What We’re Missing With Mother 3

By Louise Yang . November 10, 2008 . 2:35pm

mother3aThanks to two years of fan-translation efforts I finally had a chance to play Mother 3.  After putting a handful of hours in, I’m amazed that no one at Nintendo wants to give the English-speaking world a chance to play this charming RPG.


Without giving too much of the story away, the game is about the inhabitants of a sleepy little town where something strange has been happening.  The animals have been acting hostile and sightings of pig-masked men have popped up.


The pixel-art style of the game that is distinctive to the Mother (or Earthbound) series returns in full force and looks fantastic.  It’s good to see artists still willing to create fantastic 2D worlds when 3D is so rampant these days.  The colors are vibrant and characters are distinctive and sometimes hilarious.


mother3The battle system of Mother 3 is my favorite part of the game.  It’s turn-based, so RPG players will be familiar with it, but there are also some differences. There’s a rhythm aspect to fighting: if you hit the attack button to the rhythm of the monster’s battle music, you can string along a maximum of 16 hits for a combo.  Monsters have different battle music; to deal maximum damage, players need to master all of the rhythms.  A tip is to put the monster to sleep in order to hear its music rhythm better.


Then there’s the rolling HP aspect of battles. When a player or teammate is hit, the HP counter counts down instead of immediately deducting the damage from the character’s HP.  This comes in handy when the player gets hit with a very damaging attack. While the HP counter counts down, players can still attack and hopefully land a killing blow to the enemy. When the enemy gets knocked out, the HP counter stops, even if it hasn’t count down the full amount yet.  Taking advantage of this is key to fighting a lot of the bosses.


After playing this game, I’m puzzled at why Nintendo won’t bring this over to the US.  There’s nothing distinctively Japanese about the game and character names can always be changed to Westernized ones.  There’s a child-like charm to this game that matches Nintendo’s image and it’s fun enough that even veteran RPG players can enjoy it.  But since it looks like we won’t be getting an official translation soon, I’m glad that fans are passionate enough about the game to provide one for us.


Images courtesy of Nintendo.

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  • JeremyR

    Well, it’s a GBA game, that’s probably the reason. That system is long dead.

    And pretty much everyone that wanted the game has pirated it, so what’s the point from their view?

  • Andrew

    My problem is that Nintendo never gave a definitive yes or no to this game’s release. They were always coy about it, which frustrates me. I’d much rather buy a packaged copy of the game, but Nintendo never told us what was on their mind. I guess now we know for sure.

  • Bafish

    This game should be supported. Its not, so why not just enjoy the game and give a small donation as a big thank you to fan translated game. Peace!

  • D-5

    It wouldn’t sell. Only the hardcore Mother/Earthbound fans would buy this. Fantastic game, by the way!

  • lostinblue

    Awesome translation for an awesome game.

    Now if only Nintendo did put Mother 1+2 and 3 in a DS cartridge… they’d be redeemed, that is… sort of redeemed.

  • scott

    “There’s a child-like charm to this game that matches Nintendo’s image”

    Are you joking?

    NOA would not bring Mother 3 to the states simply because, Localizing this game would have been a nightmare.

    Barring the fact that it LOOK like a kids game, the game is actually very mature. Violence, alcohol and drug use, Language. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game earned a ESRB Mature rating, if not Teen. What kind of racist undertones do you think the skinheads in club DCMC stir up? Homo/Metrosexual themes? a WHOLE SECTION in the game when you’re tripping on mushrooms? Let’s not forget about death and dying…

    ask yourself, who are you marketing this game to again? cuz its obviously not to kids. Add in, the fact that the core audience that would have bought the game, is already playing it through the Fan Translation, why would Nintendo bother releasing it now?

  • lostinblue

    @ scott – We don’t know that… for instance do you know Mother 1 (Earthbound zero) story?

    -> http://www.lostlevels.org/200407/200407-earthbound2.shtml

    It was translated, it was ready for release… it just wasn’t. Why? because it was late in the cycle, just like Mother 3 was more than a decade later.

    Of course I’m not saying the translation was done for Mother 3, but I’m saying that it was due to bad timing more than anything else.

    Now if only Nintendo would bring Soma Bringer (and Captain Rainbow!)

  • @scott – If Bandai can localize Sailor Moon into an afternoon kid’s cartoon show for NA, Nintendo should have no problem localizing Mother 3 to be more suitable for kids in the States. The trippy mushrooms could be explained away by poison mushrooms and the alcohol could probably be just some random drink that uh…produces strange effects.

  • scott

    @louise, I think that they would have needed to change a lot, and more people would complain about Mother 3’s North American translation than Sailor Moon (not that i used to watch Sailor Moon… or anything…). But a lot of things they would have needed to change seem so vital to the main plot. I would have loved to sit in the board meeting when NOA Localization Team discuss how they would change the “..Good news is, I found a Dragos Claw!” scene. It would seem disingenuous to change that just for the approval of North American audiences.

    I would love to see this game in the US, in any form (hello Wiiware), but i’d understand if it didn’t.

  • @scott:
    I agree with you in that the themes you listed would definitely keep it from getting an agreeable rating. What tipped me off about this is when I encountered the first Magypsies. However, if Nintendo of America did bother to release the game sooner, the fact that everyone who would have played it has already wouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, if they kept all of these themes intact and stand next to a higher rating than what people are used to, it certainly would have improved its image with the “core audience”, despite parents the nation over complaining about a game that is clearly labeled not for children.

    Luckily for us, we don’t have to endure an inevitable dilution in a possible localization.

  • ecco6t9

    Expect to see it on DSiWare.

  • jarrod

    I’d LOVE a DSiWare release… hell, rerelease the whole trilogy that way, they’re all already recoded to run on GBA spec.

  • EvilAkito

    I see no reason to believe that this game wouldn’t have at least sold as well as a typical Fire Emblem game, which I’m sure has roughly the same amount of text to translate. And Earthbound fans aren’t just a bunch of pirates. A lot of us pre-ordered the Japanese version and still would have bought an official English release.

    Personally, I think Nintendo’s corporate philosophy is “ignore your core fanbase.” Sadly, it seems to work pretty well for them. If every single Mother fan quit buying Nintendo products, they’d barely even notice.

  • JP

    It’s a GBA game and Nintendo are making GBA downloadable content available on DSi, therefore it wouldn’t surprise me if we seen a translation of the game for the DSi launch in the US/EUR.

  • Good review. I like the combo system too.

    scott is blowing things a bit out of proportion. First of all, there isn’t any actual racism in MOTHER 3. The part on Tanehineri Island was honestly nothing very strong–the team is desperate for food and accidentally eat some weird mushrooms. Now, Nintendo could tone a few things down, but all-in-all this could definitely at least make it to an E10+ rating.

    This game IS aimed at kids. Along with other reasons, Shigesato Itoi made almost the entire game in kana, which is easier for children to read. Furthermore, “language”? Kumatora talked in a slangy, kind of rough way (could’ve been translated with her saying “yo” a lot like a gangster), but Tomato converted this into bad language in his fan translation. It doesn’t directly mean she was cussing you out.
    The scene where they find out Hinawa is dead, with Bronson’s “good new and bad news”, they could have revealed the mother’s death in a much less disturbing way. For instance, he could have said, “but the bad news is, your wife… she drowned in the river” or something like that.

    I do think Mother 3 is a kids game. It has a few more mature moments, but Nintendo can tone it down and definitely make it one at least for a ten-year-old audience.

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