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Tips for Buying EarthBound

November 12th, 2012 | EarthBound, Misc., MOTHER 3, Q&A

Okay! It’s time for the latest Q&A update, hurray!

MrSaturn03 asks:

You said that you maybe see Mother 3 being released in the next 10 years or so. Why? Wouldn’t the likeliness of it being released be smaller as time goes on?

At this point it’s very, very clear a GBA version of MOTHER 3 isn’t going to be released. But I can see a re-release or a port happening many years from now – similar to how MOTHER 1+2 was released 14 years after MOTHER 1’s release and 9 years after MOTHER 2’s release. Many other Nintendo games have had ports, re-releases, or upgraded versions years later. This is the only way I can see MOTHER 3 possibly getting released in English at this point, but I figure it’s mostly hopeful thinking at this point.

Punky asks:

I’m not into RPGs as much but the Mother series has really been my all time favorite. What are other RPGs that you recommend that have similar gameplay or settings, if any?

With the Wii being faded with the upcoming Wii U, would you rather see a virtual console release of Earthbound and Mother 3 on the Wii U/3DS or a disc/cartridge releas separate for each game?

It’s not quite like EarthBound, but back when Star Ocean 2 was released I found it to be a lot of fun with a lot of EarthBound-esque elements – lots of items with crazy names/uses, a world-hopping adventure, and more. I wouldn’t go into it expecting anything like EarthBound, though, so it might not be your cup of tea. I personally love the Star Ocean games, and it all started thanks to SO2.

Some people recommend Contact for the DS, but my personal opinion is that that connection only exists because the countdown that everyone thought was EarthBound-related turned out to be for Contact. That connection persisted and so now everyone compares the two :/

Let’s see, I already mentioned the Tengai Makyou series. I did have a lot of fun with the first two Disgaea games – they’re a completely different type of game but there’s a lot of humor there, nifty items and attacks, and tons and tons of gameplay. In fact, if I was on a desert island and could only have one game I’d probably choose a Disgaea game (but not the DS version, I’m very disappointed with it 🙁 ) There’s always the Lunar games and the Wild Arms games too.

You might also want to take a look at Gokinjo Boukentai for the Super Famicom – I don’t know if this has a translation patch yet or not (I briefly considered it myself) but it’s basically a bunch of little kids running around town saving the day:

I’d also suggest Moon: Remix RPG Adventure, which DOES have a translation patch on the way! See here!

Oh, and StarTropics for the NES! Yes! America/the West never got MOTHER 1, but Japan never got StarTropics, so we’re even I guess 😛 StarTropics is probably my best recommendation I can give.

If anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to chime in in the comments!

Pwesty asks:

You’ve mentioned watching Mother 3 LPs, but do any stand out in your mind? I mean everybody’s seen a little of Chuggaaconroy or NCS, but do you have any real opinions on them/other ones?

Also, unrelated question, but what would you say is your least favorite thing about the Mother series (mainly 2 and 3; if I recall correctly you said you were never a big fan of the first anyway)?

I haven’t watched too many LPs of MOTHER 3 – and in fact I’ve only seen bits and pieces of many different ones. I’ve watched portions of chuggaaconroy’s and NCS’s a while back but only partway into the game. People often send LP video links to me too, so I’ve seen tiny bits of those too. I also recently watched a bunch of the Starmen.Net/Fangamer MOTHER 3 Funfest a few months back. I don’t really have much to say on them – I did like how Chuggaconroy added a lot of interesting content into his videos though. Actually, I did help him out with some Okamiden stuff recently, translating some unused content from the Japanese version – he really goes all out with trying to add in content.

Mostly right now though I’ve been watching a bunch of LPs of Square games played by HCBailly. Once I get my stuff back maybe I’ll watch some of those MOTHER 3 LPs all the way through and give my thoughts. I’ve actually been considering doing some LPs of the games myself, but I’m still a bit camera/audio shy so who knows.

As for my least favorite thing about the MOTHER series… I’d have to say the whole deal about the Dark Dragon stuff in MOTHER 3. I couldn’t help but feel it took a trip back into ordinary, cliche RPG territory with that. “There’s a big magic dragon and now you have to collect all (insert arbitrary number) (insert random noun) to wake it up and save the day!” I think that might’ve been the biggest disappointment in the series for me.

