Prerelease:Mother 3/Early N64 Development
This is a sub-page of Prerelease:Mother 3.
Even after the long and brutal development cycle that MOTHER 2 endured, Shigesato Itoi, creator of the MOTHER game series, still decided that it was time for a new entry. Even before MOTHER 2 was released in Japan, concepts for the game were created. Within the game, there existed a post sign in a town called Fourside that alleged that a ‘MOTHER 3 was “under planning”, and the game’s final scene had suggested that the story would continue. According to an interview with Itoi at the time, MOTHER 3 would see store shelves as a next generation product within the next two years. Unfortunately, the project would not escape its long, “development hell” for the next twelve years.
Regarding the original detective concept which served as a foundation for MOTHER 3:
"...That’s when I thought of an RPG in which you stay in a certain town for a long time. You’d be a detective who would get hired to follow someone’s wife to see if she’s having an affair, or you’d be asked to catch a shoplifter. You’d do things like that while living in the second floor of a run-down supermarket. That’s about the level of detail I’d come up with already. Information would change every day while you wandered around, and you would solve small cases based on that information. As you’d repeat this, you’d get caught up in a large incident. Once you got the information to solving the big incident, you’d be able to go to the next town and work there. You wouldn’t get stronger by beating stronger and stronger enemies; the things you could do would increase as you went around the same place over and over. The game would have character relations, and the people would all have their own lives. This way, we could do all sorts of things in the game. For example, someone who recently hung laundry out to dry would be wearing those clothes the next day. I wanted to make an RPG in which you could grow closer to the people as time went on. Actually, MOTHER 3 took shape shortly after, and in the game, you’re in a village called Tazmily for a long time. That came from this idea. I had hoped to include other things that didn’t adhere to the “road movie” pattern. I really wanted to do a lot more of that sort of thing." - Shigesato Itoi (Animal Crossing Discussion, April 2009)
"First of all, MOTHER 2 and MOTHER 3 both started out as completely different games. When we were making MOTHER 2, I wanted to make a completely different game at first. That's what MOTHER 3 is based on. To put it simply, it was a hard-boiled detective story...for example, he ran away from his wife. The main character was a detective who investigates marital affairs while taking care of his child. I thought up a story about a detective who does that kind of thing. I thought of a story about a detective who investigates affairs while taking care of his children...that's why MOTHER 3 was not created with a specific theme in mind. It was the world that came first. I wanted to throw all kinds of people into that world and have fun with them. So, at the very beginning, there was no connection to MOTHER 2 at all. I just thought, "It would be fun to have a world like this!" But as I was making it...I knew family was important.. That's how I ended up with this story about family." - Shigesato Itoi (Lize Helesta interview, October 31st 2020)
According to Shigesato Itoi, the Super Famicom version of MOTHER 3 was scrapped "halfway through". Halfway through what he never elaborated upon - whether it be pre-production, the year, or building a prototype. According to industry insider and MOTHER fandom veteran Reid Young (Owner of Fangamer), the SFC version was planned to have a pre-rendered art style in the vein of Donkey Kong Country. However, no visuals exist in the public eye that support this statement, so it shouldn't be taken as fact. 
MOTHER 3 was first mentioned on June 19th, 1992, in an interview with Weekly Famitsu:
Weekly Famitsu Representative: So what’s this about a CD-ROM?
Itoi: Ah, yeah, we’re going to do one. It’s decided. We’ve been thinking about it alongside this game. We’ve also decided what kind of game we’re going to make. Whether it’s going to be MOTHER 3, I’m not sure, but it’s going to be awesome. I thought of it in the middle of the night—it was enough to make me rush and call my friend about it. Plus there’s sort of a hint to it in MOTHER 2. I can’t name any specifics because it’s about the next game, but we’re doing a CD-ROM. For the Super Famicom.
Weekly Famitsu Representative: So it’s an RPG, right?
Itoi: Well, even with MOTHER 2, I feel like it isn’t really in the RPG category. Like, making an RPG out of a game and making it out of a story are two different things. RPGs often refer to games in which one plays the part of the character, but even more than role-playing it usually seems like a simulation game. I don’t know if there’s any other way of putting it. Hmm, but you know, the CD-ROM game after MOTHER 2 is gonna be a good one. Won’t do much good if I just go around barking, “It’s so good!” though [laughs].
Weekly Famitsu Representative: And when will that be?
Itoi: Well, it’s going to be a while! After all, MOTHER 2 has taken about three years already. I feel really bad about that, but I have been preoccupied with my regular work [laughs]. 
Benimaru Itoh was selected as MOTHER 3's art director, having contributed to MOTHER on the Famicom as well as drawing the MOTHER 2 manga. Regarding the evident visual departure from previous titles, Shigesato Itoi said, "Each character has a completely different face now, so it's easy to recognize who it is when you see them." Benimaru Itoh himself also acknowledged the change, voicing that “…the art style has changed drastically. So, I think people who played the previous games may feel quite uncomfortable at first.” Much of the visual design early on was inspired by films such as Toy Story , as it proved to the team the potential of storytelling utilizing cinematic 3D visuals.
