EarthBound Beginnings boxart (Nintendo Switch Online)
|Rereleases||Wii U Virtual Console (initial platform outside Japan)|
Nintendo Switch (Nintendo Switch Online)
|Rating||T for Teen (ESRB rating, EarthBound Beginnings rerelease)|
|Japan||July 27, 1989|
June 14, 2015 (Wii U Virtual Console)
February 10, 2022 (Nintendo Switch Online)
|North America||June 14, 2015 (Wii U Virtual Console)|
February 9, 2022 (Nintendo Switch Online)
|Europe||June 14, 2015 (Wii U Virtual Console)|
February 10, 2022 (Nintendo Switch Online)
EarthBound Beginnings, also known by its Japanese name Mother (Japanese: マザー, stylized as ＭＯＴＨＥＲ) and is sometimes retroactively referred to as Mother 1 when using the Japanese titles, is a 1989 roleplaying video game originally released on the Famicom. It was developed by Ape Inc. (stylized as APE Inc.) and was published by Nintendo, and is the first game in the Mother series. Created by Japanese copywriter Shigesato Itoi, EarthBound Beginnings follows the travels of four children — Ninten, Lloyd, Ana, and Teddy — and their attempts to stop an intergalactic alien's invasion of Earth. Gameplay takes place within an overworld consisting of Americana themes and tropes, where random encounters trigger turn-based battles with menu interfaces. Mother was released to positive reception and commercial success in Japan, although some noted its difficulty.
In 1990, Nintendo of America localized the game under the name Earth Bound (stylized as EARTH BOUND). However, the release of the Super Famicom and other difficulties resulted in the localization not being released for the NES. It was later released in 2015 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of EarthBound releasing in North America, where it was retitled as EarthBound Beginnings to distinguish it from its sequel, despite the title screen still referring to it as Earth Bound. Despite this, in 1998, prototype cartridges of the localized version were discovered, and their ROMs were subsequently uploaded to the internet for fans to play. While these prototype cartridges did contain the complete localization of the game, they also contained notoriously easy to trigger copyright protection screens that could cause the game to become unplayable. Because of this, a patch was released by fans to remove these triggers. For confirmation that the patch worked, the patch also changed the title to Earth Bound Zero, which became a common name used by fans to distinguish the game from its sequel, with some still using it even after it was officially released as EarthBound Beginnings.
Mother would be succeeded by Mother 2 (released internationally as EarthBound) in 1994, which itself was followed by its own sequel Mother 3 in 2006. In 2003, Mother was also released as part of the Game Boy Advance compilation Mother 1+2. On June 14th, 2015, in celebration of EarthBound's 20th anniversary, the localized version of Mother was officially released by Nintendo on the Wii U Virtual Console service as EarthBound Beginnings, making it the second installment of the series to be released outside of Japan. On February 9th, 2022, EarthBound Beginnings was rereleased for the second time internationally, this time being made free for owners of the Nintendo Switch Online service.
|Spoiler warning: this article or section may contain major plot or ending details! Proceed with caution.|
During the early 1900s, a cloud forms over a small American town, during which a couple, George and Maria, are abducted. Two years later, George quietly returns, and begins a study of powers called PSI.
In the year 1988, Ninten, a young boy north of the city of Podunk, has his house wracked by a poltergeist causing his lamp and sister's doll to come to life. Once the poltergeist left he examines the doll, which holds a tune that he memorizes. His father calls and instructs him to go on an adventure to realize his PSI skills. He advises Ninten to find his Great Grandfather's diary left in the basement. In the town, Ninten searches for a young girl named Pippi, who had gone missing in the graveyard. After rescuing her, Ninten is tasked by the mayor to calm the Zoo, where animals had gone crazy. Along the way he returns a lost canary chick to its mother, who sings a song which Ninten memorizes. At the zoo the animals became hostile due to the influence of a cosmic Starman. After defeating it and calming the animals, he learns another melody from a singing monkey. Heading east, Ninten comes across a cave with a strange pink rock where he hears a voice speak to him telepathically. He reads the Great Grandfather's diary, which opens an entryway to Magicant—a mystical world ruled by Queen Mary. She explains the importance of finding Eight Melodies to complete a song.