As for EarthBound Zero, I actually didn’t like it very much when it came out but I partially chalked that up to having to play it on emulators at the time and the fact that playing the superior sequel set me up for disappointment. That’s why I even tried to persuade Nintendo to port the game to the Game Boy Color – so we could try playing the game in a more authentic way. Over the following years I tried to improve the game in various ways to try to appreciate the game more. Eventually I figured out that going into the game with the right mindset was the key – see my tips about this here. After playing the game this way, I’ve come to genuinely enjoy the game a lot more.

Kaneda asks:

Do you feel Amber is a better name for Hinawa, or did you make the right choice by keeping it?

It’s hard to answer something like this. The best I can do is imagine that English-speaking fans never played the game beforehand and that Brawl had never come out. In this scenario, I’d have had no attachment to the “Hinawa” name (which even I feel is pretty weird, but then again it’s definitely NOT a normal Japanese name) and would’ve likely localized her name. I know NOA would have under such circumstances too.

“Amber” would’ve been a good choice for sure. I think there might’ve been a few other options we came up with too.

But whether it’s “better” one way or another is hard to answer. I mean, I already got a good amount of criticism for the Yokuba/Fassad change, I can’t imagine how something like this would’ve been received.

The nice thing is that this name (and Kumatora’s name) is only optional – the player can change it to whatever they want. That’s not a normal luxury I have as a translator. All in all, it was a weird, weird situation.

Ice Sage asks:

A (very wordy) MOTHER 1 question: what are your thoughts on the naming convention (as in which one is more correct) for Loid/Lloyd and Ana/Anna?

From what I’ve been able to tell over the years, the first variants fell into common use somehow despite the fact that they seem kind of Engrishy. “Loid” seems like a pretty clear-cut Engrishy spelling for “Lloyd,” at least, and not a real name.

I’m less clear on Ana/Anna, since they’re both real names, but research into the two spelling variants indicates that the “Ana” spelling is mainly limited to Spanish, Portugese, and a few Eastern European languages, while “Anna” is much more widely used, particularly in English and Dutch. Since she’s blond and blue-eyed – stereotypical traits for someone with Northern European ancestry, and the MOTHER series plays with stereotypes a lot – wouldn’t “Anna” make more sense? (It’s also spelled this way on her official figurine.)

“Loid” was actually my fault, I’m sorry! I started this way back when and ever since it refuses to die, however hard I try. I much prefer the “Lloyd” name, and now that I can point to Brawl and its spelling of “Lloyd” I use it whenever I can. Of course, there’s a chance Brawl is wrong and that Itoi intended something else. Right now “Lloyd” is my spelling of choice though.

For “Ana”, it’s hard to say. I’ve actually translated a show where it uses the two “n”s where you would’ve expected only one based on the Japanese. This sort of thing is common and it pretty much comes down to what the creator says. I’ve seen it with two “n”s in some guidebooks and on the figures, but in my experience these are almost never reliable sources for English spellings – only the creator him/herself has the ultimate say… and even THEN it’s common for them to be wrong! I actually cover this topic quite a bit in my Final Fantasy IV localization analysis.

So basically, my stance is to simply go with normal translation procedure (which means only one “n”) for now, until someone can ask Itoi personally or he says something about the matter himself. I can’t really see either happening, except in an awkward “On the Itchy and Scratchy CD ROM…” type of thing.

Actually, did she have a sticker in Brawl? If so, how was her name spelled? I can’t check because my Brawl disc doesn’t work and I don’t have it with me anyway.

edgethelucas asks:

Hey, Mato. I’ve bought a Mother 3 cartridge to justify my playing the game on an emulator. I’ve been thinking of replaying the game for the first time in a year and a half, but I don’t want to sit in front of a computer just to play it in English. Is there any way to make my cartridge English? I know how free translations work, so needless to say if I get it in English I won’t try to make a profit from it in any way.

