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Tomato on Mother 3 - by Tomato

Tomato on Mother 3

On August 22, 2000, Shigesato Itoi, Shigeru Miyamoto, and that Iwata guy announced that work on Mother 3 had come to a grinding halt - it was never to be finished. At least that's what they said.

Since then, they have not said outright that they would ever continue work on it. In this article I will be speculating why I think the game might actually be released in the future, in some form or another.

When it was officially cancelled, approximately 3 and a half years of development had been spent on Mother 3. In fact, Itoi himself said that he had ideas for Mother 3 while Mother 2 was under development.

At first, the game was designed to be played on Nintendo's N64 Disk Drive system, with lots of features that utilized the DD's rewriteability capability. Then, a year or so later, it was announced that it would not be released for the Disk Drive but as a regular old cartridge instead.

No doubt this caused some problems in terms of development resources - the game kept being delayed after that. Nintendo had said it had the game engine running on the DD because it was easier to edit maps and such, but now they no longer had that luxury, plus they likely had to modify a lot of code to get it running for the cartridge system.

And there's no doubt that a lot of the game had to be redesigned since the game could no longer use the DD's writing capability. So Itoi probably had to change various parts of the game from what he originally intended.

As is clear from the many screenshots we have, the game has been playable for some time now. We've seen screenshots and movies of characters walking around, talking to other characters, buying stuff at shops, many battle scenes, driving scenes, scenes that look like story cut-scenes, etc. What Itoi said was causing the most trouble was the change to 3D. Apparently neither he nor the other people on the staff knew exactly what implications the move to 3D had. Their inexperience with the new system kept increasing the expected development time, which is why we the gamers kept hearing about Mother 3 being delayed again and again.

As we all know, the ultimate reason it was cancelled, though, was because Nintendo had no assurance the game would be popular enough to warrant finishing.

And we all know that's a load of crap.

Here's why. The series is FAR too popular in Japan. Mother 3 stayed on Weekly Famitsu's Top 30 wanted games list for YEARS, and a lot of the time it was in the top 10-15. It was often seen in the top 10. I don't believe any other game has stayed in the Top 30 for so long. Even after each delay Mother 3 still remained up there, usually one of the sole Nintendo 64 games, while all the Playstation RPGs and Pokemon games came and went. According to some polls, a large number of Japanese gamers want a Mother game released on Nintendo's new system, Gamecube. In a poll done by Weekly Famitsu, demand for a Mother game on Gamecube surpassed the demand for more mainstream games such as Kirby and even the Pokemon franchise!

And that's not mentioning the North American audience. As you all know we had our own EB64 petition, which had over 10,000 signatures on it when we sent it to Nintendo. 10,000 might not sound like a lot, but if there are 10,000 people on the Internet who will sign an online petition, think of how many people are out there that want the game but didn't know about the petition or couldn't sign it. A lot of people without net access out there might want the game, so I think it's safe to say that the 10,000 signatures we had amounted to only a fraction of the real demand for the game here.

And Nintendo obviously has the ability to realize that there is demand for the game. If Itoi himself vists Japanese sites about the Mother series and posts on their message boards, then he obviously knows the demand for the game.

The day after the cancellation was announced, Itoi posted on his site that he had received a huge number of e-mails from fans. Some of them were obviously angry, others were shocked. He even said that he received lots of e-mails from foreigners, and he was really touched by the fact that a lot of them said thank you for such a fun and innovative game series. Shigesato Itoi, the creator of the series, knows the demand for the game, and acknowledges it.

So why did Nintendo REALLY cancel the game?

We go back to the problem with 3D. It was just taking too much time, and costing too much money. The impression I got from reading various interviews with the Mother 3 staff is that they weren't all that experienced with 3D, and that this might be their first real big 3D project.

Miyamoto made some interesting remarks a while after the cancellation was announced.

"...a little while ago I had to give up on something that really pained me to do so on, but if I didn't give it up then there's no way anything else could have been done. That title will come out. Conceptually it'll be out next week. Next week I think it'll be taking place, but really, everyone's buying millions of the cutting-edge machines, and not that many were made, and I know there're still more Super Famicoms being played out there."

