Mother 3/Earthbound 64 (lost build of unfinished Nintendo 64/64DD video game; 1999)

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EarthBound 64 Mother 3 comparison.png

Comparison of EarthBound 64 and MOTHER 3.

Status: Lost

EarthBound 64 refers to an early version of the 2006 Game Boy Advance game Mother 3, the third and final game in Japanese celebrity Shigesato Itoi's Mother trilogy of video games. Developed over the course of 12 years, the game spent the longest period of its development as a title for the Nintendo 64, before being temporarily cancelled in 2000 and shifted to the Game Boy Advance shortly after. The game chronicles the story of brothers Lucas and Claus, whose lives are dramatically changed following an invasion by the boorish and militaristic Pigmask Army.

Production

Initial Development and Cancellation

Mother 3 had a lengthy and troubled development cycle, starting on the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System shortly after the Japanese release of Mother 2 in 1994 (released in the US a year later as EarthBound), before shifting development to the 64DD, an add-on for the Nintendo 64 that ran games on proprietary zip disks rather than cartridges. However, due to delays in getting the 64DD to market, the project was shifted again to the standard Nintendo 64; the 64DD would be a commercial failure upon its eventual release in 1999. Two more problems emerged from the shift to the N64, however: Shigesato Itoi and his crew had little to no experience with 3D titles, and without the aid of the 64DD, the game was plagued with memory constraints caused by the limited space available on ROM cartridges. This resulted in the title continuously being delayed until it was finally canceled in 2000. At the time of the game's cancellation, Satoru Iwata estimated the game's completion at 30%, while Shigeru Miyamoto estimated it at 60%, which was clarified to mean the game was about 60% coded but only about 30% playable.[1]

A playable demo for Mother 3 was available at Spaceworld 1999, which was the closest thing the game had to any public release. Players praised the rhythm combat system, graphics, and music; the rolling HP/PP meter used in Mother 2/EarthBound was confirmed to make a comeback in the footage. At the time, English-language press coverage about the game claimed that it would receive an English localization like its predecessor, under the name EarthBound 64[2] The title has since become used by the public to specifically refer to the 64DD/N64 version of Mother 3, so as to differentiate it from its later incarnation on the Game Boy Advance.

GBA Development

Despite its cancellation, this was not the end for Mother 3. A few years later, a commercial for the 2003 Game Boy Advance compilation Mother 1+2 confirmed that Mother 3 was in the works; the final game was eventually released in 2006. Rather than the 3D graphics used in the Nintendo 64 version, Mother 3 returned the series to its 2D sprite-based roots. The basic plot and many of the characters overlapped between the two versions, but there were some redesigns and changes, one of the biggest ones being that Claus was no longer a playable character. Shigesato Itoi also stated in an interview that the story was originally going to be much darker and would "betray the player."[3]

However, despite initial promises of a localization in 1999, the final release of Mother 3 was never released outside of Japan, presumably due to a combination of EarthBound selling poorly in the United States, Mother 3 being released late into the Game Boy Advance's lifespan (two years after the release of the Nintendo DS and the exact year of the DS Lite's release), and content in Mother 3 that could potentially spark sociopolitical controversy, including criticisms of capitalism and the depiction of the Magypsy characters as nonbinary stereotypes. As a result of the game's landlocking, Mother 3 received an unofficial localization spearheaded by professional translator Clyde "Tomato" Mandelin, first released in 2008 and patched multiple times since; the game now maintains a strong cult following in the English-speaking world, and has been unofficially translated in several other languages by other fan translation groups.

Original Version Availability

Brendan Sechter, a playtester who worked on the GBA version of Mother 3, confirmed in an interview that a prototype of Earthbound 64 exists. He was able to play most of the first chapter of the game, but the game crashed afterward. Sechter believes the prototype is either still in the possession of Brownie Brown or has been transferred to Hal Laboratories or Nintendo.[4] Although there are occasional rumors of fans owning prototype copies, there has been no credible evidence of this so far, and the game's composer Shogo Sakai has denied composing some music purportedly from the prototype that has been posted to YouTube.[5]

Gallery

Brief EarthBound 64 SpaceWorld '96 teaser.
Brief EarthBound 64 E3 1998 teaser.
EarthBound 64 SpaceWorld '99 trailer.
Basic comparison of the two incarnations.

See Also

References