). Mother takes place during a more modern time (1980s) in the United States and has equipment like baseball bats instead of swords and psychic powers (PK/PSI) instead of magic.
Mother was scheduled to be released in North America as Earth Bound in the fall of 1991, but marketing delayed and eventually removed the game from the release schedule, putting it on indefinite hold. The game was again considered for release in 1994, shortly before the release of its sequel, Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back. However, it was decided to pass on the release of Earth Bound and to localize Mother 2 under the title EarthBound. An official localization prototype of the original Earth Bound made its way to the internet via a fan-translation group, Demiforce. The ROM binary data from the prototype was extracted and circulated under the original title and as "EarthBound Zero" on January 15, 1998.
Mother's gameplay is divided into two main parts: field maps and the game's battle system. Mother does not use a small-scale overworld map and instead connects towns, dungeons, and other places together by large outdoor areas. When in towns on the field map, players can talk with other Non-player characters (NPCs), go to stores to buy equipment or items, rest in hotels, or enter other various buildings. By using any telephone in the game, the protagonist Ninten can talk to his father, who deposits money into Ninten's bank account and offers to record his progress.
When outside of towns on the field map or inside dungeons, the party will be attacked by enemies through random encounters, at which point the game shifts into battle mode. When in battle, the game switches to a first-person view, only showing the enemies and a menu system used to issue commands. Actions are chosen for each character by the player, and then characters and enemies take turns doing them in an order determined by their speed statistics. Winning battles awards experience points, which characters require to level up. Leveling up increases a character's stats and lets them learn more abilities. If a character loses all of their hit points, they will die and the player must go to a hospital and pay to revive them. If every character dies, no progress is lost, but the party is transported back to the last area they saved at, only Ninten is left alive, and the amount of money they had on hand is halved.
Mother begins by telling the story of a young married couple from rural United States who mysteriously vanished after a dark shadow covered their small country town. Two years later, the husband, George, returned as mysteriously as he vanished, and began a strange study in complete seclusion. His wife, Maria, was never heard from again.
The story then forwards to a year in the 1980s (1988 specifically), focusing on a 12-year-old American boy, referred to as Ninten, whose home is attacked in a paranormal event. His father calls him and explains how Ninten's great-grandfather studied PSI, and asks him to investigate a crisis occurring across the world. After rescuing and befriending a 7-year-old girl named Pippi from the local cemetery in his hometown of Mother's Day (マザーズデイ; Podunk in the English prototype), Ninten discovers the worldwide phenomenon is the work of an invading alien race. Ninten is then warped to the world of Magicant, where the land's ruler, Queen Mary, asks Ninten to find her song, the Eight Melodies, and play them to her. After returning to the real world, Ninten visits an elementary school in Thanksgiving (サンクスギビング; Merrysville) and meets an 11-year-old boy who is constantly teased for being a weakling, referred to as Lloyd (Loid). Ninten befriends Lloyd, and joins Ninten on his adventure to find the Eight Melodies. The two then travel to the town of Snowman to deliver a lost hat to a girl with PSI power, referred to as 11 year old Ana, who tells Ninten she saw him in a dream, and joins the party in hopes of finding her missing mother.
After finding most of the Melodies, the party travels to the city of Valentine (Ellay in the English prototype), and the trio do karaoke at the Live House. Ninten is then harassed by the boss of the local Black Blood (Bla-Bla) Gang, referred to as Teddy, for attacking his gang members, and challenges him to a duel. After realizing Ninten is a formidable opponent, Teddy surrenders and joins Ninten's party in hopes of avenging his parents, who were killed at Holy Loly Mountain (ホーリーローリーマウンテン; Mt. Itoi). Teddy replaces Lloyd in the party, who rests at the Live House. The party reaches a cottage at the base of Holy Loly Mountain, where Teddy goes to make phone calls. Ana pulls Ninten into another room and asks him to be with her always. The two dance and confess their love to each other. Teddy enters the room, and the party begins to leave, when they're attacked by a powerful robot called R7038, a robot similar of what they encountered before in Advent Desert. The robot knocks out the entire party, but Lloyd arrives with a tank from a man they have met in Advent Desert during their travels and destroys the robot, but accidentally attacks the party as well. Teddy is critically wounded (possibly dead in the original Famicom version), and stays at the cottage to heal, while Lloyd rejoins the party.
