That seems to happen often with a lot of games. I've experienced it too much, and games that I thought I would love, turned out to be something that caused me more anxiety and/or frustration than anything. It's part of the reason I have so many games that I have never played, and why I've had such a hard time with Skyrim.
GAME: Mother (Earthbound Beginnings on WiiU)
AVAILABLE ON: Famicom, NES (unofficial release), GBA, WiiU
SPOILER ALERT! This review will spoil the story of Mother. If you haven't played the game yet, I strongly urge you to do so! If spoilers do not bother you, please go on.
Recently I was attacked by a nasty cold and have been out for a few days. I took the opportunity to revisit a game that's been on my mind for well over a few years now. Back in 2013, I reviewed this game on my blog without having really finished it. But already then it left a pretty lasting impression on me and it's always been sitting in my backlog since then, always having been that game that I knew I had to finish some day. And it seems that day has come as I have finally completed Mother. Granted, I have only completed Earthbound Zero Easy, a romhack of the fan translation which decreases encounter rates, increases XP gained and overall makes the game more managable so my review will more reflect this version of the game than the original, just so it's said. But I will still be keeping the original game in mind. So here's my full review of Mother after 4 years of trying to get back into it.
This game knows how to ask the important questions!
Mother tells the story of three characters who's fates intertwine as their world falls victim to an alien invasion. Set in a somewhat off beat 1980's America, you start out in the town of Podunk when young boy Ninten is awoken by a loud noise. He runs to his sister's room to find her doll posessed, moving on its own, and after fighting it, the doll stops moving. But not without revealing something incredible, inside it is a music box that plays a little melody, which Ninten remembers. Unknown to Ninten, this melody is part of a puzzle he has to solve in order to stop the invasion. After finding the key to the house's locked basement on his dog, he discovers a diary from his great grandfather, George, revealing that Ninten posesses special psychic powers.
At some point on his journey, he ends up in a faraway land called Magicant, where in a castle Queen Mary resides. She mournfully tells Ninten that she cannot remember anything. She can vaguely remember a song but seems to have forgotten this as well, and beckons Ninten to find all eight pieces of this song which seem to have been hidden around the world. Together with Lloyd, a nerd with a knack for science and Ana, a seemingly fragile girl with extraordinary psychic powers.
The story of Mother is driven by the eight melodies and your search for them. Because as it turns out, these hold a significance beyond what you can imagine as they are the weapon you need to defeat the leader of the alien invaders, Giegue, who as it turns out, was once the adopted child of George and Maria and the melody is the lullaby she would sing to him. Reminded by the love of his surrogate mother, Giegue is forced to leave the planet and let go the people he has abducted.
To me, the story of Mother is really what got me coming back to it. It's one of the games that somehow creates an entirely unique narrative and uses the game mechanics to tell the story in a way that gives it a unique feel I've never seen in other games. And I find the way you defeat the final boss incredibly ingenious. Since you play as children, despite your powers, there is no way you can defeat a foe that is so infinitely more powerful than you can ever imagine. The only weapon you have is love, and you have to intentionally not attack him to beat him which I find amazing. It's easy to see why this game has been an inspiration to so many modern game makers such as Toby Fox who made the amazing Undertale, since this too kind of took the RPG genre and did something new and interesting with it, even if it also fell victim to some of its more outdated perks. So let's get on to discussing the gameplay shall we?
Mother, despite its cute first impression, has many dark heartfelt moments.
Gameplay-wise, Mother honestly plays like a traditional RPG for the most part. You level up through battling enemies in turn-based combat, and each of your characters have different stats and different talents which you need to get accustomed to in order to fully be efficient in battles. Ninten uses mostly melee weapons such as bats and has mostly defensive PSI. Ana has a lot of offensive PSI, but a low health pool and cannot use most weapons other than frying pans (bit of stereotyping there). Lloyd doesn't deal a lot of physical damage and can mostly use guns and items such as bottle rockets, bombs, plasma beams and flamethrowers, but can dish out a lot of damage with those items.
