Earthbound Designer Explains What The Game Means To Him

Earthbound Designer Explains What The Game Means To Him

Earthbound box art

Shigesato Itoi, one of the key creative forces behind the Earthbound franchise, has prepared a beautiful essay to explain why he loves the series so much.

Earthbound has a bizarre history. Despite being one of the most notable cult classics in the history of gaming, Nintendo has repeatedly refused American fan requests to release any of the games in the franchise beyond the 1995 SNES classic of the same name. If you feel the need to hate Nintendo for this, we won't blame you. It's a frankly baffling move on the company's part.

That said, cynicism will get us nowhere. Instead, let's look on the bright side of things. We may never see the other Earthbound entries on this side of the Pacific, but we can still enjoy the SNES title, which has recently appeared on the Wii U eShop. To celebrate that event Nintendo tapped designer Shigesato Itoi to write up his thoughts on the game, and to be perfectly blunt, the man wrote some lovely things.

Have a look:

What is the video game, Earthbound?
Even today, it's so hard to answer that question.

It was like a group of children taking dolls from a toy chest.
Old dishes no longer used in the kitchen.
Nuts and bolts found inside a toolbox.
Little flowers and leaves from the backyard.
And they were all laid down on the carpet with everybody singing made-up songs.
Ready to talk all day about that world they just made.
That, I think was how Earthbound was made.

That small snippet is barely a fifth of what Itoi wrote, and if you have any love for Earthbound, you really should read the rest in its entirety. It's the kind of thing that reminds people that the gaming industry isn't entirely about petulant developers and greedy publishers. Sometimes it's also about the freedom of creative expression and mankind's efforts to recapture the halcyon days of youth.

You can read the rest of Itoi's message on the official Earthbound website. Maybe if enough people read it, Nintendo will rethink its stance on localizing the rest of the series!

Then again, this is Nintendo we're talking about. It'd be less shocking for the company to re-release Earthbound on the 3DS at its mid-90s retail price.

Source: Earthbound

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The funny thing is that over here, Itoi is known pretty much purely for the Mother games. Over in Japan, he's a huge celebrity, and Earthbound is just one in a list of things he's famous for (essays, acting, day planners...)

Maybe all this reminiscing will get Itoi thinking about ideas for a Mother 4? Pretty please?

Earnest Cavalli:

Earthbound has a bizarre history. Despite being one of the most notable cult classics in the history of gaming, Nintendo has repeatedly refused American fan requests to release any of the games in the franchise beyond the 1995 SNES classic of the same name. If you feel the need to hate Nintendo for this, we won't blame you. It's a frankly baffling move on the company's part.

Not particularly. The game tanked when it came out originally. Simple as that. Sure, the reasons why it tanked could be laid at Nintendo's door (that marketing campaign), but at the end of the day it was released in America and sold like crap. Companies aren't generally in the habit of re-releasing games that sell like crap, and before the rise of social media, there wasn't any particular way for Nintendo to know that there was a large market of gamers looking for an Earthbound re-release.

The current CEO of Nintendo, Iwata, was the head programmer on Earthbound. He knows and loves that game as much as anyone. I'm sure if he'd known about the large-scale desire for an Earthbound re-release, he'd have wanted to bring it across sooner. As it is, Nintendo finally made their own social network where their fans can talk about games, Earthbound was repeatedly brought up, and so they wasted no time in responding and re-releasing it on the Virtual Console.

Then again, this is Nintendo we're talking about. It'd be less shocking for the company to re-release Earthbound on the 3DS at its mid-90s retail price.

They brought back Kid Icarus after a near-30 year hiatus. After that, anything is possible.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
The funny thing is that over here, Itoi is known pretty much purely for the Mother games. Over in Japan, he's a huge celebrity, and Earthbound is just one in a list of things he's famous for (essays, acting, day planners...)

Maybe all this reminiscing will get Itoi thinking about ideas for a Mother 4? Pretty please?

