Japanese box art. The game logo's wooden/metallic structure is intended to invoke feelings of unease and discomfort.
|Genre(s)||Role-playing video game|
Mother 3 (マザースリー Mazā Surī?) is a 2006 role-playing video game developed by Nintendo, Brownie Brown and HAL Laboratory and published for the Game Boy Advance handheld game console. The game has only been released in Japan, though it has a worldwide cult following. It was written by Shigesato Itoi, the creator of the series, and directed by Nobuyuki Inoue. The music was composed by Shōgo Sakai. While Mother 3 is the sequel to EarthBound and is the third game in the series, the story focuses on a new, unrelated cast of characters.
Mother 3 is set on the "Nowhere Islands", a series of sparsely inhabited islands on Earth. The game switches perspectives between the main characters, who are all people (or animals) who live on the islands. The game focuses on twins named Lucas and Claus, their family, and the friends who join them to fight against the mysterious Pigmask Army. The game's story is a tragedy: its main themes involve coping with the loss of family members and the perils of consumerism. The game also has many comedic elements, such as its parody of other video games. The game was advertised as "strange, funny, [and] heartrending".
Mother 3 had a very long development cycle; it began development in 1994 as a Super Famicom title, but development transitioned to the 64DD, then to the Nintendo 64, and finally to the Game Boy Advance. Although Nintendo of America has not announced plans to localize Mother 3, a fan translation group has released a patch to translate the game into English. According to Itoi there are no plans to create a fourth Mother game, and he has announced another installment. He may, however, continue making games outside the Mother series.
The gameplay of Mother 3 is very similar to the previous games in the series. The player controls a main character from an overhead perspective and moves around to explore, talk to characters, and travel through dangerous environments. In dangerous areas, enemies such as Pigmasks, wild animals, and robots will move around and chase the player. If the player comes into contact with an enemy, they will enter battle. Up to three other characters will follow the player, and if any of them are touched from behind, the battle will begin with the player at a disadvantage; this also works in the favor of the players, who can enter a battle with an advantage if the leader touches an enemy from behind. The player can also dash to stun enemies or dispose of enemies that are too weak to waste time fighting.
The game retains the battle system found in Mother and Mother 2, characterized by non-animated enemy sprites and a distorted, animated background. The player controls up to four characters in combat, with the exception of some non-playable characters who follow the player over the course of the story and contribute randomly to the fight. All characters can attack enemies with weapons and use items in combat, and each character has some unique abilities. Each character also has individual statistics typical for role-playing games, such as Offense, Defense, and IQ (which affects PSI powers).
Combat in Mother 3 includes a unique musical combo system not found in previous titles. To use this system, the player must tap buttons in time with the beat of the background music, with most enemies having their own beat and/or tempo. The player can hear this tempo by putting an enemy to sleep, allowing the player to hear a "heartbeat". Like Earthbound, combat uses a "rolling health" system: instead of a character's health being immediately lost when injured, the health meter of the character will roll down over time. This allows a mortally wounded character to perform actions like attacking or healing himself, as long as the player acts quickly enough. If a battle ends while a characters' health is still counting down, it will stop decreasing.
The player can save the game by talking to creatures called "Save Frogs", which are abundant and appear at various areas in the game. Currency is not available early in the game, as Nowhere Islands features a communal gift-giving system. Currency is introduced later in the game as "Dragon Power" (DP), which is earned from defeating enemies. DP is stored away after battle, requiring the player access it from the Save Frogs.
Mother 3 is set in the Nowhere Islands in an unknown time period which is in another universe than EarthBound's. The only inhabited part of the island besides a few scattered homes is the main characters' hometown of Tazmily Village ("Tatsumairi Village" in official translations), a rural Western-styled village with a communal gift-giving system. Nearby the village are a forest and Osohe Castle, a relic of older times.
Once the Pigmask Army arrives, they begin building many other facilities around the island. As the game progresses, their hold on the island becomes stronger and more structures are built. They also introduce currency, or "Dragon Points" to the inhabitants of Tazmily. Their largest facility is New Pork City, which seems to be designed as some kind of amusement park. Most of the additions created after the Pigmasks arrive have themes from American culture, psychedelia, and rock music (which are normal for the series).
There are six main characters in Mother 3: Lucas, a young boy; Flint, a livestock farmer and father of Lucas and his brother Claus; Kumatora, a princess; Duster, a thief; Boney, Flint's dog; and Salsa, a performing monkey. The game frequently switches perspective between the characters as the story progresses, but the later chapters of the game focus on Lucas, Boney, Kumatora, and Duster.
These characters have abilities unique to them. Flint has "full power attacks", including attack and defense buffs and an attack that strikes multiple enemies; Duster is capable of using several "thief tools", including staples to nail down enemies and a snake that doubles as a grappling hook; Salsa's technique is Dance, where he does a dance to affect the enemy's disposition; Lucas and Kumatora use PSI, which is similar to magic in fantasy role-playing games; and Boney's is Sniff, which is used to reveal enemy stats like hit points and PSI weaknesses. Mother 3 features a few returning characters from EarthBound, including Dr. Andonuts and Porky Minch, as well as the Mr. Saturns, a race of small creatures who speak in a strange dialect.
The game opens with Hinawa and her two children, Lucas and Claus, visiting her father Alec. Several days later as the family is returning home to Tazmily Village, the Pigmask Army invades the nearby forest and begins to create vicious chimeras out of the forest's animals, fitting them with cybernetic parts. One of these chimera attacks and kills Hinawa. Hinawa's husband Flint flies into a rage, attacking the other villagers. He is subdued and imprisoned. The next day, Claus visits Flint, promising to avenge Hinawa's death and slips Flint a file to escape. Later, Flint and Alec travel to the mountains to retrieve Claus. They find Claus's shoes, but Claus is nowhere to be found.
Soon after, thief-in-training Duster goes with his father Wess to retrieve the mystical Hummingbird Egg from Osohe Castle. They meet Kumatora, the princess of Osohe Castle, and find that the egg is booby trapped, and the trio are sent into the castle's sewer system. Kumatora and Wess wash up on a sandbank, but Duster goes missing with the Hummingbird Egg, losing his memory in the process.
Three years later, Tazmily has been transformed into a fiercely consumerist society under the control of the Pigmask Army. Lucas visits Wess, who tells Lucas of a rumor that Duster is one of the members of a band playing at Club Titiboo, and asks Lucas to go confirm. On the way there, Lucas meets Ionia, a member of a group of beings thousands of years old known as the Magypsies, and she teaches Lucas how to use PSI abilities. Lucas and his dog Boney sneak into the club and meet Kumatora, who is also looking for Duster. The three of them find Duster, restore his memories, and convince him to help retrieve the Hummingbird Egg. Lucas, Duster, Kumatora, and Boney find the Hummingbird Egg near the base of the Thunder Tower, a lightning generator tower that has been destroying the homes of villagers not willing to conform to Pigmask rule. They destroy the generator but are pursued by Yokuba, a high-ranked servant of the Pigmasks. During the chase, Yokuba slips and falls off the tower. The four characters are separated during their escape.
Lucas and Boney meet Ionia again. Ionia tells Lucas that she and the other six Magypsies guard the Seven Needles, which seal a gigantic Dragon that sleeps under the island that will re-awaken if all the needles are pulled. The needles can only be pulled by those wielding PSI abilities, which includes Lucas and the "Masked Man" who commands the Pigmask Army. The awakening of the dragon will result in either the destruction or rebirth of the world, depending on whether the one who pulls the needles is good or evil. Lucas and Boney set off to pull as many needles as possible before the Masked Man can, reuniting with Duster and Kumatora on the way. Lucas and the Masked Man manage to pull three needles each. The party then travels to New Pork City, where the last needle is located.
