EarthBound (series)

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EarthBound Box.jpg
Mother 2, known as EarthBound.
Basic Information
Creatures Inc., HAL Laboratory, Brownie Brown
Family Computer

EarthBound, known in Japan as Mother, is a role-playing game series created by Shigesato Itoi for Nintendo. The series started in 1989 with the Japan-only release of Mother (known unofficially in North America as EarthBound Zero) for the Famicom, and was then followed up by a sequel, released in North America as EarthBound for the Super NES in 1995, and followed up again 12 years later with the Japan only release of Mother 3 for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. Itoi stated in an interview that the name "Mother" was greatly influenced by the John Lennon song "Mother".[1]

In stark contrast to the sword-and-sorcery settings of many Japanese role-playing games, the EarthBound series takes place in more modern America-esque settings, although their stories are told from a Japanese perspective. Mother is set in suburban America, EarthBound is set in Eagleland (an allusion to the United States), and Mother 3 is set on the Nowhere Islands (with some Western overtones). Enemies can be a variety of quirky and strange people, creatures and inanimate objects, such as aliens, possessed guitars, or evil hippies. Weapons include unconventional household items, from yo-yos to frying pans, with swords being rarely used. The series became extremely popular in Japan, but not in other countries such as America. Merchandise for the game was produced, including shirts, handbooks, and even a fully-orchestrated, arranged soundtrack.

Games[edit | edit source]

Mother (EarthBound Zero)[edit | edit source]

Main article: Mother (video game)
File:Mother battle.png
Ninten fighting a crow in the English prototype of Mother.

Mother tells the story of a young boy who has to journey around the world to save the planet from an evil race of mind-controlling aliens. Along the way he is joined by several friends, and meets many unusual characters and visits strange settings before ultimately confronting the leader of the aliens. The game was a smash hit in Japan, and gamers appreciated its unorthodox and refreshing take on the often formulaic RPG genre.

Nintendo of America translated and planned to release the first Mother game in North America under the title Earth Bound. Although the game's localization and translation was finished a year earlier, the game was ultimately deemed unprofitable for a fall 1991 North American release, and the planned release was canceled after the game had already been translated and all packaging and advertising was ready.[2]

It was confirmed by former Nintendo employee Phil Sandhop that Nintendo chose not to release Earth Bound in North America because the Super Nintendo was to be released at the same time originally planned in the country and it thought that insufficient customers would notice a new NES game in favor of the new Super NES console and its games.[3] Furthermore, the cost of releasing the game with the extensive manual and hint book planned would have not been economical without significant sales.

All of Sandhop's changes in Mother appear in the Game Boy Advance Mother 1+2, such as the B Button run command. These features were original ideas of improvement in Mother by Sandhop or the development team. The reason for these changes appearing, according to Sandhop, is that "with games produced by NCL, the development teams continued to work and tweak their projects that they knew would be localized and produced in other territories. Often they would address their own desires that were not completed due to time constraints or not completed to their satisfaction and also address issues raised by Japanese consumers as that release hits the street."[3]

Eventually, a copy of the unreleased NES Earth Bound cartridge was auctioned and the game code was extracted from it and circulated for download on the Internet. To avoid confusion, the game was dubbed EarthBound Zero by fan translation group Neo Demiforce, as Nintendo had since released the SNES sequel to Mother in the United States under the title EarthBound. This copy was shipped over to a relative of one of the members in Neo Demiforce. Soon after, fans of the series and other video game enthusiasts, at first, debated as to the origin of the original development cartridge. It was believed by some to be a forgery, simply an English fan translation with a few changes that was dumped onto a cartridge. But since all of the modifications made to the original in Earth Bound later appeared in Mother 1+2, this theory has effectively been disproved.

EarthBound (Mother 2)[edit | edit source]

Main article: EarthBound

EarthBound (known as Mother 2 in Japan) is a distant sequel to the original Mother (sometimes referred to as EarthBound Zero), with many characters, themes, and tunes borrowed from its predecessor. The game also includes many subtle pop-culture references: the fight against the neighborhood gangster backdropped by Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode" is one of several[citation needed]. Many of the characters and settings are very similar, but the only explicitly returning character is Giygas, who swears revenge at the end of the first game (evidenced by EarthBound's Japanese subtitle: Gyiyg Strikes Back!).

