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Weekly Famitsu – June 19, 1992

April 30, 2009

This issue of the video gaming magazine Weekly Famitsu has a very in-depth interview with the creator of the MOTHER series, Shigesato Itoi. It was published two years before the release of the game, so the screenshots feature images of the game when it was still in production. Here are some features of the article:

  • The subtitle of MOTHER 2, “Giygas Strikes Back”, is meant to induce obvious expectations regarding the final boss of the game.
  • The player names the main character of MOTHER 2, so it’s entirely up to the player to decide if he’s the same person as MOTHER 1’s main character. If you want them to be the same, then they’re the same. If you don’t want them to be the same, they don’t have to. His suggestion seems to be to think of them as the same, though.
  • Itoi mentions that MOTHER 1 “wasn’t necessarily set in America.” …Perhaps he forgot that the intro to the game specifically sets the stage in America?
  • The screenshots reveal images of the game before it was nearly canceled and then reprogrammed from scratch with the help of HAL Labs and Satoru Iwata. After the article, I’ll provide some screenshots of the final version for the sake of comparison.
  • At the time of this publication, MOTHER 2 was stated to be 12 megabits. By the time the game was released, however, it was finally pushed to 24 megabits–a huge amount at the time.
  • Itoi mentions his gold-digging experiences and how it influenced MOTHER 2.
  • MOTHER 3 was on the table at the same time of MOTHER 2’s production, and was supposedly aimed for release on the Super Famicom CD-ROM. More details on the SNES-CD system can be found here.

I’ve included the rather random images featured in the article because they’re so arbitrary and, well, interesting. :)


The Subtitle: “Giygas Strikes Back”

Itoi In the last game, MOTHER 1, Giygas appeared as the final boss, but he didn’t actually end up dying. That’s why the subtitle this time is “Giygas Strikes Back.” It’s really straightforward, but it fits (laughs). So it’s pretty clear that he’s the one you face at the end!

—   Does that mean the main character is the same as last time?

Itoi The player names the main characters, so those who played M1 might use those same names this time. But people who started the series from M2 might feel like everything starts at that point. That’s why you can either see them as the same kid, or as two different kids.

—   Hmm, like it could go either way.

Itoi I see no problem with thinking of them as the same person. It’s fine if people see them as different, though. I leave it up to them to decide.

—   Is the hero’s father gone again?

Itoi It’s another fatherless household (laughs). I never have kids come from a stable home. They’re perfectly happy, anyway.

MOTHER 2’s Intriguing System

—   Are there three members in the party this time, too?

Itoi There are allies that join you at times, so at the most, I think it reaches five people. Non-playable characters and stuff.

—   Like the robot in M1?

Itoi Yeah, something like that (laughs).

—   Is there a trick to it?

Itoi No, there’s no befriending enemies. Like I’ve said, enemies are enemies.

—   Does it take place in America?

Itoi Well, it’s not like M1 was specifically set in America, either. But this time there’s an even more “international” feel to it. Even the friendships feel international. Dealing with a party of characters from different cultural spheres is no easy task for children (laughs).

—   Do the enemies turn out to be aliens again?

Itoi It’s a little more complicated than that. It’s not like before, with lackeys supported by their boss—there are separate entities now with hierarchies of their own. Some enemies have nothing to do with a boss, so it’s pretty complicated.

—   Which means…

Itoi Not thinking about how complicated it is when you’re playing through it, but coming across situations that make you think, “Whoa, there’s guys showing up like this, now?!” Well, how can I explain it—I think MOTHER 2 is a little closer to actual society. So early on the towns don’t quite have the shadow of Giygas looming over them yet. People might think of this as just some ordinary game.

—   What about the supernatural powers?

Itoi I made them really easy to use. I don’t like stuff that makes you like, “Alright, I’ll choose this one, and then put it with this one, and this one, and—arghhh!” So I didn’t bother. You can play with as many items as you want, but RPGs that have spells and magic in a fancy class system are so frustrating that I just indulged in my own tastes and cut them out (laughs).

—   And it only seem to get more complex as the sequels go on.

Itoi It’s easy to do that. To just inflate it. It’s like those old bikes geared at middle-schoolers, where they come out with all those flashy add-ons and the kids are left wondering why they have to operate gaudy blinkers just to turn. It’s pretty sad (laughs).

