Welcome to Games Growing Up Revisited. The premise of this subseries of Games Growing Up is to rewrite old articles that I don’t think are some of my best work. These won’t be happening super frequently, but since we just hit 50 GGU Articles, I feel like now’s the time to debut it. One of my earliest articles was Mother for the Famicom. The review was alright, but I hadn’t actually played the game in a while when I wrote the review. I recently played the game again, and want to redo it, so here we are. This game is the first game in the Mother series, a series I’ve been a fan of for a long time. Many fans of the Mother series have played EarthBound and Mother 3, but not many have played the original Mother. In 2015, Mother was finally officially released in the United States under the title of EarthBound Beginnings, a title I cannot stand, for the Wii U Virtual Console. Many people still haven’t played the game though, either out of fear the game hasn’t aged well, or lack of interest. Today I’m going to find out how good of a game Mother really is.
The Controls of Mother are…something. If you’ve ever played an older 2D turn based RPG, you know how it works. The DPad moves you in all directions and there’s a menu button. One thing that’s a bit confusing, however, is that the A Button brings up the menu, while the start button brings up the map. You can change this setup, but the default one is this for some reason. The B Button is the Run button, exclusive to the American release of Mother and the GBA Remake. So, besides weird button placement by default, the controls seem fine, right? No. The Dpad movement feels a lot more awkward than it should. For some reason, you have to press the Dpad down HARD for Ninten to move. This makes moving around feel very strange and unnatural. The controls haven’t aged well because of this.
The gameplay of Mother 1 is quite interesting. The game plays very similar to Dragon Warrior, almost identically, since Shigesato Itoi, the creator of the game, has stated that Mother is technically a Dragon Warrior Parody in a modern day setting. You go from town to town, collecting weapons, going through dungeons, and getting new party members. One thing I cannot stand is how items are equipped. In order to equip and item, you have to buy it, then go into your inventory and “use” it, equipping it. This seems very archaic, and there are only a handful of equippable items in the entire game. When you get a weapon, you’re gonna be using it for a long time. On top of this, there are boomerangs, weapons that can be equipped by every character, that are super powerful that you can get very early on in the game. The whole equipment system in Mother is incredibly unbalanced.
Since Mother is a turn based RPG, most of the gameplay takes place in Random battles. These random battles are very archaic as well. If you have multiple party members, and you all select to attack one enemy, and the first party member kills that enemy, the other two party members just won’t attack for the rest of the turn. This is really annoying and makes the battles go on a lot longer. Besides this very outdated issue, the battles are kinda difficult, but not horrible.
Instead of magic, like most RPGs, Ana and Ninten use psychic abilities. These pyshcic abilities mimick most spells in traditional RPGs. We have Ice, Fire, Defense Up, Offense Up, Fourth D-Slip (Exit), Beam (Non Elemental Attack), and many more. These psychic abilities are fun to use, but until the end of the game, most of the attacking abilities are quite weak. I mainly stick with physical attacks, which kind of sucks, since Ninten and Teddy are the only good physical attackers in the game. To add insult to injury, Teddy is only in your party for around two hours of gameplay before being replaced by a returning Loid. This just adds to Mother’s already high difficulty. This is the main issue with the gameplay. Enemies in Mother are so difficult throughout the game, that grinding is necessary from the start. The final area in the game, Mt. Itoi, is so difficult that I just run from every enemy. The encounter rate is incredibly high as well, which doesn’t help. Mother 1 is by no means a beginner’s RPG, and I recommend a guide to go along with your playthrough, since the game rarely tells you where to go. The worst part of Mother, though, is the inventory space. Items don’t stack on top of each other, meaning two of the same item take up two slots in your inventory. How many slots does each character have? Eight. Eight slots. This means that you can carry 24 items max throughout the game. I had to throw away great healing items at certain points since there was a mandatory item I needed in my inventory. There were still unopened item boxes throughout the game by the time I finished it, since I simply didn’t have the space to hold them. It was really frustrating not being able to have more items in my inventory, since the game is made even more difficult by this. There is no excuse for such small space, since other RPGs that came before had much more. Finally, the menu that I mentioned earlier that’s brought up by pressing A is required to do anything and everything in the overworld. Menus are obviously very important in RPGs, but Mother takes the menu use to the extreme. You want to talk to somebody? You open the menu while standing in front of them and select the “talk” option. You want to use an ATM machine? You open the menu and select your cash card from your items. This slows the game down to an even slower pace and makes the game feel even older. You I can easily say that Mother’s gameplay hasn’t aged well at all.
Now onto some more positive aspects of Mother. The graphics, while not amazing by today’s standards, were excellent for the time. It may not seem that way by just looking at the overworld. There isn’t much detail in the overworld and character models look very average for the NES. This all changes during battles, however. The enemy models look phenomenal. The models are detailed and push the NES to its limits. Along with the enemy models, the overall scope of the game is impressive. There are several different varied locations, and the developers did what they could to make them seem realistic. The graphics hold up quite well.
The music is by far the highlight of Mother for me. The soundtrack is just phenomenal. There are plenty of fantastic tracks, such as the battle themes, Fallin’ Love, Buy Somethin’ Will Ya!, Bein’ Friends, and my favorite, Paradise Line. I honestly can’t believe that the game sounds this great on an NES. Mother’s soundtrack is my favorite video game soundtrack of all time, and the music is nothing less than a treat to hear.
Mother has quite obviously not aged well as a game, but that doesn’t keep me from loving it. Sure the game is incredibly hard with weird controls and less than stellar mechanics, but the game has charm. I didn’t mention this earlier, since it doesn’t affect the gameplay, but the writing is very humorous and it’s always funny to see what all the characters have to say when I talk to them. The charm along with the music make this game special to me, and even though it’s by no means a good game in 2018, I still think it’s worth playing for the charm and experience.