Before we begin, let’s take a quick look at MOTHER 3’s history as well as my own involvement with it.
MOTHER 3’s History
The MOTHER series consists of three games: MOTHER 1, MOTHER 2, and MOTHER 3. Only MOTHER 2 was ever officially released outside of Japan – in North America it was released in 1995 as “EarthBound”.
During MOTHER 2’s development, the creator, Shigesato Itoi, already had plans for a third game. For a very brief time he planned for it to be a Super Famicom game, but it was changed to be a Nintendo 64 Disk Drive game when the N64 was released soon after.
Development on the N64DD MOTHER 3 continued for a long time, but after 5 or 6 years of development it was suddenly canceled in 2000, with no plans to restart it. Naturally this left fans shocked, as Nintendo had continually said, “It’s coming out soon, it’s coming out soon!”
In 2003, it was announced that a MOTHER 3 for the Game Boy Advance was in the works. After another agonizing wait, fans rejoiced when the GBA MOTHER 3 was released in 2006. Fans outside of Japan were eager for news of an official English-language release, especially given that EarthBound had become more well-known thanks to the Smash Bros. series of Nintendo games.
Alas, it was never to be, and eventually a bunch of EarthBound fans and I started an unofficial localization project. It was a long, exhausting process that took around 16 months to complete. The result was a translation patch that changes the Japanese version of the game into a fully English-language version of the game.
My History with MOTHER 3
I was a huge fan of EarthBound when it came out in 1995. It’s hard to explain why, but it just seemed to have… heart, I guess. And, for whatever reason, after I finished it I really, really wanted to play the Japanese version. I’d already begun studying Japanese by that point, but the idea of being able to play EarthBound in its original language gave me the motivation to study even harder.
Several years later I helped start EarthBound.Net, which is now Starmen.Net. For the next few years I translated many news articles about the Nintendo 64 version of MOTHER 3 (referred to as EarthBound 64 outside of Japan) as well as countless interviews with Shigesato Itoi and other members of the game’s staff. I preordered the game while I was in Japan. I also created tools for hacking EarthBound and compiled an in-depth analysis that compared MOTHER 2 and EarthBound and explored the game’s localization process.
When the cancellation announcement was made I was shocked like everyone else, but I still felt sure that someday it’d be remade on the GBA. So when a GBA MOTHER 3 was announced, I jumped at every news update and development journal entry I could find for the next three years, feverishly translating it all for English-speaking fans. With the help of fellow Starmen.Net staff members, I even translated everything on Itoi’s pre-release site as each tidbit was posted every week. It was an exciting time!
During all of this, I indeed learned Japanese, got my degree, worked on many unofficial game translations like Star Ocean and Bahamut Lagoon, and even became a professional translator, translating games, anime, movies, and more for a living. Looking back, in a weird way you could say that EarthBound helped push my life in this general direction.
So, armed with this skill, experience, and EarthBound background, working on a fan translation of MOTHER 3 seemed like a natural fit.
MOTHER 3 Fan Translation History
As soon as the game was released in Japan, several groups of fans immediately started working on translation patches for the game. It was clear most didn’t know what they were doing, and it took a while for fans to realize fan-translated games weren’t like fan-translated anime – this wasn’t going to be a one day job or even a one month job.
Meanwhile, the folks at Starmen.Net and I waited several months until we were certain Nintendo wasn’t going to release an official localization. Once that time came, we announced our own fan translation project on Starmen.Net (which you can still see here). The Starmen.Net team and two remaining translation teams came together some time afterward. At last, the quest to localize the game ourselves finally began.
I started by doing a first draft translation of the script, which took about a month. After that, fellow Starmen.Net member Jeff (online name: Jeffman) and I worked hard to learn how to program for the Game Boy Advance, then we applied that knowledge to “hack” (reprogram, in other words) large parts of the game’s programming to accommodate the English text. This took the most time, somewhere around a year I’d say.
After that, I polished the script up some more, enlisted the help of my friend Lindsay (online name: Chewy) for a lot of the menu text translations, and then released the translation patch after final testing. Of course, many other online and offline friends helped out along the way too! Now that I think about it, MOTHER 3 is a big adventure and all, but the process of localizing it was an epic quest of its own with lots of party members coming and going, NPCs on the sidelines, and evil bosses to defeat.
Anyway, for more details on the entire process, I documented the project’s progress in great detail the entire time on the fan translation blog here.
So, with all that tedious background info out of the way, let’s finally dig into the game and start looking at the localization process!