My thoughts on an overlooked gem.
September 18, 2008
Back in 1995, when I was a mere lad of the age of four, I picked up a game from Blockbuster. And that game was called "EarthBound." I gently slid the game into the Super Nintendo cartridge slot and lightly pushed the power button up. What I saw amazed me. The first RPG I ever picked up, and I lost in a mere matter of minutes. That dreaded coil snake crushed all my hopes of a good game which I could not comprehend due to the fact I was, how you say, illiterate. So upon viewing the screen of Ness standing there with the blue light shining upon him, I turned it off, walked out, and proclaimed that "I hate this game."

However, I wasn't alone. My brother, a mere two years older but ten years smarter, turned it back on and began to play himself. After I had basically forgotten we had rented the game, I walked into my room to see him get to a point in the game with actual daylight! So I saw him play and it looked pretty cool, but my brother absolutely loved it. Soon after, he convinced my granddad to buy the game for him.

My brother got to the final boss, however, he was unprepared and never able to beat it. So a little while later, I decide to give the game an actual try (after countless files of getting nowhere because I was so stingy about the names of my characters I'd constantly restart). A few weeks later I had beaten the game, and was happy as could be. Upon looking online, however, I found something that I never would've guessed... the game I had beaten was a sequel.

I wasn't anything less of shocked when I found out the game was called Mother 2 in Japan. Not only was that a weird name, but what was with the "2" attached to the end? Before I could think of ideas, though, I saw "Mother" on the sidebar for the site, took a deep breath, and clicked it. And what I found out seemed unbelievable at the time.

Mother was a Famicom game released in Japan in 1989, apparently an RPG like Dragon Warrior. Now that much was believable, but the story about the English prototype was what baffled me. The game was tweaked with, updated, and completely translated... with no release? What made it even weirder was the title of this translation was, of all things "Earth Bound!"

Great Scott!

So what's the deal? I'm sure anybody who's actually interested has read the story a billion times, but basically, it was translated by a team led by Phil Sandhop, a beta cartridge was completed, and the game was delayed and eventually canceled. The cart got sold on online for only about $100 (now it could go for well over $1,000 I'm sure), and with an additional cost from fans for $400, was uploaded onto the internet for all the fat lifeless nerds to enjoy. They then realized that there was a copy protection screen stopping them from advancing far in the game, so that was manually removed, and the new version was uploaded under the title "Earth Bound Zero." Apologies if that's not exactly right, but it's close enough.

However, despite the awesome back story, and the fact most EarthBound fans and emulation whores have probably played the game at one point or another (regardless of how far they got), the general consensus, unfortunately, is that the game is very difficult and involves too much grinding. While there's no denying that, believe you me, no matter how much time you spend doing stuff like that, it's totally worth it.

In the same fashion that EarthBound would make a good animated series, Mother would make a great live action movie (in fact there's a live action commercial). It has a very unique plot involving a man, his wife, and a baby alien. George and Maria fine this baby named Giegue, who is, obviously, an alien. Giegue always wags its tail and seems restless, except when Maria sings it the "Eight Melodies," it calms Giegue down. George, however, was doing research on Giegue, and wrote down what he observed and planned on publishing his work, which would've led to the human race knowing the secrets of the aliens. Because of this, Giegue's race abducted George and Maria for a while, and only sent George home (I suppose they kept Maria due to Giegue's relationship with her, but the story is very vague). Meanwhile, George continues to do his research for the rest of his life, and is able to perform the secret power of the alien race known as PSI.

Story within the game.

So eventually (three generations after George for some reason) Giegue and his race invade Earth, and the only one who can stop it is the descendant of George and Maria: Ninten (or whatever you wanna call him). Ninten inherited PSI powers from his great grandfather, and as he progresses on his adventure, he learns more telekinetic abilities. The first sign of Giegue's alien invasion is when Ninten goes to leave his room, and is attacked by his own lamp! Soon afterward, it's discovered that there's a poltergeist attack! Going into the rooms of her sisters, Mimmie and Minnie, he finds possessed dolls tormenting them, and after defeating the one in Mimmie's room, the poltergeist stops, and Ninten discovers something in the doll... a music box? Upon playing it, he hears a short, but unforgettable tune.

The screen flashes! I'll just make a note that it doesn't do that effect in the original Japanese version, one of the many features added to the translation.

