Shigesato Itoi Talks About Writing
A lot of people don’t know the details about the MOTHER series’ history, so let’s take a quick look. At some point in the future I may go into more detail about specific things, but for now, this is just a quick overview that I’ve translated from a Japanese site. Just to be safe, I’ve crosschecked stuff when possible. I’m not claiming this to be 100% authoritative, but from everything I’ve known and from everything I’ve found, I’d say most everything here is correct. It’s also not super-detailed. I think I might try to make some sort of detailed timeline at some point, but this should suffice for most people for now.
History of the MOTHER series
March 1989 – Nintendo invests money and founds APE. Shigesato Itoi is made CEO of the company.
APE was created because Hiroshi Yamauchi, president of Nintendo, was concerned that ideas for games would eventually start to dry up if things continued as they were. He believed that exceptional talent would be what supports the industry into the future. Since Yamauchi was very fond of Shigesato Itoi’s work, he approached him with the idea. APE was filled with tons of talent, including Tsunekazu Ishihara (now CEO of the Pokemon Company), Ashura Benimaru Ito (famous illustrator), Akihiko Miura (head planner at Genius Sonority), Masayuki Miura (also works at the Pokemon Company), and many others. Once everyone was gathered, they all worked together on MOTHER. Pokemon also began when Satoshi Tajiri of Creatures brought the game’s idea to APE.
July 27, 1989 – Shigesato Itoi’s MOTHER game is released
The relationship between Shigesato Itoi and Nintendo actually first started because of the dating sim Nakayama Miho’s Heartbeat High School. Nintendo had called Itoi, hoping he could assist with the game’s publicity strategy. This led to his first meeting with important people at Nintendo. Itoi had been interested in games for some time, so he wrote a game proposal and showed it to Nintendo, but Shigeru Miyamoto’s reaction wasn’t particularly great at first. Miyamoto didn’t know how serious Itoi really was about making the game, since a bunch of celebrities and semi-celebrities had tried to make games before and they were generally bad. Miyamoto was worried that Itoi’s game might wind up as just another one of those. Supposedly, Miyamoto’s response made Itoi sad enough to cry while riding the bullet train back to Tokyo.
However, the next day, Nintendo contacted Itoi and told him, “Well, if you’re really serious about it…” and Itoi supposedly accepted the offer with, “I’ll do it! I’ll do it!” And that’s how the MOTHER project began.
Pax Softnica handled MOTHER’s development. Pax Softnica was in Ichikawa City in Chiba Prefecture, and Itoi traveled there almost daily from Tokyo to work on the game. It took about one year to develop MOTHER.
The music in MOTHER and MOTHER 2 was handled by Keiichi Suzuki of the Moonriders band and Hirokazu Tanaka, in the 1st Development Department at Nintendo. Tanaka is currently CEO of Creatures, incidentally. Tanaka’s reason for working on MOTHER wasn’t anything that special – his boss basically called him over and said, “You do it.”
1993 – APE and Pax Softnica’s development work on MOTHER 2 hit a major roadblock, and the game was very close to being canceled. Satoru Iwata (the current president of Nintendo) was brought in from HAL and put the game back on track.
August 27, 1994 – MOTHER 2 is released for the Super Famicom
The game’s slogan “Adults, children, and even your sister” became popular, as did Takuya Kimura’s appearance in the MOTHER 2 commercials.
After MOTHER 2 was completed, APE went into hibernation. In 1995, Tsunekazu Ishihara founded Creatures with members from APE.
June 1995 – Shigesato Itoi is made a board director at HAL
Did work on MOTHER 3 start around this time?
June 1995 – MOTHER 2 is released as EarthBound in North America
November 1996 – The Nintendo 64DD system is announced at the NINTENDO 64 Spaceworld ’96. Video of MOTHER 3 is shown. (note: I’m not sure this video has ever made it onto the Internet)
November 11, 1997 – The Nintendo Power service started in Japan. This let consumers download games onto flash carts at local Lawson convenience stores.
MOTHER 2 was one of the very first games available on the Nintendo Power system.
November 1997 – Video of “MOTHER 3 – The Chimera Forest” was shown at Nintendo Spaceworld ’97. (note: it’s unknown if this video exists on the Internet)
Incidentally, the “The Chimera Forest” subtitle had to be changed due to trademark issues. The last subtitle it had was “Fall of the Pig King”.
