Mother (also known as EarthBound Zero in North America) is the first in the surprisingly nihilistic EarthBound trilogy. Mother was released on July 27, 1989 only in Japan for the Famicom. The game was developed by Ape, Inc. and published by Nintendo. Designed by Shigesato Itoi, Mother is a traditional role-playing game that parodies modern American culture. Mother was later released on the Game Boy Advance compilation Mother 1 and 2.
Mother was incredibly successful in Japan. Its lifetime sales were estimated to be around 400,000. Mother did well among critics as well, with the popular Famitsu magazine rating it as the 38th best game of all time (and the 9th best Famicom game). Mother has consistently placed in Nintendo Power's Virtual Console polls (a series of polls asking readers what games they want most to appear on the Virtual Console service). The game has been criticized, though, for its incredibly high difficulty, leading EarthBound fansite Starmen.net to release a much fairer "easy-type" patch.
The game has an odd history in North America. It was translated into English, as well as localized, and was set for release in 1990. However, the game kept getting delayed until it became very near the impending Super Nintendo Entertainment System release. Nintendo decided to cancel the game despite the fact it had already been localized. Years later, an English prototype cartridge showed up on an auction site. EarthBound fans arranged for the cartridge to be sent to them (at a cost of $400 to them) so they could dump the ROM. After hacking the title screen and fixing various glitches, Mother was released for the first time in English.
Since that time, the existence of four other prototype cartridges has been uncovered. Four of those cartridges, including the original prototype which was dumped, have since been sold and their whereabouts are unknown. Sources inside Nintendo say at least one prototype cartridge is held by Nintendo of America making this the only copy whose location is known.
Gameplay consists of two parts: the overworld and in battles. While exploring the vast overworld, Ninten (the game's protagonist) and his party can visit towns, speak with non-playable characters, buy items and weapons, heal, and various other things. Just about every city or town has a department store (in which items can be purchased and money can be withdrawn), a hotel (in which players can fully heal for a small price), and a hospital (in which various status effects can be healed and characters can be revived).
While exploring areas outside of towns and cities, random battles can be triggered. Once inside of this battle screen, each character has several options. Fighting does the default attack (based on which item is equipped). PSI is the game's magic system, in which characters can do psychic attacks or defensive moves. PSI ranges from a healing spell called Life Up to a powerful attack spell called PSI Beam. There are several levels of PSI, as well, each to a corresponding Greek character (Alpha, Beta, Omega). Goods allows characters to either use healing items, or an attack item (such as a Bottle Rocket). Check will give the player the enemy's weaknesses. Auto sets the game to automatic mode, although this mode does not necessarily do the right thing in battle. Guarding will boost a character's defense greatly for one turn, and running away gives the player a chance of escaping from battle.
After winning a battle, the player is given experience points, money, and sometimes an item. Money is not gained instantaneously, but must be withdrawn from an ATM in one of the game's many towns. Upon gaining enough experience points, the character levels up. Leveling up improves that character's stats, from health to force. These stats can also be improved with various items gathered during the game.
One of Mother's most important aspects is the melodies. Eight melodies must be gathered from the game's various locations for the player to proceed and eventually face Giegue ("Gyiyg" in Japanese, later translated as "Giygas" for EarthBound). Each melody requires an action to be triggered (for example, one melody requires the player to speak to a cactus in the desert). After gathering all of the melodies, the Sing option is added to battle. This allows the character to sing all of the melodies (which is pivotal to the final battle).
Mother opens with a short background story. George and Maria, an American couple, are mysteriously abducted from their home in the early 1900s. Two years after their disappearance, George suddenly returns to his home, alone. He begins to conduct an extensive study (but nobody knows what on). He never reveals where he was. Maria, however, never returns.
Eight years later, the game shows Ninten, a 12-year old boy. His home undergoes a paranormal attack, in which many of the household objects are possessed and begin to attack him (and his family). He discovers that his great-grandfather studied PSI, and that it his destiny to investigate a large crisis happening in the world. After exploring his hometown of Podunk (and the various odd things happening there, from zombies to loose animals) Ninten discovers that all of these happenings are the work of an alien race.
After discovering this, Ninten is sent to the imaginary land of Magicant. Queen Mary (Magicant's ruler) requests that Ninten gathers all of the Eight Melodies. She says that after these are played for her, she will finally be at rest. Upon returning to the real world, Ninten finds Merrysville. There Ninten meets Loid, an awkward 11-year old who, despite his intelligence, is teased by his classmates and teachers. Loid decides to join Ninten on his adventures.
When the two visit Snowman to return Ana (a young girl who also possesses PSI abilities) her lost hat, she reveals that she has seen Ninten in her dreams and that she would like to find her missing mother. So, she joins the group as well. After finding many of the melodies, the group makes their way to Ellay, a coastal town. After performing some karaoke at the town's club (called The Live House), Teddy (leader of a gang known as the Blah-Blah Gang) attacks the group (he says they were attacking his gang members).
Teddy calms down, and decides that Ninten and his group possess immense strength. He joins their group in hopes to avenge his lost parents (who were killed at Mt. Itoi). Loid is then replaced, and he waits at The Live House. When the group reaches Mt. Itoi, Teddy allows Ana and Ninten to be alone. There, to two confess their love for each other. As they all try to leave, the group is attacked by a large robot. After being knocked out, Loid rolls up in a tank and destroys the robot (but attacks the group in the process). Teddy is injured near-fatally, so he stays to rest, and Loid rejoins the group.
They all visit a lake in Mt. Itoi, where they find an underwater fortress built by Ninten's grandfather. Left there to aid Ninten is EVE, a powerful robot. EVE helps the party to easily destroy enemies on the mountain, but is destroyed in a battle with an even larger robot (although EVE manages to destroy it first). EVE's remains give the player the seventh melody.
Here, the game differs in Mother and EarthBound Zero. In Mother, Queen Mary remembers the eighth melody by herself. In EarthBound Zero, the player must continue to the top of the mountain, where a stone marked XX gives the player the last melody (and at that point the player must warp to Magicant manually to give Queen Mary all of the melodies). The way presented in EarthBound Zero is also the way it is done in Mother 1 and 2.
After giving Queen Mary all of the melodies, she reveals that she is actually Maria, and Magicant is her conscience's creation. George and Maria were teleported to an alien world, where Maria loved an alien known as Giegue as her own child. The Eight Melodies was a song that she used to always sing to Giegue, making it pivotal in the final battle.
From there, the group is teleported back to Mt. Itoi. There, the player must battle Giegue. During the battle, Giegue reveals things about the plot. He loved George and Maria, but George betrayed all of the aliens by stealing valuable information and returning to Earth with it. Ninten is George's great-grandson, and Giegue offers to spare only him if he returns to Giegue's alien homeworld. By singing the Eight Melodies repeatedly, Giegue is defeated by the immense love of Maria. In EarthBound Zero, the game ends with a retrospective of all of the characters.
Mother's music was composed by Hirokazu Tanaka and Keiichi Suzuki. Mother's soundtrack was originally released on August 21, 1989 as both a cassette and a CD. Seven of the eleven songs included had vocals. The game's soundtrack has since been included in numerous North American games, including Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and EarthBound. In addition, some of the game's tracks can be heard in the Japanese only Mother 3. On February 18, 2004, the soundtrack was re-released with remastered tracks.
- Pollyanna (I Believe In You)
- Bein' Friends
- The Paradise Line
- Wisdom of the World
- Flying Man
- Snow Man
- All That I Needed (Was You)
- Fallin' Love, and
- Eight Melodies
- The World of MOTHER