I thought Itoi said that he was not going to make another Mother game because he felt it would diminish the others? At Also, in an old interview they said it was delayed a lot due to legal troubles with the soundtrack, sorta like why Megaman Legends 1 and 2 and Misadventures of Tron Bonne haven't been released on the PSN, and why Megaman 64 was never released for the VC.
*shakes fists at sky*
At least we finally got it, now if we get the rest of the Mother series then I'd be happy, and while we're at it let's convince Nintendo to push some money into localizing the 3DS One Piece games because I want them dammit! >.<

I love that in the letter, they have a footnote about the word that Mr. Itoi used means wake, and then went on to explain what a wake was. As if we didn't know that a wake is large gathering where people mourn the passing by sharing stories that celebrated who the person was while eating and drinking. Kind of a funny touch.

Anyways, as some of the people here have said, there were quite a few reasons for the delay in the re-release. Copyright issues had a big part of it, and despite it's later cult following (including some Mother marathons where people would call in to both Nintendo of America and N. of Japan asking for a VC release of the series), it still sold relatively poorly at launch (poor marketing and lack of an internet or gaming magazine to go "HOLY SHIT GUYS GET THIS GAME IT'S FREAKING AMAZING"). To a release team, that's enough to tell them no.

Shame that Mr. Itoi has said that he has no intention of making any more of the Mother games, though. I mean, I understand, especially after all the trouble that Mother 3 went through to even get released in the first place, that the toll and stress it plied on him was quite large, but no other game series has quite the same flair for the absurd while still swinging the story, character, and setting balls right out of the park. Only if we broaden the field (to interactive webcomics) do we even get close enough to the unusual brand of delicious insanity that was this series (with Homestuck, specifically). And that's kind of a shame.

Earnest Cavalli:

You can read the rest of Itoi's message on the official Earthbound website. Maybe if enough people read it, Nintendo will rethink its stance on localizing the rest of the series!

Bring me up...

Then again, this is Nintendo we're talking about. It'd be less shocking for the company to re-release Earthbound on the 3DS at its mid-90s retail price.

... and bring me down.

Damn it, end on a high note! Generally, news is depressing as is!

Not really serious, just a lighthearted jab

EDIT:

The full version of the Earthbound writeup is quite heartwarming, definitely worth a read.

Notable is that earlier this year he also had some less nice words to say on the series here: http://www.p4rgaming.com/shigesato-itoi-if-i-never-have-to-talk-about-mother-again-it-will-be-too-soon/

I'd like to hope he was just having a bad day there or something though, and that this is the true Itoi we're seeing in the Earthbound message, but who knows. He's more a celebrity than a game designer in Japan so it's possible he really is tired of hearing about the game from Western fans whose only exposure to his life's work is through Earthbound.

EDIT: I'm dumb - the above link is clearly a parody site.

Love this game. I thought I knew everything about video games and couldn't be surprised growing up, but this game offered a very unique experience.

sethisjimmy:
Notable is that earlier this year he also had some less nice words to say on the series here: http://www.p4rgaming.com/shigesato-itoi-if-i-never-have-to-talk-about-mother-again-it-will-be-too-soon/

Why do people keep mistaking this site for a legitimate news site? it's not! it's the video game equivilant of the onion!

harryhenry:

sethisjimmy:
Notable is that earlier this year he also had some less nice words to say on the series here: http://www.p4rgaming.com/shigesato-itoi-if-i-never-have-to-talk-about-mother-again-it-will-be-too-soon/

Why do people keep mistaking this site for a legitimate news site? it's not! it's the video game equivilant of the onion!

Jeeez, how did I not notice? I actually saw another post on here recently from the same site, complete with comments about how it's a parody site and everything... It just completely didn't click in my head I guess.

Oh well, my bad.

I love the way he talks about his game being like a dead guy you all reminisce about at his wake with a big smile on your face, Talking over all the good memories and experiences you had with it. All good games are like this to me.

This is the most insightful thing I've read about video games in months. Its a nice breath of fresh air compared to all the anger and complaining. Kind of like the coffee breaks in the game.

...I need to go play this game again.

 

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