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FISCHER: When you can’t find Mother

By Travis Fischer,

That sound you heard last week was the wail of Western video gamers crying out for mother. Or, more specifically, “Mother 3.”

Let’s start from the beginning.

FISCHER: When you can’t find Mother
Travis Fischer

Once upon a time, in 1995, American owners of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System saw the release of “EarthBound,” a quirky JRPG that didn’t make much of a splash at the time, but eventually became fondly remembered as a cult classic.

“EarthBound” was actually the second entry in an eventual trilogy of games originating in Japan under the name “Mother,” a 1989 game that didn’t make it to the West when it was new.

That’s not an entirely unusual situation. JRPGs are inherently more text-heavy than most video games and the added cost of translation make them extra difficult to see a return on when localizing them in new markets. Especially for a genre that was already somewhat niche in the first place.

“Mother” didn’t get a chance to make it in the West and “Mother 2,” known in the West as EarthBound, wasn’t a huge seller.

So when “Mother 3,” a 2006 Game Boy Advance game came out, you could see why there would be hesitation in investing in translating the game for an English audience.

The problem is that by 2006 the internet had connected the world. More importantly, it connected the people that really liked “EarthBound.” While unappreciated in its time, the decade following the game’s lackluster Western release had seen its popularity grow exponentially.

The fan community really liked “EarthBound” and they knew there was an even more critically acclaimed sequel out there past the Pacific horizon.

And thus, for 10 long years, the cry of “Give us Mother 3” rang out across gaming forums and social media, begging Nintendo to release the game in the West. And for 10 long years their cries went unanswered until one day in 2015 Nintendo made a special announcement.

They would finally, for the first time, be releasing an English localized version of… “Mother,” the 1989 first entry of the trilogy.

And while such news was appreciated, it hasn’t seemed to bring “Mother 3” any closer to the Western shores. Meanwhile, demand for an official release has only continued to grow, inspiring a full-on documentary about the game and its unusual circumstances last year.

At this point, it almost feels like Nintendo is taking a perverse pleasure in denying the Western market the game. Nintendo knows the demand is there, to the point where it’s been used as an inside-joke between Nintendo of America and the gaming community.

Now, to be fair, a fan-translation of “Mother 3” has been easily accessible since 2008. Anybody who wants to play “Mother 3” can, provided they know which corners of the internet to look for it. I won’t confirm or deny that I’ve had the ROM file on my own hard drive for years.

That said, the widespread release of a fan-translation has only seemed to increase demand for an official release.

Nintendo is fully aware that the fan-translation is out there and series creator Shigesato Itoi confirmed that Nintendo was offered the use of the translation if that’s what it would take to make an official release happen.

Every day it seems that the reason for not doing it become less and less valid, leaving people wondering what exactly Nintendo is waiting for.

Last week, in Nintendo’s latest update to their Nintendo Switch Online service, the company announced that “Mother 3” would be among the next wave of available for its Japanese users.

No such luck for Western customers.

I don’t know what it’s going to take for Nintendo to decide to release “Mother 3” to the world, and at this point I’m kind of scared to find out.

— Travis Fischer is a news writer for the Charles City Press and sometimes wonders if Nintendo really does just hate money.

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