is the only game in Shigesato Itoi’s MOTHER series to be
released outside of Japan, with this installment being the second title
in the series.
After a difficult, problem ridden development cycle, MOTHER 2 finally
came out for the Super Famicom in 1994, five years after MOTHER. The US
version, EarthBound, came out for the Super NES a few months later in
Everything about MOTHER was made bigger, and better for EarthBound.
MOTHER 2’s graphics were vastly improved, the contemporary
and cities populated with more characters to talk to and the streets
made busy with vehicular traffic. EarthBound’s world was even
more expansive than MOTHER’s, and was once again true to
At a whopping 600 pages, EarthBound’s script was about six
times the length of MOTHERs, which allowed for a deeper, more flushed
out storyline, and more complex dialogue, making MOTHER seem barren and
lonely in comparison.
Despite EarthBound’s humorous, upbeat mood and colorful
graphics, players encounter unexpectedly meaningful and emotional
situations that they may not not have expected from a game that the
uninitiated sometimes mistake for a Pokemon title.
EarthBound’s soundtrack is also just about perfect given the
available technology, and unlike MOTHER’s, which could get
repetitive at times, EarthBound plays host to many diverse tracks of
such high caliber that some of it could pass for
“real” music having nothing to do with a video game.
core of EarthBound’s gameplay, the battle system, has also
been greatly improved upon.
While many Super NES RPGs had four different battle themes (a regular
battle theme, a miniboss theme, a boss theme, and a final boss theme) EarthBound has
about nine different battle themes which represent numerous genres
including rock, jazz, techno, and ironically enough, chiptune
Instead of the static, black backgrounds of MOTHER’s battle
screen, EarthBound’s battles are accompanied by pulsating
psychedelic light shows fitting to the pace and mood of the often
humorous battles against New Age Retro Hippies, Annoying Old Party Men,
Psychic Psychos, Mad Ducks.
improvement is the “rolling health meter”, which
essentially means that your health is displayed on odometer reels that
have a delay on their rolling action. For example, if your only
character has 50 Health remaining, and then takes a blow that deals 500
damage, you can still survive if you can manage to defeat the enemy or
use a healing item before the meter actually reaches 0. Later in the
game when your characters have hundreds of HP each, this will often
mean the difference between life and death.
Also, unlike MOTHER, which was often accused of having balance and
difficulty issues which demanded long level grinding marathons,
EarthBound is pretty well balanced throughout, and gives you enough
leeway to level up and upgrade your weapons without having to
significantly stall your progress to do so.
MOTHER 2’s success in Japan, Nintendo’s attempt to
popularize EarthBound in the US failed miserably.
At the time of EarthBound’s 1995 release, the RPG had yet to
become as popular in the US as it would be just a few years later.
A combination of this, EarthBound’s
“cartoony” graphics, and a poorly conceived marketing campaign
in which Nintendo of America characterized EarthBound as being full of
fart and barf jokes, doomed this game to disappointing sales.
Later, a combination of internet word of mouth and the main character
Ness’s appearances in the Super Smash Bros. games helped
EarthBound (and the entire MOTHER series) gain a considerable
Today, the EarthBound game pack often sells for upwards of $50.00 USD
on eBay. Like it’s prequel the unreleased “Earth
Bound (NES)”, Nintendo aught to take advantage of all the
interest in the EarthBound games and put both titles up for sale on the
Virtual Console rather than let ROM hustlers and counterfeit cartridge
manufacturers make all the money on an excellent series that Nintendo
of America has all too quickly given up on.