There’s no way to apply the English translation to an official Japanese cartridge. The reason computer ROM (as in the compter chips on the cartridge) is called ROM is because it stands for “read-only memory”. Meaning the game’s data can’t be altered. The only way to play the game in English on an actual GBA/DS is:

  • Get a flash cart/card
  • Use some sort of emulator on a handheld system (although emulators aren’t 100% accurate and have problems of their own)

Someone recently made some reproduction carts (although I can’t/don’t recommend it or link to it for various reasons) so there’s that option too.

JesusLovesNess asks:

I have a question. The Earthbound 64 picture that has someone who looks like Ness walking around in a grassy/forest like area. Do you know the story behind that picture? Is it a prototype hero character for the game or was Ness originally supposed to be in the game?

I don’t remember where I read it but I heard that was just a test model that they were using at the time. It sounds like Itoi had the ideas and characters for the games figured out WELL before development on the game even began, so I can’t really imagine it being Ness. It’s probably much like how there’s a lot of unused/dummy/test stuff in the GBA ROM that was in there only for the developers’ debugging purposes. For instance, there’s even a Dragon Quest-like slime that literally has a text bubble that says “Dummy”.

gwalms responds to my earlier response about the name “Leonita” for Kumatora:

“Leo=Lion, Nita = Choctaw word for bear” Saw someone online suggest it as a name for Kumatora and thought it was interesting. Just wondered your thoughts? I forgot Brawl mentioned her though.

It sounds cool, I guess. Figuring out a name for her was definitely super tough, so I’m secretly glad I didn’t have to worry about it anymore when Brawl came out 😛 And incidentally I’m part Choctaw myself. Random trivia!

Tourist asks:

I have another question if you do another Q&A. Do you think Itoi himself has anything to do with the lack of NA release of Mother 3? It seems like whenever a NoA employee is asked about it, they seem to give vague answers. Do you think it is possible Nintendo is willing but for whatever reason, Itoi isn’t?

I don’t think Itoi was the reason. I do know that NCL/NOA/whoever did briefly look into the idea of releasing the game but we know how that turned out. The GBA was being phased out and the costs were probably too high compared to the potential revenue it’d generate. It’d have taken away resources that could’ve been spent on something more profitable for the company.

I do think Itoi’s the reason for stall in activity with MOTHER 1 and MOTHER 2, though. I think Chewy mentioned something about this to me after she talked with him a few months ago, but I already forget the details and don’t have those old e-mails on this computer. I’ll have to look into this later I guess. But what I can remember is that it isn’t anything spiteful or anything like that – he’s just a really busy guy and the MOTHER stuff is just some super old side project stuff to him now.

BusterTheFox asks:

(…) As long as I’m asking you how you got started with stuff, I recall that you’ve written a number of programs, too. What language(s) do you know, and how did you get started with that?

I made lots of crappy little games back in high school, probably the biggest/most complete ones being The Freak Farm and Tomato Boxes. Someday I hope to post all the little games I made on my site. More recently I’ve gotten back into game programming and it’s been a lot of fun. Here are some I’ve been posting about on my site:

As for programming languages, I mostly use C and C# now. I used to know C++ but it’s changed so much since I last used it that it’s all new to me now. I also did a lot of PHP work to build my Game Swag site a while back. I’ve also dabbled in BASIC as a kid, done some Java, and a bunch of other things.

As for how I got into it, when I was really little my parents got me an Atari 400. It had some cool games that I liked, but one day my dad came home with a cartridge that said “BASIC” on it. I was always excited to play a new game… and boy oh boy was I ever disappointed with this one. I guess he wanted me to get into computers at a young age. It wasn’t until around 6th grade that I really started to understand programming, and as soon as I figured it out I was hooked. If you don’t know how to program, I highly recommend it. Even knowing just a tiny bit of programming will open up so much to you and possibly even change the way you think about things. And you can use it to destroy invading alien motherships with a Mac.

That’s all for this time! If you got any questions you want to ask about EarthBound, EB Central, the meaning of shoes, or whatever else, post them in the comments and I’ll get to them in the next update, which will probably be in two days since I’ll be on a plane most of tomorrow.


