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Tips for Buying EarthBound

March 2nd, 2016 | EarthBound, Uncommon Knowledge

A couple months ago I released my very first Legends of Localization book – in it, I explore the localization for the original Zelda game, as well as related merchandise, marketing differences, and more. If you’re a Zelda fan, a retro gaming fan, or even just someone interested in obscure game trivia, it’s right up your alley. (BTW, if you request it in the order comments Poe and I will gladly sign your book for you!)

Anyway, now that the Zelda book is done, I’ve turned my focus onto the next book: EarthBound! Planning for the book is underway and I’ve already begun the writing process. It’s going to be much more in-depth than my online version and will include many new topics. It’s already looking to be twice the size of the Zelda book!

It’s going to be so in-depth that we’ve even been researching the details behind the scratch n sniff campaign.

On a lark, I was like, “Hey, wouldn’t it be neat to include scratch n sniff samples as a bonus?” The fan response was intensely positive, so we’ve been looking into the feasibility of making this happen. And during our talks with companies in this industry, we were told:

“The scents that were used in the 90’s have been banned due to chemical compliance.”

Holy crap!

Anyway, the point of all this is that I want to make sure that this EarthBound localization book covers as many interesting topics as possible, so if you have a question or a topic you’d like me to cover, let me know here in the comments or send an e-mail to earthbound@legendsoflocalization.com

Also, you can sign up here to be notified when the book is released!

We’re currently aiming for a release a few months from now. Hopefully I’ll be able to cover lots of interesting topics from readers that I wouldn’t have thought about myself!


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31 Comments to Give Me Your EarthBound Localization Questions!

Bryan Connor said on Mar. 2, 2016

I’m interested to see what you find out about the peanut cheese bar localization. I know monakas wouldn’t have been known to American kids in the 90’s, but I always wondered if there was a story behind it, or if they just came up with that weird name on a whim.

Good luck, you guys!

AwelCruiz said on Mar. 2, 2016

I’m interested to see if the Hint guy’s dialogue differs between the two versions, since by Mato’s own admission he never uses the guy (because he smells 😀 ).

I just finished another playthrough of EarthBound, and occasionally used the Hint guy’s services just to see what kind of stuff he says.

LuffyDan said on Mar. 2, 2016

Tried sending an email to address listed but it returned back an “EMAIL NOT SENT” error. Not sure if I goofed up something on my end, though.

Mato said on Mar. 2, 2016

Oops, thanks for the tip, I was a big dummy and mistyped the domain name. I just fixed it in the post.

Frank said on Mar. 2, 2016

So, EarthBound’s Scratch ‘n’ Sniff cards are actually more toxic than they first seem?

Bionicfemme said on Mar. 2, 2016

I’ve always been curious about the Tenda that calls you “Bubby.” What’s the Japanese equivalent of Bubby? Haha

NichoMania said on Mar. 2, 2016

I’ve always wondered how Western religion is handled in Japan, specifically, how Japanese people responded to the prayers to God [Paula’s pray ability]/christian imagery [crosses, mentioning heaven etc.] in Earthbound, seeing as most other RPG’s either throw in a nun for a healer, or straight up make religion the villain, a la a whole-lot-a’ Final Fantasy titles.

I hope this doesn’t start a comment debacle, I just liked that religion was portrayed in a positive light for once.

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 2, 2016

So, what you’re saying is… I have a second reason to avoid sniffing the scratch n sniff cards?

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 2, 2016

Nicho, my interpretation of the prayer in Earthbound is that praying to god failed, so she instead prayed to everyone the group met throughout their adventures, and their combined power, the power of everyone’s hopes on earth, are what beat Giygas. That does sort of fit that lovecraftian vibe Giygas gives off in the game. (In Lovecraft lore, humanity’s god fled ages ago out of fear of the old ones, or never existed at all.)

game4brains said on Mar. 2, 2016

“The scents that were used in the 90’s have been banned due to chemical compliance.”

