The "EarthBound" fan base continues to amaze: an amateur team of designers, programmers, artists, and musicians are in the process of making an unofficial version of "Mother 4," and their newly-released trailer looks great.
While "Mother 4" introduces a new cast, it seems to fall in line with the previous games' tone of suburban ennui: you'll notice kids hanging out at the beach, trying to buy lads' mags, and shooting PK Fires at policemen. The unnervingly dissonant score juxtaposes against the bright, clean sprites, and the result is some sort of JRPG-ified J.G. Ballard story.
More than that, the fact that this game even exists is a testament to "EarthBound"'s enduring legacy. The "Mother 4" team is totally unofficial, working for free, and doing good work as far as anyone can tell, but it's only the latest of a long history of hardcore "EarthBound" fan communities.
The fans behind "Mother 4" are totally separate from the Starmen.net group that collected, organized, and published the EarthBound Anthology, nor are they connected to the folks behind the "Mother 3" fan translation. ("Mother 3" is the sequel to "EarthBound," but it was never released in the United States or Europe.)
That's three separate groups of fans taking on difficult, labor-intensive projects in honor of a 1995 Super Nintendo role-playing game. "EarthBound"'s Virtual Console re-release last month was incredibly overdue.
Anyway, "Mother 4" has been in rag-tag development for over three years by now, and Nintendo still hasn't cried foul and let slip the dogs of cease-and-desist letters, so here's hoping it survives until the projected Winter 2014 release window.
When and if the game ever comes out, it'll be as a downloadable Windows, Linux, or OS X program -- no ROM hacking required.
Joseph Leray is a freelance writer from Nashville. Follow him on Twitter