The newly reformed trio takes a motor boat out on Holy Loly Lake, where they are pulled into a whirlpool into an underwater laboratory. There, they find a robot named Eve, who tells Ninten that she was built by George, who was taken to the ends of the universe and later returned. He built Eve with the purpose of protecting Ninten. The laboratory becomes flooded and the party is whisked back to the base of Holy Loly Mountain, where, with the aid of Eve, they climb the mountain. As the party approaches the mountain summit, another robot, R7038XX, attacks the party. Eve destroys the robot, but Eve is destroyed in the battle as well. Eve's scrapped remains sing Ninten the seventh of the Eight Melodies. Ninten learns the final melody on the summit of Holy Loly Mountain from a crystal in an XX rock, left by his great-grandfather, George.
With all eight melodies learned, Ninten and the others are warped to Magicant where Ninten sings the Eight Melodies to Queen Mary. Upon hearing the Eight Melodies, Queen Mary remembers the rest of the song. Queen Mary reminisces on how she loved an alien named Gyiyg (ギーグ Gīgu; Giegue in the unreleased English prototype, and Giygas in EarthBound), as if he were her own child. She tells Ninten that he was always wagging his tail, except when she sang lullabies to him. Queen Mary then reveals she is George's wife, Maria, and, with her purpose complete, vanishes to return to George's side. Magicant, being only a mirage created by her conscience, vanishes with her.
The party is warped back to the top of Holy Loly Mountain, where the party discovers a strange grave. George's spirit visits the tomb and tells Ninten that his great-grandmother Maria spread her love in the form of melodies. Large rocks block the entrance to a cave inside Holy Loly Mountain, but Maria's conscience uses the last of her power to clear the entrance. Inside they discover human prisoners sealed within cylindrical tanks. One of the prisoners identifies Ana's hat and informs the party that her mother is among them, but that they must destroy the Mother Ship before attempting to rescue them. On the other side of the cave is where they encounter the Mother Ship and Gyiyg contained within a fluid-filled tank. Gyiyg expresses his gratefulness to Ninten's family, as Ninten's great-grandmother, Maria, raised him, but explained that George stole vital information from his people that could have been used to betray them, then stated that one of George's descendants, Ninten, was interfering with their plans and must be stopped. Gyiyg tells Ninten that he cannot be defeated by Ninten's "meager" powers, but offers to save Ninten alone if he boards the Mother Ship. Ninten declines, so Gyiyg tells Ninten to fall into a long sleep with the rest of the "ugly Earth People". The party begins to sing the Eight Melodies, but Gyiyg attacks the party to quiet them. After several attempts, the party finishes the lullaby, and Gyiyg, calmed by Maria's motherly love, admits defeat, swearing he and Ninten will meet again. The Mother Ship flies off, leaving the heroes behind. In the original Famicom release, the game ended at this uncertain point, but it is extended in the English prototype and Mother 1+2 versions, and instead the party returns to the base of the mountain where the imprisoned humans are all revealed to have been freed. In the process, Ana is finally reunited with her mother. The heroes all return home where Lloyd is named a hero by his peers, Teddy recovers and is now singing at the Live House, Ana daydreaming about Ninten and Ninten going to sleep after the Earth's crisis is over. The game ends with a cast roll of all the major and minor characters that appeared in the game. In addition, a post-credits scene is added in which Ninten's father is seen trying to reach his son on a telephone, apparently with some urgent news.
Note that the game is mostly nonlinear and the final party does not have to consist of Ninten, Ana and Lloyd.
Mother was designed and directed by Japanese copywriter and television personality Shigesato Itoi. One of the inspirations for the name was John Lennon's song "Mother". He also wanted the name to be something that was not game-like.
Shigesato Itoi, the game's designer, said that the last parts of Mother were not tested for bugs and balance issues. When talking about this at a Mother 1 + 2 promotional event, Itoi humorously stated, "When we got to fine-tuning the difficulty [of Holy Loly Mountain, the final part of the game], I was like, 'Whatever!'".
