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The History of Mother 1 (NES)
October 25, 2008 2:53 PM   Subscribe

The History of Mother 1 (NES) In honor of the new fan translation of Mother 3 (or Earthbound for the GBA), I've decided to post an article explaining what ever happened to the English port of the first game in the Earthbound/Mother trilogy.
posted by AZNsupermarket (19 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've got a copy of Earthbound Zero (the English fan translation of Mother) and hoooo boy, is it bad. The characters, world, and whatnot are fun and cool, but the combat is brutally hard, and you have to grind for a couple of hours up front to make it playable for awhile.

...and then a couple of hours later, it's back to grinding some more so that the next few hours are playable.

Seriously, everything about it that isn't gameplay is awesome. The gameplay, however, makes it very difficult to enjoy the good parts. Skip it and enjoy Earthbound, which is a far superior game.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:49 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, I'd forgotten what a fascinating blog Lost Levels is.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:05 PM on October 25, 2008


Self link?
posted by Class Goat at 5:20 PM on October 25, 2008


Class Goat: nope, just an interesting post - I read back on GoNintendo.com a while back. I thought it was interesting article.
posted by AZNsupermarket at 5:25 PM on October 25, 2008


Oh, and AZNsupermarket, when a tag has a space in it (Like "Lost Levels", Metafilter interprets that as two tags. Just smoosh them together.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:57 PM on October 25, 2008


I got stuck in the dreamworld in EB0, because as PG mentioned, it's just so HARD. I've never been one to level grind, so I just put the game down (and have yet to return). I will wander about aimlessly forever for gold to buy superItem™, but refuse to fight one otherwise unnecessary battle for for XP. Go figure. (Maybe that explains a bit about my life and how I got where I am now.)
posted by Eideteker at 7:18 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: The characters, world, and whatnot are fun and cool, but the combat is brutally hard, and you have to grind for a couple of hours up front to make it playable for awhile.

I have completed this game. I remember there being a bit of building up, yes, but I don't remember it being that bad.

Most RPGs these days are designed around the idea that the player should never have to build up. If the player just walks between each point A and B by the normal route, on the average he'll have just as many enemy encounters he needs to make each fight fair. If he goes out of his way to avoid fights he'll be underpowered, but so long as he slogs through them all it'll all be okay.

There is something to be said for this kind of design, which is most often a ruling principle of Japanese-style RPGs. But on the other hand, it also makes the world seem pre-planned, in a way that wrecks immersion. All the town have just the equipment strong enough to make the monsters roaming the fields outside just easy enough to beat, and at a price suspiciously tailored to the money the player has on-hand the first time he visits. It leans towards what I call plexiglass design, where everything is fair, and nothing off the beaten path can be done, and the player can't do too much to substantively lower, or raise, his chances of success through the game. If the game designers had dropped the experience and equipment systems altogether, and just granted the player periodic power upgrades through the story, it'd nearly be the same thing.

I'm not going to say that a completely chaotic game world is better, but I find myself getting board by RPGs that make too much of an effort to make everything fair. (Part of my attitude here may come from playing so many roguelikes.)
posted by JHarris at 9:38 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Great stuff. The grind comment is definitely true. However, a lot of aspects of the game are pretty incredible, especially for their time. There is a patch available at the ever-amazing Starmen.net Mother page that changes battles to give double XP, as well as making some other more subtle changes to smooth things out. Give it a whirl if you are at all interested in the game.
posted by Earl the Polliwog at 9:48 PM on October 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the other hand, people who want to play games, and not have them be a second job. Grinding is acceptable in MMORPGs only because the games are made of timesinkery; grinding in single-player games is inexcusable.

If you're finding it necessary to grind in single-player, the programmer should be fired.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:50 PM on October 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


@JHarris: Perhaps a better system would be to keep the exp mechanic in games where a player's actions have more influence and can compensate for low levels, like in action RPGs such as Mass Effect, or perhaps the newer Castlevenia games (to a degree). That way, people good at action games or who benefit more from repetition than the game's leveling mechanic can move on, while those who are less prone to like twitch gaming (perhaps why they like RPGs to begin with) can grind to compensate. I also like how many western RPGs offer several ways to accomplish a goal, which I feel is more immersive, as that's how reality tends to work out. The main story can remain linear, but if levels can be played through in different orders, or several options to achieve the same goal in the story exist, it gives the game a little replayability and lets the gamer become involved. KOTOR probably did this best out of the games I have played.

Playing Mother 3 shows that there is a fair amount of grinding, but I wouldn't say too much. By the time it gets annoying, you can probably move ahead. Plus, death in Mother 3 (and probably Earthbound, but I played it long enough ago that I'm not sure) merely respawns you at the last save point with everything you had at the fight, meaning you didn't lose all your progress. Re-entering a failed boss fight isn't hard, either, as the dialog getting into the fight is trunchated and there's usually a save spot nearby.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:12 AM on October 26, 2008


Me: but I find myself getting board by RPGs

I find I make more typos than I should here, but this one's bad even by my standards.
posted by JHarris at 5:39 AM on October 26, 2008


Freudian slip for tabletop rpgs and board games.
posted by ersatz at 7:19 AM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think I'm somewhere between JHarris and Pope Guilty on this one. The best way I've seen this conflict handled is that, for the basic storyline, you don't need to level up, but there are extra dungeons and bosses and items that you need to level up to do. Final Fantasy 6, 7, 10, and 12 were all very good about that, I thought.