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33 Comments to EarthBound Central Q&A #3

gwalms said on Nov. 12, 2012

I’d suggest Okage for the PS2 to punky.

heegemcgee said on Nov. 12, 2012

Re: Games like Mother, the Dragon Quest series was the major force at the time, and the Mother series is meant to sort of contrast it. I recommend playing a few of them – 1, 3, and 5 are my favorites, with 5 being my recommendation if you’re only going to play one of them.

Punky said on Nov. 12, 2012

Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll be looking those up for sure. I recall reading about Dragon Quest, just not sure where to start other than chronologically and I’m also tempted to get Chrono Trigger since I’ve heard good things about it too.

Erri7741 said on Nov. 12, 2012

Question: What do you think Mother and Mother 3 would’ve been called if they had both been released in the states (Mother being released after Earthbound)? Do you think NoA actually would’ve called it Earthbound Zero and Earthbound 2? Or do you think they’d have switched it up so it all made sense? Thanks!

The Man With No Name said on Nov. 12, 2012

Was there anything in Mother 3 that was unfinished or rushed? Did you want to correct any of this during the fan translation?

CerealQueen said on Nov. 12, 2012

Question: What I want to know is what is your favorite of the Mother games, Tomato? Also, how much would you pay for any of the Mother games?

TragicManner said on Nov. 12, 2012

Hey Mato, just wanted to comment a little bit on the Yokuba/Fassad issue (and some of your other translation thoughts), if only to just say what’s on my mind and let it be for now.

The only reason it was ever a problem was because of how many people had looked into Mother 3 in Japanese before the translation came out. It’s really, really hard to create a localized product when the source is already well distributed and already has a fanbase in the target region. I know you’re well aware of this detail, you work in the industry for goodness sake ^_^. I just wanted to get that down here for reference’s sake and to help other people make sense of my rant.

So, I’d say you can generalize a little bit and break down the audience you had with Mother 3 into three basic groups: People who already had been reading up on Mother 3 and/or had already played it before the details on your translation patch went live who were already expecting things to be a certain way, people who were interested in the game and were avoiding looking things up but had some connection to Japanese culture (through gaming, culture studies, etc etc), and the final group that was not looking into details on the game and had little to no exposure to Japanese names/culture, etc.

Localization is a tricky thing when you get this kind of a split. I’m sure you were agonizing over trying to keep these three groups happy (and perhaps you had your audience split differently), but I would guess the consideration you put into each little detail of the game probably was made thinking a lot about the situation that Mother 3 fans were already in while you were translating. Fan translations are hard 😛

I think that, in the end, you made the right choice with the Yokuba/Fassad, and I believe you feel that way too. I know a lot of people were frustrated with that, but that’s only because they had already been exposed to another version of the game. Aside from that initial group that played and read about Mother 3 the first few years after it came out (and the people who have a “purist” opinion on Japanese references and names in games), your ideas to localize much of the content as you did was likely a good thing. Mother 3 still gets mentioned from time to time in popular video game circles, and unless the game gets a re-release and finally an official localization here in the US and/or Europe, your version is going to be the one that most English speakers will see. For them, decisions like Yokuba/Fassad will always be good, because the name will feel more natural and add to the immersion of the game. Localization is a beautiful thing.

I think that the decisions you made on language were justified. I know there are some people who find the changes frustrating, and I know you’ve likely struggled with that detail yourself. “Strong Language” is a tough one in localization, and one I’ve gone to a few discussions and presentations on, even. Most of the time, there is no true “direct translation” for language. Even the exact meaning might not carry the emotional and cultural weight. Most people don’t quite think about the subtleties of this. I think that you did.

I do a lot of work with Portuguese and English. The cultures between the US and Brazil can be very different, and swearing is pretty different as well. I have to take into account meaning and context and culutural sensitivity whenever I want to take on potentially offensive language, and I know that, no matter how I translate it, some people are going to think it was too strong, and others will think it was too mild. I know that Japanese has some of the same issues, especially with the varied translations of certain phrases in Japanese I’ve seen translated dozens of different ways in anime I’ve watched. Some keep it mild, some go extreme, and none of them really carry the exact same meaning that goes through a Japanese person’s mind when hearing the original phrase.

