The mysteries behind why EarthBound 64 never made it to Nintendo 64
On Tuesday, August 22nd 2000, three men came together and had a lengthy discussion — a discussion that would thirteen years later be translated into the English language and shared with the world, providing a detailed historical background for the reasons that EarthBound 64 was canceled for the Nintendo 64 after six years of blood, sweat, and tears. Literally.
Below, are a few excerpts from that timeless conversion between Shigesato Itoi, Satoru Iwata, and Shigeru Miyamoto — the meat and potatoes development behind EarthBound 64. If you’re a fan of Nintendo history, I would personally encourage everyone to read the full discussion (it’s a bit long, but completely worth it) by visiting the source link at the end of this article. It’s insightful, humorous, touching, and tragic all at the same time.
- Shigesato Itoi – MOTHER 3 Creator
- Satoru Iwata – MOTHER 3 Producer
- Shigeru Miyamoto – MOTHER 3 Producer
Itoi: We’re publishing this discussion before the opening of Nintendo Space World which runs August 24-26, 2000. Upcoming games are announced on the 24th, but some people may be surprised to see MOTHER 3 absent from the lineup. So before that happens, I’d like to have a discussion between the three of us so everyone can understand why MOTHER 3 disappeared. I’m very sorry to say this, but we’ve recently decided to discontinue the game’s development. Is “discontinue” the right word?
Iwata: We first started the game six years ago on the Super Famicom, then transitioned it to the Nintendo 64DD halfway through; now we’ve aborted the last six years of development and disbanded the MOTHER 3 project teams. This doesn’t mean Itoi has permanently parted ways with the MOTHER franchise, and nothing’s been decided about the future of the game. What happened is that we couldn’t keep our promise to release it on the Nintendo 64.
Miyamoto: It’s really too bad, but the honest truth is that we couldn’t go on. It would have had far too much an impact on other projects like Project Dolphin. The reason we’re quitting is not because it’s not going well, or because the end’s not in sight.
It might be easier for people to accept this if Nintendo were a small company that got stuck because project money had dried up. You could try and put it optimistically by saying, “It’s out of our hands for the moment, but if we ever find ourselves able to come back to it, we will.” But it’d be irresponsible of us to say that.
Itoi: People often asked me for a percentage of how far along we were in production. How far would you say we got with MOTHER 3 before we had to let it go?
Iwata: The percentage changes depending on what you’re referring to. You could say we were halfway done, or you could say we were only fifteen percent in. I think it changes depending on how you look at it. But if I had to generalize it, I get the impression we were maybe around thirty percent done overall. But I don’t think there’s much sense in discussing a game’s completion level in numbers when there’s a time factor.
Miyamoto: Iwata might think it’s around thirty percent, but I feel it was at least sixty. There are many elements to it–like the compression of the scenarios, and the questions along with it: Is the scenario written well? Are the characters ready? Then there’s the question of whether the programming fundamentals are even capable of compressing the scenarios yet. Last year I felt much more overwhelmed by how much underlying programming we had left to finish—it wasn’t about how many scenarios were ready.
I think the basics of the game have been completed over the past year, and all we had left was data input—all we had to do was create whatever remained, and we’d be good to go. The thirty percent Iwata is referring to is the length of the overall scenario.
Itoi: Let’s bring our discussion to a close with a few words from each of us.
Iwata: I’m truly sorry to everyone who’s been waiting for the game, and I really feel like we’ve missed an opportunity. So I feel the pain of the missed opportunity and the trouble I’ve caused a lot of people. I’m going to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
Miyamoto: I feel really terrible about it. I, too, wanted to play the game all the way through, so it’s really too bad. It’s a terrible feeling to have everything fall apart when we were so close to the end, but as I always say, there’s only so much energy in the people working on-site, so we need to decide how and where to allocate that. The energy we’re going to preserve now is going to be used on something new, and that not only means a lot for Nintendo, it also means that we’re going to be able to release something using all that energy we got back. Whether that’ll be something to replace MOTHER 3 remains to be seen, but all we can do is tell everyone to sit back and relax while they look forward to it.
Itoi: I think this is probably the last time there will be a failure based on seeing how far craftsmen were able to push themselves. I was a scenario director and a worker this time around, and this may be the last time a failure occurs because someone wasn’t conditioned to handle a large amount of people and a large budget. I’m disappointed in myself, too, and I don’t think we’ll be able to go forward with this until I work on my ability to both bring out the best in every single person working on it and consolidate the power of a large group. I’m going to use what I learned from these mistakes from here on out. I feel really bad about it, but it won’t do any good to mope about it. Whether it’s with Hobonichi or something else, I’m going to play like hell. That’s all I can really say, which I’m also sorry about. I think the sadness is going to hit me a half a year from now.