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Take a melody
In the late 1980s, Shigesato Itoi got ahold of Dragon Quest, the first video game he ever played. Though he definitely enjoyed the game, as a professional writer, he couldn't help but be intrigued about the game's use of the unconventional medium to tell a story and say to himself, "I could do better". Several meetings with people from Nintendo and a Beatles-inspired name later, that's exactly what he did.
MOTHER is a 1989 Famicom Eastern RPG, the first installment of a series and the predecessor to the significantly more famous Earthbound and Mother 3. Set in the year 1988, the story follows Ninten, a normal American boy. He's got a workaholic dad, a loving mom, and twin kid sisters. Everything is pretty normal and everyone is happy, up until the day his desk lamp suddenly attacks him, another lamp attacks a sister and the other sister's doll starts threatening her.
Calling his dad after settling this, Ninten learns that psychic powers run in the family, and to learn more about it he has to get his great-grandfather's diary and learn about what happened many years ago, including what happened to his great-grandmother Maria. Meanwhile, strange phenomena are happening all over, and it's become quite apparent that an alien force is arriving. Just what connection does Ninten's family have with the alien invasion?
In the late nineties, a prototype for an unreleased English version was found by a collector and subsequently put on the internet as a ROM. This prototype version, named Earth Bound (with a space, unlike the more famous bearer of the name), contains a mix of technical enhancements, Bowdlerization modified maps to reduce difficulty, and a significant lengthening of the rather short old ending. Several other prototype cartridges have since turned up on eBay; four legitimate ones are known to exist, with at least one more theorised to be archived at Nintendo of America's headquarters. After several modifications to the ROM to make it playable on the widely-used NES emulator of the day, the game became widely known as "EarthBound Zero" to attempt to avoid confusion with its far more famous sequel. This page was located at that name for years, but was eventually moved to its current location.
In the lead-up to the long-awaited release of Mother 3, this game was rereleased in 2003 along with its immediate sequel, as MOTHER 1+2 for the Game Boy Advance; it contained almost all of the modifications of the "EarthBound Zero" prototype, confirming that the prototypes were indeed the real deal. The port was only released in Japan, though word has it that it was almost released internationally. In 2011, the MOTHER 1 portion of the game received a fan translation from the same team behind the MOTHER 3 translation, providing a much more polished take on the script than the rather barebones and dry "EarthBound Zero" translation.
This game has examples of:
- The All-American Boy: Ninten.
- All There in the Manual: Not much about the character personalities are stated in-game, but in the Mother Encyclopedia it says many interesting things about Ninten, Ana, Loid and Teddy that you could never find out just by playing the game. It is in Japanese, but was translated into English by a fan.
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": If you're not Japanese and have heard of this game, you probably know that Giygas is the main villain. It actually isn't revealed at all until you get the final MacGuffin at the end of the Disc One Final Dungeon, and most of the plot is just you going around the world to learn a song for an ailing queen who you met after a bunch of weird stuff started happening in your hometown. Even the game guides have no information on Giygas, and he has no official art.
- Award Bait Song:
- "Pollyanna" in its full version (not the 8-bit theme, obviously), which later went on to become the Bootstrapped Theme for the entire MOTHER series.
- The Eight Melodies. "Take a melody, simple as can be, give it some words, and sweet harmony. Raise your voices, all day long now love grows strong now, sing a melody of love, ah love." The vocal version even has a Cherubic Choir!
- Badass Adorable: Let's just sum up the three main characters as this. Okay, Loid took a while for it to shine through, but still.
- Beef Gate: The train tracks that lead from Merrysville to Reindeer, and from Reindeer to Snowman. Especially the tunnels.
- Big Damn Heroes: After a robot nearly defeats the party (and severely injures Teddy), Lloyd shows up and destroys it. With a tank.
- Black Bead Eyes: As in all of the MOTHER games, though here it can come across as mere technical pragmatism as opposed to a deliberate stylistic choice.
- Boy of My Dreams: Ana fell in love with Ninten when she started seeing him in her dreams.
