Mother
  • Genre:
    • RPG
  • Platform:
    • NES
  • Developer:
    • Nintendo
  • Publisher:
    • Nintendo
  • Released:
    • JP 07/27/1989
Score: 70%

This review was published on 05/02/2006.

Mother is one of those games released near the end of the NES' lifespan, and apparently Nintendo had considered giving it a release outside of Japan. They even had a translated prototype finished, which had somehow ended up for bid on the Internet. Deals were made; someone from the emulation community managed to dump the ROM image of the prototype cartridge. The game's official title had simply been "EarthBound." However, as most of you likely already know, there exists another game of the same name today. Thus, a hacker from the emulation community decided to alter the title screen to "EarthBound Zero" to avoid confusion among the masses. It has spread throughout the Internet since then. Now, here we are...

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Ask yourself this question: what game starts you off as an average American boy who is suddenly attacked by a lamp in his house? That's right, you aren't likely to come up with a valid answer for that one. While the game certainly is a bit dated, you can tell that this is the beginning of something great. As the intro plainly sums up, you start off as an average boy in rural america...but you certainly don't end up that way in the end. This game clearly tries to break away from all of the age old RPG cliches; instead of knights in shinning armor, you control a group of children (a few of which wield psychic power) who are discovering an alien conspiracy to overthrow the human race. Rather than purchasing potions and swords, you go to the local department stores in search of baseball bats, boomerangs and frying pans. Psychic powers replace what most would see as magic, with it's own naming style utilizing Greek letters. You'll start off battling hippies and redneck hicks with pitchforks. This won't be a regular "defeat the evil empire" ordeal. Top this off with various instances of comical dialogue, and you're left with an adventure to remember.

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The battle system starts off rather slow, with not too much in the way of strategic choices. In the beginning, all you can really do is strike the enemy until it has been dealt with. The true strategy for the early portions of the game revolves around survival. The enemies start off with astounding difficulty, and moving too quickly will have you beaten to death by a hippie in your backyard. Recovery outside of battle becomes crucial, as is leveling up and purchasing the strongest equipment. If you manage to get through it, things quickly pick up. You'll learn quite a bit of PSI abilities (the name given to psychic abilities), which opens up a branch of strategy that won't revolve around repeatedly selecting "fight" over and over. Skillfully taking advantage of these PSI abilities tends to be rather important later in the game, as the enemies rise in difficulty in astounding leaps. Using the right abilities can mean the difference between life and death. Of course, the enemies tend to be so strong that you may still suffer many deaths, even when fully using your PSI arsenal. That's what leveling up is for, obviously.

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Many of these older, Dragon Quest styled RPGs (the game can actually be seen as a Dragon Quest parody, in fact) tend to be a bit more relaxed when it comes to advancement of the main story. You aren't plainly briefed on where to go or what to do, usually. All you get are vague hints and the dialogue from random towns people. In a way, I find this to be a more interesting approach to advancement of the plot. I'm actually somewhat disappointed that all of the recent RPGs have completely abandoned this sort of thing. However, this can mean that you may easily get lost and spend countless hours running about aimlessly. Truth be told, this game is actually quite short if you dash through all of the events, immediately knowing where to go and what to do. So I'd recommend to steer clear from a walkthrough, unless you want to finish the game in record time. After all, there aren't many secrets to be had here. Finding everything is simply a matter of thoroughly searching the various dungeons. Doing that, you'll find all of the best weapons and armor.

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In essence, this game is worth playing if you enjoyed EarthBound for the SNES. If you haven't, then I'd recommend to start on the latter first, unless you're a hardened gamer veteran who can handle an old NES RPG or two. Remember, the beginning is really tough, so don't give up too easily. If you do, then you're a complete pansy.

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