Google+

The time for an Earthbound re-release in America is now

It’s been a couple weeks since Nintendo president Satoru Iwata announced on Nintendo Direct that EarthBound--known overseas as Mother 2--would be coming to Japanese Wii U systems via Virtual Console this March. Awesome for Japan; not so much for the US. So far there hasn't been a glimmer of hope. Instead, North America is getting Punch-Out!! Now, I love me some Punch-Out!!, but I've played it on Wii Virtual Console; I've played it on 3DS Virtual Console. To be offered Punch-Out!! (and not even Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, but the version featuring Mr. Dream) instead of EarthBound is a slap in the face to thousands if not millions of Nintendo fans.

If there was ever a perfect time for Nintendo to bring back EarthBound, it’s now. The Wii U is still struggling to find its legs, great 3DS games are few and far between, and the Big N needs core gamer support more than ever. And pretty much nothing could garner that support more than a Virtual Console release of EarthBound.

And the EarthBound fans are most definitely there, despite having their hopes crushed time and time again. Yeah, Mega Man Legends fans have a lot to complain about, and Phantasy Star fans haven’t seen a mainline series installment in decades, and Shenmue fans were left in the lurch without a conclusion, but that pales in comparison to the agony of the North American EarthBound faithful. Super Smash Bros. notwithstanding, the series has essentially been kicked to the curb by Nintendo of America, and despite the constant pleas and outpouring of support, that doesn't look like it’s going to change anytime soon.

So why has EarthBound been neglected for all these years? Most evidence points to potential legal complications stemming from certain songs in the game bearing resemblance to real-life pop tunes--and that’s certainly a believable possibility. I can attest from experience that Nintendo’s legal team may be the most powerful driving force in the company. But wouldn't that prevent the game from being released internationally as well? In December, EarthBound creator Shigesato Itoi tweeted that issues had finally been resolved that would allow people to experience EarthBound again. We don’t yet know if that resolution involves a modified soundtrack, but if it does, then so be it; I think most EarthBound fans would agree that a VC version with modified music is better than no VC version at all. The bottom line is that the music shouldn't be an impassable roadblock to a Virtual Console re-release.

Then again, that might not be the problem; there have also been rumors of personnel within Nintendo of America who simply aren’t fans of the EarthBound series, or possibly detest it outright. And without anyone in management to push for the revival of a fiscally unproven series--and one that would have significant localization costs to go with it--it’s easy to see how the franchise has fallen into an abyss.

Still, it’s hard to imagine that the financial incentive isn’t there. You don’t have to look too far to see bustling communities at sites like EarthBound Central or Starmen.net, and when I was an editor at Nintendo Power, it was impossible to miss the constant outpouring of fan support. For a time we polled readers on their most-wanted Virtual Console games, and EarthBound was constantly the most-wanted title, with the original Mother not far behind. Support was so unwavering that I quickly had to modify the poll on a monthly basis to focus on different game systems or different genres, lest we be stuck with the same results issue after issue. I’m pretty sure that even when I asked for, say, the most-wanted Genesis game, EarthBound still actually got the highest number of votes, although I had to disqualify it for not being a Genesis game.

Of course, the drama doesn't only involve the Virtual Console version of EarthBound. Though the Super NES release was not a big hit (140,000 copies sold according to Wikipedia), Nintendo of America could have given the franchise a new life--and realized gamers' hopes and dreams in the process--during the Game Boy Advance era with the release of Mother 1 & 2, but it didn't happen. The emotionally powerful Mother 3 was famously denied North American release as well.

Ironically, Nintendo’s lack of attention to the series has made fan support only grow, and the property has practically reached mythical status. Chances are good that many of the players demanding to see EarthBound on Virtual Console have never even played the original Super NES version, but are caught up in the mystique. Not that I blame them--if I’d been denied the chance to play one of the most legendary RPGs of the 16-bit era, I’d be raising a ruckus, too.

Now, I might be thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe Nintendo realizes that now is the time to bring EarthBound back, and it’s already concocted a plan to bring EarthBound back through Virtual Console, and just doesn't want to squander it in a 30-cent promotion when they know they could make a small fortune at full price. Maybe the North American announcement will get a Nintendo Direct of its very own. Sadly, it’s hopes and possibilities like that that make being an EarthBound fan so heart-wrenching to begin with.

Nintendo, let me take you aside for a sec and make one final plea for EarthBound. If you won’t bring it back for business reasons or for the millions of fans...do it for me. My greatest regret as a gamer is that I sold off my copy of EarthBound after I beat it (hey, I was young and dumb and needed the money!), and I would dearly like to see my old friends Mr. Saturn, Poo, and The Runaway Five once again. At least, think about it.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

Topics

editorial

20 comments

  • LEGOMatrix - February 12, 2013 10:39 a.m.

