In 2018, Marcus Lindblom, a former Nintendo of America employee best known for localizing EarthBound, discovered the floppy disk containing his personal files from that massive project in an old box. He had, at some point, wiped the disk to make room for more data, but thanks to the folks at the Video Game History Foundation, those files have been restored.
“Did you know that when you delete data from a disk, or even your hard drive, it doesn’t automatically disappear?” wrote VGHF co-director Frank Cifaldi in a blog post introducing the information. “The data sits in limbo, waiting to be overwritten by new files. Until that happens, it’s all still there, it’s just missing the reference info needed for your computer to understand it.”
“In the case of Lindblom’s disk, the only new file he had written after deleting the EarthBound files was a tiny text document, barely a paragraph long. Miraculously, since that new data was so miniscule, we were able to forensically recover all of the deleted EarthBound data, with high confidence that none of the data had been compromised!”
Cifaldi enlisted Clyde Mandelin, Mother 3 fan translator and author of the Legends of Localization book series, to help sort through the data, and their findings provide a wonderful glimpse into the EarthBound development and localization processes.
For instance, party member Poo originally had a skill, “Mantra,” that made him less likely to be targeted by enemies. This was ultimately replaced by his “Mirror” ability, which allows him to transform into certain enemies and use their skills.
And remember the woman in Summers that gives Ness and co. a “magic cake” that makes them hallucinate, pass out, and have visions of Poo in his home country? At one point during development, the whole, weird drug trip scene was a more innocent massage that simply put the protagonists to sleep. Oh, and her name was Martha, making her one of many NPCs who had official names behind the scenes that were never revealed in-game for whatever reason.
“As we can see, this character underwent many changes during development,” Mandelin said. “In fact, the above line was replaced with the final line on a date marked ‘7/18.’ If this is referring to July 18, 1994, then this Martha character was still being changed up until weeks before the game’s release!”
Unused text reveals there was even an alternate ending that Mandelin posits may have been setting up a potential sequel, with a random lizard dropping off a letter from previously vanquished antagonist Pokey daring Ness to find him.
This is just a fraction of what VGHF’s forensic investigation turned up, so be sure to visit the official blog for more just-discovered information on how the EarthBound we know and love came to be. It’s a great read for fans of both the cult classic Super Nintendo game and anyone curious about game development in general.