Returning to the normal world, Ninten finds a frequently-bullied boy genius named Lloyd, who joins Ninten's party after receiving a bottle rocket from the nearby factory. After this they head north to find a way to clear a landslide which is blocking the train station past the town's northern exit. After traveling through the large Duncan's Factory, Lloyd fires a bottle rocket to blow up the rocks to clear the way. They head to the wintry town of Snowman, where a psychic girl named Ana joins the party after Ninten returns her hat. Ana informs Ninten that they must check on the town of Youngtown. Along the way the children investigate a haunted house in Spookane, where a piano plays a melody for Ninten all on its own. They then head through a vast desert where a talking cactus sings another melody. At Youngtown they find that all of the childrens' parents have been abducted by a large spaceship and taken to Mt. Itoi, beyond a swamp and to the town of Ellay.
Ninten, Lloyd, and Ana arrive in Ellay. The fearsome leader of the Bla-Bla Gang, Teddy, attacks the group in the Live House, but soon becomes amiable after losing to Ninten and joins the party leaving Lloyd behind to rest. They continue to find the rest of the melodies, where one is guarded by a dragon beneath Magicant. Their next destination is Mt. Itoi, where inside a house at the plateau, Ninten and Ana profess their love and share a dance. A large robot attacks their cabin, and the party is saved by Lloyd. Teddy, however, is severely injured, forcing Lloyd to rejoin the team. The party continues to climb Mt. Itoi, and meet George's benevolent robot, EVE. Their quick ascent ends after EVE sacrifices herself to defeat a large robot, however the wrecked EVE is revealed to contain a melody for Ninten to learn. At the peak of the mountain they find George's gravestone. Suddenly crystal fragments appear to teach Ninten the final melody. The party returns to Magicant to sing the full song to Queen Mary. She recalls the Melodies along with her adopted young alien child named Giygas, and reveals herself as Maria. Magicant, a result of her own conscience, disappears, along with Maria herself, leaving the children to face the alien threat at the summit.
At the top, Giygas reveals himself, telling how George stole the ability of PSI, unknowingly "betraying his people". Giygas attempts to unleash an attack on the party, but the children sing the Eight Melodies to him. Giygas, recalling Maria and her motherly love, is overwhelmed in emotion, and departs from the Earth, vengefully promising to Ninten that he will return. The children free the captive adults from Mt. Itoi's summit; Ana is finally reunited with her missing mother; Teddy recovers and begins performing daily at the Live House in Ellay; the captive parents from Youngtown happily return to their children; Ana and her mother return to Snowman, with Ana promising that she, Ninten, and Lloyd will meet again; Lloyd returns to Merrysville and is treated as a hero by Twinkle Elementary School's students, effectively abolishing his bullied status; and Ninten returns home. Later on, Ana receives a letter from Ninten, expressing her wish to see him again upon reading it; Ninten then falls asleep in his bed "now that the earth's crisis is over." After the credits, his father calls, and while waiting for Ninten to answer, states that "something has come up".
The year is 198X. As Ninten, a young boy from Podunk with psychic powers, you must locate the eight melodies to aid the Queen of Magicant. Armed with your trusty baseball bat, you'll fight crazed hippies, zombies... and the occasional Magic Snail? Find out what's causing these strange phenomena in the first-ever US release of the EarthBound Beginnings game!
Robots are everywhere, and Ninten can't beat them alone. You'll have to team up with a colorful cast of unexpected characters–including Lloyd, Ana, and Teddy–to win intense battles with psychic attacks. PK Fire! PK Thunder! PK Freeze! Sound familiar? Well, Ninten isn't the only one with psychic powers–his companion Ana also uses offensive PSI attacks to help out in battle.
But that's just the beginning of your epic team-ups. On Ninten's journey between Magicant and Earth, you'll join forces with the Flying Men too! Have a blast exploring an abandoned zoo, saving the world, and more!
EarthBound Beginnings has four different characters that can be controlled by the player. At the beginning of the game, the player must give a name to the following four characters. Only three can be in the party at a time.