Apparently, nostalgia is cancerous.

lavamario said on Mar. 2, 2016

In light of all the recent outcry over localization vs censorship when it comes to recent Nintendo games (Fire Emblem Fates, X, Bravely Default), I’d like to dive further into whether the intent behind some lines of dialogue was changed to be more culturally acceptable in America. Many people nowadays have no interest in a Mother 3 VC port because of NoA’s work on the script. Could this same line of logic be applied to Mother 2 vs EarthBound, or was it only recently where such things have begun to get so bad? In other words, what has been censored in EarthBound? There’s obvious things like Ness’s nudity, but I’m looking for more subtle changes in things like dialogue.

Anonymous said on Mar. 2, 2016

Obviously we need more information on this chemical compliance issue.

Some things are worth the risk and the banana monkey scratch’n’sniff is one of these things. I REGRET NOTHING!

The rest of those scents can just die lonely.

I will be sure to keep any eye on my EB guides for signs of radioactive mutations.

Noah said on Mar. 3, 2016

@NichoMania – I agree! EarthBound had some shockingly deep, special, touching stuff to say about spirituality. It sure is refreshing in this day and age.

@DJMankiewitz – Typically God works through people, and I don’t think EarthBound was saying that the people’s prayers, as in literally the words themselves, were what defeated Giygas–so your argument doesn’t really hold water in this instance.
It’s pretty much spelled out (though censored in EarthBound) that everyone’s combined prayers to God killed Giygas.

Killerspecialk said on Mar. 3, 2016

No questions….yet, but dang it I wish I would have known you and Poe would have signed my copy when I ordered it back in Dec. since I missed out on the first run bonuses.

Alexis said on Mar. 3, 2016

WOWWWWWW! I heard of this book from a friend but did not know it was you who wrote it :O

So now I HAVE to buy it 😛 and will wait for the Earthbound one too of course, since I love Mother even more than I love Zelda~

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 3, 2016

Noah, don’t worry, I’m not trying to argue you, I’m just giving you my personal interpretation of what happened, and I really do like the idea that the power of everyone’s hopes and dreams for the future were the most important thing. It means a lot to me at least. I’ve read Mato’s Earthbound localization changes and I didn’t get the impression that anything was censored.

lavamario, I’m not sure what you’re talking about with NOA controversies. Lately, Intelligent Systems has become a very problematic company though. Some of the things NOA has done seem entirely and unfortunately necessary due to some decisions those companies should never have made to begin with. Bayonetta is one thing, but when it’s a child being sexualized, that’s a whole other matter, and they really should never have done that to begin with. NOA by and large have been MUCH more open with mature content in their translations than they EVER were in the 90’s, but lately Intelligent Systems (and to a limited extent, Monolithsoft) have made clear that there’s a limit. Any kids here that think modern NOA is worse or that the censoring they did with stuff like that child’s bikini in Xenoblade U was the same as censoring adults in FF6 needs a little perspective that only age can bring. *strokes imaginary beard*

There’s nothing like that in Mother 3, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 3, 2016

Actually, I do have one question aimed at more general translations. I often see that “it’s 100 years too soon” line in translations, and I always wondered why they phrased it so awkwardly when a perfectly good english schoolyard taunt fits perfectly: “You couldn’t do that in 100 years!”. That phrasing seems a lot more natural to me, and I wonder why NO translators ever word it that way.

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 3, 2016

I’m sure many have already seen this, but it seems Nintendo has finally completed a working Super Nintendo emulator for 3DS. It appears it’ll only work well on the New 3DS hardware though. (That sounds about right, as even the homebrew SNES emulators for PSP tended to struggle.)

Among those SNES games is Earthbound. So, to all and sundry who wanted Mato to translate the Mother 2 half of the GBA port, no worries. Nintendo’s got it covered with a much better solution. My big question is whether Nintendo is going to make me purchase the game all over again or count my Wii U purchase of the game.

They’ve already got a functional NES emulator on 3DS, so I’m still waiting for “Earthbound Beginnings” as I’m getting used to calling it to get a 3DS release. Along those lines, let’s start selling those GBA games on 3DS already! That and DS games would be the two sets that wouldn’t even need emulating!

