EarthBound [Mother 2 ギーグの逆襲]
was always the odd-one-out in the Super Nintendo’s first-party line up. The gameplay, modeled after Japan’s beloved Dragon Quest [ドラゴンクエスト]
series, was too archaic and difficult for a western audience. Not to mention, the setting and humor were too bizarre. Nevertheless, the game found its audience outside Japan and they wanted more. 12 long years later, Mother 3
is released in Japan — 2 years after that, out of an uncanny display of fan dedication, the game was translated by a group of Earthbound
enthusiasts and spread throughout the net, giving fans of a decade old game a whole new journey to delve into.
There are two immediate observations the player will make upon starting Mother 3
. The cast of Earthbound
is nowhere to be seen, but everything else is just how you remember that 95’ classic. Shigesato Itoi, creator of the Earthbound
series (or Mother
as it is known in its native Japan), applied his experience as a novelist to Mother 3.
Instead of being brought down a linear, epic path, Mother 3
explores the transition that a small town and a family goes through as strange visitors with strange technology change the fate of the town of Tazmily. Where Itoi’s literary experience shines is among the game’s opening chapters. Every chapter sheds light on a different perspective of a Tazmily inhabitant, forming a rather ingenious Rashomon [羅生門]
-esque structure. To say anymore would spoil the experience but know Itoi crafted a story where the player never knows what will come next but it always makes sense in the end — well, at least when put through the same logic applied to the rest of the series. Above all, Mother 3
will be remembered for its whimsical sense of humor and heartfelt story.Mother 3
retains the first-person perspective in battles, along with other minimal design choices borrowed from the Dragon Quest
series, but one crucial addition is the use of music and how it relates to your character’s attacks. Every enemy you find will have its own battle theme that you’ll have to tap the attack button in time to the beat. Many of these battle themes are shared among many enemies you’ll find throughout the 20+ hour game, but they never tire. This ultimately means that you will get an additional attack, albeit weaker then your initial one, for each button press that is in time to the beat. This is often easier said then done; coming from someone who has beaten both Rhythm Heaven [リズム天国]
games, I can say that you will very rarely follow the beat all the way to the 17-hit cap. Throughout the game you will find a character with a special abilities that add a metronome to guide you with the rhythm, but even then it's difficult to pull off. The game isn't hard enough to make it essential to master, This guide just makes it easier.Earthbound
was never a graphical powerhouse in the SNES catalog, and Mother 3
doesn’t fall far from the tree in that respect. Like its SNES forebear, it applies its minimal design to deliver one of the most well-rounded experiences you’ll have on a GBA. The graphics aren't pushing the limit but the warm, stylized sprites are timeless and look great even now, a decade later. Every location you’ll find is unique, while still maintaining a connection to the rest of the Mother 3
universe. 1-UP Studio
one of the 3 developers in this joint project, made noticeable improvements in the animation department. The characters, despite being limited to pixels, are emotive and their actions are very fluid. Composer Shogo Sakai helps bring the beat-driven battle themes to life while breathing new air into past series motifs that will invoke a sense of nostalgia for those who knew Ness before Super Smash Bros. [ニンテンドウオールスター! 大乱闘スマッシュブラザーズ]
An outsider to the series might glance at Mother 3
and assume it’s a quirky RPG for genre fans not so thrilled by recent, next-gen titles — they wouldn’t be wrong, but Mother 3
is more then a self-aware genre exercise. Thanks to its inspired setting and a intoxicating joie de vivre
it displays, this is a game you will feel compelled to share with your friends, whether they play games or not. Its minimal design and light-hearted script accentuates the game’s themes of capitalism and loss of cultural identity via industrialization without ever feeling heavy-handed like so many other JRPGs.
It’s rare for a game to have a purpose to exist beyond making the player feel fulfilled after many hours of meaningless button presses. It makes you feel richer for having played it, not because you gained any achievement points, but because it’s a memorable experience with characters you’ll think about long after it ends.