A very early design of Lucas, where three design options were chosen for him for varying ages throughout the game. Design A, which sported the poncho was picked for the eventual Spaceworld 1996 reveal, due to a character resembling that eventually appearing in the footage.
Lucas would change many times throughout development, as stated by Benimaru Itoh - “The protagonist we’ve had since the beginning has changed appearance many times. His character seemed to change every day. Lucas really came to life as a response to the world around him.”
The reason why his early "poncho" design was scrapped was due to series creator Shigesato Itoi disliking the design, which Itoh also reflected upon: “The previous Lucas looked a lot like me…so all the staff shouted, “No!” Especially Shigesato Itoi in particular who shouted, “No!” So he requested I redesign the main character to something more straightforward. Thus, I completely redesigned him.”
One thing Itoi found really important in designing the protagonist was visually displaying a method in which the characters haul all their items. This is the reason why Lucas's final N64 design wears a fanny pack.
|November 1996||June 1997|
Along with Lucas, Duster's character design also went through a dramatic redesign. Originally upon his reveal at Shoshinkai '96, Duster had blonde spiky hair and a long, triangular nose. His proportions were also a lot more cartoon-ish, being much more in line with the character designs of MOTHER 2. In volume 1 of the MOTHER 3 Times in August of 1997, Duster's finalized design for MOTHER 3 on the N64 was revealed. Although he kept the red pants, green shirt, beret and backpack, almost everything else about his design had changed. No longer were his proportions exaggerated, with his hair changing from blonde to brunette and his beret now being blue instead of green.
|November 1996||August 1997|
Flint was first revealed alongside Lucas's redesign in the June 1997 issue of Weekly Famitsu. While his overall appearance never dramatically changed, his entire character model received a massive update in the middle of 1999. Flint's initial model seen in the N64DD version of MOTHER 3 was much lower-poly, with a slimmer build and simplistic texture work. After the game was transferred to the cartridge format and the development team began receiving help in cleaning up the game's visuals, Flint's model was massively upgraded to be higher poly, with more defined facial features and textures. This updated model was first seen in volume 20 of the MOTHER 3 Times.
|June 1997||April 1999|
Concepts of the world were drawn.
Lucas was supposed to ride on not just a hovering Pork Army ship, but several other things like a barrel and a minecart, the latter appearing in 1999 footage. Shigesato Itoi said to 64 Dream in 1997 that many different vehicles would appear in the game.
Impressed by his work on the Japanese children's show Ugo Ugo Ruga, Itoi hired Toshinao Aoki to design the monsters and their surrounding areas in MOTHER 3. Itoi gave Aoki complete creative freedom in creating the monsters of the game, with no plans to bring back any from the previous titles.
When talking about his method in creating MOTHER 3's monsters, Aoki told Dengeki 64: “I really start out with a storyboard, where I imagine the monster’s method of attack in great detail. After envisioning this image, I try to draw the monster.” This attention to detail can be seen in Aoki's sketches of Rolly, where we see Rolly's method of movement by stretching out his long tongue.
In January of 2011, Aoki was interviewed by EarthBound Central, where he revealed more details on designing Porky and the Pigmasks:
Since the game had the subtitle "Fall of the Pig King," I assume that Pokey was set to appear in the 64 version, too. Were you involved in any of Pokey’s design in the game? Was the spider mech he’s laying in also part of the 64 version? Since Pokey was to appear in the 64 version, too, I designed Pokey, his team, and the place he lived in. The spider mech was in the 64 version, too, but since I haven’t played the GBA version, I’m not sure if the design was the same in the end.— N64 Version Enemy Designer Toshinao Aoki https://earthboundcentral.com/2011/01/earthbound-64-enemy-designer-interview/
When the MOTHER manga, "Pollyanna" released on June 25th, 2020, fans were surprised to see Toshinao Aoki's section directly reference the N64 version of MOTHER 3. Not only did he portray his original Pigmask designs and environments in comic form, but a few significant revelations came from his artwork. This included not only a glimpse at how the Pigmask facility exteriors were deisgned, but a previously unknown creature was showcased as well. Fans immmediatley speculated whether or not this strange creature was intended for MOTHER 3, until Aoki was contacted about it himself. Upon being asked, Aoki said, “Yes, I did (design them for MOTHER 3). The name of this character is “Yottore-san. (よっとれさん)"
Not much is known about the Yottore species, however Benimaru Itoh once hinted at their existence in a June 1997 interview when revealing the Mr. Saturns wouldn't be the only friendly species in the game. Kody NOKOLO of Source Gaming speculated their name might be related to the Osohe dance, saying, “…its name could be related to the term “Yochore (よっちょれ)” which basically is a word related to dancing.” Yochore, of course being the type of Japanese slide dance Wess and Salsa perform in the game.
Below is a translation of the MOTHER 3 panels from Aoki's comic.
“An adventure huh… when I was your age, I had one of those. I went through the forest, and ran into monsters…I snuck into a strange facility, met strange creatures, and got chased by the Pig Gang…”
Mother 3 prerelease timeline
|Nintendo 64 version||Early N64 Development • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000|
|Game Boy Advance version||Early GBA Development • 2001-2002 • 2003-2004 • 2005 • 2006 • 2007|