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Mother, also known as Earthbound, is a series of role-playing video game series created by Shigesato Itoi for Nintendo. The series began in 1989 with the Japan-only release of Mother, and was followed up in 1995 with Earthbound and in 2000 with Earthbound 64. The series then continued for one more iteration with Mother 4 for the GameCube in 2004, directed by Fumito Ueda.
In contrast with many RPGs, which are inspired by Western Fantasy fiction, Mother usually takes place in more modern settings. Enemies are often strange and quirky, and include oddities such as hippies and aliens. Weapons include baseball bats and frying pans, and heroes are often either children or older adults, as opposed to Square's adolescents and younger adults. The series is critically acclaimed, and has been a moderate sales success.
Mother tells the story of a young boy named Ninten, who saves the world from an evil race of aliens. On his journey, he visits bizarre locales and meets a variety of interesting characters.
Although the game was a hit in Japan, Nintendo of America decided not to localize it. This was due to the low popularity of RPG games at the time and the lateness of a possible translation, which could only be done by around the time the SNES was due to launch.
Earthbound, known in Japan as Mother 2, tells a story similar to that of 'Mother, to the extent where it is easily confused for a remake. However, the only returning character is Giygas, the main antagonist of the previous game. The main character is Ness, a young, heroic boy named after the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Earthbound was the first entry in the series to be released in America, released for the SNES in 1995. However, the game ultimately did poorly in America despite critical acclaim. This was due to a number of factors, most notably Nintendo's infamous advertising campaign. Nevertheless, the game was still a success thanks to its strong Japanese reception, and ultimately sold about a million copies worldwide.
Earthbound 64, known in Japan as Mother 3, was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2000. Like its predecessors, it tells the story of a young boy fighting a foreign enemy. However, its tone is far darker than previous entries in the series. In fact, this was the first game developed by Nintendo to ever receive an "M" rating in its American release.
Compared to its predecessor, the game was less popular in Japan, but much more popular in America, earning the series a status as one of the great RPG series in video games. Fans praised the dark style combined with the quirky humor, along with the alterations made to the traditional RPG formula.
Mother 1+2 was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2003. It was meant to increase hype for the upcoming Mother 4 was well as expand the GBA's library of RPGs. Some alterations and additions were made to the original games. In general though, this compilation was criticized for being a poor port of otherwise excellent games.
Mother 4 was the fourth and, at this point, final game in the series. It was directed by Fumito Ueda, and was the first game in the series not to involve Shigesato Itoi. This game marked a major stylistic change in the series, focusing less on humor and colorful visuals and more on silent characters and saturated lighting.
Mother 4 was critically praised and a sales success in line with previous entries in the series, but was highly controversial among fans. In general, fans of the first two games thought it was a betrayal of the series lineage, while newer fans thought the game was a natural evolution of Earthbound 64.
Characters from the Mother series have appeared in other Nintendo games, most notably the Super Smash Bros franchise. Ness from Earthbound is playable in the original game, both Ness and Lucas from Earthbound 64 are playable in Melee, and Travis, the main protagonist of Mother 4, is playable along with Ness in Brawl.
The Mother series has become more popular over time. The original sold less than half a million copies, but the sequel sold nearly a million, and 3 and 4 each sold over a million copies. In general, the series reception has also been very positive, with all of the entries since the original gaining a very positive response. Mother 1+2 is the chief exception to the general acclaim, due to the game's being a poor port of the first two games.