- Bowdlerise: The English translation got quite a few changes as a result of Nintendo's censorship policies at the time. Infamously, blood was edited out of sprites and cigars and knives were removed from the battle sprites of the Crow and Teddy. Crosses and religious text were removed. Holy Loly Mountain had a Dub Name Change to Mt. Itoi, probably half because of the religious reference and half because, well, it is a major Difficulty Spike as well as The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. (Also, to avoid lawsuits, a mention of Dragon Quest was changed to Super Mario Bros.) Some stuff got past the radar, like the strip club in Merrysville and doctors saying "go off and die then" if you refuse their services, though the strip club instance was changed in MOTHER 1+2. The Dragon Quest reference was also changed to "that game" as opposed to a Mario reference. All of the sprite changes were also in MOTHER 1+2.
- Chekhov's Gun: There's a war veteran with a tank in Yucca Desert. If you do a sidequest, you get to ride it, and he warns you to be careful with it because it's his most prized possession. Inevitably, it breaks, and when you get to Ellay you have to pay him to replace it. Also, in a sidequest that you can do later, Lloyd gets a Big Damn Heroes moment with a tank. What other tank could he possibly get access to? If you do both those sidequests, in order, it's Chekhov's Boomerang.
- Cherubic Choir: The vocal version of The Eight Melodies. Also used in the 1989 Japanese commercial.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Giygas is defeated by singing Queen Mary's Lullabye to him, similar to how he's defeated in Earthbound.
- Cute Bruiser: Pippi may not have the typical personality of this trope, but she has the same level up growths as Teddy. Shame you can't keep her for long.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Though, the fight ends before there's actually a winner, Teddy joins you this way.
- Delinquent: Teddy, again.
- Demonic Dummy: The possessed doll in your sister's room.
- Difficulty Spike: Yucca Desert, and later Mt. Itoi, the latter of which is almost completely filled with Demonic Spiders.
- The Yucca Desert enemies can be found even earlier in the game; in the train tunnels. This is to probably attempt to prevent you from going out to get Ana before Loid, but with luck and (more) grinding, players can pass the tunnel alone, though this is very tough and time consuming.
- Distressed Damsel: Probably the only RPG in existence in which you have to rescue Pippi Longstocking from zombie gangsters.
- Dr. Jerk: The doctors that restore your negative statuses... for a price.
Doctor (if you don't have enough money for his services): Fine, die all on your own. I'll phone a mortician.
- Dummied Out: There is an item called Time Machine in the game's code, as well as an IC-chip. Poison Needle and Stone of Origin were also items that poisoned and stoned the enemy, but in the final game they are just enemy attacks.
- IC-Chip may possibly have been the item Memory Chip which can be found in Mother 1+2 only which is obtained after EVE gets killed off. The item is like a second Onyx Hook, except that it transports you to that same spot that EVE died..
- Dungeon Crawling: Duncan's Factory is an annoying large version of this that you are required to go in to continue the plot and if you're lucky enough to find the right room a second Franklin Badge can be found.
- Dungeon Town: Spookane/Halloween, unlike other towns where enemy encounters stop upon entering they can still happen even after entering the town limits.
- Eagle Land: Although explicitly taking place in America, (which Itoi later denied in an interview concerning the sequel's use of this trope) it clearly follows the trope, and is the predecessor to the Trope Namer.
- Early-Bird Cameo: ...sort of. The music that plays on the character naming screen? It's used as part of the vocal version of "Eight Melodies", the song that you spend the game collecting, and use to defeat Giygas.
- Even Bad Aliens Love Their Mamas: It's Giygas's memories of his adoptive human mother, Maria, that end up defeating him.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: A singing monkey gives you a part of the McGuffin. Later you get to go in a cave full of monkeys. A majority of them lie to you.
- Everything's Better with Penguins: In the beginning of the game there is a zoo with a penguin pen. Later in the game you go in a cave full of monkeys (mentioned above) and there is a secret room with a single lost penguin in it. In addition, Ninten's favorite animal is said to be the penguin, which is All There in the Manual.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Zombie mooks pop up time to time. In the early graveyard section of the game and in Rosemary Manor.
- Everything's Worse with Bears: The bear, polar bear and grizzly bear enemies. The latter can kill you in one hit.
- Everything's Worse with Wolves: The wolf, silver wolf and lone wolf enemies.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Your first three enemies are two desk lamps and a doll. It just gets better from there.
