BGM Feature: Earthbound Beginnings

Hello everyone! Welcome to BGM Features, a segment where I will discuss the greatest video game soundtracks of the past and present. In this feature, I will talk about a game soundtrack, and digging into what makes them so great. I will be beginning this segment with what I personally consider to be one of the best soundtracks of any game on the NES, that of the original Mother, which was localized stateside last year as Earthbound Beginnings.

About the Composers

The soundtrack of Mother (and Mother 2 after it) is composed by the fantastic duo of Keiichi Suzuki and Hirokazu Tanaka. The latter of the two was previously responsible for one of Nintendo’s previous best soundtracks, that of Super Mario Land.

About the Music

The soundtrack to the first game in the Earthbound series is an awesome example in how fantastic melodies can carry their own weight, even when hardware limitations may stand in your way. While Mother 2 (Earthbound in the US) benefited from its busy and psychedelic arrangements, the original Mother excels with its music despite its relative simplicity.

Pretty much every single one of the field and battle themes are extremely catchy, and its easy to see why they have stuck with later games in the series. Themes such as the “Snowman” theme, “All That I Needed Was You” and “Paradise Line” are shining examples of great 8-bit music.

This is especially remarkable since being a composer for the NES was tough work. Composers were limited to three voices at once, which greatly limited the scope of what could be done with music. However, funny enough, some of the most recognizable game tunes that exist were born from these limitations. The Mother soundtrack is a great example of this.

Field Theme 1 (“Pollyanna”)

The first field theme in this game is not one that is featured for much of the game. It only plays when you are in the world map without any other party members, so it mostly features at the very beginning of the game, but it’s a great example of why this soundtrack is so great. It is a simple, but catchy motif with a twinkling counter-melody and bouncing rock-inspired percussion.

Battle Field 3 (“Hippie Battle Theme”)

This is perhaps one of the most well known themes in the Mother series, in that it is heavily inspired by Chuck Berry’s timeless rock-and-roll classic “Johnny B. Goode.” It’s a great, catchy battle theme, and worked so well that it made a return in Mother 2 (Earthbound in the west).

Ending Theme (“8 Melodies”)

The “8 Melodies” theme is one that needs no explanation. Just listening to it, you can tell why it’s one of the most amazing tracks on any NES game. It’s incredible how such a relatively primitive composition can convey so much emotion. The story of Mother is centered around this theme, after all. Your goal in the game is to collect these melodies, which then help unlock the secret behind some of the story’s characters. The turn that the track takes at 1:29 below makes me break down every time. It’s a must-hear, even if classic NES RPGs aren’t your thing.

Honorable mentions:

  • “All That I Needed Was You”- This theme plays for a brief moment late in the game, but holy crap is it amazing.
  • Field Theme 2 (“Bein’ Friends”) – Just as catchy as Field Theme #1.
  • Queen Mary’s Theme (“Wisdom of the World”) – Brilliant composition and progressions in this track.
  • “Magicant” theme – Spacy and beautiful, just like the town of Magicant.

The soundtrack of Mother is GREAT. I could say it a million times. The sound design and composition here is just out of this world, and the songs hold their ground even after all of these years. To hear them, you can get Earthbound Beginnings on the Nintendo eShop in order to play the game.

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