Along with many Wii U owners, I’ve spent the better part of this past week enjoying the recently released Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The roster is identical to the 3DS version that we’ve been playing since October, but there are so many new stages to choose from that all look fantastic in high definition. Yet, as gorgeous as they all appear, I have spent a lot of my time playing in one stage over and over.
I have always been interested in EarthBound and the MOTHER series as a whole, but until this year I never really entered that world fully. I had tried before, but by not owning the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as a child, and by not enjoying having to rely on ROMs- I never really got the chance to play EarthBound as it was meant to be played until it was released on the Wii U’s Virtual Console.
Anyone who has been following the site or listening to the podcast over the last few months will recognize the rise of my obsession with the franchise, and I’m intrigued at how something almost twenty years old can still capture my attention as if I have loved it for those two decades. There is something within the construction of this game that transcends what a video game can be. From a game standpoint, EarthBound adds so much to the RPG genre that still hasn’t been replicated or even stolen. My go to example of innovation is the rolling health meter, which allows the player the opportunity for success in battle even if the enemy has delivered a blow that will cause a knockout. If you are able to execute enough attacks to knock out the enemy before their attack wears down your party member’s health, you can win without having to worry about revival. That simple idea should be implemented in every RPG, yet most still rely on decades old tropes for their battle systems.
With the rampancy of my love for this franchise, I too have joined the little party that is clamoring for more and more from creator Shigesato Itoi. Like the rest, our wait will continue to grow. Itoi has moved on from video game production to creating products used for everyday life, most notably creating a line of notebooks with his company Hobonichi. Outside of the fact that Itoi has moved onto new business ideas, the creator also has some very specific ideas about the MOTHER series and what continuing that series means for him.
“I’m not going to release a MOTHER 4; MOTHER is over now,” Itoi stated in an interview with Satoru Iwata, President of Nintendo, and Yasuhiro Nagata, a member of Itoi’s team at Hobonichi. The interview was talking about how Itoi had moved on from the series, but how his fondness for the games and the fans of the games has grown in time. His philosophy of the games is that his involvement was only a part of the process for creating the game, saying that: “…in my eyes, I see them as unfinished works that I’ve left sitting there for someone.” Continuing on the idea that MOTHER 4 was not a possibility, Itoi states: “Like I said before, I’ve started to grow fond of people who like MOTHER games, but to put that in a cooler way, I might say, ‘The very lives you’re living now are MOTHER 4.’ I really feel that way. ‘Today we had lots of ridiculous thoughts, today we felt sadness, today we laughed a lot.’ That’s what I had set out to do within the world of those games.”
Itoi’s remarks are very poetic, but they leave fans who want something more without anything tangible to look forward to. I understand the reasoning behind not wanting to move forward with something else in the series, and what has already been released defines what that series is. To continue creating just for the sake of it would not be in the true spirit of what Itoi had originally set out to do.
I would like to propose something else instead: Remake EarthBound. While Onett has been a stage in Super Smash Bros. since Super Smash Bros. Melee on the Nintendo GameCube, it has never looked this great. Seeing it here brought the idea to life in my brain that it is okay that we never get another entry in the series; let’s instead get a remake of EarthBound for the Wii U.
Playing in Onett and seeing the world alive in 3D, combined with the classic music from the SNES game just stirred up so many visions of this game. Then, when Jeff or the Starman enter the battle by way of an Assist Trophy and Mr. Saturn is being thrown about by everyone fighting on the stage, I forget for a moment that I am playing a fighting game and my mind drifts off to the wonderful idea that this is EarthBound HD.
I know I’m not the first to have the idea, far from it, but when talking about RPGs this month for our cover story, EarthBound is at the forefront of my mind. What better way to celebrate the series than to dream up imaginary circumstances that would grant us a beautiful HD version of the game? Knowing what Onett could look like only opens the possibilities for places like Moonside, Magicant, and the final fight with Giygas. As beautiful as the game looked in 16-bit art, a translation to a modern graphics engine would make the series even more about our lives than Itoi’s MOTHER 4 idea.