Non playable characters
EarthBound Beginnings has a variety of non playable characters. The following are important factors to the storyline:
- Maria is Ninten's great grandmother. She and her husband were abducted by aliens in the 1900s. Her consciousness appears in Magicant, where she rules as Queen Mary.
- George is Ninten's great grandfather. While abducted by aliens, he studied and stole the knowledge of PSI.
- EVE is a robot created by George to defend Ninten. Residing at the base of Mt. Itoi, EVE possess the seventh melody.
- Giygas is a vengeful alien that was sent to retrieve the information of PSI. He is the main antagonist of the game.
The game utilizes random encounters, similar to other early RPGs, such as the Final Fantasy series. When Ninten takes a certain number of steps, the screen will transition to the battle screen, displaying a random enemy. In battle, Ninten must defeat the enemy simply by attacking or using PSI, short for Psionics. Additionally, Ninten has the option to run if the enemy is too powerful to fight. If Ninten defeats the enemy, he and any members in his party will gain EXP. Once Ninten gains a certain amount of EXP, his level increases, allowing for greater stats and new PSI powers. A high level is mandatory to finish the game, as the enemies progressively get more and more powerful as Ninten progresses. The first-person perspective in the battles (where you can only see the enemy and not the player character[s], unlike the Final Fantasy series) is directly based off of the Dragon Quest series.
Status ailments are conditions that hinder the player or an enemy in battle. They can usually be cured with certain items.
- Asleep - renders the player unable to do anything.
- Asthma - renders the player unable to attack. This ailment is exclusive to Ninten.
- Blindness - decreases the accuracy of an attack.
- Bound - similar to paralysis, can only be afflicted with a rope.
- Cold - causes the player to lose 1 HP for every 8 steps in the overworld.
- Confusion - confuses the player, making them able to attack anyone, even those in their party.
- Faint - occurs when the player's HP reaches zero. The player gains a Game Over if their entire party has this ailment.
- Paralysis - renders the player unable to do anything.
- Poison - same as Cold.
- PSI Block - renders the player unable to use PSI
- Puzzled - causes the player to daydream.
- Stone - renders the player unable to do anything.
- HP (Short for "Heart Points") - Shows the amount of damage a character can withstand. Any healing item replenishes this.
- PP (Short for "Psychic Points") - Shows how much PSI a character can use.
- Offense - Shows the maximum amount of damage a character can deal with a normal attack.
- Defense - Shows how much damage a character can resist from an enemy attack.
- Speed - Determines how fast a character can attack. If they have the greater speed, they attack first.
- Strength - Determines how much HP is gained when a character levels up.
- Fight - Determines the likelihood of an attack being successful, as well as the likelihood of it being a hit.
- Wisdom - Shows how likely a status ailment can be inflicted on an enemy.
- Force - Determines how much PP is gained when a character levels up.
|Starman Jr.||52||16||32||$5||Choucream Zoo|
|The Fish||65||0||140||$180||Magicant Underground|
Development for the game commenced in the late 80s, after Shigesato Itoi pitched the idea of a modern-day RPG game to Shigeru Miyamoto. Beforehand, Itoi was well-known for his copywriting career in Japan, although he habitually played the Nintendo Famicom to "a degree that most would consider obsession". Being asthmatic, he was prone to violent coughing fits whenever he tried to lay down to sleep; so at night, when he woke up with another coughing fit, he would play Miyamoto's Super Mario Bros. In essence, "Mario saw him through his asthma" since he couldn't call anyone, and because of that, Itoi always felt indebted to Nintendo. One day he became an avid fan of Enix's Dragon Quest franchise. While playing the first game late at night, he pondered the changes he would make to the RPG formula if he were in charge, as RPG games at the time primarily consisted of knights and princesses in a fantasy medieval-european setting. While they were flourishing in Japan, he didn't know anything about medieval Europe, and he started to imagine an RPG game set in contemporary times as he found a modern-day setting far more investing and interesting.
