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Tips for Buying EarthBound

February 9th, 2009 | Images, MOTHER 3

A good while back, a writer for Hardcore Gamer Magazine asked the MOTHER 3 fan translation team to do a write-up for their magazine. Being exhausted and not wanting to be all “hey hey look at me woo”, I gave all of the project’s PR duties to reid 😉 So he wrote up some stuff for the magazine and sent it in. The other day, he got a copy in the mail, and here’s the article, heavily edited up.


For fun, I went back and tried to find reid’s original text. I think this is one of the last drafts.

MOTHER 3, a sequel 11 years in the making, looks and plays like an SNES-era RPG. For an industry drowning in high-resolution, low-content sequels, this might seem like a liability. Unless, that is, you played EarthBound (MOTHER 2).

MOTHER 3’s utopian storyline is the centerpiece of a game filled with unexpected gems. EarthBound fans will feel right at home with the game’s many carryovers, including the rolling hit meter, which now rolls even slower when your character defends. Such a simple tweak might seem insignificant, but these kinds of details are what make the series great.

Released in Japan in 2006, MOTHER 3’s ad campaign seemed designed to prepare its Japanese fans for a departure from the boilerplate optimism of MOTHER 2. The short commercials were devoid of gameplay and, instead, featured the testimony of a popular actress. Speaking to an offscreen interviewer, she explained her feelings about the game, at points barely choking back tears:

“You wouldn’t think its just some game. It’s heartrending.”

And so went the game’s slogan: “Strange, funny, and heartrending”, a disarmingly apt description for a game filled with stories that are profoundly sad, hilarious, and weird—sometimes all at once.

For example, the main character Lucas (who English gamers will recognize from Smash Bros Brawl) befriends a mystical being who claims to be ageless and genderless, but who dresses and talks like a 45-year-old drag queen. When she (he?) is suddenly confronted with her own impending death, she quietly accepts her fate and offers Lucas an encouraging speech. She is then abruptly carried away by the wind like a piece of paper.

This kind of unusual writing and character development is a rule with few exceptions. The glassy-eyed NPC, a staple of literally every RPG in existence, is nowhere to be found in the world of MOTHER 3. Most characters have distinct names, personalities, and sprites. Some of them even have their own background stories that you’ll never discover if you don’t take time to explore the game.

MOTHER 3’s “Fan Translation” team, a group of fans who localized the game for English-speaking audiences, stumbled across dozens of such secrets during the two years they spent hacking the game. For example, there’s a newspaper sitting in a junk-filled, dilapidated house which many players understandably neglect to read. In spite of its insignificance, though, the newspaper’s headline changes after every small event in the game.

This devotion to seemingly inconsequential details is the hallmark of Shigesato Itoi, the popular Japanese copywriter responsible for the MOTHER series. Shortly before releasing the game in 2006, he posted a message on his website for his fans. “MOTHER 3 is a playground with plenty of room for your imagination to run free”, the handwritten note read. “The more you think about it, the greater MOTHER 3 will become.”

His words, like his games, are packed with truth and meaning. Just like a great album, MOTHER 3 is a masterpiece whose intricacies can only be appreciated with time and attention.

Incidentally, I think that might’ve been the last issue of Hardcore Gamer ever, so if you can find a copy of this issue, you’re sure to have a lucky day.

Also, I think reid did a ton of other write-ups and interviews for other places, but I haven’t been paying attention at all so there might already be a bunch of other stuff out there too.


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15 Comments to M3 Translation in Hardcore Gamer

Jimi said on Feb. 9, 2009

It’s nice to see you getting the praise you deserve. Those long hours were things that few other people would put in.

IWontGetOvertheDam said on Feb. 9, 2009

Wow. That should bring in some new fans to the series. hopefully. 🙂

Mato said on Feb. 9, 2009

I dunno, I’m still trying to figure out the Mr. Crab caption 😛

IWontGetOvertheDam said on Feb. 9, 2009

Yeah, I was wondering about that, myself.

Pishi said on Feb. 9, 2009

So many neat things happen in the game. Even if you really want to avoid posting spoilers, there’s still tons of things to see and to show, something to which the translation blog is a witness.

And yet, one out of three screenshots they put in the magazine displays a giant toilet.

Why oh why does that smell like Earthbound’s marketing campaign.

Mato said on Feb. 9, 2009

Now that you mention it, I was getting a little bit of that vibe too, I just couldn’t put my finger on it. I wonder if game publishers and game media just have an innate problem trying to explain these games.

I wouldn’t be surprised, I have no idea how I’d go about advertising the games myself. They look and sound pretty bland graphics-wise and gameplay-wise if you try to compare them to other games, but there’s a lot hidden that screenshots and simple explanations can’t convey. Maybe the fact you can’t explain them quickly is the underlying problem, so marketers and reviewers reach for things like potty humor.

Simon Roberts said on Feb. 10, 2009

That’s why the TV spot was so effective — no gameplay, just a woman on the verge of tears talking about her experience. I love that human connection. It’s hard to portray that sentiment in print.

Leirin said on Feb. 10, 2009

Totally right! Besides, MOTHER is such an enchanting and amazing experience like no other, it cannot be described exclusively by words. It has to be experienced, too! 😉 And that’s why I like it. Nice article. Get with the program already, Nintendo!

Haha, the toilet caption is funny. Where was that toilet in the game, anyway?

Rob said on Feb. 11, 2009

It’s in the bathroom dungeon when you (try to) go to the 100th floor.

XX Stone said on Feb. 11, 2009

Too bad they never released Mother in the U.S… that would have changed everything. I mean, with that awesome commercial they had for it (Go 80’s commercials! 😉 ) it would have been a hit. Since people would have wanted more, Earthbound would have sold better, and Mother 3 would have been offically translated. Ah, if only…

Leirin said on Feb. 14, 2009

I think releasing a prequel would actually be a good idea. But didn’t they deem the original SMB2 (Japanese one) too hard, so they realeased “their own” SMB2? …I think Mother would be too hard. Maybe they could, like, lessen the random battle rate. But I could still see it selling!

80’s commercials are quite amusing. The American one would most likely be different. 😛

The retard of epic proportions said on Feb. 15, 2009

Wow, they really edited Reids review.

Berrypievision said on Apr. 3, 2009

What makes you think its the last issue? It is still going on:


somepartsareme said on Aug. 24, 2010

I so lol’d at “No, not his cohorts!”

mother freak said on Mar. 23, 2011

its really interesting how a fan translation could be treated like a real realease (i wish i was old enough at that time to help with it i was only 9)


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