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Mother is a role-playing videogame series created by Shigesato Itoi and published by Nintendo, consisting of three games released between 1989 and 2006. The game follows the story of a young boy who embarks on a journey around the world to save the Earth from an evil race of mind-controlling aliens.The series is most notable for its unconventional premise set in modern day American suburbs and quirky characters like child protagonists and extraterrestrial monsters.
The first game of the series, Mother (マザー Mazā), was released for the Family Computer console exclusively in Japan. In 1995, Mother 2 was released in North America as Earthbound. Despite having poor commercial reception, Mother 2 eventually gained a large cult following on the Internet. A compilation title, Mother 1+2 was released in 2003 for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance system in Japan only. In 2006, after a cancelled Nintentendo 64 title, Mother 3 was published for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance system in Japan only.
In 1999, Nintendo released the meele fighting game Super Smash Brothers, which featured Ness, the protagonist of Mother 2 (Earthbound), as a playable character, retaining his PSI abilities and his trademark weapon: a bat. Lucas, the protagonist of Mother 3, was also featured as a playable character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Thanks to the Super Smash Bros. series, many people were introduced to Earthbound and the game’s popularity rised on Western audiences.
The Mother / Earthbound titles are role-playing games with mechanics similar to the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. However, in a bold departure from the traditional elements of previous Japanese role-playing games inspired by medieval fantasy themes, the Mother series takes place in modern day American-like suburbs under attack by the aliens. The games also feature quirky and unconventional weapons that consist of household items like yo-yos and frying pans.
Unlike the latter titles, enemy encounters aren’t randomly chosen in Mother 2 (Earthbound) and Mother 3, as they can be seen on the map and thus confrontation can be avoided. Throughout the game, the protagonist’s party acquires special abilities like PSI powers and gadgets as experience points are gained through defeating enemies in turn-based battles.
In February of 1999, Tomato and reidman launched Earthbound.net as a central website for North-American EarthBound fans; in 2000, they changed their domain to Starmen.net. Since its origin, Starmen.net managed to be noticed by the gaming media and eventually Nintendo of America as well. This was only possible thanks to the devoted fanbase that organized different projects, contests, petitions and original content as well.
Starmen.net has organized numerous fan petitions for the release of additional titles in the series. In 1999, the Mother on Game Boy Color Petition that collected 1,850 signatures. In 2000, the EarthBound 64 Petition collected 10,013 signatures. Afterwards, in 2003, the Mother 3 Petition collected 31,338 signatures. Despite the high number of turnout, these petitions didn’t elicit any official response of Nintendo of America; although they proved that EarthBound fans were extremely devoted.
Besides promoting fanart, the site would start making holiday themed contests called Funfests since 1999. One would be celebrated around Halloween, and the other around December holidays. The prizes included limited edition fan-made figures and DVDs. These contests were held from 1999 until 2009. On later years, the Funfests would be succeeded by the Fanfests, which consisted on LiveStreams of different events and contests held by Fangamer.
When Mother 3 was released, many fans still hoped that Nintendo of America would localize the title. When it became aparent that Nintendo wasn’t interested in releasing the title, Tomato and a group of fans started working on a translation for the game by the end of 2006, making their progress publin in August of 2007. Finally, on October 17th of 2008, the translation patch was released with fan praise.
After finishing the Mother 3 translation Tomato took another task, retranslate from scratch Mother 1 for the Game Boy Advance. The project started by the end of 2008 and it was released on April 30th of 2011. Unlike the NES translation of the game known as EarthBound Zero, this version was more faithful to the original script and graphics (without censoring).
Fan Game: Mother 4
Despite Shigesato Itoi insisted that there wouldn’t be a Mother 4, that didn’t discourage a group of fans that have been designing and programming their own sequel since 2008. This project isn’t part of Starmen.net, but most of the members of the team are members of the Starmen.net forums.
Due to the nature of the series, it was able to spread different memes and parodies based on the characters, music and events of the games.
Giygas is the source of the alien invasion and the notorious final boss of the second Mother title, or known as Earthbound in North America. In the game’s storyline, the protagonists Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo travel back in time to fight an undefinable version of Giygas. This battle has created a separate meme: You Cannot Grasp The True Form of X.
The Wess Dance
During the second chapter of the third Mother title, one of the protagonists Duster goes into the Osohe Castle with his father Wess in order to steal a mysterious treasure. In the middle of his search, they find a locked door and Wess must do an odd dance in order to open it. This strange and embarassing dance was accompanied by catchy music.
Being one of the funnier parts of the game, Wess’ dance became memorable and some parodies started appearing online. Starmen.net decided to do a contest where users could submit videos of then doing the dance called The Funky Monkey Dance Contest:
Colin’s Bear Animation
In 2007, UOIT student Colin Sanders made an animated demo reel of a bear walking, dancing and floating in space as his final assignment. Some time later, one friend of his wanted to upload the video on YouTube and it became popular with many people making homages and remixes of his original animation. The background music used is in fact the Funky Monkey Dance theme from the Mother 3 soundtrack. Colin also used an EarthBound picture as a background, making the video even more catchy and bizarre at the same time.