- Fan Translation: At the time of the discovery of the English prototype, a group of fans had been working on their own fan translation; eventually, they were the ones who obtained the prototype and released the ROM to the general public, and for a while there were those who saw that as somewhat suspicious. Full story here.
- Faux Symbolism: Queen Mary, the ruler of a kingdom that appears to be a Fluffy Cloud Heaven. Plus she's the great-grandmother of the game's hero, Ninten.
- Forced Level Grinding: The grindiest game in the whole series.
- Galactic Conqueror: Giygas.
- Ghost Town: The town Spookane/Halloween after it became infested with monsters and ghosts.
- Girlish Pigtails: Ana has these.
- Global Currency:
- Justified as being dollars, and the game mostly taking place entirely in America... though don't ask how Magicant also takes them.
- The shopkeeper claims to want them just for novelty's sake.
- Guest Star Party Member: Several, including EVE and Flying Man.
- Guide Dang It: Effects of PSI attacks. The game itself doesn't give you any clues on what most of them do. This becomes crucial when you need to figure out which "Healing" skill to use, because unlike in its successors, each level cures only a specific ailment. Plus, Healing Gamma doesn't revive unconscious party members; rather, it cures petrification.
- Haunted House: Rosemary Manor
- Heroic Albino: Lloyd, who, despite being 11 years old, has white hair. It is also noteworthy to mention that albinos have poor eyesight, and Loid wears glasses.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: The three R7-robots. The first two can be destroyed only by a tank (and, with a tank, the first one is hopeless for R7037) but, as you are tankless then, R7038 will destroy your party (along with your strongest character - permanently). But Lloyd destroys it - with a tank. When you fight R7038XX, even your new giant robot buddy deals only about 50 points of damage, and only when the robot explodes does R7038XX die. Fortunately, it doesn't try to attack you, it only attacks EVE. So you win, but for EVE, it was hopeless.
- Improbable Weapon User: Similar to the sequel, almost nobody uses a real weapon. Teddy, who can use a knife, a sword, and eventually a katana, is the exception.
- Inn Security: In Spookane/Halloween.
- Instant Awesome, Just Add Mecha: EVE
- Interspecies Romance: One of the monkeys in the Monkey Cave flirts with Ana.
- It's All Upstairs From Here: The final battle is at the peak of Mt. Itoi.
- Joke Item: The Swear Words and Words O' Love, both of which require a small sidequest, only display the words "I hate you!" and "I love you!" respectively, when used in battle. The Last Weapon tells you how to reset the game. As is the Last Weapon, the Real Rocket is expensively buyable in the Twinkle Elementary lab. From the name of it, it seems like it would be quite a cut above the Bottle Rocket item. But if you buy it... It never even goes into your inventory.
Scientist: "Oops! It's gone into orbit. A success... sort of."
- Katanas Are Just Better: The Katana is Teddy's Infinity+1 Sword. It's better than the Sword.
- Killed Off for Real: EVE. For players of the original Famicom version, Teddy also does this, but later versions of the game make it clear that Teddy lives.
- Level Grinding: The player is forced to do this after recruiting Lloyd and Ana. They come at a low level, and so one naturally goes to Magicant to train them.
- Lost in Translation: After Loid has his Big Damn Heroes moment in the tank while Ninten, Ana and Teddy were getting their butts handed to them by R7038, due to how his speech was translated, it seems as if Loid accidently shot Teddy, and that it's actually his fault that Teddy is criticly injured. Turns out that, as shown by the more accurately translated Mother 1+2 Fan Translation, Loid was supposed to instead say that he was too late. Just goes to show how poorly Earthbound Zero was actually translated. Of course, there are more moments than this, but this was the most notable, as it practically affects the plot.
Loid (Earthbound Zero Translation): "Shoot! I missed!"
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Queen Mary is actually Ninten's great-grandmother Maria, who was sealed into Magicant (with her memories removed) after Giygas seemingly killed her.
- MacGuffin: The Eight Melodies.
- Magical Mystery Doors: Rosemary Manor
- The Maze: There are a quite few.
- Mental World: Actually Maria's, not Ninten's.
- Minimalistic Cover Art
- Moment Killer: Right after Ninten and Ana confess their love for each other, Teddy barges in the room and asks the pair why they are blushing. To be fair he does apologize for interrupting but did so because he was hearing odd noises outside, and then a giant robot attacks them, severely injuring/killing Teddy. Real moodkiller there.
