Despite the loyal following generated by the first two games in the series, EarthBound 64 — or MOTHER 3 as it actually was — never saw the light of day. It didn't in that form, in any case, as MOTHER 3 eventually arrived on the Game Boy Advance in 2006, but only in Japan; the Nintendo 64 project — which began life as a Super NES game — was cancelled in August 2000, ending hopes for the first 3D entry in the series.
To this day there's a vocal fan-group that craves the GBA version in the West — odds perhaps increased with the reported success of EarthBound on the Wii U Virtual Console — but the Nintendo 64 game is well and truly gone for the ages. In a lengthy interview from the time of its cancellation Satoru Iwata, Shigesato Itoi and Shigeru Miyamoto talk over the path the project took to its cancellation, dwelling on problems and failures that led to the loss of many years of work.
Early on in the interview the extent of the development progress is discussed, with Iwata-san believing that 30% of the final product was ready, and Miyamoto-san citing 60% in terms of asset development, scenario preparation and other development processes. Whatever the ultimate result, it becomes clear that the closure of the project was a major blow.
Satoru Iwata, in particular, expressed a lot of regret that, in his role as Producer, he'd been unable to make the project work through to completion. Although commitments to the upcoming GameCube and other projects made the decision inevitable, that didn't ease his personal disappointment.
I’m sure I’d have something to say if I had a scapegoat. Like Itoi said earlier, if I could say “I hate money,” or blame it on someone who had a particular problem or something, even if I couldn’t reveal what it is I’d at least have something to say—but that’s not the case.
I have no thoughts other than my embarrassment that we couldn’t bring Itoi’s hard work to fruition—that we couldn’t deliver, even though we announced that we were working on the game. I’m embarrassed that we weren’t able to finish it. That’s all.
People who watched from the inside have been kind enough to say it was merely unavoidable, but that doesn’t make me feel any less embarrassed, even if there is nothing more to the story. If we’d correctly analyzed the situation during production, focused on the most important parts of the game and rebuilt it even if it meant throwing away what we’d already worked on, then I think we’d still stand a chance to complete the game in one form or another.
But we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away all that we’d made, all that we’d built up. We hadn’t even fathomed the idea of it. We can only discuss doing that in hindsight now. If we told our colleagues now, oh, if only we’d done such and such two years ago, everyone would nod in agreement. If we’d gone back in time two years and said everything’ll fall apart the way it is so throw it away and start over, I don’t think anyone would believe us.
So even if we can see it now, there was a process to things, and this is how things turned out after we couldn’t grasp that process in a certain time frame. I think that’s the explanation I have for our defeat.
We certainly suggest that you check out the full translated interview; it provides and fascinating and detailed perspective on the project and the pressures facing the three key figures at that time.