The downside of that is that there are usually a boss or bosses that are way harder than the official final boss, which seems sort of weird, but they're usually hidden away and don't have the same crazy agenda as the final boss. And, as a rule, the final boss is always some guy that got power hungry and mutated into some weird thing, whereas the hidden bosses are ancient beasts who saw the world born, and we all know that the latter is naturally more powerful than the former.

I really don't like games where the enemies level with you. FF8 and Oblivion were like that and it felt like there was no point to leveling; I was penalized about as much as I gained from leveling, and if I'm going to put in that effort the pay-off had better be substantial. When I want things to stay challenging, I just don't level.

I never played Mother, but I always liked that Earthbound was generally harder than other RPGs. There are a few spots in Earthbound where you need to do a little bit of leveling. One thing that disappointed me about Mother 3 was that it was a lot easier than Earthbound. Another was that there wasn't anything worth grinding except one weapon, and it took maybe half an hour. It was also completely linear. :( I mostly liked it still, but it definitely didn't live up to Earthbound.
posted by Nattie at 9:06 AM on October 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


I rather like grinding, assuming the combat system is decent. Two of my favorite places in the entire Final Fantasy series are in the first game: the Giant's Cave (which you need to do a shit-ton of grinding to even attempt, and then when you can finally do it: it's more grinding!) and trying to beat Warmech in the sky castle (again, ridiculously hard, and there's an element of chance which means you might be grinding all day before you even find him).

There are two factors which make grinding fun for me. It has to be relatively easy to die against ordinary enemies, so there's at least some element of challenge, and the fights can't take too long. FF9 was about the last game I've played which got this right. Since then, they've pretty much taken grinding out of modern RPGs: every move has to be accompanied by a two-minute movie, and dying is pretty much off the table except for boss fights, if then, so there's no point in grinding anymore. Except in FF12, where they decided to excuse the ridiculous amounts of non-fun grinding by making the game a single-player MMO instead of an RPG (ugh, barf).

Thus why I love playing Mother3... nice to see games like this still exist. Does anyone else have some turn-based recommendations for me? I've got the Disgaea/Front Mission/Tactics style games covered, but something that's like the old (pre-7, also #9) Final Fantasy games would be good. I have a PS2 and a DS Lite. I haven't played games much in recent years, so don't assume I've played the modern classics, whatever they are...
posted by vorfeed at 11:06 AM on October 26, 2008


never played Mother, but I always liked that Earthbound was generally harder than other RPGs. There are a few spots in Earthbound where you need to do a little bit of leveling.

That isn't hard. That is work.

For comparison, Rogue is hard. Rogue is goddamn hard, especially if you play it straight, without savescumming or anything like that. Final Fantasy XI or World of Warcraft, meanwhile, are work.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:58 PM on October 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty: Grinding is acceptable in MMORPGs only because the games are made of timesinkery; grinding in single-player games is inexcusable. If you're finding it necessary to grind in single-player, the programmer should be fired.

I'd argue that being full of timesinkery is a great flaw of typical MMORPG design. Why does a MMORPG necessarily have to be full of annoying makework? What is it about putting lots of people into a game that implies they've all gotta pay dues to its well-padded play?

It might help to clarify what's meant by grind. My definition is large amounts of fighting in which the player is in no serious danger, simply to build numbers. If the fights are conceivably dangerous to the player (even if it's only a slim chance, or if it consumes some resource that is not trivial to replace) then it's not grind.

EarthBound gets around this with its instant win system. If the player greatly outclasses a foe, then the game doesn't even switch to the fight scene. "SMACK! You win!" He even receives all the benefits from the fight. Mother 3 has a similar system, but the player doesn't get any rewards from those fights.

The other reason I don't consider EB and M3 to be grindy is that many monster fights are interesting for their own reasons, and even monsters of the player's level can be risky to face in battle. In Earthbound, some monsters have instant death attacks, or even the ability to "diamondize" the player's characters, a condition that's like death, but even harder to remedy. Then there are the opponents who explode for huge damage when killed, requiring that the player beat them last in the fight so his HP doesn't roll away while hacking through the monster's comrades.

vorfeed: Does anyone else have some turn-based recommendations for me?
I have an unusual recommendation to make. I'll MeMail it to you though, since I'll be writing a column on it before long....
posted by JHarris at 3:28 AM on October 27, 2008


Man, not to be too particular, but Earthbound Zero's the official NOA translation of Mother, not a fan translation.

Having said that, I do think that the game can be too hard for its own good, but Earthbound and Mother 3 are fantastic. I daresay that Mother 3 may even be an all around better game then Earthbound, as heretical as it feels to say that.
posted by bookwo3107 at 4:56 AM on October 27, 2008


I'd argue that being full of timesinkery is a great flaw of typical MMORPG design. Why does a MMORPG necessarily have to be full of annoying makework? What is it about putting lots of people into a game that implies they've all gotta pay dues to its well-padded play?

The lifespan of a single-player RPG is weeks or a couple of months. The lifespan of an MMO is months if not years.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:27 AM on October 27, 2008


@JHarris: That is an interesting point about how people pay monthly for games loaded with grinding, which is usually not that fun. In essence, the players are paying for the time they spend playing the game, even though not all that time is ncessarily fun. You'd think the model would be better applied to multiplayer FPSes, like Team Fortress 2, since most of the time spent playing is fun, and grinding is a small to non-existent element. Of course, PC FPS games have the benefit of not being tied to servers hosted the developer.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:17 PM on October 27, 2008


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