Forget About the Brotherly and Other-ly Love, Motherly Love is just the thing for you.
July 18th is when it happened, on that fated year of Luigi, 2013. It started out like any other day, vaguely uninteresting and slow, passing along the infinite river of time. I was casually perusing the Internet, hungry, waiting for that one morsel of news to wipe away the boredom, when rather miraculously – as if by higher force – a Nintendo Direct Mini was uploaded to YouTube.
Surprisingly hefty – considering it was supposed to be ‘Mini’ – running at 22 minutes, the Direct showed off some new Pikmin 3 and The Wonderful 101 content, and various other things that really aren’t that significant. It was the ending of this Direct that was most important, but before we explore this holy moment let’s head back to April 2013, to another Nintendo Direct.
Former Nintendo president Satoru Iwata highlighted some more details on a few Luigi games, showed off The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the first time and happily introduced that EarthBound – or Mother 2, one of the many games he himself valiantly helped to save – was heading West for the first time, in everywhere but the US.
I’d heard of EarthBound’s cult status beforehand – through various Nintendo magazines and on the web – but in all honesty, I was more excited at the chance to try out something that wasn’t (legally) possible before, than to play the game itself.
All I really knew about EarthBound was that it was an RPG set in modern day, Ness was the main character, there’s this little weird thing with whiskers called Mr Saturn and… oh, it had an insane cult following. I’d gleaned all the EarthBound trophies in Super Smash Bros. and listened to all the music remixes, but nothing really captured me. Coupled with the fact I’d read that it would never release in the West due to copyright issues involving the music, any potential interest was definitely eroded.
Apple of Enlightenment
Heading back to the aforementioned holy moment in the July Direct Mini, it was announced that EarthBound would be released that very day, at 5pm UK time, on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. I remember watching the Internet flame up with an infectious, red-hot hype. In hindsight it was a pretty clever move by Nintendo, as they relied on their loyal fanbase to spread the wildfire instead of spending the money buying gasoline themselves. It worked marvellously, as the hype started to get to me.
So, I waited until it was time and rushed to download it, fuelled by some innate urge to finally try out this enigma of a game. When starting EarthBound for the first time, although in jest, I sent a text message to a friend bearing a not-so-deadly premonition: “I’ve just started EarthBound… I think this maybe my favourite game ever!”
It was the name selection screen that made me send the text, as it was hilariously absurd. It not only was it asking me to name Ness, Paula, Jeff and the amazingly named Poo, it then proceeded to ask me to name my dog and favourite food – before you ask, it’s pizza obviously – and I found this hilarious! Other RPGs ask you to name all of your party, so it’s not uncommon, but this game went that extra mile. It felt personal in a way, like meeting someone new who is genuinely interested in getting to know you and somewhat subconsciously signalled that there was something more to this game than met the eye.
Why am I telling you all this? Rambling on about Nintendo Directs, holy moments, text messages and such? Well, as I wrote above, I really didn’t have that much interest in EarthBound, but as my text message so prematurely foresaw, it’s undeniably my favourite game ever. Before I’d even sincerely understood what had happened, I’d become a fan.
I’m currently on the sacred path to becoming a devout Mother/EarthBound fanboy; I carry my Hobonichi Techo – a Japanese diary/sketchbook created by the director and writer of Mother/EarthBound, Shigesato Itoi, delightfully decorated with an EarthBound cover no less – with me at all times. Every new person I meet that has even the slightest interest in video games is blasted with a heavy barrage of reasons why they need to go out that instant and buy a Wii U, for the sole reason of experiencing EarthBound.
Last year I had the chance to visit Japan on a business trip, which I used as a spiritual voyage to level up my Mother fandom. I found a shop in Akihabara called Friends – aptly named after the song Bein’ Friends from Mother 1, or so the rumours indicate – to purchase Mother 1 + 2 and Mother 3 on GBA; my colleagues noted how I was almost instantly ready to return back to London after purchase of these was complete… plus loads of Mother phone charms which now adorn my laptop, pencil case etc.
Playing EarthBound was very important for me; I think it truly changed me. Unlike a lot of junk food media that pervades the entertainment landscape today, where you go in empty and after consuming are somehow even emptier, EarthBound gives you something back. It’s honest, pure, artful, funny, stupid, emotional, scary, and always inventive. The original Japanese packaging had the tagline on the back saying, “Children will become adults and adults will become children.” There isn’t a better way to describe the game than that; I played it as an adult and yet I have more nostalgia for EarthBound than a lot of things I experienced as a child.
There’s something about EarthBound that makes it strangely elusive to expound why it’s so special – it needs to be experienced – as I’m reminded of a quote from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Psychomagical and semi-autobiographical novel Where the Bird Sings Best: “The songs are like invisible birds; they go all over the place, flying. You call one, and it comes to perch on your tongue. If you fix it in a notebook, you kill it.” If you haven’t experienced EarthBound I implore you to go out and give it a chance, even if you have no interest, as you never know – like myself – you may end up loving it.
O’ Mother 3, where art thou? Find out why Mother 3 should come to the West.