Ninten's adventure begins when he rescues a little girl named Pippi from a graveyard, obviously named after Pippi Longstocking. Say the right thing to her, and she rewards you with a Franklin Badge, which is a useful item that deflects lightning attacks (get it?). Anyways, I'd better stop before I give the whole story of the game, so let's not spoil things. I should be talking about the game itself.
Mother is, well, how do I put this... it's just amazing. Despite the fact I'm obviously not good at telling stories, if you play the game you will be completely enamored with it. I really think the plot, along with the many subplots along the way, is Mother's huge selling point. The characters are lovable too, and all the supporting characters who tag along have their own conflicts that are resolved in the end (of the translated version, the original Mother basically had no ending). First there's Loid, an unpopular schoolboy who is widely considered a weakling, and so scared of getting beaten up to the point he hides in trash cans. Then there's Ana, daughter of a priest, who's been very quiet ever since her mother mysteriously disappeared. Finally, we have Teddy, leader of the Bla Bla Gang, who turned to crime and violence when his parents were killed.

From left to right: Loid, Ninten, Ana, Teddy.

Another great part of the game is the music. Definitely the best music for any NES game, and quite possibly the best for any game, so it's only natural to have a plot based around a certain song.

This man in Magicant, which is an area created from Maria's conscience, will be happy to sing for you.

The main problem with this game (heck, the only one, but a big problem at that), and probably the only reason it's not entirely recognized for its brilliance, would be, of course, the battles. Unlike EarthBound having you encounter the enemies on screen, Mother has random encounters like most RPGs. They make you grind like crazy, and there is absolutely no balance whatsoever (Shigesato Itoi, creator of the game, has even admitted this). There could be one enemy in an area that you could beat in one hit every time, while another could wipe out your whole party. By the time you get to Mt. Itoi, the final area of the game, your only choice is to run from every battle and hope you get lucky, because if Grizzly Bears don't wipe out your party in three turns (one for each member), then you definitely grinded for over a week straight. Without sleep.

This. Just. Shouldn't. Happen.

Now let's move onto the graphics. I think they are simply wonderful for an 8-bit game, they sorta remind me of the original Final Fantasy. The outlines work really well, and it's all so bright and colorful, except for the battles, which seem pretty dark and dreary. I think it's really stupid that they made the battle background black, because looking at ripped graphics of the enemies, they're outlined amazingly well (to the point they almost look like they were taken right from a Super Nintendo game), but when they're plastered against that black background, you can't even see the outline, making them look horrendous.

It's a shame this scene is so short, aside from the character sprites, it looks like it's straight out of a cartoon!

After you get all eight parts of the song, you must return to Magicant and play them through an ocarina for Queen Mary, the ruler of Magicant. Once you do, Magicant is destroyed, and you're on your way to your biggest challenge yet...

Mother is, by far, my favorite game on the NES, despite not being officially released. In fact, in a way... I think I like it more than EarthBound, but we'll just have to wait and see. For most EarthBound fans, on average, Mother gets ten playthroughs for every fifty EarthBound playthroughs and every thirty Mother 3 playthroughs. I honestly can't understand how people do this, I love the games, but they have absolutely no replay value (I've only beaten Mother and EarthBound the whole way through one time each). Most of the EarthBound community is full of 'tards anyway, a majority of them being born in 199X and not even knowing who Ness was until Super Smash Bros., who then proceed to emulate EarthBound and... man, I didn't want to get started on the fanbase, so I'll just stop there. But believe you me, this series has the absolute worst fanbase out there, even worse than Final Fantasy VII. They see anything that could be even remotely related to EarthBound and they spill their juices like it's a sign from Jesus. It's not like all the fans are that way, I mean, EarthBound's like my favorite thing in the world, and I'm not like that at all... okay, I'm done talking about the fanbase for real now!

I highly suggest you play this game, but not on an emulator. If you know Japanese, or can play through Japanese games without difficulty, import the Famicom or GBA version (I personally recommend the Famicom one, as the GBA game has most of the changes the English translation did, and I like the game better before without the changes, save for the ending). However, my biggest suggestion would be to get a reproduced NES cart of it, which you can find at certain websites. When I play the game through an emulator, I just don't feel it. Heck, when I play it on a reproduced Nintendo cart using a clone system, I don't feel it. But when you play through the entire game on an actual Nintendo system with a real Nintendo controller... there's no better feeling in the world. At all.

Pictures courtesy of

This is my first full-length and submitted article, so I apologized if it is poorly written. Please comment on what you truly think of it, how I can improve, etc. If you have any other questions regarding the game, just post a comment and I'll be sure to answer. If I ever get around to playing through EarthBound again, and if I eventually get my hands on a copy of Mother 3, I'll make this into a series of articles. Thanks for reading, and if I've convinced you in any way to play the game, good luck!

Yes, all of that is mine. ;)
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