Unearthed Nintendo Floppy Contains Content Removed From Final Version Of EarthBound

In 2018, EarthBound’s original translator, former Nintendo of America employee Marcus Lindblom, came across a floppy disk while cleaning out an old box of things. After putting the floppy into an older computer, he learned that he’d deleted the contents of the disk years prior to save other work onto it. Lindblom then donated the floppy to the Video Game History Foundation (VGHF) in the hope that they would be able to retrieve the deleted content. After some hard work and dedication, VGHF was able to recover EarthBound’s complete scripting files for the game’s English and Japanese text, as well as related code for event triggers.

Clyde “Tomato” Mandelin, who helped co-translate Mother 3 to English and release it as a free patch for fans, partnered with VGHF to record their findings in a thorough, detailed blog post. While the disk doesn’t contain sprites, art, or textures, the contents of the script found on the floppy are dense enough that VGHF’s ROM hackers were able to recreate some of the unfinished scenes mentioned in the disk’s code and notes.

As VGHF discusses in their 28-minute YouTube video on the new EarthBound findings, the wealth of content that was unearthed from the disk is so vast that Tomato feels he could write a second book on it (the first being Legends of Localization 2: EarthBound). The video focuses on just a small sampling of some of VGHF’s discoveries.

The pre-final script found on the disk reveals changes that may have still been happening in the eleventh hour of the game’s development. Instead of eating Magic Cake to trigger the player’s hallucinatory experiences in-game, the developers were going to have the player receive oil massages from a woman on the beach whose name was changed from Jill to Martha, possibly a pun for the Japanese word for “massage.” According to notes found on the disk, changes to this mechanic and character are marked with what seem to be a date: 7/18. If this is in reference to the date July 18, 1994, it would suggest that changes were been happening as late as July 1994, mere weeks prior to its release. It’s perhaps no surprise that 90s-era Nintendo, infamous for strict content censorship, would be struggling with the idea of having a character giving kids oil massages on the beach to give them hallucinatory dreams. (Though maybe they didn’t think it through when they decided that having a woman sell baked goods to kids to make them trip out was much better.)

While on the subject of 90s-era Nintendo, it’s been known for some time that the numerous references to alcohol in the Japanese version of EarthBound were replaced in the English release with references to drinks such as coffee or soda, due to Nintendo of America’s rules disallowing mention of drugs, smoking, and alcohol in their games. However, one reference to alcohol was found in the pre-final script. When an important character is found on the ground in a back alley, a group of onlookers forms around him; if the player speaks to one of these people, they were going to say, “He’s breathing… has he been drinking?” In the final translation, however, this line was changed to, “He’s breathing… has he just been playing too hard?”

Additionally, many characters who appear to be nameless in the final version of the game actually do have names according to data found on the floppy, so many in fact that VGHF’s YouTube video only manages to identify some of them for the sake of keeping the video to a reasonable length. Those aren’t the only characters who’ve been identified in the wake of VGHF’s research into the contents of this disk, though. In EarthBound, there are two unusual scenes in which an unidentified person or essence recaps the player’s journey up to that point and explains what’s coming up next in the game, and then offers the player words of encouragement. While fans have had numerous theories over the years as to who could be speaking to the player during these “coffee and tea breaks,” it’s now clear that the speaker is Shigesato Itoi himself, creator of the Mother series.

In fact, the developers were going to sneak in a reference to Itoi, according to the pre-final script. In the town of Threed, there’s a sign with graffiti on it. In the pre-final script, this graffiti was going to read, “There’s someone who makes games even after the age of 45. But I won’t say who.” Itoi turned 45 during the development of EarthBound. This graffiti’d message was changed in the final version of the game: in Japanese it reads, “Grown-ups, kids, and even your sister.” (the game’s Japanese slogan) and in English reads, “…Just play it!”

Whether you’re a big fan of EarthBound and the Mother series or just a fan of video game history, it’s worth giving the video a watch and the blog a read to learn more about what was found on the floppy disk. They tell a fascinating story about localization challenges, censorship challenges, graphical limitations of the era, and so much more, but most importantly document the really important work that video game historians have in preserving rare finds like this. Let us know what you think about these new EarthBound revelations below.

Source: Ars Technica

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