Though Mother never saw the American marketplace, its sequel for the Super Famicom/SNES, EarthBound, did, and stars a young psychic boy by the name of Ness. The series was commercially successful in Japan, while it was not commercially successful in the United States.[4]

In May 2008, EarthBound was added to the ESRB database, listed with an E rating on the Nintendo Wii platform.[citation needed]

Mother 3[edit | edit source]

Main article: Mother 3

Mother 3 is the third and, according to Shigesato Itoi, possibly final game in the EarthBound series. Beforehand, the game was in development for Nintendo 64, and the main character was Flint, but the project was cancelled due to the release date being near the end of the system's life span (and possibly with issues with the 3D engine and other production problems). The project picked up again for the Game Boy Advance (which was announced on a commercial for Mother 1 + 2). The game was finally released on April 20, 2006, and retained the traditional EarthBound artstyle and the general story and characters that were introduced in the cancelled N64 version. Unlike the original story for the N64, the story focuses on a boy named Lucas and his family on Nowhere Island. Their home is invaded and the peace is disrupted by the mysterious "Pig Mask Army" who dramatically changes Nowhere Island by introducing technology and infrastructure and performing bizarre experiments on the flora and fauna in their takeover. The game chronicles the trials and tribulations of Lucas and his family and friends as they fight against the Pig Mask Army threat.

The game is only available in Japan, but on October 17, 2008, a fan translation patch was released on the Internet.

Mother 1 + 2[edit | edit source]

Mother 1 + 2 (MOTHER 1+2 Mazā Wan Tsū?) is a port release of Mother and EarthBound (Mother 2 in Japan) of the EarthBound series for the Game Boy Advance. Released exclusively in Japan on June 20, 2003, by Nintendo, a bonus cell-phone strap of Mr. Saturn was included for pre-ordered packages of the game. Though the strap was originally intended only for those who had pre-ordered the game, its popularity caused it to be sold briefly on It was re-released as one of the Value Selection games on February 2, 2006.

Though the concept of Mother 1 + 2 was to compile two separate games into one easily accessible package, promotion focused entirely on EarthBound, much to the dismay of long-time fans, who argued that the promotional strategy was reducing the importance of the first game.[citation needed] EarthBound figurines were made available through the sale of Coca-Cola products.[5][6] Though the port was only released in Japan, the version of Mother in Mother 1 + 2 is actually a Japanese translation of the planned English version of Mother. However, the version of EarthBound in Mother 1 + 2 remains the same as the original Japanese release. The name of the company that directed the port and translation was never announced by Nintendo.

The game's score, Mother 1 + 2 Original Soundtrack, was also released. The pieces included are different arrangements of the originals. However, its release lead to renewed calls for a re-release of the Mother soundtrack, and a "remastered version" of the Mother soundtrack was released by Sony in February 2004.

Mother 1 + 2 was given a total score of 35 out of 40 by a panel of four reviewers for Famitsu.[7] Although the compilation was not released in North America, Nintendo Power magazine listed Mother 1 + 2 as the most-wanted import game in a 2005 issue.

By the end of 2003, Mother 1 + 2 had sold over 278,000 copies.[8]

Other games[edit | edit source]

There are also rumors, according to Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine, of a compilation of the three EarthBound games for the Nintendo DS, but nothing has been confirmed.[9]

Ness, the main character from EarthBound, is a playable character in all three installments of Super Smash Bros.. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, he is an unlockable character by default. Super Smash Bros. Melee features the EarthBound locations Onett and Fourside as arenas to battle in, as well as a Mr. Saturn item from EarthBound. In Brawl, Ness is joined by the Mother 3 character Lucas (readily available at the start), and the EarthBound item representation has been expanded to include the new Franklin Badge. With the introduction of Assist Trophies in Brawl, Jeff from EarthBound is one of the many characters that briefly appear on the battlegrounds in the game. Porky Minch also appears, in his Mother 3 form, as a boss in the story mode, "The Subspace Emissary". A stage set in New Pork City, from Mother 3, and the return of Melee's Onett stage exist in Brawl as well.[10][11]

Other releases[edit | edit source]

There were also EarthBound strategy guides, manga comics, apparel and the EarthBound soundtrack.