Much of Mother requires you to utilize the game's powerups correctly for these characters. Getting the right items can be crucial to easing the game's harsh difficulty, and there is a lot of grinding involved to make sure your characters are strong enough to tackle the road ahead. Granted I was playing the EB0 Easy hack, which cuts down on the difficulty a great deal and allowed me to appreciate the game more so I highly recommend playing this ROM if you can get it, but be prepared to deal with a lot of the typical tropes of early RPG's. This game definitely benefits from using a walkthrough so don't feel bad if you have to pay Starmen.net a visit. I used their walkthrough for EB0 for my playthrough and do not regret it as the tips and strategies in it helped a lot with easing the game for me. Granted you can play the game however you want to but the walkthrough saves a lot of time and grief from wandering around aimlessly.
It's very hard to recommend Mother on its gameplay, because it is sadly very outdated and not always in the best way. It requires a lot of patience, and requires that you find that drive to keep playing even when it feels tiring. To me that drive was the Eight Melodies. As stated in my original review, when listening to the eight melodies I would feel inspired to play the game, to see it through. And I felt that the eight melodies I picked up were valuable treasures that were almost lost in the world, it drove me to finish the game and bring peace to the world. The game feels bigger than the world you see, it feels like you're on an epic quest to save the world from a threat you at first cannot even understand. And your enjoyment of the game will definitely depend on how engaged in the world you become.
Graphically, Mother isn't impressive. But it definitely has a style. Heavily influenced by the Peanuts comic strip, it uses a style that feels really easy to like. It's bright, colourful and uses the NES palette to greatly enhance each area's look and feel. From the green fields of Podunk and Merrysville, to the snowy plains of Snowman and the cold industrial designs of the factories and laboratories, the world of Mother looks as varied and diverse as you would imagine it to look. The only thing I don't really like the look of is the battle screen. It's mostly just a black screen with enemy sprites on it, which granted are really detailed and great to look at, but having a background would probably help a lot here in my opinion.
Musically... this game has the best soundtrack of the entire NES library in my opinion. From the get-go, Mother bombards you with some of the most emotional and some of the most catchy music you may ever hear from an 8 bit system. From the mellow and soothing opening theme, to the driving beats of Pollyanna and Bein' Friends, to the dark disturbing industrial moods of factories and the sheer emotional power of the Eight Melodies, Mother's soundtrack is unforgetable. The soundtrack is varied too. There's everything from rock'n'roll tunes, to ballads, to menacing industrial atmospheric music. It feels like it never gets boring and perfectly fits every area you go to.
Every time I hear the Eight Melodies, I cannot help crying, because the melodies feel like they represent pure love. The kind of love you've felt from your mother. It feels like a genuine lullaby. And it soothes me in a way few things can. When I am angry at my friends, when I feel down and depressed, the Eight Melodies can soothe me like nothing else I know. It's become one of my favourite tunes in all of gaming really for this reason and it's why I can truly believe it can make even an alien menace like Giegue break down in tears and leave. In its simplicity, in its eight little melodies, it holds immense power and hits harder than anything I've ever heard. It was one of the things that truly stuck out to me about the game and the reason I've kept playing through it.
Thank you for your nice song indeed ❤️
Mother is flawed. Incredibly flawed. Even with a guide, the game is brutally difficult and at times is confusingly vague. It can be an infuriating game without knowing the right strategies and what the different items do. And yet, with its flaws, it holds one of the best stories of its generation, one of the best soundtracks, one of the most important messages and some of the most memorable worlds ever in a video game. It's an experience I will never forget, one I will keep with me until I die. Those moments when I sat there, singing along to Ninten, Ana and Lloyd as their song brought Giegue to tears, brought me to tears as well. The fact an 8bit game could make me feel so many emotions to me is amazing and if you're at all a fan of RPG's, or even better, Earthbound, you definitely need to play this game some day.
I guess it's time to finally tackle Earthbound next. A game which has eluded me for a long time and I swore I would finish Mother before playing it. Now I have no excuse not to.
Fallout 3, New Vegas and 4
Saints Row 2 (preferably as a HD remaster) and Saints Row IV
Ion Fury (it's been confirmed but I still want it)
Half-Life 2 + Episodes
3D Realms Classics
Duke Nukem 3D
Blood: Fresh Supply
Max Payne 1-3
Mass Effect Trilogy
I feel games dealing with religion can be fun. Like in Shiny's Messiah where you play a cherub with the ability to possess humans, which you have to use to stay hidden and defeat Satan to remove his grip on mankind. It's a fun game.
I was only able to play a little bit some time ago, combat is good, armors are cool, I dont know how micro transactions work in Anthem but getting rid of a few or lowering the prices could be a good idea.