NichoMania said on Mar. 3, 2016

One reason I love Earthbound[‘s community]:
you can talk about religion without being crucified.
(the audience laughs & a single man farts in the front row)

I do believe Mato specifically stated there was religious censoring in giygas’s battle *ahem*

Pray to God- (that’s the title of the portion this is from)

“In MOTHER 2, during part of Paula’s first prayer, she says something like, “Please, God, if you’re there…” or possibly even, “Please, God, if you’re real…”

In EarthBound, this religious reference got the smack-down and was trimmed to just, “Please…””

So, I do believe there was some religious censoring,
and as for what @Noah said-*ahehehHEM*

[this is gonna get discussiony, the exact amount of discussiony I was afraid would happen, but live and let live]

I do believe that he never meant that everyone’s hopes and dreams for the future didn’t have a key, nay, invaluable role in this scene.

[from the comment itself, he says God works through people, but here’s a more ad nauseum answer that should bore even the most enthusiastic of theologians]

The thing is, and this is entirely based on the assumption that Noah is religious,
(so if he’s not simply let this pass)
speaking as a ‘religious’ person myself, when speaking about God’s play in good things people do/help to make happen, it is sometimes misinterpreted as saying “God did the good, I should have no credit whatsoever, God saved that bus/orphanage/bus-orphanage” when really, it’s the idea of God helping push people to do random good things without any real reason to; basically, putting the choice of doing random nice thing into the play, when a person would probably think “I need to go do ~~~, or, that’s their problem”.
[hence the idea of working THROUGH people]

The fact that all of the chosen fours’ friends and family all of a sudden stop and pray for them is a subtle reference this very Western idea.

I do want to say that I wish Paula’s words were uncensored in her prayer. [as, believe it or not, the words “Please, God, if you’re real…” goes through every religious person’s mind at least once; doubt IS key to finding new knowledge, and the same goes for faith]

But, in all honesty, I still want my question to float to the top of this discussion:
Just what do Japanese people think of Western religion in games; especially how Earthbound’s more realistic [not villain nor healer] approach affected Japanese people.

Were they taken aback by a prayer to a God being the answer? Were there people who discussed how this portrayal compared with other video games? How do Japanese people react when Western religion is brought up in the first place?

These questions are what I feel is key.

[though this whole hullabaloo has been very fun]

feel free to respond, I just wanted to re-rework this topic back into being about localization mumbo jumbo.

NichoMania said on Mar. 3, 2016

“and I really do like the idea that the power of everyone’s hopes and dreams for the future were the most important thing.” – DJMankiewitz

Well, guess you can skip the whole theological discussion part, still though, there was censorship at play and addressed by Mato in said Legends of Localizations
(see above comment)

Noah said on Mar. 4, 2016

Yeah I think I agree with what’s been said. There’s no denying that God is being prayed to at the end of EarthBound, but we are all of course free to have our own interpretations of that and the subject in general.

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 4, 2016

To Nicho:

Oh I see what you’re talking about now. Yeah, I didn’t think you meant the first part. I think it was pretty clear in the US version exactly what she was praying to at first (and throughout the game), even with that odd bit of NOA style censorship (which was a bit overzealous, considering that they really only were concerned about not putting references to the devil that might be misconstrued as satanic worship in the games, thanks to the “satanic panic” of the 80’s). Yep, it’s very clear she was praying to god at first. It was the people hearing her prayers part I was talking about. That said, I’ll fully admit that second part is open to interpretation, and if someone gets more out of the thought that the whole world was praying to god rather than sending their prayers to the 4 kids, then I can hardly say that’s wrong. I’m just giving my own interpretation.

Nick97 said on Mar. 4, 2016

Does the book actually retain all the goofy alt-text that the images on your site have?

NichoMania said on Mar. 4, 2016

To DJMankiewitz:

Nice! Glad this weird mumbo-jumbo’s sorted!

as a closing comment:
I love your take on the prayer as well, as it makes a much darker moment before the big scene, making the hope regained that much more moving in the midst of utter darkness.

