EarthBound Beginnings (Japanese: マザー Mother) is the first installment in the Mother series. It was developed by Ape Inc., Nintendo Tokyo R&D Products, and Pax Softnica, and was published by Nintendo for the Famicom on July 27, 1989.
In 1990, EarthBound Beginnings was fully translated by Nintendo of America and slated for a 1991 release outside of Japan as "EARTH BOUND".
However, due to marketing issues, financial issues, and the approaching release of the SNES, the game was not released in other territories. It took many more years for the game to be released overseas.
On June 14, 2015, 25 years after being released in Japan, Earthbound Beginnings was released in North America and Europe for the first time on the Wii U Virtual Console.
Itoi stated that the reason for the release was because of the fanbase's dedication. EarthBound Beginnings is a release of the original, unreleased NES translation, and contains all of its changes from the original releases, a trait shared with Mother 1 + 2.
EarthBound Beginnings' gameplay is divided into two main parts: the overworld and the game's battle system. EarthBound Beginnings does not use a small-scale overworld map and instead connects towns, dungeons, and other places together with large outdoor areas.
When in towns on the field map players can talk with non-player characters, go to stores to buy equipment or items, rest in hotels, or enter other various buildings. By using any telephone in the game, Ninten, the protagonist, can talk to his dad, who deposits money into Ninten's bank account and offers to save his progress.
When outside of towns on the field map or while inside dungeons, the party will encounter enemies in random battles. There are a handful of exceptions wherein the party can be attacked while in the sanctuary of a town, examples being the zombies masquerading as townsfolk in Podunk, the enemy infested streets of downtown Spookane, and the B.B. Gang members in Ellay. When in battle, the game switches to a first-person view, only showing the enemies and a menu system used to issue commands.
Actions are chosen for each character by the player, and the characters and enemies will take turns performing the actions in an order determined by their speed statistics. Winning battles awards experience points, which characters require to level up. Leveling up increases a character's stats and lets them learn more abilities. If a character loses all of their hit points, they will become "unconscious" and the player must go to a hospital and pay to revive them. After a full-party defeat, Ninten is revived at the last location at which the player saved but with 0 PP (Psychic Points).
Characters and Setting
- Main article: List of characters in EarthBound Beginnings
EarthBound Beginnings tells the story of Ninten, a 12-year-old boy from Podunk, who journeys around America using his psychic powers to collect eight melodies in order to save the planet from an evil race of mind-controlling aliens. Along the way he is joined by four friends; a brilliant-minded young boy tormented at his school for being a weakling, a PSI-powered girl whose mother mysteriously went missing, a gang leader whose parents were murdered, and a young but powerful tomboy girl who he rescues from a cemetery. They meet many unusual characters and visit strange settings before ultimately confronting the leader of the aliens, Giegue.
On his journey, Ninten visits many towns and locations such as Merrysville, Spookane, and Ellay to name just a few. He also visits the mysterious land of Magicant and must scale Mt. Itoi to his final battle.
EarthBound Beginnings is a mostly non-linear game and not all the possible events or characters must be encountered to complete the game, nor do they need to be encountered in the order described below. This summary is of the intended sequence of events but is not representative of every players' experience. Also note that there are several story differences between the 1989 Famicom release and the 1990 English translation, which is used as the basis of all re-releases of the game. The extended ending, arguably the game's largest story modification, is noted in this section; all other plot alterations are listed in "Censorship and Localization." For the sake of following Nintendo of America's official stance on the MOTHER trilogy, the 1990 version of the game's plot is described here.
In the early 1900's, a dark shadow covered a small country town in rural America. George and Maria, a young couple, mysteriously vanished, having been abducted by aliens. While in captivity, George and Maria raised Giegue, an alien infant, as if he were their own child. While Maria raised Giegue like how a mother would raise her son, George illicitly studied the aliens' PSI powers, suddenly returning to Earth two years later. He refused to tell anyone where he had been or what he had done but resumed his odd studies by himself. Maria, however, never returned. The aliens, angry at George's theft of their knowledge, order Giegue to reclaim it from Earth and ensure it is not used against them by humans. Although Giegue is distraught at having to attack his family, he reluctantly follows through...
Around eighty years later, in the rural American town of Podunk lives a 12-year-old boy named Ninten, with his mother and two sisters, Mimmie and Minnie. His story begins when his home is seemingly attacked by a poltergeist, who possesses two Lamps and a Doll. After the objects are defeated, Ninten's father calls him, explaining that George, now revealed to be Ninten's great-grandfather, studied PSI. Ninten's father then tasks him with investigating a series of strange phenomena occurring across America, leaving Ninten to go out on his own.