As he did not know how to develop a game, he initially wondered whether he would be able to find a company to make the game for him, calling up a friend and asking if the concepts he had in mind would make for a good title. In the meantime, he continued developing the idea, and, later on, when Nintendo happened to call Itoi over for a minor business matter entirely by coincidence, he saw the perfect opportunity to propose his ideas for the project to Nintendo themselves. Having brought along some game design plans he had created himself, he fretted over when he could show them his plans while he was on his business matter. When he finally did show them, the people there were surprised, with Miyamoto himself agreeing to meet with Itoi about the project. At the meeting, Itoi stated how the modern-day setting would be unique because it conflicted with the standard RPG formula, as real life did not support magical powers and the children could not simply brandish firearms. He also enthusiastically suggested ways for how these natural limitations could be overcome to produce a distinctive and exceptional game.
Miyamoto's reception was lukewarm at best; while he praised Itoi's ideas, he calmly and gently told Itoi that his project proposal was in no way an indication that he could actually pull it off. Itoi's work in the advertising industry had not prepared him for the game development of the game industry; while he was used to fleshing out concepts and ideas and executing them with a team, even if they didn't quite achieve their original vision, the development of a video game was significantly different: the plan to create something, no matter how impressive it was, was meaningless unless it could actually be achieved. Itoi would have to be an active participant in the development of the game, something that he had no experience with, since he was a complete amateur with the game industry. The proposal stage of the project wasn't the part that impressed everyone, like he had originally thought: he was no different from anyone else who presented their ideas to other game companies (aside from his fame).  Miyamoto then reluctantly asked: "I know it's a lot of work, but...how about starting over from the beginning and making it simpler?"
While Miyamoto had explained this in the most considerate way possible, Itoi was still overcome with an immense feeling of powerlessness. He was convinced he had something incredible on his hands, having put an immense amount of time and effort into fleshing out his concept, but when he realized the project would require an actual ability to be able to bring it to reality, he felt a deep sense of loneliness.  While he was discouraged, he kept a positive attitude about him during the ordeal and took Miyamoto's words "in a good way", but he was eventually overwhelmed with helplessness and he wept bitterly on the bullet train ride back to his home.  Unbeknownst to Itoi, Miyamoto was intrigued by many of his ideas; another reason he held back from immediately green-lighting the game was the abysmal failure of celebrity-endorsed games in the past, as well as doubt that Itoi could remain invested in his project throughout its development. After some thought, he called Itoi, giving him permission to return to Nintendo to propose his idea again. At the meeting, Miyamoto brought a "super thick" packet of development texts from a text adventure game and insisted to Itoi he would have to write a similar document for the project. (Add info from Miyamoto's Mother perspective at the MOTHER 3 N64 Roundtable Cancellation talk) He also told Itoi from experience that the game would only be as good as the amount of effort Itoi invested into it, stating that Itoi would be unable to invest the appropriate time in the project with his current copywriting-filled schedule. Itoi restated his interest for his project and lessened his workload in response, and Mother was officially green-lit by Nintendo in 1987.
After Nintendo green-lit the project, it took a month for Miyamoto to assemble a development team for Itoi and assess the team for compatibility. The development for Mother officially began in the city of Ichikawa in the western Chiba Prefecture. In order to participate in development, Itoi had to take daily commutes from Tokyo to Ichikawa, which was exhausting for him. But at the same time, as he stated in an interview, he "wanted it more and more."  Itoi also showed his dedication to the project by writing the entirety of the game's script. The basic elements of the project remained mostly unchanged from the germination of the game to the end of development. Early on, Itoi's development team didn't have much faith in him, as there were rumors circulating that he had only ever attended two meetings at Nintendo, and the general consensus was that Mother was a sort of "vanity project" to Itoi. In addition, Itoi was hesitant to discuss his involvement in Mother with anyone, as other people had interpreted Miyamoto's earlier request to Itoi about "making it simpler" as Miyamoto asking Itoi to "please stop." But Itoi was serious about bringing Mother to fruition, even if it meant having to work all-nighters like other game developers.
Earlier on in development, Itoi had mentioned that he favored work atmospheres that felt like an extracurricular club consisting of volunteers who worked out of an apartment, which Miyamoto tried to accommodate for the project. Miyamoto himself also received criticism from some to consenting towards a celebrity and hiring a copywriter (Itoi) who might not have been up for the task. Later on, Miyamoto stated that his decision to move forward with the project was based on his confidence in Itoi.
