Review by Shirow
Reviewed: 12/27/01 | Updated: 11/09/02
Mother or Earthbound Zero is the prequel to the SNES RPG, Earthbound, and has a lot of similarities to the sequel -- and also more popular -- title. The game system is just the same as in Earthbound with the PSI, the songs and all the funny stuff that happened during the battles and everywhere else although the plot has changed. As it is, Nintendo pretends that Mother is just the same as Earthbound, except with NES graphics and capabilities of course, but it isn't completely the same game and there are a lot of differences.
You control Ness and you have to search for the 8 songs which will enable you to save the world from a terrible menace. As you explore the world solving puzzles and fighting with countless of weird enemies, you'll also meet new friends who will help you out like the Gang Leader -- although you need to fight him first - or even R7038, who seems to come directly from Star Wars.
The system of fights is just the same as in the SNES title and so, those who've played this gem won't have any trouble understanding the game. You can cast PSI spells which you learn as you fight on and gain levels and you'll even get the Sing option once you've collected the 8 songs -- those who've played the sequel must already know what that means…
Mother is more of a kid's game with cartoony graphics and looks nothing more like a comic with approximate designs and flashy colors that try to empower you by being a nuisance to your eyes and even hurting them after a while. On the whole, the game has just average graphics but there are various points which are very weak and thus make the game rather dull at times.
The enemies are all blurred and fail to represent what they're really meant for. The only great part is Ness himself who is just as in Earthbound and is dressed exactly the same way, hat and all. Otherwise, the backgrounds and other features are all just decent. And this is not really a surprise since this is a supposed to be a mere beta game -- whatever that means.
Sadly, while the game relies a lot on music since you need to find the 8 songs, the rest of the soundtrack seems to have been rushed through. Although some of these songs are quite good and enjoyable when you listen to them, most of the other themes are boring and get very annoying after a while. Sure, they're quite varied but that doesn't prevent them from being lame.
In other words, the music is as enjoyable as slashing your arms with a blade out of boredom. This is really surprising considering how the music plays an important part in the game. It's even the main point of the game, for God's sake !
So, what have we got ? Average graphics and bad music ! If it had been only for these, Mother would be a very mediocre game and my guess is nobody would have cared about it. However, things get very interesting as you play the game yourself because the concept and system of the game are extremely well-thought out and the game is hilarious. I should however warn you that you'll either like it or you won't. It's a matter of taste !
Firstly, the game is very funny and doesn't take itself seriously. Your enemies are Hippies, Stray Dogs, Mr. Bats, Flying Men and these act very goofy. For example, you can be busy trying to get rid of a handful of hippies and instead of attacking you, one will just meditate while Mr. Bat will wonder on the meaning of life…
Beating enemies in Mother never becomes a chore since instead of dying, they'll either regain all senses or they'll do whatever it is they should have done years earlier. The in-game comments are very hilarious and do succeed to make you forget about the average graphics and unworthy music. The dialogues between your characters and during the final battle are the best part in the game and it's quite difficult not to laugh as your characters behave very foolishly.
In addition, you still get money by defeating enemies but you need to withdraw it from ATMs and you can save your game by calling your dad. It is also possible to leave items with Minnie, your sister, to save space and your mother will give you bread whenever you return home and rest for the night.
However, although I really enjoyed all this, the speed of the game is a real drag and annoyed me at times. Because Mother is slow, very slooooooooooooow. Moving about can even become a chore and the only thing that kept me going was that I wanted to check whether I needed to defeat the final boss in the same way as in Earthbound.
Truthfully, if it wasn't for the game's humor, I would have scrapped the whole thing and of course, the game system is quite interesting and makes up for all its weaknesses. On the whole, Mother is a nice title but it isn't for everybody and some of the freakish RPG players will probably hate it due to its concept -- a unique one by the way. The game is worth a try though and those who've enjoyed Earthbound on the SNES will surely like its obscure prequel as long as they can keep with poor graphics and a sloooooooooooooow game.
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