Nintendo and Earthbound fans have never enjoyed the most open and direct relationship. Things appeared to look more legitimate after Nintendo acquiesced and finally released Earthbound, known as Mother 2 in Japan, on the Wii U Virtual Console, but we’ve now sunk back into the same old fashioned “blind eye” status quo. For example, Nintendo wouldn’t localize Mother 3, but it turned a nice blind eye away from the homegrown fan translation that finally opened the game to the West.
Now that Nintendo and creator Shigesato Itoi have confirmed that there will be no more Mother games, a new group is praying for the blind eye treatment once again as it starts writing and making its own Mother 4. A teaser is already available, and the group claims in a FAQ that they are doing this for the sake of fandom, not for money.
“We’re a rag-tag bunch from around the world that volunteers their time. We do not take any form of compensation from any entity. However, we love getting fan-mail!”
It is also absolutely certain to point out that it is “not affiliated, associated, authorised, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with Nintendo of America Inc., Shigesato Itoi, HAL Laboratory, Inc., or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.” They are also not affiliated with Earthbound‘s biggest fanpage, Starman.net, nor the Mother 3 translation project.
This new group’s Mother 4 takes place in an “idealised vintage America,” and stars a young boy and the leader of a ragtag biker gang. This unofficial Mother 4 fan game already has a teaser and a slew of screenshots, and it will be released this Winter. It will obviously be available for free and only through the PC, and the team has hinted at references towards the older games.
In this day and age, gamers have the ability to get and take whatever they want. If a game won’t be translated officially, they’ll step in and do it. If a popular online game’s servers go down, they set up their own custom servers. As indie development grows in popularity, I guess it was only a matter of time before they started developing games from extinct franchises. Mega Man already enjoys a resurgence through fan made games, some of which are even sanctioned by Capcom, and Mother 4 seems to be the next major step in this new territory.
I’m all for it, especially because the game looks about as close to Earthbound and Mother 3 as an indie game can get. However, this opens up so many more questions than just the legal gray area behind a project like this. I’m just wondering who these guys are and why they think they get to make Mother 4. Why is their vision the best? How do they speak for the entire Earthbound/Mother fanbase when they aren’t affiliated with Starman.net or the fan translation?
If fans are going to take control of franchises like this, are we going to see different groups of people stepping in to make different sequels? Splinter groups, rival fan factions, two different versions of unofficial sequels? If things get ugly and Nintendo or any other publisher has to step in to shut down one group, they’ll have to shut them all down or risk the appearance acknowledging fans are using their franchises.
This is a wonderful project and a great idea, but it’s something we’ll have to stride towards very carefully.