After returning a canary chick to its mother and rescuing & befriending a 7-year-old girl named Pippi from the local cemetery, Ninten is sent to investigate the escaping and sudden hostility of the animals in the local zoo. There, he discovers the phenomena are the work of an invading alien race. Ninten is then warped to the world of Magicant, where the land's ruler, Queen Mary, has recently started to experience horrible nightmares. When she meets Ninten, she asks him to find her song, the Eight Melodies, and play them to her, as she has forgotten the song and desperately needs to remember it.
After returning to his world, Ninten visits an elementary school in Merrysville and meets an 11-year-old boy named Lloyd, who is constantly bullied for being a weakling. Ninten befriends Lloyd and joins Ninten on his adventure to find the Eight Melodies. The two then travel to the town of Snowman to deliver a lost hat to an 11-year-old girl with PSI powers named Ana, who tells Ninten that she saw him in a dream and joins the party in hopes of finding her missing mother. The group then continues their investigations in Youngtown, where all but two of the adults were abducted by a U.F.O. Having learned this, they decide to continue onward and further investigate these coinciding phenomena.
After finding five to six of the melodies (three of which Ninten found in Podunk, prior to his first visit to Magicant), Ninten, Ana, and Lloyd wind up in the city of Ellay, where they learn that strange, black clouds have appeared over Mt. Itoi. However, during the trio's investigations, they are harassed by members of the Bla Bla Gang, a powerful street gang who attacks anyone that provokes them. After overcoming these thugs, the trio performs karaoke at the Live House.
However, their performance is interrupted by the Bla Bla Gang's leader, who is angered by the fact that the trio was beating up his lackeys. The leader then challenges Ninten to a duel, only to quickly realize how powerful of an opponent Ninten is. Swearing defeat, the leader introduces himself as Teddy and explains that his parents were killed by wild animals on Mt. Itoi. Seeking vengeance, he joins Ninten's party, replacing Lloyd, who rests up at the live house. Teddy then instructs the group to climb the mountain and avenge his parents.
The trio then treks up the mountain, facing numerous formidable foes along their way. Eventually, they rest at a cabin, the only place where they can currently find safety. There, Ana leads Ninten into a quiet room, where the two dance and confess their love for each other. However, Teddy interrupts them, pointing out strange noises coming from outside. When they look out the window to investigate, they are immediately attacked by R7038, an upgraded version of a similar robot encountered earlier on in the game.
R7038 brutally devastates the trio, but Lloyd suddenly appears in a tank borrowed from a war veteran in the Yucca Desert. He destroys the robot with a single shot from the cannon, but is slightly off-mark and hits his friends as well. Lloyd then transports the trio back to the cottage, where Teddy is critically damaged from the fight. Teddy realizes that one cannot win all battles simply using brute force, and stays in the cottage to heal. Lloyd then rejoins the party in Teddy's stead.
Continuing their trek up Mt. Itoi, the trio is sucked into a whirlpool while trying to cross a lake in the center of the mountain path. The whirlpool brings the trio to George's abandoned underground laboratory, where they find a large robot named EVE. EVE explains that she was built with the purpose of protecting Ninten in his time of need, and joins the trio on their adventure. The glass windows in the lab then give way, flooding the lab and whisking the party back to dry land. The quartet then continues their trek, learning that EVE is so powerful that she can kill enemies in a single blow.
However, she is soon challenged by R7038XX, an upgraded variation of R7038. R7038XX and EVE then duel on the mountain, R7038XX gaining the upper hand. However, as a last resort, EVE self-destructs, destroying R7038XX in the process. The remaining trio then finds a chip in EVE that plays the seventh of the Eight Melodies. They continue up the mountain until they reach a cliff near the peak, where they find a cave barricaded by several immovable rocks. Along with the cave, they find George's gravesite, where his spirit contacts Ninten and relays to him the final melody.
Ninten and co. then head back to Magicant, where they relay the full song back to Queen Mary. Not only does Mary remember the song, but she also remembers that her true identity is Maria, George's wife and Giegue's former caretaker from 80 years ago. She explains that she sang the Eight Melodies to Giegue as a lullaby and that she and Giegue loved each other very much, akin to a mother and her son. Realizing her true identity, Maria passes on, as Magicant slowly dissipates; it was only a figment of Maria's imagination...
When Ninten, Ana, and Lloyd return to the real world, they find that the rocks blocking the cavern are gone, allowing them to enter. Inside, they find a room filled with alien pods containing numerous adults, many of whom were abducted from Youngtown. One adult recognizes Ana from her hat and explains that her mother is being held in a room in the back. However, it is also explained that it is impossible to free anyone without defeating Giegue first. With this in mind, the trio then continues through the cavern and reaches the summit.