January 21, 1999 – Smash Brothers for the Nintendo 64 was released in Japan
Ness was included as an unlockable, playable character.
Spring 1999 – At President Yamauchi’s request, Satoru Iwata, MOTHER 3’s producer, was given a new job that meant he had to constantly travel back and forth between Japan and America to complete the Dolphin system (later named GameCube). Because of this intense schedule, he stepped down as HAL’s CEO in May.
This is also one reason the Nintendo 64 version of MOTHER 3 wound up cancelled.
June 11, 1999 – An overview of the 64DD membership service is announced
It was shortly after this announcement that it was made clear that MOTHER 3 had been made into a normal Nintendo 64 cartridge game.
August 1999 – a playable demo of MOTHER 3: Fall of the Pig King was presented at Nintendo Spaceworld ’99.
The release date for MOTHER 3 was announced to be May 2000. Because of the music battle system, players had to wear headphones when playing, but because the game was so unfinished and unpolished, the demo supposedly wasn’t as impressive as it could have been.
August 22, 2000 – Itoi announces the cancellation of MOTHER 3: Fall of the Pig King on his site
(note: I still haven’t translated this monster discussion between Itoi, Iwata, and Miyamoto, but I will at some point)
It should be mentioned that HAL had been developing the game, and Creatures had been involved with the graphics creation. Benimaru Ashura Ito (now with Creatures) served as the art director, and Hirokazu Tanaka was slated to handle the third game’s music again, but the job ultimately fell to Shogo Sakai of HAL.
June 2001 – Shigesato Itoi steps down as HAL board director
November 21, 2001 – Smash Bros. Melee is released in Japan
As before, Ness was included as a playable character. Also included were Onett and Fourside stages, plus figures of various MOTHER 2 characters.
April 14, 2003 – MOTHER 1+2 for the GameBoy Advance is announced via a TV commercial. The development of MOTHER 3 for the GBA is also mentioned. The next day, Itoi announces it on his site.
Apparently the commercial first aired on TV Asahi’s “News Station” show. People on the Internet who hadn’t seen the commercial thought it was a fake announcement at first.
June 20, 2003 – MOTHER 1+2 is released for the GameBoy Advance
The slogans were “Adults, children, and even your sister… all over again!” and “Weird game or moving RPG?!”
November 18, 2004 – Patents that seemed to be related to MOTHER 3 were posted on the Japanese patent office’s website
The patents were submitted on April 23, 2003. Among the names on the patent were Shigesato Itoi, Satoru Iwata, Shogo Sakai, and several people from Brownie Brown. It wasn’t until 2005 that this news really got out, though.
September 2005 – A help wanted ad for game testers was posted on Brownie Brown’s website
Brownie Brown was founded in 2000 as a Nintendo subsidiary, and had worked on games like Magical Vacation and Sword of Mana. The company was composed of ex-Square employees, and it’s because of their RPG experience that Nintendo probably placed them in charge of MOTHER 3. Shigesato Itoi often wrote on his site about Kichijoji, and that’s where Brownie Brown’s office is located.
November 4, 2005 – Itoi announces on his site that MOTHER 3 is nearly ready to be released
November 7, 2005 – Nintendo creates an official site for MOTHER 3, and announces the game will be released in the spring of 2006 and cost 4800 yen.
January 24, 2006 – Itoi announces on his site that MOTHER 3 will be released on April 20th
February 2, 2006 – MOTHER 1+2 is released as a Value Selection title
February 7, 2006 – The “Welcome to MOTHER 3 World” series of updates begins on Itoi’s site
The slogan, “Strange, funny, and heartrending” is announced. The MOTHER 3 Love Theme is also made public.
April 6, 2006 – MOTHER 3 commercials begin airing
April 20, 2006 – MOTHER 3 is released for the GameBoy Advance
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20 Comments to Quick History of the MOTHER Series
- DJ: From what I’ve gathered I’m pretty sure he still writes copy, so they’re an ad company.
- cosmodos: What does his company even do? Is it actually lucrative? From what I can gather (not knowing Japanese), it’s just his blog, and he...
- Jason: http://www.ipokiso.com/company /2017/hobonichi.html The anticipated price per share is 2,300 yen. As for those wishing to purchase a share...
- Leeaux: Hey I just saw this! Really interesting watch to. Lots of little fun facts.
- Mary: The “behind the scenes” video on how the Ness animation was made is great too. The animators channel is A + Start.