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Planned North American release
Nintendo of America had translated and originally planned to release Mother in North America, under the title Earth Bound. The localization was completed in 1990, but marketing pushed the release into Fall of 1991, and it was eventually put on indefinite hold. The localization producer and English script writer for Earth Bound, Phil Sandhop, explained, "Once the Super NES squatted in the pipeline and shoved the game aside from its appointed time, I believe that the marketing execs just decided that the game would be too expensive to produce and unsuccessful without marketing, and that's why it fell into oblivion." During localization some changes were made to the game, such as removing blood from enemy sprites (in accordance to Nintendo of America's censorship guidelines of the time) or changing town names. One of the bigger changes was greatly extending the game's ending.
On January 15, 1998, the fan translation group Demiforce found a prototype cartridge of the game on the Internet, and organized an effort to collect enough money to buy the game. The project was a success, and soon after, the game was dumped into a ROM and circulated around the Internet. As the unmodified game did not work properly on emulators at that time, Demiforce released modified versions of Earth Bound with the copy protection disabled, and appended "Zero" onto the title to retroactively discern it from its sequel, EarthBound. Since Demiforce had built its reputation on releasing its English translations out of the blue, some fans debated whether the cartridge had been translated by Nintendo or by Demiforce itself. However the release was confirmed as legitimate by Phil Sandhop, producer of the canceled English localization, as well as the compilation release Mother 1 + 2 which contains all of the changes found in the prototype cartridge.
Mother's soundtrack was composed by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka. The music was released on compact disc and cassette tape by Sony Records on August 21, 1989. It consists of eleven tracks, seven of which are vocal remakes. Some of the game's notable pieces include "Eight Melodies", which plays a heavy role in the story, and "Pollyanna", which has gone on to represent not only this game, but the entire Mother video game series. On February 18, 2004 the soundtrack was re-released with digitally remastered tracks. Songs from Mother appear in EarthBound, Mother 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
The soundtrack features vocal performances from Catherine Warwick, Jeremy Holland-Smith, Jeb Million, Louis Philippe, Jeremy Budd, and the St. Paul's Cathedral Choir. Both Budd and the Choir's names are misspelled on the soundtracks.
Mother was successful in Japan, selling approximately 400,000 copies. In two polls conducted by Famitsu, it was rated as the 9th best game on the Famicom and the 38th best game of all time. The game was listed as the fourth most-wanted Virtual Console release in a poll in the June 2008 issue of Nintendo Power, and in the following issue it moved up to second most-wanted. In a Mother 1 + 2 review, Netjak praised Mother's modern setting and broad themes, calling the game, "quite dark and mature." However, the game did get its fair share of criticism. Jeremy Parish from 1UP.com states, "the game balance is completely ridiculous, relying far too heavily on picking up better weapons and grinding for far too long."
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- Jonathan Wirth (2004-07-31). "Spotlight: EarthBound". Lost Levels. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
- A Mother 1 + 2 promotional event with Shigesato Itoi. (2003) YouTube link with subtitles
- "Nintendo Power's Pak Watch". Nintendo Power 18: 92. November 1990.
- "Spotlight: EarthBound - Violence". Lost Levels. 2004-07-31. Retrieved 8 May 2008.
- IGN Staff (2004-01-13). "Mother Soundtrack". IGN. Retrieved 6 February 2008.
- Hiroyuki Nakada. 1990. Nintendō daisenryaku: Mario ga Toyota o koeru hi! : handōtai sedai no sakusesu shinwa. JICC Shuppankyoku. ISBN 4-7966-0063-9
- John Szczepaniak. "Form is Superior to Mass: Famicom History". NTSC-uk. Retrieved 18 December 2007.
- Campbell, Colin (2006-03-03). "Japan Votes on All Time Top 100". Next Generation. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
- Nintendo Power June, 2008. Future US. 2008. p. 25.
- Nintendo Power July, 2008. Future US. 2008.
- Healey, Rick. "Mother 1+2 (EarthBound and EarthBound Zero)". Netjak. Retrieved 16 January 2008.
- Jeremy Parish (2006-04-22). "Retronauts Hall of Fame: Earthbound Zero". 1UP.com. Retrieved 16 December 2007.