There they find Leder, Tazmily Village's bell-ringer. He tells Lucas that long ago, the world was destroyed, but before the apocalypse, a white ship carried people to the Nowhere Islands where they worked to create a utopia under the Dragon's protection. To prevent a second apocalypse, they hid the memories of the old world in the Hummingbird Egg. Leder watched over the village as the only one who retained his memories. He reveals that Porky, the leader of the Pigmask Army, discovered the islands and began building his Pigmask Army from his city. Porky learned of the white ship and the Dragon from Yokuba, a traitor among the Magypsies. Since Porky himself could not pull the Needles, he turned the Masked Man into a soulless cyborg under his control.
The four challenge Master Porky, who turns out to be a childish, old man, in his lair. The party are dropped deep underground into the vicinity of the seventh needle. During the battle with Porky, he decides to encase himself in a completely impenetrable capsule. The capsule, however, cannot move or be reopened, trapping him inside for eternity. Lucas's party reaches the needle, where Kumatora, Duster, and Boney are knocked unconscious by the Masked Man, revealed to be Claus. Lucas and Claus begin their final duel.
During the battle, Claus regains his senses and subsequently commits suicide. Lucas pulls the final Needle, which causes a cataclysm to engulf the islands. A narrator explains that though the islands were destroyed, the characters are fine. After the closing credits, the game's logo is shown, with the letters made entirely of wood and the 'O' representing the earth.
Shigesato Itoi was involved in the development of all versions of Mother 3. It was originally in development for the Super Famicom shortly after the release of EarthBound, and was later transferred to the Nintendo 64DD. After the 64DD proved to be a failure, the developers moved it to the Nintendo 64. Owing to difficulties in the development, it was delayed several times and ultimately cancelled.
Mother 3 was re-released for the Game Boy Advance. Shigesato Itoi announced that he currently had no plans to make a Mother 4 because of how difficult making Mother 3 was. When asked about his thoughts on a Mother 4, Shigesato Itoi responded by stating that he had no plans to make such a game, and that "this time, I'd like to be the player." He also commented that if anyone said that they would like to make Mother 4, he would tell them to "go for it".
The logo for Mother 3 is its title composed of both wood and metal. Itoi states that when things that do not match at all are attached to one another, it is unsettling. In the only novel Itoi has written, Family Fall Out, he wrote about a hearse, which contains a "casket of both metal and wood," a contrast between organic and inorganic that "makes you feel a little weird." He calls these feelings of uneasiness and discomfort "modern feelings", describing the logo as a symbol of that, and explains his desire "to incorporate these horribly unpleasant things from the beginning." The logo has remained the same since it was revealed. While the Nintendo 64 version featured several different subtitles attached to the title, Itoi chose not to use subtitles in the Game Boy Advance version, saying that he felt providing a subtitle was too strong a message that says "I want you to look at it this way." The official tagline for Mother 3 is "WELCOME TO MOTHER3 WORLD" [sic].
Osohe Castle, a locale in the game, was created by Itoi as a time table of sorts. He commented that no matter how correctly you portray a time period, it's easy for it to appear to be shallow, but when you dig up a fossil, you realize that it inhabited this world at one time, using the Nazca Lines as an example.
Itoi describes the world of Mother 3 as being "macho", saying that "the good guys are strong and fight, and so do the bad guys, set up to mean might equals right." Itoi also said that he had a difficult time creating another location called the Tanehineri Islands, which included a twisted, nightmarish world caused by the characters' consumption of psilocybin mushrooms. It is very similar to Moonside, a location from EarthBound that was opened up by the main characters being hypnotized. The temporary dialogue Itoi used for Tanehineri Island was so unpleasant that he could not stand to look at it, and tried to tone it down by rewriting it, though commenting that he still found it unpleasant. Itoi stated his worst nightmare would be his friends and family being evil, which is a recurring theme in the hallucinations that Lucas and company suffer. He stated that Tanehineri Island features a similar flavor to shows such as Twin Peaks and Lost.