Looks like a burger shop. Can you spot the rolling-meter slot machine shape in the HP window? It must spin around. For sure.
The production staff named the main character Ness, a pun on the NES in America. Of course, the player is free to name the character, so start thinking up some names! By the way, the “Shark” group mentioned in the script sounds like a rough bunch, doesn’t it? But what could the Giant Step be…?

—   How about the AI during battle?

Itoi It’s got Auto Mode again (laughs).

—   There wasn’t exactly an Auto Mode in M1, though…

Itoi I guess. It’s set now so the skilled kids will be worse off when they use it, and the unskilled ones will be better. Automatic is automatic—it’s got the brains of an automatic clothes dryer (laughs).

—   Are there any new commands?

Itoi There aren’t any new command systems in the menu, but the windows have a little twist to them. There are some new methods within the old system that you should scope out.

—   Such as…

Itoi Like with messages. Take the HP display, for example. If you get hit for five points, your HP goes down by five. The meter sort of spins, like a drum roll. You know those odometers in cars? The numbers spin and drop, “doo-doo-doo-doo”. Of course the numbers are displayed, but at the same time there’s this sensation we get from that visualization of a drum roll. I wanted to make it subconsciously entertaining. And I wanted to make a video game that didn’t just reek of–well, video games.

—   Your last work was 3 megabits on the Famicom, and this time it’s 12 megabits on the Super Famicom; so what’s different this time?

Itoi The things that’ve changed the most clearly are the towns and the people in them with their scripts. Role playing games are defined by characters who’ve turned into cut-out dolls. But in M2, each person is different—I knew I could include details like that. That’s all possible thanks to the increased capacity.

—   Is every person different?

Itoi Well, the faces are pixellated, so in that sense they’re not all that different—but I personally wrote every line in the script, so their personalities are different. There are some guys who are kinda sneaky, and some who are totally sneaky, and then there are some who are visibly dirty, some who are actually good people on the inside, and some who are liars. Saying it like that, though, makes it sound like there aren’t any decent people in the game (laughs).

 

MOTHER’s Connection with Buried Treasure?

—   Does the beloved train from the last game make an appearance this time around, too?

Itoi Even better! It won’t make an impression on anyone if there’s nothing but trains. After all, modes of transportation are the appeal of MOTHER (laughs). There’s a wide variety of gadgets.

—   How big are the cities?

Itoi Some stuff wasn’t received very well, but we were pretty obstinate in keeping M1’s diagonal point of view and town size. The old system of walking on a map into the town-symbol to enter a town is something that we really couldn’t fathom using. Plus we wanted some enemies to appear in the towns, too. We think of the inside of a town as an extension of the field; we did it with the intention of making the size and the length of the story itself two and a half times bigger.

—   So was the character design done by Minami Shinbou again?

Itoi This time it was Oyama. He’s always worked with toys and computers, so it worked out well. The graphics are at the point where I’d just say, “Ah well, even if it doesn’t make it as a game, I’ll buy it.” (laughs)

—   Last time, aside from the scenario, there was quite a bit of freedom. How about this time?

Itoi There are more straight paths in the story to accommodate the events. But we made sure that there was a lot more to do—I think it’ll be most fun for those playing an RPG for the first time, seeing as they’re apt to wander around aimlessly. Even with the most menial little things, I want someone who rushed through the game to watch that beginner playing and feel a twinge of regret and think, “Hey, I never saw that!”

—   Has your own run-in with buried treasure influenced MOTHER 2, by any chance?

Itoi It has (laughs). It’d be sad if we couldn’t fit something that fun into a game.

—   There’s someone who digs for gold?!

Itoi There is, there is. He’s not completely unrelated to the story, though—there is a little correlation.

—   What about your actual gold-digging?

Itoi We’re going to go dig some more after the rainy season lets up. At that point I think we’ll have inadvertently let M2 run off on its own (laughs).

—   It’s fun watching the show.

