It took 19 years for The War Against Giygas to come to an end and as equilibrium was reached Shigesato Itoi’s masterpiece, EarthBound/Mother 2, was finally allowed a worldwide release. I first experienced the game at this point, which you can read about here.
Since after I finished EarthBound all the way back in 2013, I’ve been not-so-patiently awaiting the release of its sequel, the puzzling and perplexing Mother 3. In Every Nintendo Direct since, I’ve been hoping for that seemingly implausible Mother 3 announcement to finally materialise. It’s now January 2016 and this still hasn’t happened. Why is this? What is disallowing Mother 3 from escaping the captivity of its Japanese homeland? Well, that is very complicated question that factors in many elements.
Aria of Unease
Mother 3 is no normal game; it’s a conundrum. It’s a sequel to a cult game that didn’t particularly need a sequel. Just looking at its troubled development that transitioned over four consoles – SNES, N64 (along with its add-on the 64DD), Gamecube and finally GBA – shows that there has always been a tumultuous air about the game. It first surfaced in 3D as Mother 64 before being cancelled and then finally released as a 2D game on the Gameboy Advance in 2006. It was received well at release and was one of the best-sold games of that year, but in later years, is apparently not so fondly remembered in Japan.
Japanese Mother fans seemingly aren’t too fond of the darker and more depressing tone Mother 3 possesses, which is, although anecdotal, something I’ve seen first hand. On a business trip to Japan last year I was excitedly showing off my recent purchase of Mother 3 on GBA, which brought out a wince of utmost displeasure from a Japanese colleague. It was very humorous to see, but it’s far more humorous when you consider that the game has the exact opposite reaction in the West, where the game was never released.
You’ve Come Far…
If Mother 3 was never released in the west, how is it that an opinion of it can even form? Well, through the extremely hard work of everyone at Starmen.net of course. After a myriad of petitions, campaigns and fan-art books being sent directly to the almost perfect brick-wall that is Nintendo, sadly, nothing was ever actualised. Starmen.net decided to take matters into their own hands and translate Mother 3 themselves. Clyde Mandelin and his team laboriously toiled away for years on not just localising the immense amount of text, but also building their own tools as a means to place the text into the game, which paid off marvellously as this fan translation is considered by many to be of unparalleled quality.
Much praise has been lavished onto Mother 3 by the west – thanks to this translation – in particular the appraisal by Tim Rogers, stating that Mother 3 is the @”Closest a video game has yet come to modern literature”. From what I’ve gathered perusing the web, the consensus is that the darker and depressing tone of the game is masterful, mature and a truly great example of a video game story which helps to proves games can be art.
So Mother 3 has a darker tone, is not fondly remembered by Japanese Mother fans, and already has a worthy fan translation readily available. Is this why it hasn’t been released in the west yet? Well, some of this could have added to the decision to not release it, but there’s so much more. Many think the game would likely have to be changed, as there are a lot of mature themes fundamental to the core of the game and the story it tells which Nintendo may not want to deal with. Additionally, translation of such a wordy title would likely cost a lot and depending on how many titles Nintendo’s localisation department are busy with, it may not be possible. From their point of view, would it be worth translating a game from a cult franchise that in all honesty, isn’t likely to be a financial success? One thing we know for sure is that the fans are unquestionably hungry for this game.
A Tiny, Enormous Miracle
I can’t predict the future, but I personally think that Mother 3 is nearing its westward arrival. All the signs seem to point to it, so lets take a look back at some milestones that when shoddily cobbled together may shed light on this hunch.
EarthBound was released in July 2013 and later in the month, Nintendo opened up a Miiverse community called Onett Times. It was one of the best selling eShop games on the Wii U at the time, only beaten by an uncostly 30p Donkey Kong. 2014 was fairly desolate, other than for one extraordinary instant in Nintendo’s e3 Digital Event where a Robot Chicken sketch entailed a fan asking for Mother 3, only for Reggie Fils-Aimé to consequently burn him alive.
The next milestone was in April 2015 where out of nowhere, Lucas was revealed in Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS, to be released in June 2015. During the Nintendo World Championships, also in June, Mother 1 – now titled EarthBound Beginnings – was revealed and released soon after on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. Again this was one of the best selling games on the eShop in multiple territories.
Finally in November 2015, during last Direct of 2015, it was announced that Mother 3 would be heading to the Japanese Wii U Virtual Console in December 2015.
Why open a Miiverse community for the franchise? Why joke about Mother 3 in one of the biggest gaming events of the year? Why suddenly release the first game in the franchise? Mother 3 has to be on its way, surely? Those of you who are maybe cynical might say that the Miiverse community is starkly barren with only one post in it, which is true, yet the fact that it is ‘your source for the latest EarthBound news’ and ‘is restricted to Nintendo representatives’ suggests there was at least some intention buried there.
Both EarthBound and Beginnings proved to be relatively successful when they released, so if Beginnings was somehow a test to see if EarthBound’s eShop success was a fluke, we can safely say that it wasn’t. 2016 is the tenth anniversary of Mother 3 – the perfect time to release the game – which is what I think all this new-fangled earthbound attention since 2013 has been leading up to.
Starmen.net are currently holding a Miiverse Siege, where you can participate by going onto Miiverse and shouting to Nintendo that you want Mother 3 to be released worldwide, or use #Mother3World on Twitter to do the same. EarthBound was brought west thanks to similar tactics so it’s reasonable to assume that – if Nintendo are already working on it – then a little fan pressure might let the whole world finally experience another Shigesato Itoi masterpiece. As a wise person once said:
The journey from this point will be long, and it will be more difficult than anything you have undergone to this point. Yet, I know you will be all right. When good battles evil, which side do you believe wins? Do you have faith that good is triumphant?
Read EarthBound: A boy’s best friend is his Mother – a personal appraisal of the classic SNES RPG.