Game Boy Advance version
While Itoi was developing Mother 1 + 2, a compilation Game Boy Advance cartridge containing ports of Mother and EarthBound, he realized there would be pressure to revive Mother 3. Itoi was reluctant to pursue the project, but decided to begin development on the Game Boy Advance due to encouragement from fans. Development of Mother 3 was revealed in commercials for Mother 1 + 2. It was later announced on a release list by Nintendo. The GBA version was developed by Nintendo, HAL Laboratory and Brownie Brown, the latter a wholly owned Nintendo subsidiary formed by ex Square members. Itoi wrote the scenario and supervised the development. It was initially proposed to Itoi to adapt the cancelled Mother 3 to a book or film, but Itoi found them both implausible, saying that the scale did not feel right. Development of the GBA version began when someone came to Itoi, asking whether it can be made into a Game Boy Advance game. Itoi had not thought about it, so he merely told him "I don't know." Itoi thought it over, and realized that he was trapped in a mindset that everything he made had to be epic and grandiose. He commented that at the time, his attitude when approaching his work is "I want to shock the world!" and "I'm going to squeeze everything I can imagine, all of my creativity into this one project." as if he were working on his magnum opus. He came to the realization that there's a different niche he can fill, which was one of the contributing factors to choosing the Game Boy Advance. Itoi chose to use pixelated visuals over CG, saying that "flashy CG is just not an option for me", commenting that CG looks too ordinary. Itoi chose to use hiragana over kanji after playing Dragon Quest while sick in bed.
Mother 3 was created with a different feel from its predecessors. When the character of Bronson is about to reveal Hinawa's death to Flint, he states "I have good news and I have bad news." Itoi stated that this uneasy line was necessary, as if the characters continued with this mood, he would not be able to introduce things such as the Oxygen Tanks, a light-hearted device. One of the themes incorporated into Mother 3 is representing the physiology of the human body, such as the Asthma Spray utilized to treat asthma attacks in Mother. He compares the learning of PSI to menstruation, and says that when Lucas or Kumatora, the two characters who can learn PSI, get feverish, they learn a new PSI power, which Itoi says is similar to real life, explaining that whenever he feels sluggish or exhausted, he is certain that good things will follow. A scene where Lucas learns how to use PSI from the Magypsy Ionia while in a hot springs features the character telling Lucas to "just deal with it", commenting that he approached it with an older man's perspective as opposed to a "child's heart". He also comments that children are good at picking up the general idea behind things, and that if he lives to be 90, he hopes one of those kids as a grownup comes to him and says "A long time ago, in third grade, I played MOTHER 3. I was really nervous and confused about what was going on in the hot spring in that tunnel... And that's what led me to the place I am today."
Before the release of Mother 3, Shigesato Itoi launched a section on his web site that would reveal content week-by-week, such as wallpaper, ringtones, and images of enemies featured in the game. Mother 3 was eventually released on April 20, 2006. A limited edition version of Mother 3 was sold in Japan in addition to the basic title. The "Deluxe Box" included a special edition Game Boy Micro and a Franklin Badge.
The scenario between Lucas and Claus was written for the Nintendo 64 version while Itoi was in Saipan. While the N64 version was "much, much darker", the Game Boy Advance version is more light-hearted, which Itoi attributes to becoming a good person and because he was not presented with as many confrontations back during the N64 version's development as he was during the GBA version's. Since the scenario for the final battle had been written, it had always been a confrontation between two brothers. Itoi had several choices for each line in the final battle, and had to digest each of them. He set choosing the dialogue aside until later, separating himself from his other jobs and isolating himself, concentrating on writing it. During the final battle, Hinawa's ghost appears, scolding the two boys and telling them to stop fighting, though she is harder on Lucas, because he is still alive. Itoi stated that the player feels very sorry for Claus, and that even more so than the good, the bad need to be rescued. He further states that "there's a deep meaning behind it, but they had to keep it simple because the game was written in Hiragana". He had to beg the developer Brownie Brown to "add in the program the operations in the game perfectly enough to add the super subtle timing between lines."
