Review by JimmyMimpson

Reviewed: 07/30/13

Guaranteed masterpiece. No crying until the end.

Howdy y’all, it’s Jimmy Mimpson! This little beauty is truly spectacular, especially for the NES. The first of Shigesato Itoi’s masterful trilogy, the predecessor to the beloved classic (and my favorite game of all time) Mother 2, or Earthbound as we know it in the States, Mother is, like its sequel, heartwarming, hilarious, sad, mysterious, and even terrifying. Now, without further ado…

Story: 8/10
The plot in Mother is pretty sparse. You get only small hints as to the characters’ motives and personalities, and most of the big plot events have already happened. However, what is there is excellent. The world and its characters are quirky and charming, especially Loid and his battle to become strong. The backstory, though only alluded to indirectly and only at the very beginning and end of the game, is truly both epic and tragic, and sets up the events of Earthbound.

I feel I should note that Mother is named after the John Lennon song of the same name (Itoi is a Beatles fan). The song consists of John screaming and pleading to his parents not to leave him, and going in I wondered why such a depressing and harrowing song would be the namesake for this game. However, throughout the game (and its sequel to a lesser extent) there is a recurring theme of parental abandonment, abuse, parents dying or going missing, etc. I won’t give examples so as not to spoil anything, but it’s there.

Gameplay: 7/10
The Gameplay is very standard fare. It’s essentially Dragon Quest 2 with better balance between characters and more spells. If you like Dragon Quest, you’ll be right at home, but if you aren’t accustomed to 8-bit JRPGs you’ll find this very archaic. Exploring is fun, though the random encounters can get on your nerves, and your goal is very simple: to get the 8 melodies, go tell the NPC who asked you for them, then fight the final boss. Of course, there’s more to it than that, as you need to overcome many obstacles to get to the melodies. It’s a good 30-40 hours of gameplay, and if you can handle the old-school difficulty and grind factor, it’s very rewarding. However, I had to take off points because of the issues with enemy imbalance that plague the game, particularly toward the end. There are enemies that can attack before anyone has a chance to even run and one-shot a character, and only one character ever learns a revival spell, and there are no revival items, so if it decides to kill your reviver, you’re screwed and have to start the final dungeon over from the save point. It’s by no means the hardest RPG ever, but at points it can be brutal.

Music: 10/10
This game sports one of the finest chiptune soundtracks ever made. The beautiful title music, the cheerful and catchy overworld themes, the rockin’ themes for the airplane and tank, the mystic and solemn music in Magicant, the creepy dungeon themes, three separate battle themes depending on how threatening the enemy is, the gorgeous simplicity of the 8 melodies, and perhaps best of all, the truly terrifying, majestic, and oppressive theme of the final dungeon. The music in this game truly elevates the narrative and emotional power of it, and is all incredibly memorable.

Graphics: 9/10
Though primitive, the graphics in this game work with the music to set the mood. The towns are bustling with people, the graveyard is creepy and very dead, Magicant is very surreal and magical, the desert is barren, the people are varied and charming, the enemies range from silly to very threatening, it’s all really solid and pleasing to the eye.

Replay Value: Moderate
Basically, there’s no New Game+, not much in the way of secrets, no post-game content. However, it’s just so good that you’ll probably want to replay it at some point, like rereading a favorite novel.

Difficulty: Moderate to Ball-Busting
It’s not particularly hard most of the time, but sometimes it gets crazy, most notably at the infamous final dungeon. Still, if you’re used to old-school JRPGs, you’ll be able to beat this with a little persistence.

Overall: 8.5/10
This game is a work of art, especially for its time. It’s not nearly the perfection and depth of its sequel, but it is a truly great game, a unique, memorable experience. Jimmy approves.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Mother (JP, 07/27/89)

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