While typical RPG titles made the protagonist work from a zero to being a grand hero, Itoi had the main protagonist work from a "negative number" to 'zero hero' to better reflect real life. Some NPC characters are condescending towards Ninten, which was purposely designed by Itoi to evoke feelings of rebelliousness and irritation within the player character, so the emotions supposedly felt by Ninten actually came from the real world (you) and not just the game world.
During development, Itoi drew upon multiple sources for inspiration, including the iconic Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, which can be seen with Mother's extraterrestrial themes and the importance of monkeys within the game's plot. To provide a fantastical element in the game, the city of Magicant was created, in which its ruler is critical to the story's progression. One inspiration led to another when forming Mother, which Itoi himself calls a "blending of genres". This principle applied to the music as well, with the composers Hirokazu Tanaka and Keiichi Suzuki drawing from the works of Prince, Frank Zappa, The Beatles, and My Bloody Valentine for inspiration. Tanaka was also the engineer for the Famicom's sound chip, and he pushed the limits of what types of sounds he could create on the system.
When Mother was first green-lit, Tanaka was forcibly ordered by his superiors to compose music for the project. He and Itoi also disagreed on the game's soundtrack at first, with Itoi wanting a unique BGM track for the game distinct from other game titles; however, his "technique was incredible", and after composing demo track after demo track for the game, he came to understand Itoi, and they built a firm relationship of trust between them. Keiichi Suzuki, a musician who co-founded the Moonriders, one of Japan's most innovative rock bands, was brought on to help guide the direction of the game's soundtrack and composed the songs "Pollyanna" and "Bein' Freinds" for the game. The approach the duo took with composing the game's songs were "to establish the rules that governed the audio for this world. There were considerations in terms of how time and space were related, how characters were associated with one another, and how the concepts of good and evil were represented." While Suzuki composed the game's soundtrack, Tanaka programmed every single sound into the game, including both the game's BGM and its SFX. This was unusual, as typically separate teams handled the composing and programming; however, Tanaka was confident in his abilities, as he had designed the Famicom's sound chip. He struggled with the Famicom's hardware limitations, especially the memory capacity of the Famicom's audio channels. One such difficulty was a channel falling out every time a certain sound effect played: he circumvented this by leaving a short pause before the note in the song to emphasize the effect. Ultimately, Tanaka wasn't able to implement all of the sounds he intended to in the Mother soundtrack.
(Add info about Keiichi Suzuki here, especially Louis Philippe's Flying Man song)
The president of Nintendo of Japan at the time, Hiroshi Yamauchi, was impressed by Itoi's work on Mother, going so far as to call him a "genius" and proposed the idea of a new company meant to support new talent within the video game industry. Itoi then formed the company Ape Inc. (stylized APE Inc.) on March 1987 with him serving as chief executive producer, which then joined the Mother development team towards the end of the game's development. In coming up with the name for the project, a temporary title, "ESP1", was used until the word "mothership" provided the primary influence for Itoi. But the title held other meanings as well; the John Lennon song "Mother" served as an influence in particular, which moved Itoi so much that he wanted to evoke the same feelings in other people through his Mother game , while Itoi felt that the game had a "motherly" feel compared to other RPGs at the time: the feeling of motherhood was also present in the game through Maria's maternal love for Giygas. The title could also evoke connotations with the feel of the phrase "Mother Earth" as well. Part of Itoi's drive to complete Mother was to simply play it himself, and share the game with his friends and let them play it also: after all, his starting point for the project was to create a game that he would want to play himself if it ever existed. While the development was painful for a multitude of reasons (It was littered with detailed limitations due to the RPG's contemporary setting, which the team had to overcome), Itoi felt that by the end of the game's development, it had turned out to be something "really interesting."
Mother was originally released in Japan for the Famicom on July 27th, 1989.