Recurring elements[edit | edit source]

Gameplay[edit | edit source]

Both EarthBound and Mother 3 feature a signature battle system in which it is possible to prevent a character's hit points from dropping to zero, even after sustaining a fatal blow. The hit point counter appears similar to an odometer, with hit points gradually rolling upwards or downwards on healing or taking damage. Even if a character is hit with a blow greater or equal to his or her current hit points, he or she can be rescued if healed before the hit point counter reaches zero, as only then is a character knocked out.

Characters[edit | edit source]

Doctor Andonuts[edit | edit source]

Doctor Andonuts (アンドーナッツ博士 Andōnattsu hakase?) is first seen in EarthBound, and is the father of Jeff, one of the game's protagonists. He helps the four main characters by providing them with his inventions. He later appears in Mother 3, having been kidnapped by Porky to work for the Pigmask Army and create monsters called "Chimeras".

Flying Men[edit | edit source]

The Flying Men are inhabitants of Magicant, and assist the player as a supporting character in gameplay. They first appear in Mother, and later in EarthBound.

Giygas[edit | edit source]

Giygas, known in the Japanese versions as Gyiyg (ギーグ Gīgu?, Giegue in Earth Bound), is the leader of the alien race bent on conquering the universe, and the main antagonist of both Mother and EarthBound. Giygas' PSI power is beyond human comprehension, and can tempt people with evil hearts into serving him. Though he is referred to with masculine pronouns, a character in EarthBound mentions Giygas' gender is unknown. Giygas was raised by George and Maria, the great-grandparents of the main character of Mother. Maria grew to love Giygas as if he were her own child. She said that he was always wagging his tail, but would only stop when she sang her lullabies. One of Maria's lullabies was used against Giygas in Mother.

Between the events of Mother and EarthBound, Giygas' mind was destroyed by his own incredible power, and lost control of his power and awareness of his actions. A device known as the "Devil's Machine" helped Giygas control his power, and was hidden in the Earth's distant past. Ten years after the time EarthBound takes place, Giygas succeed in conquering the universe, but a friendly alien traveled back in time to warn Ness of Giygas' attack on the Earth. Ness and his friends traveled back in time and destroyed Giygas in the distant past, undoing Giygas' apocalypse.

The final battle of EarthBound was inspired by the Shintōhō film entitled The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty, which Itoi accidentally saw as a child at an adult theater. Specifically, the scene that inspired the battle was a scene that, according to Itoi, depicted a woman being raped by a river,[12] although the scene in question depicts a murder rather than a rape.[13]

Mr. Saturn[edit | edit source]

Mr. Saturn (どせいさん Dosei-san?) is a friendly species that aids the player's party. All individuals of the species are named Mr. Saturn. They are identical in appearance, each short, peach, with an overlarge nose, whiskers, and a bow on its one hair. They speak Saturnian (composed of odd looking English letters), and erratically use the words "boing," "ding," "zoom," and "Dakota". The Japanese font is said to be inspired by the handwriting of the young daughter of EarthBound's designer, Shigesato Itoi. They make a return appearance in Mother 3, the Japanese sequel to EarthBound. In both games, they help with repairing or building various machines.

Mr. Saturns make their home in Saturn Valley, in Eagleland, which is just north of Threed. Their village has round homes which resemble flying saucers and/or the planet Saturn and strange furniture, such as ATMs which bounce up and down in place and resemble Mr. Saturns. Some of the Mr. Saturn's preferred foods are "almond monaka" and "pig yōkan" (changed to "peanut cheese bars" and "piggy jelly" in the English version of the game), goods that can be purchased in the Saturn Valley shop. According to Shigesato Itoi, the Mr. Saturn race are the symbolism of innocence in the game.[12]

Mr. Saturns have had several pieces of merchandise made for them, including plush dolls and a wrist strap. Mr. Saturn makes cameos in multiple other games developed by HAL Laboratory. It first appeared in Kirby Super Star as a collectible item, and was later included in the Super Smash Bros. series in multiple forms, including an offensive item and multiple collectibles.

Porky Minch[edit | edit source]

Porky Minch (ポーキー・ミンチ Pōkī Minchi?), called Pokey Minch in the English-language version of EarthBound, sometimes referred to as Master Porky/Master Pokey, is a primary antagonist of EarthBound, and the main antagonist of Mother 3. In EarthBound, he begins as Ness' obnoxious friend. He has a little brother named Picky Minch, who is much braver than he is.[14] He joins Giygas, becoming his right-hand man, and is regularly seen attempting to thwart Ness. He eventually ends up in the "Cave of the Past", an area existing long before the events of EarthBound, where Giygas is located. He taunts the protagonists as they fight Giygas, and once Giygas is ultimately defeated, Porky disappears into space and time using a Time Distorter. His brother, Picky, comes to Ness' house at the end of the game, and gives Ness a note from Porky which suggests that he will return.

