EarthBound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, is a 1994 Japanese role-playing video game co-developed by Ape Inc. and HAL Laboratory and published by Nintendo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System video game console. As Ness and his party of four, the player travels the world to collect melodies en route to defeating the evil alien force Giygas. It is the second game of the Mother series, and the only one to be released in the English language until its predecessor was released under the name EarthBound Beginnings in 2015 as part of Wii U’s Virtual Console. EarthBound was released in Japan on August 27, 1994, and in North America on June 5, 1995.
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The game had a lengthy development period which spanned five years. Its making involved a number of Japanese luminaries, including writer Shigesato Itoi, musician/songwriter Keiichi Suzuki, sound designer Hirokazu Tanaka, and future Nintendo president Satoru Iwata. Themed around an idiosyncratic portrayal of Americana and Western culture, it subverted popular role-playing game traditions by featuring a real world setting while parodying numerous staples of the genre. Itoi, who directed the game, wanted it to reach non-gamers with its intentionally goofy tone. It was heavily marketed upon release via a promotional campaign which sardonically proclaimed “this game stinks”.
Initial reviewers had little praise for EarthBound in the United States, where it sold half as many copies as in Japan. Critics attribute this to a combination of the game’s simple graphics, the satirical marketing campaign, and a lack of market interest in the genre. In the ensuing years, a dedicated fan community spawned which advocated for the series. Starting in 1999, Ness became a featured character in each of the Super Smash Bros. series of video games which furthered public knowledge of EarthBound. Upon retrospection, the game received wide critical acclaim, and was deemed by many a timeless classic. A Japan-only sequel, Mother 3, was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2006. In 2013, EarthBound was reissued and given a worldwide release for the Wii U Virtual Console following many years of fan lobbying, marking its debut in many territories including Europe.