|Platform||Game Boy Advance|
|Score||9 Gameplay: 7
Fun Factor: 9
Mother 3 is the sequel to the Super Nintendo RPG, Earthbound. It was released in 2006, but only in Japan. Being the successor to such a popular game, and no hope in sight of Nintendo of America releasing it, fans took it upon themselves to translate it. It took a few years, but the team released their translation patch in October and fans of the series, like me, pounced on it. I won't say I tore through the game, but I definitely dropped all other games to play it.
I was a big fan of Earthbound, so playing this was a no-brainer. It's just unfortunate that fans had to rely on an unofficial translation to play it. No one really knows what Nintendo of America's reasons were for not releasing an English language version, but honestly, they missed their opportunity. This game is brilliant, including the translation. Let's get to the meat. All scores are out of 10.
Mother 3 plays like an old school RPG, like its Dragon Warrior/Quest and Earthbound ancestors, the gameplay is basically pretty simple. Actually, I would say that this game is even more straight forward than Earthbound, with one big exception: musical based battles. Every enemy has a particular beat to their battle music, and if you tap the A button to its rhythm, you'll start performing a combo attack on them. Now in my opinion, the combos really aren't powerful enough to be bothered with all the time. Your first hit might land for 50 HP, but each subsequent combo (up to 16) will only hit for about 2-5. I would typically pull off a combo about one in every two or three attacks, depending on the enemy, but would usually max out at about four hits. The new system definitely adds some depth to the system, but it just didn't seem worth it most of the time. Though sometimes I would combo an enemy saving me another round of attack, and that was definitely awesome.
Another plus is the ability to run whenever you want (in Earthbound you had to consume a specific item just to run for a short time). This makes walking around and exploring a lot easier and much more bearable. But inherited from Earthbound are the limited inventories. Each character can carry something like 16 items and that includes equipped weapons and armor. This basically means once you max out your inventory, you're constantly making decisions on whether or not to drop a certain item. There are a lot of items where you wonder, "Will I ever need this?" And you honestly have no idea. On top of this, the game never really tips you off that you're about to fight the final boss, so I ended the game with a stuffed inventory of awesome stuff I was too afraid to use.
Okay, that was a lot of complaining. The rhythm battle system is actually pretty good and the inventory issue is pretty minor compared to the rest of the game.
Fun Factor: 9
This is still Earthbound: insane character design, excellent humor, crazy locations, and a solid plot that doesn't hold still. What is there not to love? Mother 3 ups the ante with actual sympathetic characters. I really enjoyed playing this game, Mother 3 is always on the move and has a good variety of playable characters (probably about six or seven in total). The laughs are still prevalent and yes, there's still a Runaway Five-esque band scene. This is a solid game that doesn't let you down.
There are no random battles in this series, so that's a huge plus. And for better or worse, Mother 3 doesn't really let you manipulate the on-screen enemies like Earthbound did by allowing you to walk back and forth to make enemies disappear or appear. I personally think this is better. And while Earthbound's battle system could be played using a turbo controller, the rhythm battles in Mother 3 are a great addition, and thankfully, completely optional depending on what you're up for.
Graphics and Sound: 8
I honestly don't remember Game Boy Advance games looking this great. Bright, vibrant graphics and excellent animations. Mother 3 borrows a lot from Earthbound, but this game was ten years coming in the first place, taking a lot of sprites from its predecessor isn't a big deal. There's a few new cool quirks and animations, but nothing major. My favorite new addition is how the enemies bounce away when defeated.
Okay, the music! Wow! I don't know exactly how many songs there were but I would put the number at hundreds. There are tons of battle songs, traveling tunes, and interlude themes. Everything was incredibly appropriate. I was humming along a lot, basically because the rhythm system forces you to pay attention to the sound coming out of your Game Boy. I'm not much of a sound connoisseur, so I can't say much more, but I recognize excellence at least.
I was honestly blown away by Mother 3's story. I don't want to spoil anything, so I really can't say much. This is a story about a family. They experience some of the most emotional events I've ever seen in a video game. It is really a lot more serious than I could have imagined, and makes Earthbound's attempts at seriousness look like a joke. I also loved the ending, it was as powerful as any other moment in the game. The characters are wonderfully well written and are the highlight of this game. And this all coming from an absolutely incredible fan translation. Amazing.
I can't max this out at 10 because it's almost too linear. I enjoyed some of the openness of Earthbound, and that's pretty much gone except for an area or two. Gone are all the unique cities in Earthbound: Onett, Twoson, Threed, Fourside (Moonside), and Summers. Now we just have two, and the second bookends the game. But Mother 3 does some really awesome thing with its plot, about a third of the way through the game things really change. Man, I wish I could just talk about this. Play this game, for the story!
I will say this in full confidence: Mother 3 is better than Earthbound. While Earthbound still beats Mother 3 in some areas, this is just an overall better game. I think the story really triumphs. I didn't do any reading on the game before I played it so had no idea what to expect. I was blown away. The family dynamic is what drives the plot, and the entire game. Mother 3 took me about 30 hours to beat, but I was juggling a baby at the same time so it would probably take a first time player around 25. It is an absolutely brilliant game. One of the best RPGs I've played in a while, and definitely the best I've ever played on a small screen, but hey, Chrono Trigger DS comes out any day. Play Mother 3, get the excellent translation patch and just enjoy it.
All right, I want to spend another paragraph on the fan translation. We come to expect excellence from Nintendo and other publishers when bringing games to North America and Europe from Japan, and more often than not, we get it. Mother 3's translation is no different. Everything has been meticulously worked on, from the item names, to the characters, to the locations, to the PSI spells. Sprites and animations had to be totally redone from scratch sometimes to accommodate this. The fan translators honestly went the extra mile for a whole bunch of people who will never really appreciate them. I would like to tell them thanks. It's something I'm thankful for today, on Thanksgiving. And yes, I can be thankful for video games, I have been my entire life. Mother 3 is one of the best examples of those games. I can appreciate my own family that much more after playing as another.