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Translated EarthBound 64 Interview Gives Insight Into Struggles of Development and Cancellation

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Satoru Iwata, Shigesato Itoi and Shigeru Miyamoto pull no punches

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.


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User Comments (33)



TruenoGT said:

The 64DD is like the untouchable holy grail of Nintendo items for me, I was so excited for the possibilities when they announced it, including this game. I've never ponied up the cash for one however, but I did eventually buy an import copy of Mother 3. I dream that they'll someday be able to bring the handful of 64DD games to Virtual Console, but it seems extremely doubtful...



ZurrrrBlattTron said:

@TruenoGT yes! I was just thinking that the other day, i would had loved to see super Mario 64 2 and mother 3 come out on virtual console but seeing as they were both scrapped in early or mid development makes it highly unlikely sadly



TruenoGT said:

I'm still holding out hope for an F-Zero X + 64DD Expansion Kit remake on Wii U or 3DS with online play/track sharing... Probably setting myself up for disappointment though.



Nintenjoe64 said:

I remember seeing an Earthbound 64 in NMS or ONM before the N64 was released. It looked amazing at the time.

In the days before everyone had internet, game and product cancellation was much more difficult to find out about. I don't think I noticed this game, or lack of it, until finding the old magazine during a clear-out a few years back. There were other amusing previews of games that never got released or drastically changed before release.

I was really disappointed when the 64DD failed. I wanted one at the time. I still don't quite get why add-on disc peripherals for consoles always seem to flop.



DePapier said:

The interview itself is 13 years old... Think about all the gaming insights we've missed here in Europe that the Western media couldn't bother translating...



ricklongo said:

I just want to play Mother 3 already. My disapproval of illegal means of playing games have prevented me from giving the fan translation a go. I don't care if it's for the Wii U or the 3DS, just bring it to the west, Nintendo. Chances are it will be even more successful than Earthbound has been on the Virtual Console.



Radbot42 said:

It was a really fantastic game, a bit depressing, bur fantastic in it's entirety!



DarkCoolEdge said:

Hopefully the good sales of Earthbound will encourage Nintendo to translate Mother 3 and release it on the eShop.



Shambo said:

@Happy_Mask My thoughts exactly. But, with their godlike powers now, they could translate Mother3 on gba, and release it on the eshop, or better still, together with 1 (also translated) & 2 on cart/disc in a collector's box. Bundle it with limited edition consoles worldwide, and watch their sales skyrocket.

These are extremely hyped titles, and they never got released in Europe before, while Amirica only got the second one. Give them the treatment they deserve, advertise and steadily build hype, and lines will form for preorders.



bahooney said:

Prototype or beta carts of unreleased games usually end up surfacing eventually... I'm always holding out hope that SOMETHING pertaining to this title will show itself. this is the one title that probably crosses my mind at least once a day. It looks so cool. I love the Nintendo 64's terrible graphics. Looking up promo vids of 64DD stuff just totally awes me.



Samurai_Goroh said:

Though Mother 3 eventually shifted to be a GBA game, it would be so much cooler if it was released on the Nintendo 64 back in the day. RPGs are a scarce commodity on the N64 catalogue. This reminds me that Golden Sun also started development on the N64 and then shifted to GBA. Curious.



AlexSora89 said:

Iwata calling this "our defeat" truly speaks volumes of how humble the man is. That said, a translated Mother 3 on the 3DS eShop would turn this "defeat" into a triumph in a hurry!



TwilightV said:

I want to see this project revived. Even if the graphics and story are updated to match that of the final GBA version.



Tsuchinoko said:

As someone who speaks Japanese and loves Mother 3, I can attest that it is an amazing achievement in storytelling and gameplay. I actually prefer the GBA graphics to what I saw in some of the footage from the 64 version.
Mother 3 is one of my favorite games of all time, and is perfect the way it is. A translation for non-Japanese speakers would work I think, but for me, I'm glad that everything went the way it did, as I see the graphical style as a perfect match for the game.
I would love a compilation of all three games for the 3DS though, as my GBA is getting really dusty.
Honestly, this game really is a hidden masterpiece.



Ras said:

@Nintenjoe64 I think it's because game developers are afraid few will buy the peripheral, and therefore few will buy the games they develop for it. That's why Red Steel 2 came with the Wii MotionPlus, and why hardly anyone else supported Wii MotionPlus. It's easier just to make a game anyone with just the base system can play.



SocksandSocks said:

Finish it now IWATA!!! It's not too late! Can you imagine if they made a 3D earthbound game now? Even if it was blocky as love people would go nuts!
Please watch the profanity, it is against our Community Rules — TBD



Tsuchinoko said:

@russellohh Yeah, I love it. I wouldn't change a thing. Honestly I look at screenshot comparisons between the versions. I think the 64 version looks lifeless. The GBA version is amazing.
Plus, with the delay they had to change composers for all the music, and I wouldn't have changed that for anything. I love the music as is.



Giygas_95 said:

I'm really enjoying Earthbound so I hope they release the other two games in the series soon.



Gameday said:

those still images were looking really nice. ill love to see another installment this day in age eshop baby !

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