I was a big fan of EarthBound when it was released in 1995. It’s silly to admit, but even though it’s just a game it’s been a big part of my life. In fact, comparing EarthBound with its original Japanese counterpart, MOTHER 2, was one of my earliest EarthBound projects and eventually led to the creation of Legends of Localization!
Naturally, in this sub-section of Legends of Localization we’ll be exploring how MOTHER 2 was localized into EarthBound. It’s more than just comparing simple graphical changes – we actually dig deep into the text to see what was changed, why it might have been changed, and how it was an improvement (or the opposite) over the original version.
For what it’s worth, I’m a professional translator and translating games, anime, movies, etc. is what I do for a living (see my list of my translations here), which also gives me a unique and detailed view of how EarthBound’s translation was handled. Some of the stuff I point out might seem super-picky or uninteresting, but don’t pay it too much mind, that’s just how translation analyzing tends to be 😛
If you’d like a quick taste of the kinds of differences between the two games, here are just a handful of interesting changes that Nintendo of America made:
Acts of violence were altered wherever possible, including simple sound effects!
Some graphics were altered to avoid possible lawsuit problems.
The Runaway Five
The Runaway Five were originally the Tonzura Brothers. They also had their outfits completely redone to avoid looking like the Blues Brothers.
Religious References, etc.
Things relating to religion were altered, and anything else that might upset parents was removed.
Things were changed in the localization process, like an octopus statue becoming the pencil statue.
Good Translations and Bad Translations
The game wasn’t without its translation problems, and we take a detailed look at these. Conversely, sometimes lines were translated spectacularly, and I point those out too.
And that’s just a tiny fraction of the changes I’ve dug up. There’s a whole lot more to see too, so you can start here: