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MOTHER is an Eastern RPG trilogy by Nintendo, the brainchild of Japanese writer and media personality Shigesato Itoi as a personal experiment in the ability of the video game medium to tell a story. It was named for the John Lennon song "Mother", of whom Itoi is a large fan, and is subject to quite a lot of Title Drops.
The games are known for their strange sense of humor, simple yet subtly detailed cartoonish style, deconstructive approach to its genre and medium, bizarre near-parodical interpretation of America from the perspective of a foreigner exposed to it only through American TV and cinema, and for their sad and even terrifying moments. The series as a whole is a chronic victim of No Export for You, and while it is rather famous now, that may be more related to, or at least instigated by, its continued presence in the Super Smash Bros series.
Completely unrelated to the comedy starring Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds.
The series consists of the following titles:
- MOTHER (1989, Famicom): The series' debut, telling the story of Ninten as he works to uncover his family's connections to an impending alien invasion. Wasn't released outside Japan, but a prototypical English version, widely called "EarthBound Zero", was discovered in the late 1990s.
- Earthbound (1994/1995, Super Nintendo Entertainment System): The series' only official international release and thus the one everyone knows. The star is Ness, one of the four chosen heroes to combat Giygas and his impending destruction of the universe.
- MOTHER 1+2 (2001, Game Boy Advance): A Compilation Rerelease of MOTHER and Earthbound, notably incorporating all the modifications of the "EarthBound Zero" prototype. Also has a Fan Translation by the same translator who translated Mother 3, however only MOTHER was translated, as the translator found that translating MOTHER 2 beyond a basic menu translation was too time-consuming, and, because of its lesser quality (mainly the sound), was not worth the effort.
- Mother 3 (2006, Game Boy Advance): The series' apparent Grand Finale, featuring a wide Ensemble Cast headed by Lucas, a timid child promted to investigate the slow corruption of his home island. Again, only released in Japan, but is the subject of a particularly famous and polished Fan Translation.
The MOTHER trilogy as a whole contains examples of:
- Action Bomb: The Territorial Oak burst into flames!
- Affectionate Parody: Of Dragon Quest, which is natural seeing as that is the game that inspired Itoi to dabble in game-writing. However, EarthBound's battle system drifts away from the DQ clone that is the original.
- Alien Invasion: The galactic conquer, Giygas.
- The All-American Boy: Ninten and Ness
- Book Ends: In the first MOTHER, a denizen of Magicant suggests you can never be happy unless they leave the house -- but then, you leave yourself open to unhappiness, also. He concludes the best option is to do nothing. This becomes Porky's Ironic Hell in MOTHER 3.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: The fourth wall is a bit soft in this series.
- Circle of Friendship / Clap Your Hands If You Believe: In each game, the Final Boss cannot be defeated by conventional means.
- Combined Energy Attack: The way to defeat Giygas.
- Defeat Means Friendship: So, so many bosses. Teddy, Frank, Everdred, Carpainter, Monotoli, etc. Justified with a couple of them in that they were Brainwashed and Crazy, and defeat snapped them out of it.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: A singing monkey gives you a part of a MacGuffin in MOTHER. Later you get to go in a cave full of monkeys. A majority of them lie to you.
- Salsa, a chimpanzee, is a prominent character and Guest Star Party Member in MOTHER 3.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Zombie mooks pop up time to time. In MOTHER, you see them the early graveyard section of the game and Rosemary Manor. EarthBound's Threed has been completely overwhelmed by zombies, trapping them in a perpetual George Romero movie.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Your first two enemies in MOTHER are a desk lamp and a doll. It just gets more off-the-wall from there.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture
- Eagle Land: Rural America in MOTHER, and Eagleland in EarthBound.
- Gotta Catch Em All: The Eight Melodies in MOTHER and EarthBound. In MOTHER 3, Lucas is in a race to stop all Seven Needles from being uprooted (or, when failure there becomes inevitable, make sure that he's the one that pulls them).