The game was officially translated into English by Nintendo of America in 1990 and slated for a Fall 1991 release under the new title of Earth Bound, but marketing delays prevented the game from being released. Unlike the original Japanese release of Mother, the prototype English translation contains detailed enemy descriptions, some redesigned areas, and an ability to run, among other differences. A few of the changes were requested by Nintendo of America producer and scriptwriter Phil Sandhop, who stated that there were plans to release the game with an 80-page instruction manual and a separate release of the game's soundtrack, but the production costs, memory-intensive improvements from the Famicom original , and the potential financial risk from marketing and releasing an undoubtedly-expensive to manufacture NES title ended up having the game cancelled. Most of the alterations later saw official release in Mother 1+2.
The fan group Neo Demiforce, who had been working on their own translation of the game at the time, discovered that a prototype cartridge had been sold to Kenny Brooks, a game collector, and made a deal with him to release a ROM of the game to the public in 1998. The ROM was released with a patch that featured minor alterations from the prototype cartridge to get around the copy protections Nintendo had placed on it, as well as the addition of "Zero" to the title screen for confirmation that the ROM was patched, as well as to differentiate it from its sequel of the same name. Since then, four other cartridges with the prototype have been found, one of which resides in Nintendo of America's headquarters.
Game Boy Advance and Virtual Console releases
On June 14th, 2015, Nintendo announced and released Mother for the Wii U Virtual Console service, in Japanese as well as its first ever English release, under the title EarthBound Beginnings. While the English version is the same as the unreleased English prototype (minus the copy protection), the Japanese version had several changes from Mother 1+2 backported to it. Notably, the Crow's cigarette was removed and a line in Twinkle Elementary School that mentioned [Dragon Quest IV] had the reference to that game removed.
Mother was a commercial success in Japan, receiving the "Silver Hall of Fame" score of 31/40 from Weekly Famitsu. According to a Famitsu poll, it was considered the 9th best Famicom game and the 38th best game of all time. EarthBound Beginnings also received strong positive reception in the west, similar to its successor. It was one of the most bought NES games on the Wii U Virtual Console during its lifespan, and was the only NES game with a 5-star rating during the first few months of the release. Critics praised its originality, music, and artstyle, while saying how it "parodies" other more "serious" RPG games such as the Dragon Quest series. Around the time of its initial release, EarthBound Beginnings was the best selling downloadable game on the Wii U in America and Europe, surpassing Splatoon in digital sales.
While positively received, there are still various criticisms with the game - namely, the infamous difficulty spikes. Many parts of the game have enemies far more powerful than the previous section's (most notably Mt. Itoi) which forces grinding. Another complaint is also the random encounter rate, with enemies appearing far more frequently than other RPGs of the time.
For the subject's image gallery, see Gallery:EarthBound Beginnings
|Title screens and logos|
- Mother was named after the John Lennon song of the same name.
- Another (possible) reason Shigesato Itoi named Mother after the John Lennon song of the same name was the fact that Itoi lived most of his life without his father and his mother being present in his life, with he and his sister being raised by their grandmother; John Lennon's song describes the singer's real-life childhood with his absent parents.
- It took 26 years for Mother to get an English release, making it only the second game in the series to be released outside of Japan.
- Most of the characters and enemies in the game were made into papier-mâché models, which were prominently featured in Mother's instruction manual and the Encyclopedia Mother.
- Since Earth Bound was never released in the Fall of 1991, one can only speculate how well it could have performed. The reasons for its cancellation are still debated today, though it was probably a multitude of factors that led to Nintendo of America's higher-ups deciding the potential gain was not worth the financial risk.
- Space Bound, the potential name for a possible sequel that was devised by Earth Bounds localization team, may or may not have been inspired by Mother 2's early development, in which Itoi toyed with the concept of sending the Mother characters into outer space; ultimately, it was scrapped by Itoi for being "too cliché". The date at which the copyright for Space Bound was filed, however, was many months after Itoi rejected the outer space concept for the sequel, suggesting it could just be coincidental. Whether or not it was inspired can only be speculated, though.
- The font used for the Mother logo is "Poster Gothic" by Morris Fuller Benton.
by Shigesato Itoi
|Locations in EarthBound Beginnings|
Cities and towns