Plus, on top of the difficulty in translating strong language, you’ve got to take into account the fact that English players of the Mother series are, by and large, used to the kind of language that was present in Earthbound. Granted, that group had grown up, but it was a good localization choice to avoid it altogether, for the most part. It goes better with the expectations for the group in general, and the only people who really noticed were part of that group that had already gone in an played or read about the original Japanese.

At any rate, sorry for the rant. It’s tough to have to take everyone’s decisions into account. The Brazilian translations of Mother 2 and Mother 3 have struggled with some of the issues of content (we even had a huge discussion about whether to include the naked Ness sprites in our translation of Earthbound) and, in the end, there really is no right answer. Your decision wasn’t really the “safe” one people keep labeling it as. It was simply one of the possible decisions to make sure the game was properly localized for those who would be playing it, and one that I think worked out well for most people who played.

Mobile Opponent said on Nov. 12, 2012

I think Ana did have a sticker in Brawl spelled “Ana,” not “Anna.”

So anyway, my question. What do you think led to EarthBound 64’s really long development time and eventual cancellation?

BluePSI said on Nov. 12, 2012

I would recommend Persona 4 a lot, it’s a lot of fun and there is a lot of character development.

MrSaturn03 said on Nov. 12, 2012

I love these. Keep it up 😉

Earthbound_X said on Nov. 12, 2012

Yeah I agree, Okage: The Shadow King for the PS2 is a lot like the Mother series.

In just the first few minutes of playing it, it made me think of Earthbound.

I still need to go back and complete it.

Starmyster04 said on Nov. 12, 2012

Hey Mato. i’ve been following this site for a really long time and always check the section where you post the recent earthbound/Mother item listings from ebay, and always feel like i was window shopping from my computer. I’m tired of emulators and want to be as legit as possible with my growing love for this series, without dishing out what little money i have.

This made me wonder if you had any suggestions to what prices are reasonable for CIB mother 1+2 and Mother 3, and just the cart for earthbound on ebay. Or am i better off searching for a copy localy in thrift stores and yard sales. are there any other sites that i may not know about that you would recommend buying the games from? Thanks.

Oh, and one other thing, is there a way to access the debug rooms and extra content (Or all around just use cheats) in the gba games with my North american gameshark if i use the codes you posted?

TheZunar123 said on Nov. 12, 2012

Hey Mato, would you rather see the GBA Mother 2 translated, or EarthBound re-translated and uncensored? Just wondering.

Deraj626 said on Nov. 12, 2012

Not a question but,

“Mostly right now though I’ve been watching a bunch of LPs of Square games played by HCBailly. ”

Now that’s the way to go. 😀 ; )

AdmiralCrunch said on Nov. 12, 2012

Mr. Mato,
I studied Japanese both in high school and college, but I never was much good at it. Lately, I’ve found that while looking at odd tricks and glitches in Japanese versions of games, I can make out tiny bits and pieces of the intent of a sentence. I’m wondering if I may have found a good way to rekindle my Japanese and get a foothold back in learning it.

I’ve found that a lot of games have a lot of stylized writing (everything from drunk speak to dialects I’m not yet familiar with) that leave me frustrated. Can you recommend some games, books, or other media that may be good learning resources? I can only imagine someone learning English from Dragon Warrior and speaking with “verily” and “thou” in every sentence!

Mill said on Nov. 12, 2012

Looks like it’s Ana according to the official Brawl site.


(smile, smile) said on Nov. 12, 2012

This seems like a good opportunity to ask an important question, but I can’t seem to think of any at the moment, haha. One thing I do wonder is how much and what kind of Mother/Earthbound memorabilia do you own?

Good luck with your move!! Perhaps you’ll ponder the meaning of shoes on the flight. 🙂

steinmitz said on Nov. 13, 2012

I was wondering if you’ve ever read anything in a Japanese magazine/website about Itoi’s cancelled N64 game called “Cabbage”? All I remember ever reading about it was that he was designing it with Shigeru Miyamoto and that it was similar to Tamagotchi.Anyway, thanks for responding to all these questions!

BusterTheFox said on Nov. 13, 2012

My question got truncated AGAIN. D: You’re doing this on purpose, aren’t you!? Haha.

