Something pretty amazing has happened in the EarthBound community. Long story short, back in 2018, EarthBound localizer Marcus Lindblom found some of his old work for Nintendo on floppy disks, including original raw scripting files used while translating the EarthBound script into English. He donated what he had found to the Video Game History Foundation, which did the digital forensics required to uncover an incredible treasure trove: “the entirety of EarthBound’s scripting files, in the original scripting language that was likely used by the game’s development team, Ape, in Japan.”
What this ultimately means is that we now have an incredible look at the localization / translation of EarthBound precisely as the work was being conducted, even including notes from the developers themselves. And granted, this may not mean much to the average person, but it is an amazing win for game history preservation. Even better, the Video Game History Foundation enlisted professional localizer Clyde Mandelin (“Mato”), who wrote a 400-page book about the localization of EarthBound, to dig into the new discoveries, and Mandelin said he found enough information to write a whole new book if he wanted to.
But in the meantime, Mandelin has provided an enormous summary of changes (with images) in the EarthBound script, showing how the original script translation morphed into the final version. There is also a video version (below) of Mandelin’s insights provided by the Video Game History Foundation. However, all of this content is “just a fraction of the stuff” that was found.
Perhaps the most interesting insight — out of multiple dozens — found in the original EarthBound script is that it confirms Shigesato Itoi himself is speaking directly to the player during the coffee and tea scenes. Additionally, these files indicate that a just-barely-functioning version of EarthBound was shown off at Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 1995, with several snippets of text created exclusively for that event. This was seemingly not public knowledge till now.
At any rate, it’s Friday, and the weekend is the perfect time to sit back and enjoy the above video and/or read Mandelin’s lengthy article. It turns out EarthBound and its world-class English translation script still have a lot of secrets to uncover.