- Hello, Insert Name Here: A prominent example, as this feature is used to name the game's most powerful attack and the object your mother tries to make you eat every time you see her.
- Not to mention the name of your dog, the friends that you will make along the path of your journey, and the um... "flavor" of the text boxes.
- And you are able to give your own name as well as that of the main group. This can easily put the insanity of Giygas into perspective should you name yourself or Ness after him.
- Magic by Any Other Name: PSI is pretty much the game's magic.
- Mayor Pain: Podunk's Mayor is a Type 1. Fourside's Mr. Monotoli is a malevolent Type 2. Or so it seems at first.
- No Export for You: Only MOTHER 2 was released in America, under the name Earthbound. Europe got it even worse, as none of the three games were ever released there.
- Now Where Was I Going Again?: Itoi personally implored gamers to play though MOTHER at "a leisurely pace." This ended up being pretty redundant.
- Our Time Travel Is Different: Ness' party travels to Giygas' lair, a cavern at the center of the Earth teeming with plant life, but it's otherwise empty. They deduce that Giygas is attacking from the distant past, and use Dr. Andonuts' phase distorter to send them there.
- After disappearing at Earthbound's climax, Porky got lost in extensive time travel abuse, to the point where by the time of MOTHER 3 it's warped him to be an immortal old man with the mind of a child.
- The Power of Rock: Ninten's mission to reassemblethe song of Queen Mary, the only weapon against Giygas. A similar quest awaits his successor, Ness.
- Psychic Powers: As part of the shifting of the traditional setting of the eastern RPG to the modern era, psychic powers - or PSI - act as the analogue of the traditional RPG magic. PSI covers a vast range of abilities:
- Fire, Ice, Lightning: PK Fire, PK Thunder and PK Freeze, the three core offensive PSI always available to The Chick
- Light'Em Up / Confusion Fu: PK Flash, exclusive to Ness and Lucas
- Teleporters and Transporters: Teleport
- Mana Drain: PSI-Magnet, exclusive to The Chick (and Poo)
- White Mage: Lifeup, Healing and other assorted techniques, generally limited to The Hero
- Standard Status Effects: Hypnosis, Brainshock, Paralysis
- Status Buff: Offence Up, Defence Up, Quick Up
- Status Buff Dispel: Shield-Off, exclusive to Ana
- Barrier Warrior: PSI Shield, Power Shield, Counter, PSI Counter
- The Power of Love: PK Love, Lucas's and Claus's MacGuffin spell
- Dishing Out Dirt: PK Ground, exclusive to Kumatora
- Sheathe Your Sword: A full-on assault on Giygas/The Masked Man is pointless. To win, you have to eschew violence (the antithesis of every JRPG at the time) and instead appeal to the humanity inside them.
- Tank Goodness: A rental. In MOTHER, Lloyd shows up in another tank to defeat the second R-series robot.
- Kumatora, Duster and Salsa face a Pork Tank in MOTHER 3.
- Theme Naming: Pretty much every location in MOTHER is named after a holiday. Woolseyism changed these names because the translator thought they were silly.
- Eagleand's towns are named Onett, Twoson, Threed, and Fourside. The seasonal theme continues in Winters and Summers.
- Two-Part Trilogy: 21 year gap notwithstanding, Itoi intentionally went in the new direction with MOTHER 3, shrewdly realizing that fans would complain either way.
- Widget Series
- X Meets Y: Yahtzee calls it "Peanuts crossed with Cthulhu Mythos". Itoi conceived the series as a whole as "Dragon Quest in the modern era, except done better".
- Yin-Yang Clash: Just As Ninten and Ness are all about the melody, the main antagonists of MOTHER accordingly have dissonant theme music. (Incidentally, this is the first hint that Porky is going to be trouble.) Giygas has no melody at all, only an incessant, high pitched ring.