- The absolute saddest part of the entire game is the last battle.
- Before we get into the last battle, let's touch on the scenario... During the N64 version, it's been said that you had written the scenario while you were overseas.
Itoi I went to Saipan and wrote it. I was really happy when I finished it.
- How is that compared to the scenario of the Gameboy Advance version?
Itoi The summary has not changed. But, it has become a lot lighter. The scenario in the N64 version was much, much darker. Compared to how things are now, I think when I wrote the script 10 years ago, as far as dark aspects and sad aspects, I wasn't presented with as many confrontations. I didn't have many options to choose for the game back then, either. And so, I thought I would dig in the direction that would upset people. So the scenario in the N64 version was dirtier than this one.
- In the N64 interview, you had mentioned that you wanted to "betray the player."
Itoi Yeah. There were parts that I had only added in order to disappoint the players... There are things like that which are connected to the series as a whole, and while it's very good from a business perspective to work things into a routine, I was making it because I enjoyed it, and I wanted to take some chances. It's just that I had some thoughts, like, maybe I was wrong in using that technique. Like if it were sumo, I'd end up being flipped over the guy's head.
- Like you're just setting yourself up for ruin. (laughs)
Itoi And being told, "It's a lost cause!" (laughs) But during the N64 version, that's what I was going for.
- So why did the GBA version end up with the lightened scenario?
Itoi (pauses to think)... I guess I became a good person.
- Did your loyal MOTHER fans have any influence in your becoming a "good person"1?
Itoi Not at all. I can profess right now that I haven't been changed by the fans. If that were the case, then Yujiro Ishihara and Ken Takakura would be different people now, because of me. (laughs) I am grateful for the messages from my fans. It makes me happy, but it's certainly not like that's all it takes to change a person. It's not like that. You can't just make it so you're influenced by people.
- Well that's a bit rude!
Itoi No, no. The big thing here is the group of people around me. Like if an employee gets married or something.
- I see.
Itoi When we made MOTHER 2, there were practically no married men with us at all. People who are involved with the development of a game are like a group full of weirdos, infecting the air with this pretentious attitude that blashphemes anyone who wouldn't look forward to all-nighters [on the project]. Gaming magazines are the same way. (laughs)
- The editing department is crawling with singles. (laughs)
Itoi As if to say, "If you're looking for a normal sense of happiness, you're better off going to a respectable company!" (laughs) There was a time when thinking stuff like that gave a person a solid feeling of pride. Same as someone boasting, "Man, I smoked too many cigarettes and I feel sick now."
Itoi's company, "Tokyo Shigesato Itoi Office," employs about thirty people. Its "Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun" website celebrates its 8th anniversary this year since it first launched.
Itoi But looking at it now, I see for example how happy I am if a co-worker has a child, and how truly sad I feel when an employee falls ill. So it's like I have literally become a father, myself. So if I put up some pretense and die from it, I've got nothing to show for it. I can't do my job well if I'm too busy coughing from cigarettes. (laughs)
- So that's why you gave up cigarettes. (laughs)
Itoi The change has happened during the long period we'd been making MOTHER 3. (laughs)
Itoi was such a heavy smoker, he looked like he was sitting in a cigarette commercial. But even he went cold turkey four years ago "in order to do his job well."
Itoi ShigesatoBorn November 10, 1948. Hometown in Maebashi city, Gunma Prefecture. Bloodtype A. Head of the very interesting "Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun" website, and has worked on the copywriting for Studio Ghibli. Also the mother of the MOTHER series.
Favorite Thing: Home Run
Favorite Food: Croquette Rolls
Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun: www.1101.com
Three years ago, Itoi appeared at an event at TSUTAYA in Shibuya to celebrate the release of MOTHER 1+2. He was a store manager for a day, and fans gathered in crowds to the event, even spending the night outside beforehand.
Fans were excited about pictures with Itoi!
Writing the script brought tears to my eyes
- Well then, let's get to the story about the heartwrending last battle. Anyone who experiences that last battle would make a face like Kou Shibasaki in the commercial2.
Itoi Ms. Shibasaki was speaking from her heart about her feelings toward MOTHER 3, so having her express herself so naturally really made some wonderful expressions.
- That last battle really wrenches your heart.
Itoi For the dialogue in the last scene, I had several choices for every single line. So rather than flying through the writing, I had to take each line, personally, and really digest each and every one. For a scene like that, it's not like you can just have a sleepover with everyone on the team to discuss the dialogue. I had set that part aside and let it build up, and later on I completely separated myself from my other jobs, isolated myself from everyone, and concentrated on writing it. So it was a really tough time, but I was really happy once it was all put together. Yeah, even looking back on it now, it was an amazing experience3.
- Even the players felt inspired by what an amazing experience it was. The last battle was quite the family story.
- There was a war that broke out among the brothers, but the presence of the mother was extremely huge in that scene.
Itoi It was a really complicated part. The mother wanted to scold both of her boys to cut it out, but she had to be a little more tough on Lucas, who was still alive. But the one who we feel the sorriest for is Claus. Even moreso than the good, it is the bad who need to be rescued. It's got a really deep meaning behind it, but because we could only write in Hiragana4, we had to keep it simple.
- And you had to keep it short, too. Even so, I think the last battle really captures the heart of the player and still manages to stay balanced.
Itoi Yeah. But, even if I could make a balance in the dialogue, I had to grovel on my knees to the Brownie Brown staff and beg them to program the operations in the game perfectly enough to add the super subtle timing between lines. On top of that, everyone is different when it comes to how they are emotionally affected.
- So every player is probably moved by different scenes in the game.
Itoi For me, even though I wrote it myself, there is one line that really breaks me down.
- Which is..?
Itoi When she says, "You must be tired."
- Ah... (Speechless and teary-eyed)
Itoi So sad... (notices the editor's tears) Oh, just saying it is too much, isn't it?
- "You must be tired"... I'm sorry. It's too much, even just the sound of that line.
Itoi It's so, how do I put it... well, it's a line that even makes a boy cry, isn't it...
- That's true... Even though he had roughed up his older brother so badly, his mother comes and tells him, "You must be tired. Here, come to your mother."
Itoi Yeah... That one line, "You must be tired"... man, that one'll get you.
Note 2: Kou Shibasaki's expression in the commercial
In the MOTHER3 TV commercial, famous Japanese actress Kou Shibasaki is shown holding back tears as she talks about her impressions of the game. Play the game yourself and you'll be sure to understand how she feels.
Anyone would cry from that final scene.
Note 3: All-nighter script brainstorming
The enjoyable script in the game was written while Itoi and the development team spent the night in a local hotel to continue discussion. It must have been hard to spend an entire day locked up in a room.
Note 4: Hiragana
While written Japanese usually includes Kanji, or Chinese characters, the MOTHER series is written entirely in the simple Japanese alphabet Hiragana in order for children to be able to read the text, too.