M2 vs. EarthBound: Monkey Caves
While scouring Japanese Google for stuff, I came across a recent interview on Shigesato Itoi’s site that included some MOTHER-related discussion. This is dated July 22, 2009. This was actually Itoi interviewing someone else, which is one of the main things he does at his site. Anyway, I’ve quickly translated the relevant page here:
Shigesato Itoi Talks with a Young Writer
Part 2: I Think the Most Fun is Coming Up with the Ideas
Itoi: What sort of person did you chiefly know me as?
Shiraiwa: I didn’t so much “know you” then, but the very first works of yours that I encountered were MOTHER and MOTHER 2.
Itoi: Oh, I see.
Shiraiwa: At the time, I didn’t know they were your creations; I encountered them purely as merchandise. I learned your name after that and started reading your site when I began studying advertising, but MOTHER was my very first encounter.
Itoi: Ah, is that so?
Shiraiwa: Yes. Sorry that that’s how it was.
Itoi: No, no, don’t be sorry! Actually, I considered MOTHER as a place where it was okay to tell lies, or more like a special place where it was okay to write my thoughts in raw form.
Shiraiwa: Your thoughts in raw form?
Itoi: Basically, copy writing is my main profession, and because of the nature of that work you can’t simply write down exactly what you’re thinking.
Shiraiwa: Yes, that’s true. You’re doing the work for other businesses.
Itoi: Yes. I don’t go and write things I’ve never thought about, of course, but with this kind of work you’re forced to find “just the right thing” before you write. Writing only the plain truth won’t be effective, and if you try to think too hard you wind up not being able to write anything at all.
Shiraiwa: Ah, I see.
Itoi: That’s when I encountered role-playing games. Being able to toss my unfiltered thoughts into them made me very happy. But being able to express my thoughts in a pure manner wasn’t the only reason they made me happy. For example, quite a long time ago I was seduced into writing a novel.1
Shiraiwa: Seduced? (laugh)
Itoi: I was told, “You can do it!” (laugh) It was a lot like being told, “Okay, now fly!”
Shiraiwa: Just, “Do it!”
Itoi: Yeah. So I did write one, but I didn’t enjoy writing it one bit.
Shiraiwa: Oh, really? Why is that?
Itoi: I think the most fun is coming up with the ideas. You know, “Let’s do this!” or “Let’s do that!”
Shiraiwa: Yes, that’s true.
Itoi: But then when it comes to writing it down, it becomes a huge pain.
Shiraiwa: It becomes work?
Itoi: Yes. Plus advertising text is much shorter than a novel. And since advertising text is created in a team setting, you can play around with it while other people offer helpful ideas of their own.
Shiraiwa: That’s true.
Itoi: I guess I’ve never really liked doing all the work for something all by myself.
Shiraiwa: Ah, I see.
Itoi: …Is it really okay for us to be talking about me, though?
Shiraiwa: Of course! (laugh)
Itoi: Well, anyway, when putting really plain phrases like “I love you.” as temporary lines into MOTHER or just any RPG, I felt that I really could just throw them in there like that and they would work.
Shiraiwa: Because it comes across in a different way?
Itoi: Yes, yes. Writing, “I love you.” in a novel is really tough.
Shiraiwa: Yes, I can see how it would be hard.
Itoi: It isn’t easy. You beat around the bush for a while, trying to build up to it, but eventually you’re either able to say that generic phrase or not say it.
Shiraiwa: Yes, yes.
Itoi: Even if you are able to say it, there’s still a part inside you that asks why you bothered to write something so generic. It’s a real annoyance. (laughs)
Shiraiwa: Yes, it is. (laughs)
Itoi: But with a game, you can just place a single word or phrase in there and have it sound nice. After all, the main characters in most Dragon QUest-style games don’t say anything.
Shiraiwa: Oh, that’s right. And that’s why the words can have a direct-ness to them?
Shiraiwa: Plus, when you’re actually playing a game, the words come across very straightforwardly.
Itoi: I was happy to find out that was possible. But games demand many more lines of dialogue despite the fact that the main characters don’t talk, so I couldn’t keep making them. That’s why I felt deep down after making three of them, “Well, that was a neat experience.”
Shiraiwa: So you’re done with them?
Itoi: Yes, that’s right.
 A common misconception is that Shigesato Itoi is a novelist. He’s primarily a copy writer and the manager of his online variety newspaper/magazine.
It doesn’t come across well in translation, but the “Well, that was a neat experience” also has the underlying nuance of, “Time to move on.”
Anyway, it’s common knowledge by now that Itoi has said several times that he won’t make a MOTHER 4, but this is the first time since 2006 that he’s said so. So if you’ve been hoping that he might change his mind after a few years about MOTHER 4, it’s looking less likely.
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