He didn't mention the name of the project, but to everybody in the know it seems pretty obvious he's talking about Mother 3. He also had this to say in an interview about Mother 3's cancellation:

"As far as costs are concerned, I should say that we have already spent several hundreds of millions of yen by now, and we would really like to make use of them in one way or another. For example, I'm talking with the writer, Mr. Itoi, who has been directly involved with this project of Mother 3 about whether we can make it for another story, or some kind of possibility in the future."

These inspiring (although vague) remarks are interesting. There are of course rumors going around that it's going to be on Gamecube (namely because of a simple thing that Nintendo Power put in the letters section, which as a source of real news isn't much better than a talking cow). But let's think about this a bit.

First, if Mother 3 wasn't cancelled, it was going to be released near the end of the N64's life, and probably around when the Playstation 2 would be sucking everybody's money away, making it harder for consumers to buy the game for the dying system. Such is the case with a lot of games, which avoided this problem by jumping from N64 development to Gamecube development. Big games, like Resident Evil 0. Why not Mother 3?

Miyamoto said at the time (although it's obvious to us now), that the majority of their staff was working on Gamecube software, not N64 software, and this was part of the reason why the Mother 3 team was broken up. Surely with all these Gamecube developers at their disposal, and with the supposed ease with which developers can make Gamecube games, Mother 3 on Gamecube might not be so far-out after all. And it certainly would seem to be a waste of all those years and all that money, don't you think? I think they'll try to salvage it some way or another, just like they had to when the game was moved from the 64DD to cartridge.

Itoi said that if this were still the SNES days, Mother 3 would have been out a long time ago. I guess that quote was taken when he was talking about the added challenges of making/designing 3D games. From the way he talks about 3D, you'd think he wants to go back in time and make it a 2D game.

When Mother 3 was cancelled, Miyamoto, Itoi, and Iwata got together and talked about why they had to cancel it. It was a pretty lengthy discussion, and I haven't had time to read it all, but I've read some interesting things in it. Probably one of the neatest things being that for at least a short while, Miyamoto thought about doing it on the Gameboy Advance. He then joked about game producers telling him that making GBA games takes a lot of time too. But still, it presents an interesting idea. An unfinished game that is practically guaranteed success if released, the creator who doesn't like making 3D games, and a new 2D medium similar yet superior to the SNES. Doesn't that sound like an interesting combination? I'm certain Nintendo realizes this, and has realized it for some time.

So this is the way I see things. Nintendo will release another Mother game SOMETIME. It may not be exactly the same as what Itoi originally envisioned, but it'll be a Mother game. As for what system it might be on, that's a toss up.

On one hand, the Gamecube is 3D and can implement the same stuff the N64 can, but faster, prettier, and is more easy to develop for. It would take a little bit of time, but the code could possibly be ported over to the Gamecube platform. But there's the 3D problem again - we don't know what problems they were having with 3D, but it's probably likely that the Gamecube won't change the situation all that much. So Itoi might not even want to make a Gamecube version.

Of course a Gamecube version would sell the game and the system like hotcakes, if it were released within a year or so of the release of the system. So it's hard to decide.

Then there's the GBA. It's easy to program for, will have a huge user base, supports 2D stuff extremely well, displays lots of colors, has Mode 7 scaling/rotating capabilities, etc. If Itoi wanted, he could probably get Mother 3 released on the GBA. The main problem being that the code would have to be written from scratch basically.

Obviously, Mother 3 on GBA would get people to buy GBAs and Mother 3 like crazy.

Confusing, isn't it? Well, it's my belief that we'll see it on one of these two systems. It might not look anything like it was originally intended, but as Itoi said himself, Mother 3 doesn't exist yet, only a work-in-progress.

Anyway, I'd appreciate comments you have. I finish with a quote from Itoi himself:

"...I'd like to say I'm sorry to the people who have been waiting, but for now, the Mother series will only go up to Mother 2..."

For now.

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