There, Giegue appears in his mothership and attacks the trio, explaining his backstory all the while, and expresses his gratitude for Ninten's family, as Maria raised Giegue when he was but a child. While he initially reprimands Ninten for obstructing his plans, Giegue offers to spare Ninten's life, should he board the mothership with him. However, Ninten refuses, and an angered Giegue then attacks the trio further, stating that they can "fall into a long sleep with the rest of the ugly Earth people". When the trio tries to fight back with force, they are unable to defeat him, no matter how much they attack.
However, upon checking the alien, Teddy's realization from before comes into place: Maria's spirit explains that Giegue cannot be defeated with brute force, and can only be defeated by the singing of the Eight Melodies. With this in mind, the trio repeatedly tries to sing the Eight Melodies, yet are attacked by Giegue, who hopes to silence him to escape his old conflictions. However, after ten failed attempts, one member of the trio (determined by the player's actions during the battle) manages to sing the entire lullaby.
Unable to bear the pain of the memories induced by the melodies, Giegue is defeated, and flies back to the cosmos, swearing that he will have his revenge. In the original Famicom release, the game abruptly ends at this uncertain point: Ninten and co. will face the screen as the credits roll behind them. However, the 1990 English localization (and, by extension, all re-releases of the game) significantly extends the game's ending, with the assumption that the player followed the plot as described above.
After Giegue's defeat, the adults in the cavern are freed and brought back to their families in Youngtown, while Ana reunites with her mother and returns to Snowman. The group then parts ways, and each member continues with their own life. Lloyd is given a hero's welcome back in Merrysville and is no longer bullied by his peers. Teddy, now fully recovered, changes his ways and becomes a live performer at the Live House in Ellay. In Snowman, Ana receives a letter from Ninten and eagerly hopes to meet him again.
Back in Podunk, Ninten is greeted by his family, who infer that Ninten must be famished after his long journey. Now that the earth's crisis is finally over, Ninten decides to lay down and go to sleep. This extended ending finishes off with a cast of all the characters who appeared in person in the game (minus Giegue, standard enemies, and bosses), a new credits sequence, and a post-credits scene: Ninten's father tries to call Ninten, apparently with urgent news, implying that a new problem needing investigation has arisen...
EarthBound Beginnings was designed and directed by famed Japanese copywriter and television personality Shigesato Itoi. The game's original release was named after John Lennon's song "Mother", which moved Itoi so much that he wanted other people to be moved in the same way. Itoi could heavily relate to the song, which dealt with Lennon's experiences growing up without either of his parents; Itoi's own father was absent for much of his life. Because of this, he chose to isolate the role of Ninten's father as simply a voice on a telephone, a role that would be inherited by Ness's father in EarthBound. Itoi also felt that "MOTHER" was a fitting title for the game, as it was noticeably more "feminine" than most RPGs.
A proposal for the game was initially presented to Shigeru Miyamoto, who rejected it due to the commercial failure of other celebrity-produced Famicom games. Itoi was so upset that he cried on the train ride home. However, he later received a callback from Miyamoto, thereby commencing development.
Shigesato Itoi, the game's designer, has said that the last parts of EarthBound Beginnings were not tested for bugs and balance issues due to time constraints. When talking about this at a Mother 1 + 2 promotional event, Itoi humorously stated, "When we got to fine-tuning the difficulty there [Mt. Itoi], I was like, 'Whatever!'"
The game was released in Japan again on June 20, 2003, as part of the Game Boy Advance compilation Mother 1 + 2. Nintendo published Mother 1 + 2 with the intention of advertising the upcoming Mother 3. It retained the censorship of the unreleased translation and other changes, such as the names of towns.
Before the release of the game twenty-five years later, Nintendo of America had originally planned to translate and release Mother in the United States under the title Earth Bound. The localization was completed in 1990, but marketing pushed the release into fall of 1991, and it was eventually canceled. The Localization Producer and English Script Writer for Earth Bound, Phil Sandhop, explained, "Once the Super NES squatted in the pipeline and shoved the game aside from its appointed time, I believe that the marketing execs just decided that the game would be too expensive to produce and unsuccessful without marketing, and that's why it fell into oblivion." However, the project's failure was not in vain. In response to the extensive changes made to MOTHER, Nintendo began making more of their games with an international audience in mind; often, a game would be pre-localized even after its Japanese release before being sent to Nintendo's overseas studios.