- Mrs. Robinson: Mrs. Rosemary. Somehow this stayed in the English prototype in the middle of Nintendo's bowdlerization days.
- Never Say "Die": Similar to the sequel, enemies "become quiet", "don't move anymore", etc. Justified Trope because you're not using real weapons (for the most part) and you're fighting possessed animals and humans, as well as supernatural beings.
- Nintendo Hard: Lots and lots of Random Encounters, generally unbalanced enemies, a huge proliferation of One-Hit Kill moves, and too much Forced Level Grinding make this the hardest game in the whole series. Itoi even admitted to completely skipping over balancing it out because by the end, everyone was so tired.
- No Ending: The original release ended with the aliens, defeated, leaving in their spaceship, and the party just looks at the sky and the credits play in the sky. It didn't tie up any loose ends and left some Fridge Horror / No Endor Holocaust. The prototype English version and later the GBA re-release significantly extended the ending.
- Nostalgic Music Box: The ending tune starts and ends with a music box rendition of the Eight Melodies.
- Not Drawn to Scale: If the surrounding panorama is to be believed, the rooftop of Twinkle Elementary is some 100 stories off the ground - then again, maybe that's just what it looks like to Ninten...
- Ominous Music Box Tune: The first of the 8 Melodies is a music box hidden in Ninten's sister's formerly possessed naked baby doll.
- Outside the Box Tactic: In a convention to be continued throughout the series, the Final Boss Giegue cannot be defeated by ordinary methods. You must sing Queen Mary's song eleven times to subdue him.
- Palette Swap: As an early RPG, nearly everywhere. Some palette swaps at least slightly modify the sprites by overlaying new graphics to make them seem different, like adding a collar to the wolf to make it a stray dog.
- Parental Abandonment:
- Teddy is an orphan, and Ninten's father doesn't appear until the ending. And only in the unreleased English version and the Compilation Rerelease.
- Also, all the parents of Youngtown being abducted by the aliens.
- Also also, Loid's parents are essentially handwaved. His father shows up in/as a trashcan at a remote location in a swamp nowhere near where Loid goes to school, and all he does is ask the player's name - no story exposition of even a minor variety.
- However, in the novel adaption, his father is said to be in the swamp because he is looking for a special plant to cure a fatal illness Lloyd's mother has, and that appears to be another reason Lloyd joins Ninten.
- Poltergeist: At the start of the game one of these attack your house.
- The Power of Love / The Power of Rock:
- Singing Maria's lullaby to Giygas is what defeats him. And it doesn't just defeat him: in Earthbound, it is found that it drove him absolutely insane.
- After reading a bit of description, it seems there's a bit more to it than that. Giygas apparently still harbored affection toward Maria, but was basically forced to detach from her and invade the Earth as per his people's orders. Considering Maria basically raised the poor little guy since he was a baby, any reminders of her would create something of a conflict of interest, and make attacking her people (or more specifically, one of her descendants) quite a bit harder, don't you think?
- Random Encounters: Good grief, there's a lot of them!
- The world of MOTHER is massive and quite fun to explore... but the beauty is ruined by those random encounters.
- This gets less aggravating once you get access to Magicant (and more importantly, Repel Rings which prevent fights against weaker enemies).
- Recurring Riff: Several, including "Pollyanna (I Believe In You)", the battle theme for the New Age Retro Hippie, and "Eight Melodies (Queen Mary's Lullabye)", occur frequently and are used in the later games.
- Red Shirt: The Flying Man
- Sdrawkcab Name: The Raeb Yddet in Magicant, and by extension the Sky Yddet.
- Sequel Hook: Added in the prototype/MOTHER 1+2: at the very end of the credits, we see Ninten's father calling him, saying that 'something's come up'. It's an unusual example in that obviously there were sequels, but neither followed up on this hint and indeed had next to nothing to do with this game in general.
- Soundtrack Dissonance:
- Ninten and Ana have a dance near the end of the game, to relax (and to show them growing fond of each other). The tune that plays, "Fallin' Love", is extremely melancholy.
- The 8-bit version of the song is, but the soundtrack version has a typical romantic adult contemporary feel to it, but with no lyrics.
