creation of Japanese copywriter Shigesato Itoi, responsible for many
acclaimed works spanning numerous genres, MOTHER was one of the first
times an established artist with no previous affiliation with the
gaming industry chose the video game as the medium for their latest
Both then and now, adventure and role playing games are typically set
in a medieval/fantasy setting, or in a futuristic setting. Inspired by
Dragon Quest, Itoi paid homage to his inspiration by deliberately
breaking many conventions Enix’s early RPGs established as
Instead of knights and wizards in a fantasy setting, MOTHER featured young children exploring suburban 1980’s America.
Visually, the game looked like a cross between Dragon Quest and
Peanuts, so much so that Nintendo of America edited some of the games
appear less Peanuts-like for the unreleased North American version.
Much of the core gameplay was directly derived from Dragon Quest, but
had a distinctly modern flavor. Instead of plundering gold nuggets from
defeated monsters, Dad would deposit good old US Dollars into your bank
account, which you withdrew with a debit card.
Burgers and sports drinks replaced magic potions as restorative items.
The swarms of enemies players faced included hippies, crazed
automobiles, and escaped zoo animals. Abandoned factories, public
schools, and suburban neighborhoods replace the dungeons and walled
villages of other RPGs.
game's world was gigantic, perhaps even by modern standards, and unlike
Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest, in which everything outside dungeons and
towns was represented by means of a scaled down “world
map”, everything in MOTHER was true to scale, and traversing from
location to location was at times a daunting task, even with the help
of public transportation.
Despite the deliberately simplistic graphics, (even by Famicom
standards) the sheer size and uniqueness of the setting won the hearts
of players across Japan. When MOTHER was released in 1989 for the
Famicom, it gained a following and spawned mangas, CDs, art books, a
novelization, and other merchandise.
of America, and the original designers in Japan collaborated to create
a North American version of MOTHER for the NES, which was renamed
“EarthBound”. EarthBound was to feature several
enhancements left out of the Japanese version, and several prototype
cartridges of the completed translation were prepared for review.
Oddly enough, despite the unprecedented internal resources that went
into Earth Bound’s localization, NOA abandoned plans to
manufacture and distribute the finished product, deciding instead to
focus on marketing games for their new Super NES.
Luckily for English speakers, one of the completed prototype cartridges
found it's way into the hands of a group of hackers who turned the
cartridge into a ROM file known as “Earth Bound Zero”,
which is playable on any computer through an NES emulator.
pirated ROM is the only means by which the game can be played in
English unless Nintendo finally gets it’s act together and
releases this game legitimately on the Wii’s Virtual Console.
For the full, fascinating story of MOTHER and Earth Bound Zero's
development history, including an interview with one of the NOA
translators who oversaw the project, check out LostLevels.org’s
awesome in depth feature, Spotlight: Earth Bound.