In 1998, the fan translation group Demiforce found a beta cartridge of the game on eBay and organized an effort to collect enough money to buy the game. The project was a success, and soon after, the game was dumped into a ROM and circulated around the internet. Due to a glitch with the most accurate emulator of the time, Demiforce hacked the game while also appending "Zero" onto the title to retroactively discern it from its sequel, EarthBound. This hack ran in NESticle, but also triggered a new anti-piracy message at two key points in the game; the game was since further hacked to prevent such issues. Since Demiforce had built its reputation on releasing their English translations out of the blue, some fans debated whether the cartridge had been translated by Nintendo or by Demiforce themselves. However, today it is generally agreed that the cartridge is legitimate, as Mother 1 + 2 and EarthBound Beginnings contain all of the changes found in the beta cartridge.
During 2007, Tomato, better known within the Mother series fan community for his involvement with The Unofficial Mother 3 Fan Translation, began work on a remake which used the graphics engine of its successor, EarthBound. This made the game's maps complicated to work on, and on August 6, 2008, Tomato said of the development's progress, "I already made most of the necessary tools, and as you can see, I had all of the enemies, the entire script, all the items [...] But the problem is the maps, and without a reliable map editor, it's just not gonna happen." His resources were then designated to providing an alternate translation, which he recently released as part of Mother 1 + 2.
Nearly 26 years after being released in Japan, Mother was released in the United States and Europe as EarthBound Beginnings on June 14, 2015. It is fully translated into English, using the same ROM as the unreleased NES prototype and the Mother 1 + 2 release.
- Main article: Mother (soundtrack)
EarthBound Beginnings' soundtrack was composed by Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka. The music was released on compact disc and cassette tape by Sony Records on August 21, 1989. It consists of eleven tracks, seven of which have vocals. Some of the game's notable songs include "Eight Melodies", which plays a heavy role in the story, and "Pollyanna". Both have lyrical versions on the album, sung by St. Paul's Cathedral Choir and Catherine Warwick, respectively. On February 18, 2004, the soundtrack was re-released with digitally remastered tracks. Songs from EarthBound Beginnings appear in EarthBound, Mother 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Smash Bros. for Wii U & 3DS and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in their original or remixed form.
Censorship and Localization
During the localization from the Japanese Mother to the English EarthBound Beginnings, many names and graphics were changed, as well as features added. Shigesato Itoi was heavily involved with this localization and many if not all of the changes were approved by him. Most changes are to reduce the difficulty, adhere to the strict censorship policies that Nintendo of America enforced from 1985 to 1994, and make the game more accessible for English speakers.
- The game's title screen changes the name from MOTHER to EARTH BOUND.
- The opening credits are rewritten to be clearer and more grammatically correct.
- The game's setting is explicitly listed as 1988 in the Famicom version as well as Mother 1+2, but in the NES version, the year is left vague for unknown reasons, simply stating "80 years have passed since then" after explaining George and Maria's story.
- Giygas, whose name was originally rendered in Japanese as 'Gyiyg', is translated as Giegue.
- Several enemies are renamed for censorship purposes (i.e. changing "Devil Truck" to "Psycho Truck").
- The Black Blood gang is renamed to the Bla Bla Gang
- Several of the game's graphics were censored:
- Crows no longer hold cigarettes in their wings.
- B.B. Gang Members no longer smoke cigarettes.
- The B.B. Gang's leader no longer holds a knife, and his left elbow is changed for reasons unknown, likely a sprite error. His skin is also darkened for unknown reasons as well.
- Kelly, Nancy, and Juana's chests are altered to remove the nipple-like reflections on them.
- Gang Zombies and Nasty Zombies have their gunshot wounds replaced with ties.
- Shroudlies no longer drip blood from their hands.
- A small, barely-noticeable bloodstain on Dr. Distorto's coat is removed.
- Crosses on gravestones were replaced with obelisks, crosses in churches were replaced with stain-glass windows, and crosses atop churches and on priests' necks were removed entirely.
- Several overworld characters are redesigned to remove resemblances to the 1950 comic strip Peanuts:
- Carol's hair is straightened somewhat in order to bear less of a resemblance to Sally Brown.
- The girl with glasses has her straight hair tied up in pigtails in order to bear less of a resemblance to Marcy.
- The tramp boy has the dirt around his feet removed in order to bear less of a resemblance to Pigpen.
- The stripe on Ninten's shirt is changed from black to beige, though this change is possibly to better reflect his official model, rather than to differentiate his design from Charlie Brown.
- The map appears as an item in Ninten's basement in the Famicom version. In later versions, the map is now an option in the menu, and the item box that contained it in the Famicom version now contains a loaf of Bread.