Itoi Gold-digging itself is an RPG, you know? But the difference between it and a game is how in gold-digging you think some gold is actually going to turn up. You dream about it for just a moment, and you’re convinced you know where it is. I’ve since become more modest about it, though (laughs). The greed and everything is sort of alleviated by the feelings you get when you’re 200 feet below the ground, witnessing traces of other people. But it’d still be nice to ramp up those power shovels just a little bit…(laughs). Working at Akagiyama has this sense of excitement to it, like an action game coupled with the thrill of speculation, of wondering if gold will actually turn up. And then you’ve got the prospectors who have been out there for a hundred years–they’ve had all kinds of speculations over that span of time. They gather sponsors by broadcasting false information and convincing others that the gold is right under their nose. The cycle of deceit just keeps on going. So you’ve got to do this with the understanding that there’s very little reliable information available. At that point, when you’re wondering what’s so great about this job, it turns into, “Man, so-and-so from that project team is really on a roll today,” or “So-and-so’s wife made such-and-such and brought some in.” It’s really amazing to have relationships with other people where you can laugh and cry together. So in games, too, that “human relationship” makes things interesting—this is evident in MOTHER 2, as well. The fighting and battling isn’t important. It’s great to see someone do their very best, no matter what that may be.

—   So in the end, is it about mankind?

Itoi Maybe. The theme might be something like relief at having others around you, and not being some lowly human all by yourself. To stretch the point a bit, I could say that if I were the only one on the entire planet, it wouldn’t be any fun at all. For people who really love games–at least when it comes to games played alone–I’d want to tell them to go outside. Playing games is fun, but it can’t turn into doing that all the time. When you play soccer, it’s fun to get a game going, but it’s not fun if you’re doing nothing but having soccer games. Wouldn’t you want to add some dimension to your enjoyment?

MOTHER 3’s Appearance on CD-ROM?

—   So what’s this about a CD-ROM?

Itoi Ah, yeah, we’re going to do one. It’s decided. We’ve been thinking about it alongside this game. We’ve also decided what kind of game we’re going to make. Whether it’s going to be MOTHER 3, I’m not sure, but it’s going to be awesome. I thought of it in the middle of the night—it was enough to make me rush and call my friend about it. Plus there’s sort of a hint to it in MOTHER 2. I can’t name any specifics because it’s about the next game, but we’re doing a CD-ROM. For the Super Famicom.

—   So it’s an RPG, right?

Itoi Well, even with MOTHER 2, I feel like it isn’t really in the RPG category. Like, making an RPG out of a game and making it out of a story are two different things. RPGs often refer to games in which one plays the part of the character, but even more than role-playing it usually seems like a simulation game. I don’t know if there’s any other way of putting it. Hmm, but you know, the CD-ROM game after MOTHER 2 is gonna be a good one. Won’t do much good if I just go around barking, “It’s so good!” though (laughs).

—   And when will that be?

Itoi Well, it’s going to be a while! After all, MOTHER 2 has taken about three years already. I feel really bad about that, but I have been preoccupied with my regular work (laughs).

—   What games have you played recently?

Itoi Nothing but Itadaki Street (laughs). I’ve tried different games at the recommendation of other people, but I can never really get into them. I don’t know if it’s just because of my age, but I can’t really get into it if there’s not some level of depth to it.

—   What about Super Famista?

Itoi Won’t buy it. I’m sick of Famista (laughs). The one I’m looking forward to right now is Koushien 2. I can’t wait. It was enough to make me go buy a used copy of Koushien 1. I have a copy already, but I wanted one more to bring home so I looked for another one. I checked the used game stores and asked around, but I couldn’t seem to find one anywhere. And one day, by chance, I came across one for sale at a cart in Gorakuen Stadium. Oh, I was so happy! The field is realistic in it. I’m waiting for Koushien with bated breath (laughs).

—  So are you done with RPGs?

Itoi Well I played Zelda. But halfway through I couldn’t quite keep up with it, so I passed it off and just watched from behind. I ended up watching Final Fantasy IV, too. I just feel like, “Okay, I get it, now what?!” I hate when I reach that point where I “get it.” The joy is in the reader and the writer solving the mystery together… Right now I’m working on Monopoly for the Super Famicom with Tomy. Monopoly is more of a tool, but when you play through it you get a sense of the appeal of multiplication. There is not one game out there that boasts, “It’s even fun when played with a boring person!” To me, a one-player game is a face-off between me and the player. As the creator, I’m competing against the player on the other side. So if I’m a boring person, their opponent is boring.

—   But Monopoly seems simple and boring when you just look at the board, doesn’t it?

