Game Changers: Volume 20 – Mother 3

These days, most people just take it for granted that RPGs will make it to North America roughly six to twelve months after hitting shelves in Japan.  But despite a devoted fanbase and several petitions for its release, one game stands as one of the most-wanted games that we never got.  That game is Mother 3.

You'll only get one of these if you import.  *sigh*
You’ll only get one of these if you import. *sigh*

Americans never got a chance to see the original Mother, but Mother 2 was a bit of a cult classic when it was released as EarthBound in North America. Sales of EarthBound were never spectacular, but few series can boast such loyal fans on either side of the Pacific.  EarthBound is a quirky RPG following the adventures of Ness, a young boy from Onett with psychic powers.  Ness was popular enough to appear in all three Smash Bros. games, putting him in the same league as characters such as Mario, Link, Samus, and Pikachu.

Mother 3 was initially announced for the Nintendo 64, but the project never got very far.  Most people considered it dead in the water, but the title later resurfaced on the GBA.  Many fans eagerly followed every bit of news as the game neared release.  When it finally hit shelves, some took advantage of the fact that the GBA is very import friendly and played the game in its native Japanese, but many waited for it to be localized.

That localization never came, but rumors poured in from every corner of the web that Mother 3 was on the horizon.  These rumors gained strength when Lucas, the main character of Mother 3 found a place in the roster of Smash Bros. Brawl alongside series veteran Ness.  With that in mind, people thought that surely Mother 3 would come out here.

Another rumor speculated that the GBA would join Wii Virtual Console, and that Mother 3 would be among the games available.  Fans pointed to an interview with Reggie Fils-Aime where he said that Nintendo was considering the game.  Many fans, myself included, watched the Nintendo E3 press conference every year, just hoping for the announcement.

To date, Nintendo has yet to announce a localization for the game, and it is probably unlikely to do so.  There are several reasons.

This image brought to you by fan translators.  And cows.
“This image brought to you by fan translators. And cows.

 Mother 3 is a bit darker than its predecessor, and it doesn’t have the same happy feeling.  Also, the game has some elements that might make some North Americans uncomfortable.  Things like magical drag queens and the fact that the Hotels of Mother 1 and 2 have been primarily replaced with hot springs. This fact seems rather innocuous at first, but when you consider your party consists of a young boy, a young girl, a man, and a dog, bath scenes are a little… weirder.

There is a bit of a happy ending.  A highly publicized translation of the game is available for download if you are willing to download the ROM and play on an emulator.  The translation is very faithful to the original, so there is at least one way for fans to enjoy the game without having to be able to read Japanese.  But the translation patch does not include a copy of the game itself; you have to find the ROM on your own.  And even though Nintendo has not tried to stop the translation patch, ROM emulation is not exactly legal.

So Mother 3 is important not for what it added; it is most remembered for the GBA cartridge-shaped hole it left in so many gamers’ hearts.  Despite a loyal fanbase willing to pay nearly any asking price to play the game legally in English, it seems Mick Jagger was right on the money.  You can’t always get what you want.

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