Mother 3 (Earthbound 64)

Mother 3
A creative kind of odd

   Almost every console RPG ever released has been dressed in fantasy trappings. Some are medieval fantasy, other sci-fi fantasy, but each has a story that follows unwaveringly the same familiar archetypes. The most notable (and odd) exception is Nintendo's quirky, retro-themed Mother series. Released in the U.S. as Earthbound, these titles set in the modern world have a sensibility all their own. Instead of swords and sorcery, you attack with frying pans and spells named after your favorite food. The final opponent is as likely to be the Ultimate Transdimensional Evil as he is the 8-year-old next door. Any game where you can raid ATMs for cash is cool in our book, and we were as thrilled as any when Nintendo announced a sequel for the Nintendo 64.

   Gone are the old-school 8-bit sprites and backgrounds; these have been cast aside in the name of progress for 3D fully environments. The quirky humor, however, hasn't gone anywhere. One look at spaghetti-western saloons filled with aliens or desert hoverpads proves that the humor has aged just fine. Gameplay consists of ten separate mini-quests, as in Square's Live a Live, each with its own hero and goals. Only four of the characters have been announced so far: twins named Luca and Krause, their apparently unnamed father (who, in typical RPG fashion, has mysteriously vanished), and a dog named Bony. Characters from one quest can appear in as supporting characters in another, giving the entire title a cohesive narrative.

   Battles retain the first-person perspective of past Mother games: as in the Dragon Quest series, you see the enemies but not your party members. The psychic powers that replaced traditional RPG spells are back as well, but now the surrounding landscape dictates what powers may be used (think Final Fantasy Tactics' Geomancy). Players also have to beware of literally overheating their magic-users: in typical wacky Mother fashion, using psychic powers too often causes a character's to heat up, temporarily rendering him or her unable to fight. Changes such as these would normally make Mother 3 an interesting new addition to the series... but will the game ever see the light of day?

   At one point, Zelda 64 and Mother 3 were to be the flagship titles for Nintendo's Bulky Drive, the 64DD. Zelda would sell the systems to consumers, while Mother would demonstrate the add-on's advanced features: events would unfold in real-time, night and day, according to the internal clock. Every dropped item, planted seed, and smallest footstep would be written to the 64DD disk, and each small, subtle change would have massive ramifications.

   The 64DD faded into vaporware obscurity as Zelda and Mother (as well as Pokémon Stadium and its sequel) shifted to the 256-megabit cartridge format. The ambitious special features were likely cast aside for a more "traditional" cartridge RPG experience -- though a 64DD follow-up title is still in development, featuring the same game engine but brand new quests. And Mother 3 itself seems to possess the regenerative powers on par with those of Liquid Snake: despite all the development setbacks, Nintendo still maintains the game is alive, well, and due out May 2000 in Japan.

   The Mother series' playful, counter-culture tone makes its games refreshing bursts of fresh air in the all-too-often stagnant world of cookie-cutter RPGs. It would be criminal if Quest 64 was the alpha and omega of Nintendo 64 RPGs -- hopefully, Nintendo will work out any design issues and release the title to eager fans worldwide.

Preview by Andrew Vestal, GIA. Additions by Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
Mother 3: Fall of the Pig King
Developer Nintendo
Publisher Nintendo
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium Cartridge
Platform Nintendo 64
Release Date  05.00
Mother 3 impressions
Space World movie / 8 Space World shots
6 character designs