CSG Retrospective – Mother
If there is one Nintendo series that is constantly being neglected it is the Mother/ Earthbound series. Mother is a series of RPGs that spans a mere three games and from what I have read in various articles Shigesato Itoi, the director of the franchise, has no plans of continuing it. Although this is disheartening news, there is always a chance that Itoi may rejuvenate the series at some point in the future. In the meantime, I can use this retrospective article to share with you all just how amazing and influential this series is; influencing popular games like Undertale and Contact.
For the sake of convenience, I will refer to each installment by their original Mother title and provide their Earthbound title in parenthesis. What makes the Mother games so fascinating are their uniqueness. The franchise strays away from the usual tropes of fantasy RPGs and incorporates alternatives to those tropes. Characters use baseball bats and frying pans as weapons instead of swords; some characters also use psychic abilities instead of magic spells. Moreover, the Mother games contain plenty of humor that gives each game its own brand of charm. One instance of parody that I found to be hilarious is in Mother 2 (Earthbound), where there is a character who actually makes it his life mission to construct dungeons for people to explore. Even going so far as to post signs in his dungeons that inform explorers about what items, treasures, and enemies to expect within. However, underneath all of the silliness of the Mother games lies narratives that cross every line of the emotional spectrum. The plot of each Mother depicts heartbreaking moments of global destruction and losing loved ones to heartwarming, slice of life moments of children making friends and growing up.
Mother (Earthbound Beginnings) came out in 1989 for the Nintendo Famicom where players control a young boy named Ninten (a default name that can be changed) from a small North American town called Podunk. He embarks on a worldwide quest to uncover the truth behind strange, paranormal events occurring in his hometown. Ninten meets new friends along his journey and acquires new psychic abilities. Gameplay in Mother accomplishes a lot with very little as all in-game actions are conducted through text boxes. These text boxes display everything from character dialogue all the way up to combat actions. Combat in Mother is turn-based and the only things seen during a battle is a still image of the enemy being fought, a command menu, and the stats of each party member. This may appear stagnate, but the text boxes actually do a good job providing vivid descriptions of everything that is happening so you will always stay on your toes during a fight. Sadly, Mother was exclusive to Japan and it never saw a release outside of the country. It was not until 2015, a whopping 26 years since its initial release, when Mother was released stateside as downloadable title on the Wii U’s Virtual Console under the localized name Earthbound Beginnings.
Mother’s sequel Mother 2 was released in 1994 for the Super Famicom; it is the first Mother game to see an American release. To avoid confusing American audiences with its predecessor Mother 2’s title was changed to Earthbound and it was sold for the Super Nintendo in 1995. Similar to the first Mother, the plot focuses on another young boy, this time named Ness (the very same Ness of Smash Bros. fame), who goes on quest with friends to stop an evil extraterrestrial threat called Giygas from subjugating the Earth to a fate of eternal darkness. All I have to say about Earthbound is that is not only one of favorite RPGs of all time, it is one of my favorite video games of all time. My first review for Cynosure Gaming was on Earthbound so if you want a detailed analysis of it click here. If there is any Mother game you should check out first it has to be Earthbound. It is available alongside Earthbound Beginnings on the Wii U Virtual Console too.
The third Mother game is an elusive title that I have not had a chance to play. I know for a fact that I am not alone here because Mother 3 has yet to see an official American release. Originally released in Japan for the Game Boy Advance in 2006, Mother 3 was intended to be Earthbound 64, but development experienced tons of hurdles and all assets of Earthbound 64 were scrapped. The aftermath of that fiasco resulted in Mother 3 that, from what I have seen in gameplay videos, differs significantly from its predecessors.
Mother 3 is divided into chapters and although the game’s focus is on Lucas, the main character of the game, there are chapters where perspectives are switched and a different character will become the protagonist. For example, Lucas’ father Flint will be playable for one chapter while a thief named Duster will become the protagonist of another. I like the idea of controlling different characters because it allows for more character development, a thing that was lacking in the first two Mother games. Combat is nearly identical to Mother 1 and 2 with the only major difference being that you can manipulate the musical theme of an enemy to score extra damage on them; sounds strange, yet from what I have seen in gameplay videos, the music manipulation looks to be very innovative gameplay mechanic. Mother 3’s fresh story and gameplay are incentive enough for me to dive into it so I hope Nintendo finally caves in to the fan demand and releases this game in the West. As of right now the only way to play Mother 3 is through an emulator, but I am fairly certain that when it does come out in the States it will be released as a downloadable title on the Switch’s Virtual Console.
The Mother series is a charming and poignant trilogy that brings it own brand of quirkiness to the RPG genre. Packed with plenty of emotion and comedy, each game does wonders in appeasing the sensibilities of any gamer. If you are a fan of RPGs who is looking for something unique that deconstructs everything you know about the standard fantasy RPG then the Mother games are right up your alley. I hope one day it will emerge from its cult status and be recognized as one of Nintendo’s core franchises.
Source: Earthbound Wiki
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