"We had high hopes for EarthBound, the Super NES version, in the US, but it didn't do well...
You might not know this, but there was a petition in the US, a 'Please make Mother 3' petition and it got about 30,000 signatures! After that, we thought "Wow... Earthbound fans are really solid."
(from Nintendo Europe, via Nintendojo)
In 1995, Nintendo of America released EarthBound into our grubby, teenaged hands. We came for the fart jokes, but we stayed for the zen of a game that was well ahead of its time. Everything about EarthBound was brilliant. What's more is that everything somehow managed to get better with age. We could go on forever, but Libra has provided us with a delivery system far more efficient than our feeble words - EarthBound Supremacy (you can watch it on the embedded video player to your right).
Since the game's release, the EarthBound fanbase has built up online at Starmen.Net and 'abroad' - there aren't many gaming forums where you won't find EarthBound fans. We are widely considered some of gaming's most consistent, persistent, straight-laced, devoted fans. The most amazing part of it, though, is that we've not only stuck around for 11 years waiting for a sequel, but we've managed to grow in numbers - on the day Mother 3 was released, Starmen.Net registered over a quarter million pageviews, and that doesn't include the Starmen.Net Forum (chalk up another 100,000). Our fanaticism is no secret.
In April of this year the game's creator, Shigesato Itoi, finally released the next (final?) game in the series. Mother 3 had finally arrived - a sequel 11 years in the making! We English-speaking fans had high hopes; we (along with many industry workers and members of the press) thought that an English localization was a no-brainer.
You might think that 8 years of petitioning the deaf Nintendo gods would have instilled some better common sense in us, but in our defense, we're a very optimistic lot. Ever since Itoi announced that he was finished with the game, we've waited pensively, hoping for any scrap of an announcement from Nintendo. 6 months after the release of the game in Japan, we had pretty much gotten the picture - NoA had no plans to bring the game to us.
Have you ever tried to play a game in a language you don't know? We have. With any other foreign RPG, there's a good chance that most users wouldn't get past the first few screens. But, it turns out that Mother 3 is as much a masterpiece as EarthBound; the Mother 3 team put so much intricate detail into everything that you don't really need the text to get through the game.
Roughly 60% of what you really need to know in Mother 3 is conveyed by the context, the timing, the sprites, and the movements/expressions of the characters. Anything you can't pick up, you can find out from our resident Japanese pros in the Mother 3 Gameplay Forum. It makes you wonder if Itoi and the team knew this might happen and built in some extra detail just for us.
Anyway, the final nail in Mother 3's Japanese coffin was delivered a few days ago by a Nintendo localization employee in an interview where he admitted that he knew nothing about Mother 3 besides the name, and didn't expect NoA to touch the game anytime soon. This announcement was actually somewhat pleasant for us - someone from Nintendo had finally taken the time to just say it: Mother 3 isn't going to happen, not here, not now, not anytime soon. At least, not officially.
So, what's a devoted fan to do? Put yourself in my shoes. My name is reidman, I'm a webmaster here. I've always run a pretty tight ship, largely in deference to Nintendo:
- No one has ever profited from the site, and we collect donations to cover the $160/month server bill so that we don't have to run banner ads.
- We don't distribute ROMs; in fact, we don't even allow our users to ask where they can find them.
- We have a staffer dedicated to helping people find deals on legitimate copies of EarthBound on eBay (thanks ShadowX!)
- Up until recently, we didn't even allow people to discuss unofficial translations/patches of the game on our forum, just in case Nintendo was getting ready to announce that they were localizing the game. We didn't want to do anything that could hurt the chances of it happening.
Those are the lengths we've been willing to go to avoid stepping on toes while patiently working to make our voices heard. And we've certainly been making noise - if you look in the sidebar, you'll see a list of the accomplishments of EarthBound fans. They are many, varied, and impressive.
After a lot of thought and some discussion with the staff, I've decided that it's about time we put the fans' interests first. So, I'm excited to make the following announcements:
- Tomato, my fellow Starmen.Net webmaster and a professional translator, has begun translating Mother 3.
- Gideon Zhi of Aeon Genesis has agreed to take care of the ROM hacking.
- demi of Neo Demiforce (and, incidentally, the guy who dumped/hacked EarthBound Zero) has agreed to take care of the script polishing.
- I will be helping out with some character-specific dialogue and generally staying out of the way.
Since there's no way to know how long it will take the team to finish the translation, you probably won't hear from us again until everything is done. Please keep in mind that there is an inordinate amount of text in this game, and all of it is beautifully crafted by Mr. Itoi, so the team will be spending lots of time getting things just right.
To say that this is an exciting collaboration is an understatement, and Starmen.Net will proudly host the patch when it is completed. We've decided to undertake this task because we think the time is right and it's the right thing to do for the fans. This is not 'revenge' for anything or toward anyone, so please don't take it as such - we would (and will) do this translation pretty much regardless of what happens in the coming weeks and months, short of an official localization announcement.
We made this announcement for two reasons: first, we want the fans to know that it's in the works. Second, we want to get people talking and hopefully get a dialogue going about the legitimacy of fan translations and the way Nintendo interacts (or doesn't) with its fans. You can leave us some comments on the Do-It-Yourself Devotion topic in the Newsroom.
We think EarthBound's fans have earned the right to play the game they've waited so long for. We're going to keep working hard towards that goal, just like we have been for years.
REIDMAN and the rest of the Starmen.Net Staff
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- November 8, 2006