Man, for some reason, that Gokinjo Boukentai game looks REALLY fun. So does Tengai Makyou. Unfortunately, it seem the former doesn’t have a translation from a quick Google. The second, as you mentioned, does seem to have one. Seems like it’s not done yet though, what a shame. 🙁

Earthbounder said on Nov. 13, 2012

Mato, do you think translating mother 3 hurt the chances if it ever being released here in the US? And why did you and your team translate it when they did? In other words did you feel a rush to translate it or do you honestly think that was the only way we would be able to play it? Thanks in advance

Tourist said on Nov. 13, 2012

Thanks for answering my questions. I feel like it’d be pushing it by asking a third… but I’m curious.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve read on this site multiple times that you think it is unlikely that Nintendo would drop the legal hammer on fan projects such as Mother/Earthbound fan games and your (amazingly done) translations on the GBA titles. If this your opinion (correct me if I’m wrong), why do you think it is unlikely?

OmniM said on Nov. 13, 2012

Hello there, my name is OmniM and I’ve been watching this site for a while and was wondering… Do you think the Mother franchise would be different with today’s technology? (At the time they have NES, SNES, and GBA standards to work with, but now we have something like the Xbox and the Wii. And there’s the amount of people working on the game, the localization, the advertising…yes I’m talking about the “Stink” campaign.) I was thinking about that and wondered if it made a difference in its fanbase.

TWJ said on Nov. 13, 2012

Another game that has a similar feel to the Mother series is Opoona for the Wii. It has a similar sense of humor and is really fun to play. It’s also got a really immersive world. It kind of flew under the radar, but I loved it.

Pirkle2012 said on Nov. 13, 2012

Question: Will you ever complete the translation notes/unused stuff sections of the fan translation website?

MotherFan said on Nov. 14, 2012

What Console is Star Ocean 2 for because I wanna give it a try.

Arak said on Nov. 14, 2012

Punky, I would recommend “Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Chapter 1 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa”. It’s a fan-made freeware game, but totally fun and crazy.

Mariomaster2011 said on Nov. 14, 2012

Thanks for replying to my question in Earthbound Centrals Q&A 2 and I have another question for you, is there any other way to play Mother 1/Earthbound Zero and Mother 3 in English not on an emulator and what is your favorite game in the Earthbound Series?

Vanasto said on Nov. 14, 2012

I like these Q&A posts, and it’s cool that you’re responding to every question so considerately!

What I’ve been curious about is how Japanese Mother fans have shown their love for the game over the past almost 20 years? I’ve heard some details of some of the stuff (conventions, doujinshi, websites), but could you maybe shed light on some aspects that get focused on? Any particular parts of the games or characters that had special appeal that never caught on the same with fans of the English version? Any famous lines for Japanese Mother fans?

Thanks for everything, I appreciate your hard work!

Vanasto said on Nov. 14, 2012

Correction: Could you shed light on some aspects that DON’T USUALLY get focused on?

TheZunar123 said on Nov. 14, 2012

@Mariomaster2011 I’ll answer that. You can put both Mother 1+2 and Mother 3 on a GBA flash cartridge (such as an EZ Flash IV), and play them on an actual GBA/GBA SP/GB Micro. There’s also passme devices which allow you to play them on the DS.

Mato said on Nov. 15, 2012

Just posting to say that I’ve made it to the other side of my move but have been busy being temporarily homeless and meeting the folks at Fangamer to do much. But I’ve already started on the stuff for the next Q&A, so expect it soon, probably tomorrow.

I’ve been having a lot of fun with these Q&A things, much more than I expected, so I might make these a more regular thing in the future 😀

Mr. Tenda said on Nov. 15, 2012

This may have been answered already, but are you going to be working at Fangamer? If so what will you be doing there? And will EB Central remain separate from Fangamer, or will your new job affect EB Central at all?

Darien said on Nov. 16, 2012

In terms of translated names, I thought “Fassad” was excellently done. It meshed well with the character’s Arabic theme, while also subtly implying his secret. And as an added bonus, it reminded me of an old Fantastic Four villain called “Fasaud!”

As regards Hinawa, I’m perfectly happy you didn’t elect to call her Amber, since that’s my wife’s name and that would have been a bit odd. 😉


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