He was confirmed during the development of EarthBound 64 to be the primary villain; in fact, the game was at one point subtitled as "Fall of the Pig King". Not much information is provided on him, only that he formed an army of people who wear pig uniforms. EarthBound 64 was ultimately canceled, but was revived for the Game Boy Advance as Mother 3. He remains as the leader of the Pigmask Army and the primary antagonist, but is only revealed late in the game. His excessive time traveling petrified his body and mind, but shows obvious signs of extreme age, which could range anywhere from 1,000 years old to 10,000 years old. His motives for attacking the Nowhere Islands, the primary location of Mother 3, are that he wanted to access the power of the Dark Dragon's powers, which if he did, would cause the entire Earth to be destroyed.

In an interview with Shigesato Itoi, he describes Porky as being a symbol of humankind.[15] The interviewer commented that he turned extremely evil in Mother 3, going so far as to describe him as a demon.[15] Porky's feelings for Ness are not clear; in the interview, Itoi commented that Porky had no friends, so perhaps he only played with Ness.[15] He further added that his mean-spirited nature could have come from his parents Lardna Minch and Aloysius Minch, both of whom he described as being "pretty terrible."[15] In the final battle of Mother 3, Porky encases himself in a device called the "Absolutely Safe Capsule". He is protected from all danger inside, but cannot exit it. Shigesato Itoi commented that in theory, even when the Earth comes to an end in 5.5 billion years, Porky would still be alive.[15] Itoi commented that the grief of this was depressing to him, and that Porky is "truly a poem in himself."[15]

IGN editor Lucas Thompson included Porky on a list of five characters who may be included in Super Smash Bros. Brawl based on what he described as one of the more credible proposed roster, describing his spider-mech as an intimidating sight to see.[16] In the Subspace Emissary storymode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl he is a boss, and follows Lucas through an abandoned zoo. Ness jumps in to help Lucas and they together defeat Porky's spider-mech.

Starmen[edit | edit source]

Starmen are alien minions of Giygas, who appear in Mother and EarthBound. The most powerful Starman is a being called the "Final Starman", one of which appears on the cover of the North American box art of EarthBound.

Locations[edit | edit source]

Magicant[edit | edit source]

Magicant is a world that is first found in Mother by Ninten, and later by Ness in EarthBound. Magicant is the world of Queen Mary's mind in Mother; however, in EarthBound, it is in Ness's mind.

Music[edit | edit source]

The song "Eight Melodies" originated in Mother, and later appeared in Mother 3. It was an important plot-point of the first game. The song met with some popularity in Japan, having been featured in textbooks in some elementary schools.

References[edit | edit source]

  3. 3.0 3.1
  4. Cowan, Danny (7 February 2007). Vapor Trail: Games that never were. 1UP. Retrieved on 2008-04-01
  5. Mother 1 + 2 Promotional Ad. Retrieved on 2008-05-31
  6. Hirohiko Niizumi (August 25, 2003). Earthbound figure campaign to begin in Japan. Retrieved on 2008-05-31
  7. Famitsu scores. Retrieved on 2008-05-31
  8. 2003 Top 100 Best Selling Japanese Console Games. Retrieved on 2008-05-31
  10., stage 14
  11., stage 21
  12. 12.0 12.1 Interview with Shigesato Itoi (Japanese). Retrieved on 2009-03-27
  13. Mandelin, Clyde (20 January 2009). The Scene that Inspired Giygas. Earthbound Central. Retrieved on 2009-07-21
  14. APE, HAL Laboratory. EarthBound. "Picky Minch: Wha-! You woke me up... Pokey! I've been looking all over for you... You see, Pokey got scared and ran away... Well, I'm glad that you're okay at least... Let's go home now. I bet Mom and Dad are worried sick about us. Geez! Sometimes I wonder which one of us is the real big brother."
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 Exclusive Interview (Part 2, Page 3). Nintendo Dream. Retrieved on 2009-01-19

External links[edit | edit source]

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