- Spell My Name with an "S":
- Roid/Loid/Lloyd. The first was the official Romanization in Japan, the prototype used the second, and Super Smash Bros Brawl uses the third.
- Also shown by the main villain - his name is written "giigu" in katakana, written as "Giegue" in the localization, and is finally shown to actually be "Gyiyg" in the sequel. Eventually, Nintendo just made up a new English name for him ("Giygas"). But before that, he was apparently going to be called Geek.
- Spinning Out of Here: The teleport spell is executed by having the character move around while accelerating rapidly before zooming off; because colliding with anything stops the teleport, the better the player is at moving in a small circle, the more places he or she can teleport from.
- Standard Status Effects: Subverted at one point, as Ninten has asthma and exhaust from Killer Tractor Trailers can render him unable to act unless someone uses an inhaler on him.
- Start of Darkness: Giygas.
- Stuff Blowing Up: One of the first things that Loid does after joining your party is blow up the science lab.
- Sudden Downer Ending: Terrifying, emotional final bosses are a staple of the series. Though this is pretty much considered the lightest of them all.
- Taking You with Me: EVE is no match for R7038XX, but she explodes when defeated, instantly destroying the foe and leaving behind a MacGuffin.
- Tank Goodness: A rental. Lloyd shows up in another tank to defeat the second R-series robot.
- A Taste of Power: The game does this twice, both at the end of the game. Once with Teddy, who can actually defeat the Demonic Spiders on Mt. Itoi without much Level Grinding, and who goes away if you activate a certain cutscene. The second time is with EVE, who joins you in the middle of The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and is insanely powerful and can defeat any of the Random Encounters in one blow. But if you backtrack, or go forward past a certain point, you are forced to fight a robot that EVE sacrifices itself to defeat.
- Theme Naming: Pretty much every location is named after a holiday. Woolseyism changed these names because the translator thought they were silly names. When Tomato was doing the fan translation of the MOTHER 1+2 version, he agreed with the sentiment but kept the holiday-themed names anyway.
- Thriving Ghost Town: Averted. This game's towns are the biggest in the whole series, and seem to extend past the cluster of houses into the vast rural areas. Most of the houses' doors are locked, however, preventing the Kleptomaniac Hero (or a thief) from getting in.
- Took a Level In Badass: You first find Lloyd in a trash can hiding from bullies. Later, he shows up in a tank to destroy a giant robot that your party could not hope to defeat otherwise.
- Two-Part Trilogy: Aside from PSI and Giygas, there is barely any evidence that the world of this game is the same world as Earthbound. This game was hit especially hard, as despite the rerelease, it only had publicity back in its day. The Compilation Rerelease's commercials focused mainly on the second game, showing only a very brief clip of this one, which, while this game got a significant update, the only thing that was changed from the second game, besides the inevitable quality drop in porting from Super Famicom to Game Boy Advance, was a few bug fixes.
- Updated Rerelease: The English version, and consequently MOTHER 1+2. Only the latter was actually released.
- Video Game Cruelty Potential: Dear god, the Flying Men. Seeing the cemetery next to their former home is just heartbreaking when you realize that if you hadn't come along they would still be alive.
- Wackyland: Former Trope Namer, though the sequel's Magicant is most likely what was envisioned when it was named.
- Though technically they're not the same place; in this game it was a manifestation of Maria's mind trying to regain her memories, while the one in Earthbound was a representation of Ness's mind.
- Weapons Grade Vocabulary: Enemies can "attack" with Threatening Words and Swear Words, both of which decrease someone's Fight stat. Your party can get some words of their own to "attack" with, but they do nothing.
- We Can Rule Together: Giegue gives Ninten alone a chance to board his mothership.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": Mrs. Rosemary renames her son Buggerror after Ninten. Evidently she likes his namesake better than her own son.
- Westminster Chimes: The basis for the background music of Twinkle Elementary.
- White Magician Girl: Ana, the only completely straight example in the series (Paula has a similar personality but absolutely no healing powers, and Kumatora is a straight-up Black Magician Girl).
- Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Giygas, now that you know his backstory.
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: As true of Giygas' attacks in this one as in the sequel, though at least he has a physical body here.
No crying until the end.