I personally just liked how Paula questions her faith right before the scene in the Japanese, which hit close to home for me,-

(a la the last comment I made, now to be published in a book as big as Webster’s dictionary, tangents aside-)

– and the potential interpretation of fulfilled faith.
[though God sure took His time during this moment, given that her prayer ability before gave instant results]

Sorry if I seemed abrupt and sounded like I thought you felt the scene was closed to interpretation, if this is so, that DEFINITELY was not my intention,

and, again, I do like your connecting it with its Lovecraft roots! (love me some elder gods)

Either way, I still want to get back to the topic of international religion jumbo-mumbo:

Seeing as you know your stuff about the “satanic panic” and all that guff in the 80’s, if you know anything about why Western religion keeps appearing, heck, even more than Japanese ones,
[Okami comes to mind, but otherwise it’s just references to folklore, [though some might interpret our stories as folklore from an etic perspective], rather than the religion itself having a presence (aside from the occasional monk)]
that’d be amazing!

and I repeat myself again about the whole “Earthbound’s response when concerning prayer, God, yada yada yada,-” and scene.

*looks over comment*…..I talk way too much.

Mato said on Mar. 4, 2016

Nick97: these books are filled with crazy captions, for some people they were the highlight of my Zelda book 😎

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 4, 2016

It’s cool, I talk way too much too.


If you like Lovecraft horrors, then I’ll go on to mention I think of Giygas as most closely resembling Azathoth. There’s a lot of interesting similarities. Azathoth is often called the “blind idiot god”, which is pretty similar to “almighty idiot” (and that particular bit could easily be their way of saying the same thing without referring to an evil being as “god”, which certainly wouldn’t fly back then). Both destroy the universe basically the moment they “wake up”. Both are kept asleep by some music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHAeJSwUbaw Both are beyond human comprehension taking an inscrutable form that shifts chaotically in dimensions beyond time and space. I think there’s some clear inspiration there, and I’m all for it.

I am not familiar enough with Japanese culture to make any definitive claims, but I believe they often reference western religions for the same reason so very much of our fiction references eastern religions. To be blunt, it’s exotic. I’ve often wondered why so very many Japanese RPGs take place in a setting resembling medieval Europe rather than medieval Japan, for example. I think RPGs worldwide can trace themselves back to the earliest Ultima games, which themselves originate from the pen and paper RPGs, which originated in the west. With that foundation, it’s probably not too odd to see so very many fantasy games with a “western” setting. Heck, why is medieval Europe so popular with Americans anyway? A big part of that comes from us descending (for the most part) from Europeans.

Earthbound itself is set in a pastiche of America, not of Japan. This could be considered part of it’s parodic nature, playing with that particular trope a bit.

I would love to see some variation in RPGs. Suikoden, for example, famously uses a Chinese backdrop rather than European. There’s also Jade Empire, but the art style comes across as just a tad unintentionally racist. There’s some RPGs set in ye olde Japan as well, and even one set in an India-like setting. I’d love to see a few more set in a setting resembling ancient America (that is, the native American empire, pre-plague) or ancient Africa.

Since so many fantasy shows and games have a western setting, the western religion seems like a clear choice to give added authenticity, though with a number of changes to keep it unique. There are times it’s clear the Japanese authors only have a passing familiarity with western religion, and other times where they seem to have really done their research. Again, there’s a lot of similarities with American shows and games referencing asian religions.

But again, I’m really only guessing based on what little I’ve noticed.

Told you I talk a lot.

DJMankiewitz said on Mar. 4, 2016

And now yet another talk word with my mouth.

I love the attention to detail in the Zelda book, and the passport was a great idea, making it a lot easier to follow along with an imported Famicom version.

I’m really hoping to see Zelda II given a similar treatment.

Phlash64 said on Mar. 31, 2016

Hey Mato, I’m a little late to the party, but I’d like to ask about the history of the Tonzura Brothers and why they were changed to be the Runaway 5. Thanks!

robert said on Apr. 4, 2016

Hey mato, any idea of when the book will be released?

Jeff Maxwell said on Apr. 5, 2016

How did I miss this?!


I will be buying! This and your Zelda LoL once my pockets can handle it. Awesome stuff.


Mato said on Apr. 6, 2016

(Thanks to everyone who’s sent in e-mails, there are too many to respond to but I’ll be incorporating a lot of these into the book. And thanks for everyone’s support!)

robert: we’re currently shooting for sometime in the second half of the year, probably earlier rather than later though.


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