Sometimes I get a little squirmy when I hear about the lengths people are willing to go as fans of...well, you name it. The bridegroom who monitors his fantasy baseball team during the wedding ceremony; the Trekkie whose basement is an exact replica of the bridge of the Enterprise; the teenager who mails Zac Efron three handwritten letters a day, seven days a week.
But sometimes such devotion can produce something truly wonderful, as I've discovered recently playing the fan translated version of Mother 3 and reading the beautiful and equally joyful Mother 3 Handbook.
As you may know, Mother 3 is the sequel to the classic SNES RPG EarthBound, and it was released in Japan in April 2006. Sadly, no English localization appeared - despite petitions, letter-writing campaigns, and incessant whining from thousands of fans - so in November 2006 a group of devotees from the Starmen.net community took matters into its own hands. As they describe it:
For two years a team of translators and hackers worked to produce an in-depth, professional translation and localization of MOTHER 3. In August 2007 the team began blogging about their progress, attracting the attention of the gaming industry, media, and more than half a million unique visitors.
Late in 2008 the final translated patch was released, and it received over 100,000 downloads in the first week.
I'm currently playing through the game, so I'm not prepared to say much about it yet (aside from YOU MUST PLAY THIS GAME!), but my friend Dan Bruno from Cruise Elroy has written the definitive series of essays on Mother 3, and I highly recommend it. In addition to a careful reading of the game, Dan performs his special music-analysis magic with a healthy sampling of audio clips and transcriptions of the game's music.
You may also be interested in Gamasutra's in-depth interview with the project's lead-translator Clyde 'Tomato' Mandelin.
I am quite prepared, however, to discuss the Mother 3 Handbook, another fan-produced gem and possibly the finest game guide I've ever seen. (Click here for a sample.) Chock-full of original illustrations, maps, character listings, screenshots, and a full walkthrough, the stylish handbook is highlighted by clever writing that appears to have leaped from the world of the game onto the pages of the book.
If you decide to play the fan translation of Mother 3, you owe it to yourself to have this delightful book sitting beside you for the journey.
Hats off to everyone who devoted such extraordinary time and effort to bring us this exceptional translation and this gorgeous book. In the world of games and gamers, this is what true love looks like.