For those who aren't familiar with Earthbound, what is the significance of the Mother series? What separates it from other titles, driving its fans to such extreme devotion?
The weirdness of the games definitely has something to do with it. Each game is unusual, but not in the "oh, yeah, Japan is really weird" way that we're used to now. EarthBound
, in fact, is a story based largely on western pop culture. For example, there are dozens of Beatles references in the game, like the yellow submarine you use to reach Deep Darkness. Even the name of the series is a reference to John Lennon's song "Mother."
games somehow manage to mix the mundane with the ridiculous while keeping it believable. And better yet, they do this while avoiding the standard RPG
clichés; there are no swords and shields, no world maps, no mystical elves and dragons, and definitely no anime-style haircuts/outfits/facial features.
There are a lot of truly endearing moments in the game. One of the characters is a nerd living in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere. His best friend ... helps him escape so he can meet up with his estranged father. When they meet, the father, a famous scientist, stops working long enough to recognize him and remembers that he used to wet the bed. After offering him some food, the old scientist gets back to work, mentioning that it might be nice to meet up with his son again in 10 years or so.EarthBound
is a unique, fantastic game, and that's why we love it.
If the series really is as important as its fans believe it to be, why haven't more of the games made it to the US? If the Mother series enjoyed so much success in Japan, why wasn't the same true for Earthbound in the states?
The first game in the series was actually translated and ready to be released for the NES in 1990 -- the only thing left to do was to print the packaging materials, burn the carts, and launch a small marketing campaign (RPGs still weren't very popular in the states back then). Unfortunately, the marketing department at Nintendo of America decided to scrap it because they wanted to focus on the SNES, which launched a year later. The guys at Lost Levels actually wrote up an extremely thorough report about the game's history, including an in-depth interview with Phil Sandhop, the game's localization director. It's a fascinating peek behind the curtain
In 1995, Mother 2
was released in America as EarthBound
. Unfortunately, the conditions at the time weren't ideal. Lots of popular SNES games and RPGs, including Chrono Trigger
and Final Fantasy III/VI
, were released or about to be released for the SNES, giving EarthBound
some pretty serious competition. The marketing push for the Virtual Boy was in full swing, the Playstation was just around the corner, and the N64 wasn't too far behind. Not a great time to release an unheard-of RPG.
Another factor working against the game was the price: $70. Apparently this was partially attributable to a chip shortage which drove up the prices of cart-based games at the time, but I think the biggest contributor to the price was the player's guide, which was packed-in -- gamers didn't have the option of purchasing it separately. Also, to accommodate the player's guide, EarthBound
came in a massive box. Because of how big the box was, the game was frequently pushed to the bottom or top of the shelf.
As far as I'm concerned, though, the nail in the coffin was the marketing campaign: "This game stinks." Seriously, that was the marketing slogan.
So after a decade past since the last Mother title crossed the Pacific, the Starmen.net community decided that more action needed to be taken beyond the ineffective petitions you'd employed in the past. Could you tell us a bit about the EB Siege and its specific goals?
The Siege is pretty much an amalgamation of all of our past efforts. We've done calling campaigns and letter campaigns and art campaigns before, but never at the same time, and certainly never with the informed sense of timing or determination we've got now.
The goal of the Siege is twofold: to get people talking about EarthBound
, and to get Nintendo to hear people talking about EarthBound
. Nintendo provides several avenues through which you, the consumer, can contact them to give them your feedback. We've decided to make use of those outlets, and have been asking EarthBound
fans to call in, write in, and even send in envelope art with their requests. We don't tell people what to say/write -- we just want them to tell Nintendo what they want. Not surprisingly, most EarthBound
fans want the sequel they've been waiting 12 years for.
And then there's the Earthbound Anthology?
Yeah, the EarthBound Anthology
is another part of the Siege. Our goal with the anthology is pretty simple -- we want to spread the word about EarthBound
. We decided that the best way to spread the word was to show off the talents of EarthBound
fans, who are incredibly gifted and prolific when it comes to art. Some of my favorite proof: