Most of us here on this website are, at some level, familiar with the games EarthBound
and Mother 3 - cult classic RPG series, kooky, strange, adorable, scary, hilarious, heart-crushing, deep, thought-provoking, timeless - what more can be said about those games that hasn't already? However, for how much these two games have been lauded, there's still this one little game most people forget about - the underdog that most newcomers to the series skip over and usually only take a chance with once they've grown used to the glory of games two and three. That game is Mother, the often-overlooked predecessor to two gaming masterpieces.
In order to appreciate and critique this game for what it truly is, it is crucial to put it into perspective: this game came out in 1989, and on an inherently inferior system than the ones its sequels were released on. Without taking this into account, it is very easy to view MOTHER as a watered-down version of EarthBound
: Many of the mechanics are similar, albeit with a less unique battle system and a teeth-grinding random encounter rate, a lot of the songs were reused from one game to the next, and the story follows a similar formula: a group of child psychics have travel around the map to collect eight musical melodies in order to stop an alien invasion, all the while beating the crap out of animate inanimate objects.
In my opinion, however, many of the games shortcomings can be traced back to the fact that it was on the NES - Itoi was working with less technology than he did when he made EarthBound
, and with what he had to work with, he did an exceptional job. A small part of me almost wants to view Earthbound as Mother fully realized - what Itoi had in mind when he was making Mother, but was unable to create because of technical and time-based limitations. That being said, this game is not just a retroactive-rehash of Earthbound. It has its own identity, its own atmosphere, and its own sense of life
Is this game flawed? Yes. Is it as good as its sequels? Hardly. Will it be a turn-of to brand-new fans trying to get into the series? Potentially, for those people, I would recommend the fan-translated GBA port, as it softens the unrelenting difficulty and has better writing. However, with all things taken considered, this game truly is an underrated NES gem. I'd dare call it ahead of its time.