Comic Illustrates the Heartbreak Shigesato Itoi Endured While Making the Mother / Earthbound Games

"I wept on the train ride home."

News by Nadia Oxford, .

Those of us who love the Mother / Earthbound games admit it's a pretty special RPG series. Though its menu-based battle systems feel familiar, Mother's themes and very heartbeat are unlike anything offered by any other game.

Mother's uniqueness is due in large part to its creator, esteemed Japanese copywriter Shigesato Itoi. After playing games like Super Mario Bros and Dragon Quest, Itoi decided he wanted to give game development a try. However, his path to the original Mother was littered with some notable heartache. It's fitting, given the series' inherent melancholy.

Yesterday, Japanese columnist / cartoonist Keiichi Tanaka illustrated and published a meeting he had with Itoi about what he endured to bring Mother into the light. Two things seemingly motivated Itoi to make the first Mother title: While playing games, he wondered "Why can't I do this?" He also wanted to make something different from the sword-and-sorcery formula popular with RPGs at the time, so he considered the kind of game a movie director (specifically Steven Spielberg) might make.

Tired: Dragons that steal maidens. Wired: Crows that nick your orange juice.

"The story would open with some sort of activity disrupting the flow of everyday life," Itoi tells Tanaka, "and some average kid would end up facing off with the monster all by himself." Indeed, Mother opens with its hero, Ninten, doing what he can to quell a psychic attack by a poltergeist.

When Itoi was invited to pitch his idea to Shigeru Miyamoto, he expected to be lavished with praise for his unique vision. But Miyamoto's initial reaction was lukewarm at best.

Itoi was so shattered, he wept on the train home. But Nintendo reached out again months later and surprised him with a team to put his dream game together.

Pictured: Itoi's heart shattering into a million pieces.

Mother's Super Famicom / SNES follow-up, Mother 2 (EarthBound on these shores) has a development story even more fraught with emotion than its predecessor. Despite his best efforts, Itoi couldn't get the game off the ground. The late Satoru Iwata intervened and helped re-build the game from the ground up—and he also kept the team's morale high.

It's rare to be offered such a personal glimpse into the development of a beloved game, and it's even rarer to have the glimpse presented in a charming manga format. Slow down for a few minutes and look at it for yourself.

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Comments 4

  • Avatar for Wellman2nd #1 Wellman2nd 2 months ago
    Damn, I haven't read the actual Manga but I can guess the transition from Mother 64 on the N64/64DD to Mother 3 on the GBA must have been painful for him.

    Yep sounds like more reasons why Mother is destined to stay a trilogy unless he or Nintendo give the ok for someone else to work on it down the line.
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  • Avatar for SatelliteOfLove #2 SatelliteOfLove 2 months ago
    There are game series and creators that are cursed with awesomeness, and this is one of those (note the phrasing).
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #3 LBD_Nytetrayn 2 months ago
    Did it bring a smile to anyone else's face when Iwata showed up?
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  • Avatar for JamesSwiftDay #4 JamesSwiftDay 2 months ago
    Well, Miyamoto was never big on RPGs. Still, stone cold, Shigsy.
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