RetroVision – Mother (Famicom)

Despite never getting a release outside of Japan, the original Mother title, which debuted for the Famicom in Japan in 1989, was completely localised into English by Nintendo.  This planned North American release was cancelled, as the team shifted focus to localising and releasing Mother 2 for the Super Nintendo.  At the same time the name of the series was altered for an American audience, in turn becoming ‘Earthbound’.  Years later hackers would discover the localised version and set it free on the Internet, terming it Earthbound Zero.

This also marked an important point for video game emulation, and sparked a debate regarding the preservation of unreleased titles.  Until recently, this localisation had never been officially released, despite Mother being re-released as dual pack cartridge with Mother 2 for the Game Boy Advance in 2003.  Another release in the Mother series that has never left Japan, just like Lucas’ tale in Mother 3.


Many wonder if the Famicom’s Mother has any connection to Ness’ tale in Earthbound.  Luckily for the North American audience, the only connection to the original, is the invading Alien force who return from the original.  Aside from that, the game was made to be played as a standalone title, and as such is accessible to all.

This design philosophy was quite possibly a contributing factor, to how easy it was to bypass the original, and move straight to its critically acclaimed, and iconic sequel.  What’s more, most of the development team, massively differed between the two titles.  Even more interesting, is the fact that this team was provided to series creator, director and writer Shigesato Itoi, by none other than Shigeru Miyamoto.  This was attributed to belief that both Miyamoto and Nintendo in general, had in Itoi’s creation, with both extremely confident in the sequel’s high potential, based upon how Mother turned out.

A scene from Mother’s sequel, Mother 2, or Earthbound as it is known in the West.

Of course this was immaterial to us poor Europeans.  As we never even saw Earthbound’s release on the Super Nintendo, let alone Mother on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  In fact Earthbound’s first official European launch came via the WiiU Virtual Console release in 2013.  Nevertheless, we all now have the chance to experience the tale that pre-dates the cult classic Earthbound.  As Nintendo finally made Ninten’s quest to save the planet from an evil race of mind-controlling aliens available in the west earlier this year, renaming the game Earthbound Beginnings at the same time.  Let’s all just hope that Lucas’ adventure is next on Nintendo’s re-release list of classics that never left Japan.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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