Originally published on Pixelitis.net on April 17, 2013.
After today’s stunner of an announcement via Nintendo Direct regarding the longed-for re-release of Earthbound on Wii U, I hereby declare that anything is possible.
Okay, maybe not anything, but this sudden acknowledgement of the Earthbound/Mother series’ existence by Nintendo of America came out of left field for a lot of people, myself included. You need only look at the outpouring of happiness from folks on Twitter to know that the company made fans’ days with that single announcement.
That being said, what took them so damn long!? I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, some history.
I can recall the early days of Earthbound/Mother fan site Starmen.net, a group so passionate about the series that it encouraged fans to send snail mail, sign online petitions and even engage in PK Call’Ns (mass telephone calls to Nintendo of America) to let the company know how much they wanted Earthbound. This love would eventually evolve in the form of an online game clothes shop called Fangamer.
I was in my early teens when I joined in on their PK Call’Ns ten years ago to request a Mother 1+2 GBA release here in states. It’s crazy to think that it would be ten years later that anything would come of it. From all the ruckus Starmen.net had created all those years ago, you’d think there’d be something sooner.
After all, it only took fans of Roy and Marth in Super Smash Bros. Melee two years of noise to see Nintendo give Fire Emblem its North American debut on the GBA. Ness’ longer presence in Smash Bros. emboldened Mother fans as well. Yet from the late Nintendo 64 years until today, fans barely heard a peep from Nintendo of America regarding their beloved series.
So again, why the long wait?
For a while, several sites chalked up Earthbound’s lack of a re-release to legal issues. The game is packed with lifted samples, everything from Beatles’ tracks to a short sound clip from the theme song to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Despite the game’s demo being included in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it was completely yanked out of its North American release. (UPDATE: In a Kotaku interview with Nintendo’s Bill Trinen, it turns out that these samples did not create an issue)
Fast-forward to this year: Japan received a re-release without a hitch this past March on the Wii U Virtual Console. And now today, us Westerners are getting it. Either Nintendo had to go through a painfully-long legal intellectual property test with the game or they ended up being inspired by a particular Wii U mechanic.
When Nintendo CEO and Earthbound co-programmer Satoru Iwata dropped the news during the last segment of his Nintendo Direct broadcast, he specifically mentioned the commotion caused by Wii U users, who took to Nintendo’s Miiverse channels (including the Japanese Mother 2 one) in overwhelming numbers to call for a North American re-release of Earthbound.
This mention alone may have revealed the strength of the Miiverse. What better way to get a crowd’s voice heard than to post in a social media app integrated into the functionality of a console that folks from Nintendo themselves survey? When you’ve got Nintendo employees like Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma posting on there, you know that’s a powerful communication tool with the higher-ups of the company. And if the Miiverse can serve as the catalyst for an Earthbound re-release, then good sales of the digital title could potentially lead to western releases of Mother 1 and 3. Anything is possible.
Oh, and Europe? Congratulations on finally getting Earthbound this year. I think you’ll love it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go instigate a Miiverse mass-posting on Capcom’s games for more Breath of Fire.