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In 2010, Michael Samyn and Auriea Harvey, founders of an independent game company, said that not only are games "not art", they're, for the most part, "a waste of time". Naturally, I disagree. Games can be art. After all, they can move us. They can make us laugh. They can make us cry. Hell, this game's tagline is "No crying until the end". I seriously doubt that back in 1989, Itoi-sensei & co thought they weren't creating a work of art.
So, yes, MOTHER is a piece of art. An art piece painted with the wrong brush.
There's a reason why most video games fail at compelling narratives - it's hard to have good gameplay and a great story at the same time. Quality storytelling and interactivity do not mix well. Gay children on the playground, playing hide-and-seek, are not crafting art. Which is fine. The point of play, whether cordless or electronic, is to have fun, not win a Booker prize. Some of the most praised games - Tetris, Mario, Bejeweled - have practically zero story, while very story-centric games, like visual novels, are little more than illustrated audiobooks.
MOTHER, unfortunately, falls into this trap. The plot is bizarre, creepy, charming, and touching, but the play is a dull rip-off of Enix's Dragon Quest. Indeed, the JRPG format limits the game's attempts at narrative, constraining it to short text boxes which most players will likely skip through. The most interesting story elements, counterproductively, are the most scripted; e.g., the final Gyiyg fight. If the best plot points of your game are the ones where the player has no control whatsoever, then why make a game in the first place?
MOTHER was an attempt by a writer to create a well-written story in an alternative medium, a medium not exactly known for its quality stories. Unfortunately, it's a deeply flawed attempt. The strong story detracts from the tedious gameplay, and the boring gameplay detracts from the intriguing story. As a film, anime, or manga, it would've been amazing. Instead, it serves as an example as why some experiments really don't work too well. Overall score: 8.5/10.
I played the game in the Mother 1+2 version on a GBA emulator in Japanese, and found it to be pretty good, but not the amazing masterpiece people seem to think it is. First off, I found the game very hard to complete without a walkthrough, given the potential to miss a lot of important things (though this might just be me). Secondly, the ending comes out of nowhere, with little to no Foreshadowing. As for game mechanics, since I was using an emulator, I was able to speed up the game and grind a lot more easily, and even with Ninten at level 64 (the walkthrough I was using said he should be at least at level 38 when confronting the final boss) I had trouble with some of the enemies on Mt. Holy Loly/Itoi.
All in all it was a fun and somewhat addictive game, but I enjoyed the Pokémon games better.
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.
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