You probably know the story by now: before there was Nintendo's Super NES RPG Earthbound there was the Famicom prequel entitled Mother that was supposed to make it to North America, but for whatever reason did not cross the sea. Nintendo of America did prepare a translation of the game, however, and that unreleased game was eventually leaked to the Internet.
The Lost Levels recaps the story in a two-part article and (here's the interesting part) explains just how a group of online Earthbound fans did a little digging to find out of this prequel game is an official Nintendo product. During their investigation they made contact with a man who worked on the translation of the game from Japanese to English: Phil Sandhop.
Sandhop goes on to explain why he believes that the cartridge is authentic. "We just kept re-using the same housings. At one time before those printers became so common, the department's administrative assistant was in charge of preparing packets of games to be reviewed by two internal groups of evaluators and she prepared that label on one of the only electric typewriters I ever saw at NoA using a standard file folder label. "Without any doubt in my mind," Sandhop concludes, "I truly believe that the housing pictured is a genuine article and I probably handled it many times. However, at those times it contained different games. Open it up and my fingerprints could still be on the inside."
The article also covers how the unreleased rendition of the game later resurfaced for the Game Boy Advance as part of an official Mother compilation game pak, how Sandhop went about translating and censoring the game for North American audiences, and just why the completed game was canceled and buried until it broke free to the Internet in 1998.
I love the sequel to Mother that was released in North America, Earthbound. I was given the game as a Get Well Soon gift during a lengthy period of poor health that kept me out of high school for three months, and during my time off I became very familiar with the cities of Onett, Twoson, Threed, Fourside, and so on. It's disappointing to see that Nintendo of America has little interest in maintaining the series; as stated above the original Mother never made it to North America, nor has the Mother 1+2 compilation game pak. Mother 3 has been in a continuous state of canceled/uncanceled flux, bouncing from development for the Nintendo 64 to the 64DD to the Game Boy Advance and now allegedly to the Nintendo DS. The only new traces of Earthbound in North America in recent years can be found in the two Super Smash Bros. games where Ness is a playable character and several levels based on the game are available for use as brawling arenas.
Gaming has a lot of memorable heroes,
but who would have ever thought a young boy with a talent for PSI
psychic powers and a mean baseball swing could rank among them? Here's hoping that Ness (or Ninten, depending on the translation) finds his way back to our TV screens (or DS dual screens) before too much longer.