A Detailed Analysis of EarthBound
In the summer of 1999, a playable demo of the Nintendo 64 version of MOTHER 3 (henceforth EarthBound 64) was shown to the public at Nintendo Spaceworld ’99. The Internet was still young back then, and we were all naive chaps, so looking back now, it was incredibly lucky for us that one of the very few Japanese fans we were in contact at the time with attended the event, took pictures, and wrote about his experience. That fellow’s name was EXCELSIOR!, and he no longer runs a site or anything, but his legacy lives on with this information!
And now that MOTHER 3 has actually been released on the GameBoy Advance and we know all kinds of details, we can look at this old EarthBound 64 stuff with a new perspective. So let’s have a look!
Here’s a sign that says that the current approximate wait to get your turn to play the demo is 30 minutes, and you get 10 minutes to play. That’s a lot shorter than the wait at other lines. The Donkey Kong 64 line was like an hour and a half. Incidentally, EXCELSIOR! (EX for short from now on) played the demo twice.
Also, it’s not very important, but there are some other tiny pics of the MOTHER 3 demo area here.
Here’s a picture from the Nintendo Spaceworld Guidebook that everyone who attended got. It has the 3D versions of Lucas, Claus, Flint, and Boney. I saw this same image used for in-store advertisements when the game went up for preorder in 2000, and you can see it all in nicer detail here.
Here we see the title screens – I’m not 100% sure, but I believe you were able to interact with them somehow. Also on the far left we see a shot of Tazmily Village. But the real point of interest here isn’t on the screens, it’s further below: the games are running on Nintendo 64s with giant cartridges with white labels. And they’re all covered in cases. Darn. Anyway, apparently, giant N64 carts like these ones are flash carts. I’m not an expert, but that’s what I’ve heard many people say. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that these carts no longer have the game data on them, so the chance of this demo ever leaking out is slim
Here, you can see Flint talking to the equivalent of Mayor Pusher in the GBA version. On the right, we see a battle scene with some trippy colors. It’s too small to read any of the text, but it at least looks kind of fun.
Here we see two battle screens. The one on the left looks a lot like an old screenshot in which you’re battling a simple boar enemy, so that’s probably what this is. The battle on the right looks pretty awesome, but there’s not much to see.
In the upper right corner of the left screen is a tiny text box asking “What will you do?”, which is a prompt asking the player to choose a battle command. According to other information, the kinds of battle actions available throughout the game are:
- Magic (yeah, not PSI)
- Call (Lucas only)
These commands are found on the brown menu thing on the left. The pink thing on the bottom is the status box that tells you your HP and all that.
On the right we see a big item screen being accessed during a battle. Although you could see what items you had in your inventory, you couldn’t use them in the demo. You couldn’t use the Magic, Speak, or Call battle commands in the demo, either.
On the left screen, we see Flint running around.
On the left we see that a player has been defeated in battle. On the right we see some more Tazmily.
Here we see a player who’s won a battle. Sometimes, after battle, it would say, “You learned (something)!” or “You mastered (something)!”
Here we see a battle with a Pigmask. It looks like this was from the video promo, but it also looks like there’s a guy here, playing the game, so maybe this enemy was in the demo. Anyway, you were supposed to be able to hit really hard if you tapped the buttons at the right time, but it was apparently pretty hard.
Another battle. Apparently, if you snuck up on an enemy, the battle would be slightly tilted at first. Pretty odd, but maybe it made more sense if you actually saw it in action. On the right, we see Flint wandering around in what seems to be a desert-ish, cave-ish area.
“You defeated the Flying Rat!” The Japanese name of this enemy is just a little different than the GBA version, which made the name into a silly little Japanese comedy reference. I guess Itoi hit upon that idea later on at some point. EX also mentions enemies called Poison Worms.
Here’s a battle with a giant Pig Thing Z. Whatever this thing is, it’s appeared in the promo video and screenshots, too. Anyway, while fighting this, EX managed to hit the attack button at just the right time in the music, so the enemy was hit five times in a row.
This is Flint riding in a Pork Bean in the desert. The two existing EarthBound 64 videos show this off a lot, and there were also many screenshots of this desert + Pork Bean stuff in magazines and such, so this must’ve been a major part of the game.
Flint converses with a villager in Tazmily Village. The demo becomes playable after this point.
On the left we see the mine cart sequence of the promo video is playing. I have no idea what’s on the right screen, though. Looks like a cave maybe.
On the left, we see the DCMC keyboardist doing his thing. This was probably from the promo video, too. On the right, Flint is encountering a Flying Rat while walking around. He’s snuck up on it.
The famous scene from the mine cart sequence in the promo video. On the right we see a funky battle.
More of the mine cart sequence. Too bad this never made it into the GBA version. Anyway, after this part of the demo, we supposedly see Boney looking for something.
Here we see some creature climbing out of the pond, as seen in the video promo. On the bottom, we see that Flint is about to enter battle with a Poison Worm. Everyone called these snakes, so I guess this is what they were actually referring to. Maybe these eventually became the Mighty-Bitey Snakes of the GBA version?
Lastly, we see a shot from the promo video of the Drago running alongside some kind of vehicle, probably a train.
Also, don’t forget these two EarthBound 64 videos!
Anyway, someday we shall form a secret ninja spy society to go and steal the EarthBound 64 demo code. It is our destiny!
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