    Screw an American re-release, let's have a European RELEASE!
  • tehtimeisnow - February 12, 2013 1:37 a.m.

    tehtimeisnow for this gane to rereleased in amaraca?no its not cuz its just anoter stuped kiddy nitedno game
  • Crazyty10 - March 4, 2013 2:16 p.m.

    A kiddie game where the final boss starts as an eye and slowly becomes nightmare fuel, that has dialogue from a movie that traumatized Shigesato Itioi as a kid, and takes place in what looks like a womb.
  • dcobs123 - February 11, 2013 5:15 a.m.

    I really hope they didn't soundtrack, I mean would Nintendo really run into legal issues with a game as under the radar as this?
  • ryan-barrett - February 10, 2013 9:20 p.m.

    Give me real, 100%, unaltered Earthbound or don't give it to me at all.
  • GR HollanderCooper - February 10, 2013 9:21 p.m.

    So losing out on one or two songs would make it not worth getting the game at all?
  • ryan-barrett - February 10, 2013 9:38 p.m.

    It's not just 1 or 2. Go here: http://earthboundcentral.com/2009/02/earthbound-music-similarities/
  • ryan-barrett - February 10, 2013 9:43 p.m.

    Whoops, should have posted this one instead: http://earthboundcentral.com/2009/02/earthbound-legal-issues/
  • LEGOMatrix - February 12, 2013 10:48 a.m.

    NIntendo shouldn't have been such a bunch of pirates and used so much copyrighted stuff in the first place! They owe it to their fans to remake the games with original music and graphics like a genuinely inventive company! Fing disgraceful!
  • 8bitBaby - February 11, 2013 9:11 a.m.

    i think losing the songs even 1 or 2 is a big deal. it's not just the gameplay and story that makes earthbound so great it's the music as well. if any of it is changed it changes the game. i know what you're thinking, but it really does. it's like watching the edited versions of Daria without all the 90's music in it. it just changes the impact of it somehow.
  • LEGOMatrix - February 12, 2013 10:52 a.m.

    You don't think Nintendo could come up with good music that doesn't use loads of other people's work? You know, so many people haven't even played it that that nostalgia factor means nothing. If you have played it enough to get nostalgic feelings over the old music, then at least you have played it! Count yourself lucky mate!
  • shawksta - February 10, 2013 8:22 p.m.

    Heavily agree Its already bad enough Ness and Lucas especially only credibility as "Those guys from Smash Bros" and you would THINK that Lucas being in Brawl meant SOMETHING but NOPE. Its dillusional that its being ignored, it needs to stand up tall and come back! and the thing is, people are killing themselves just for a Virtual console game! Hmm, maybe Retro Studios is gonna revive Earthbound, but thats highly unlikely and just crushed speculation over our sadness of no Earthbound!
  • MCBadong - February 10, 2013 8:19 p.m.

    Guygas in modern 3D? Wonder how he's gonna look like?
  • ninjaemperor - February 10, 2013 4:23 p.m.

    Agreed Hoff, agreed. I've played the game before through *cough* completely legitimate means, but seriously, let's get the actual game here again.
  • Redeater - February 10, 2013 2:35 p.m.

    Why do I need Earthbound when I have Rayman Legends to play? It's not like my Wii U is just sitting there collecting dust.....much like my Wii was. Seriously, I beat Mario 100%, went through ZombieU twice and played enough Scribblenauts. I haven't touched it in a month and I have to wait over half a year to get a decent original game? You fucking owe me Earthbound Nintendo.
  • Cinaclov - February 10, 2013 2:33 p.m.

    And Europe. Don't forget about us, we want this too! And presumably Australia and Canada and everywhere else that isn't America are the same. I remember sitting with the pause screen on SSBM looking around Onette thinking how cool it'd be to actually get to explore this place. Before researching and discovering it'd never been released over here in any form. As you say, there's no real excuse and plenty of wanting fans willing to throw monies at it.
  • C.King - February 10, 2013 12:58 p.m.

    it's that good eh? sadly my only experience with the franchise is ssb, why'd they remove the sky scraper stage that was one of my favs?
  • pl4y4h - February 10, 2013 1:20 p.m.

    http://mother3.fobby.net/ You can play mother 3 on your computer with the download on this site if you're interested
  • Person5 - February 11, 2013 6:14 a.m.

    You can also find Earthbound for the ZSNES on just about any torrent site. And don't feel bad about playing it pirated, the only way to play the game legit is to buy an $80 cartridge. I still regret losing my copy of Earthbound all those years ago.
  • SirCheesedip - February 10, 2013 12:49 p.m.

    I 100% agree with you Hoff. Let's hope Nintendo brings it over here. Give the entire world the chance to play this magical game.

Showing 1-20 of 20 comments

Join the Discussion
Add a comment (HTML tags are not allowed.)
Characters remaining: 5000

OR…

Connect with Facebook

Log in using Facebook to share comments, games, status update and other activity easily with your Facebook feed.