- Most of the game's locations are renamed to better suit English-speaking audiences:
- The Time Machine (which, upon buying it, triggers a cutscene that uses it up immediately) was replaced with the more practical Super Bomb.
- In Twinkle Elementary School, one kid asks Ninten in the Famicom version "Have you played Dragon Quest IV? I'm still having trouble with Dragon Quest III." In the NES version, to avoid copyright issues (as the Dragon Quest franchise was the intellectual property of Enix Software, and is still owned by them today as Square Enix), Dragon Quest III and Dragon Quest IV were respectively replaced with Super Mario Bros. 3 and the nonexistent "Super Mario Bros. 7".
- The following glitches were fixed:
- A glitch involving Bread Crumbs commonly used to skip large portions of the game.
- A glitch where the Flea Bag can be used to stall the R7038 and R7038XX fights to the point where the maximum limit of 255 turns is reached, causing the battles to end by default. This glitch can be utilized to avoid losing Teddy or EVE, though doing so would cause some minor graphical glitches.
- Pressing and holding the B button on the overworld causes the game to run twice as fast, effectively functioning as a run feature.
- Several portions of the game's map were altered:
- The Crystal Cavern was simplified.
- The path to Mt. Itoi was simplified (by blocking off the misleading portions of the path).
- The layout of Spookane was altered.
- An extra cavernous path was added at the summit of Mt. Itoi. This path forks between the crater where Giegue's mothership lies, and a room filled with Giegue's prisoners.
- The prison room was initially located lower on the mountain, where EVE can access it. The cavern to this room was completely removed in the NES version.
- PSI powers are learned in a different order.
- When Ninten learns a melody, the background now changes to a set of downward-scrolling black and purple lines.
- The man in Magicant's Magic Fountain changes duties from a healer to an ATM.
- If Ninten incorrectly answers one of the Forgotten Man's questions, the Forgotten Man will simply restart his prompt, instead of warping Ninten to the beginning of Magicant.
- Enemies from the Yucca Desert now appear in the train tunnel between Union Station and Reindeer, likely to discourage players from skipping the Merrysville portion of the game.
- The battle with R7038 has a more optimistic ending: in the Famicom version, R7038 would flee by tearing a hole through space. Lloyd will arrive in the Army Veteran's tank, having hoped to save his friends, and will express his dismay at his inability to assist them. In later versions, Lloyd successfully reaches R7038 in time and destroys him with a shot from the tank. However, Lloyd, not being the best shot in the world, hits his friends as well and doesn't completely destroy R7038, leaving room for the robot's improvement.
- When Teddy lies in bed, recovering from the wounds received from R7038, he is aligned closer to the center of the bed. Due to the Famicom version's ambiguous ending, it is implied that Teddy dies in the 1989 release.
- The rocks blocking Giegue's lair are redesigned.
- The circumstances surrounding the Eighth Melody are heavily altered: in the Famicom version, Ninten and co. are instantly warped to Queen Mary after learning seven of the Eight Melodies. After hearing the parts of the song that the trio learned, Mary sings them back and remembers the eighth one on her own. In later versions, Ninten and co. learn the Eighth Melody from George's spirit, via his gravesite. Ninten and co. must then return to Magicant on their own (possibly done to encourage players to obtain the Onyx Hook earlier on in the game), and must manually reach Queen Mary. They then sing to her the Eight Melodies, which she then recites, remembering only the words.
- The dialogue associated with the Famicom version appears translated in the NES version's ROM, yet goes unused.
- The XX Stone is only cosmetic in the Famicom version. The revisions given to it in later versions effectively make it one of the most drastic changes in the game.
- The ending was heavily revised (see "Story").
- The Famicom version is more personal when it comes to names -- the player is asked for their own name for Ninten's name, their friend's name as Lloyd's name and another friend's name as Teddy's name. When asking for Ana's name, the game uses just "A girl's name". The NES version just uses generic "boy" and "girl" nouns when asking for all names.
EarthBound Beginnings was successful in Japan, selling approximately 400,000 copies. In two polls conducted by Famitsu, it was rated as the 9th best game on the Famicom and the 38th best game of all time. The game was the listed as the fourth most-wanted Virtual Console release in the first month of a poll by Nintendo Power.
It is currently residing in the number two spot, behind EarthBound. In a Mother 1+2 review, Netjak praised the modern setting and broad themes, calling the game, "quite dark and mature." Jeremy Parish from 1UP.com states, "the game balance is completely ridiculous, relying far too heavily on picking up better weapons and grinding for far too long."