Itoi Yeah, one might think that. I mean, you quietly think things through, evaluate what move your opponent is going to pull, bluff your intentions. There’s this integration of human emotion and strategy in Monopoly. In single-player video games, the amount of human tactic involved is a battle between the player and the programmer who assembled it, so the programmer can’t just go and lose to the player. If you’re set on making a game, if you can’t be strong enough to absolutely dominate, you don’t have what it takes to do it. The Monopoly that’s out right now was made by an American, but it’s terrible (laughs). Turns you off to think of playing against someone who’s that awful at it (laughs). Seriously. MOTHER is a competition. It’s a game where the production team and you—the player—become good playmates and enemies. Actually, you can’t see it, but MOTHER 2 is a competitive game, too! (laughs) I’ll just leave it at that!


An Exclusive Premiere Look at MOTHER 2!

Do you remember the famous tag line, “No crying until the end”? (It wasn’t written by Shigesato Itoi, though.) It’s been three long years since then, and MOTHER 2 is finally making its debut on the Super Famicom!
In this corner, we’ll round up all the newest information that didn’t make it into the main article. First of all, just as the subtitle tells us with “Giygas Strikes Back”, the boss is the same one as last time. The world is two and a half times the size of MOTHER 1. The characters are one and a half times bigger.
The inter-dimensional world of Magicant also makes an appearance, but supposedly it’s not merely a place of comfort like last time. The dependable heroes from Magicant, the Flying Men, do reappear once again! However, if you go too far and work them too hard…
Traveling on the train was a lot of fun, but unfortunately, it won’t be making a stop this time around. We’ve been told that an “even cooler” vehicle will be taking its spot. Wonder what that could mean?
Shigesato Itoi has painstakingly written every scenario and every word in the script, which will not include kanji. But even within the limits of hiragana, he makes use of different fonts and takes measures so everything is easy on the eyes. The ending was cut to fit the limits of capacity, but it’s right on the mark. Looks like it’s one that will stay in our hearts for a long time! And even if you barrel through MOTHER 2, it will probably take you at least five days to finish it. We’ve also heard that there are some particular unpleasant experiences awaiting our heroes…

The Gorgeous and Lucky duo make up the notorious Tonzura Brothers.

end

MOTHER 2: Beta vs. Final
Here are some side-by-side screenshots to study the changes made in the process of completing the game.

Exhibit A – Things to Note: Virtually Everything

I started making a big list of differences but started to feel like I was giving away answers to a game in the comics section of the newspaper. I hate to take the fun out of it so I’ll leave you in peace with the question: How many differences can you find? (Click to zoom.)

Exhibit B – Scene Changes

At first, this scene didn’t strike me as odd. The most obvious differences are Ness’s missing backpack and the solid-colored HP window. But as I took a run-through of Onett in the English version, I realized how different the beta version really was.


I didn’t even recognize the hotel at first–I had assumed it was another house. Looks like it used to be that way, because the sign is missing and the garbage can is moved. The taxi still runs through it now, but those kids aren’t hanging around so close to the Shark’s hideout this time around. The line in the script was unchanged, however. Just given to a different guy:

It’s a lot of fun seeing what the game used to look like a long time ago. Seeing the old version and the improvement in some of the graphics is making me appreciate all the hard work put into them. :) Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to play through an old rough draft?

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8 Comments
  1. Wow, very intriguing read! Interesting to see the differences made from then to now. Especially how funky the HP/PP meter looks. But I learned a lot from this. Thanks for posting it!

  2. LordManiMani permalink

    Great article! It was really fun reading Itoi’s comments from so early (relatively speaking)!

  3. JIMMMMY permalink

    They should have left Earthbound that way

  4. iamwinsauce permalink

    that meter doesn’t roll! it’s a lie!
    well, it used to be a lie.
    unless i have my information mixed up. :(

  5. So was MOTHER 3 a SNES-CD game at one point, or not? The last bullet point given at the beginning of this page gives that impression, but it’s not explicable in the text.

    -OKeijiDragon

    • Lindsay permalink

      Well, all we know based on the interview is that Itoi was planning on making a CD game, but he wasn’t sure if it was going to be MOTHER 3 or not.

  6. I just found this site from Earthound Central. I know this is an old post, but I wish the images weren’t all broken! Sad!

    Still, I think I’m gonna keep this in my bookmarks. These interviews are things of interest to me, and I appreciate them. Yay!

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