The music for the game was composed exclusively by Shōgo Sakai; he had previously composed music for several games such as Virtua Fighter 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. Shigesato Itoi stated that Sakai was given the position because he understood Mother 3 the most, given that he could not use Keiichi Suzuki or Hirokazu Tanaka, the composers for the first two games, as they were both busy with other projects. Itoi also said that given the massive amount of songs in the game, over 250, he needed someone who had a lot of time to dedicate to the project and who could focus exclusively on it. "Love Theme", the main theme of Mother 3, was composed late in the game's development; earlier in development Itoi intended to use the "Pigmask Army" theme as the main theme of the game. Itoi requested that "Love Theme" be playable on a piano with only one finger, as the "Eight Melodies" theme from Mother had gained popularity and been played in elementary schools due to its simplicity.
The MOTHER3+ soundtrack album was first released by Tokyo Itoi Shigesato Office on November 2, 2006, and then distributed through the iTunes Store on February 2, 2007, featuring an additional bonus track, "MOTHER3 – theme of LOVE". Another album of music from the game, MOTHER3i, was released on February 6, 2007 by Tokyo Itoi Shigesato Office in the iTunes Store and other online music services. Each track of Mother3i is a combination of several tracks from the game itself, though it still does not cover all of the tracks from the game.
Pre-release and release
It appeared on the top five most-wanted list in Famitsu after it was announced. Writer Tim Rogers wrote that Mother 3 may "be the most important game of this year". It had great response from pre-orderers and was one of the top 20 best-selling games of the first half of 2006. Mother 3 sold around 200,000 copies in its first week of sales in Japan.
Four editors for Famitsu gave it a 10, 9, 8, and 8 out of 10. 1UP.com's Jeremy Parish compared Mother 3 to the notoriously delayed Duke Nukem Forever, but wrote that the delays were since Mother 3 became less technologically advanced was "deeply impressed" by its "involving, rhythm-based battle system, its charming visuals, and its moving storyline". Eurogamer's Simon Parkin praised the storytelling; he wrote that while it "initially appears to be a straightforward tale told in primary colours", it "soon demonstrates a breadth and depth of quality that few titles many times its budget achieve". He added that its character designs, which he called "unusually Western in appearance", "communicate comedy and tragedy with unexpected impact". He compared the method of splitting chapters up between different main characters to Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen, which also used this method. He felt that the gameplay was simple, but was "elegant in its simplicity" and was a "journey palatable even to genre detractors". Action Button's Tim Rogers called Mother 3 "the closest games have yet come to literature". GamerTell's Jenni Lada named it the "Second Runner-Up" for their list of must-import Game Boy Advance games. She explained that its low ranking on the list was due to it being hard to understand for those who cannot read hiragana. GamePro attributed their continued use of the Game Boy Advance in part to Mother 3, concluding that it "may be the GBA's best RPG". GameSpy's Andrew Alfonso praised its "interesting and entertaining gameplay", "nice visuals", and "fast-paced gameplay", but felt that it did not "appear to be an incredibly deep game". GameSpot's Greg Kasavin called it amusing, and wrote that it had a chance to be released in English considering Nintendo's English localizations of Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! and Electroplankton.
Mother 3 was included in 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die in which contributor Jamin Brophy-Warren stated that the game is "a delightful return to an old classic and well worth playing."
On October 17, 2008, Starmen.net released a fan translation patch that, when applied on a copy of the Mother 3 ROM image, translates all the game's text into English. In an interview with UGO.com, Reid Young, alias Reidman, co-founder of Starmen.net, stated that when they realized Nintendo was not going to localize Mother 3, they decided to undertake the task, for themselves and for fans of the game. The project took 16 months to complete, which included translating, writing, and revising the game text, as well as extensive hacking and testing to ensure that the game properly and correctly displays the translated text. The translation included minor deviations from the original, such as localization of place-names and puns. Few dramatic changes were made, but at least three characters were renamed: "Yokuba", loosely derived from the word "欲" (yoku), which is Japanese for "greed", was replaced with "Fassad", loosely derived from the French word "façade" and, incidentally, the word "فساد" (fasād), which is Arabic for "corruption". Also, "Yoshi-Koshi" and "Tamekichi," Kumatora and Duster's aliases at Club Titiboo, were replaced with "Violet" and "Lucky," respectively. In Mother 3, if one names Kumatora and Duster "Yoshi-Koshi" and "Tamekichi," their aliases in Club Titiboo are different. At least two locations were renamed as well; the Telly Forest, renamed the Sunshine Forest, and Tanehineri Island, renamed Tanetane Island. The translation patch received over 100,000 downloads from the web site in the first week of its release. The lead translator, Clyde Mandelin, alias "Tomato", expected that the patch would be downloaded a few thousand times, and called its reception a "pleasant surprise." He commented that one of the biggest hurdles in hacking the game was the "sprite text"-heavy naming screen. Owing to CPU problems, a split-second graphical glitch occurs after the player confirms his or her name choices and before the main gameplay begins. Mandelin worried about the impression this glitch would make on players, speculating that people playing for the first time would think that the glitch reflected on a poor overall hacking job for the game as a whole.
Mandelin stated in an interview with Simon Parkin of Gamasutra that he knew that this translation was not completely legal and that if Nintendo objected, he would have stopped the translation immediately. The team has also stated the same in their project FAQ. The industry response has been quite positive; Mandelin has received e-mails from video game industry professionals expressing their gratitude for his efforts, sometimes even offering to buy him drinks. While Nintendo has not provided an official comment on the translation, employees of Nintendo and Square Enix have expressed excitement for the project. Other localizations are currently in development by the translation team, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Dutch, German, and Malay.
Eurogamer's Simon Parkin wrote that the translation was full of "wit and vim". GamerTell's Jenni Lada called it "undoubtedly one of the best known fan translations in existence [sic]" She added that "it's one of the few translation projects where even people in the game industry were happy and didn’t object".
Demand for an international release
1UP.com's Jeremy Parish wrote that the lack of an international release was due to the poor timing of its release at the end of the Game Boy Advance's life and that Rhythm Tengoku was also affected by this. GamesRadar's David Houghton jokingly included Mother 3 in its list of the most "hideous mums" due to its lack of an English release. GamePro's Jeremy Signor included it in his list of the 14 best Japanese role-playing video games. He praised Brownie Brown for being "able to pack a lot of emotion and characterization into these simple-yet-detailed sprites". GameSpy's Jonti Davies included it in his list of video games that are "stuck in Japan". In an interview with Satoru Iwata, however, Iwata hinted a Western release for the game after he had talks with the games creator Shigesato Itoi During the 2014 E3 Digital Event, the COO of Nintendo America Reggie Fils-Aime joked and teased about the demand for Mother 3 to be released outside of Japan.
Several elements from Mother 3 were featured in Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. Players could control Lucas, who was originally going to be featured in Brawl's predecessor Super Smash Bros. Melee. It also featured a location from Mother 3, New Pork City, and its primary antagonist, Porky, as a boss. In the DSiWare game, A Kappa's Trail (developed by Brownie Brown), a Pigmask is playable, and there are many Mother 3 references.
Since the announcement of EarthBound 64, Nintendo and other organizations have produced pieces of Mother 3 merchandise. A strategy guide was created by Enterbrain called Mother 3 Perfect Guide on June 8, 2006.
Around the time of the game's release, Itoi stated that he had "no plans to make Mother 4".
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