Mother 1+2 is a compilation cartridge released for the Game Boy Advance only in Japan on June 20, 2003. The compilation was published by Nintendo and developed by HAL Laboratory and Ape. The game is a port of Mother (also known as EarthBound Zero) and Mother 2 (released as EarthBound in North America). The original announcement commercial for Mother 1+2 also announced that Mother 3 was going to be released.
When it was originally released in 2003, the game was packaged with a limited edition Mr. Saturn cell phone strap for those who had pre-ordered the game. The cell phone strap became very popular, however, and was sold on Amazon's Japanese website for a short time. The cell phone straps are now relatively rare, especially in North America.
Although there was never an official English release of the game, well-known EarthBound fan-site Starmen.net is currently in the process of translating the game. After finishing the Mother 3 translation, Tomato (who also works as a professional translator in anime and video games, working on such things as One Piece, various mobile games, and even Kingdom Hearts II) expressed interest in doing a Mother 1+2 translation. The project is currently being worked on by the same primary team that did the Mother 3 translation (Tomato and Jeffman).
There were many changes made to Mother, that are found in EarthBound Zero (the translated version; but not the original Mother). These changes include adding a running button, several changes to enemies due to Nintendo of America's strict standards, and various programming changes. Originally, these changes were thought to have been made in a fan translation, but when they were kept in Mother 1+2, it was proven that they were official changes.
Mother 1+2 was well-received by Japanese critics, receiving a 35/40 score from Famitsu. In addition, in a 2005 issue, Nintendo Power listed Mother 1+2 as one of their most wanted import games. Mother 1+2 sold approximately 280,000 copies in Japan.
The first and second Mother games are very similar in terms of gameplay features. There are several differences between the two, however. The first Mother had completely random battle encounters, while EarthBound (Mother 2) has the enemies visible onscreen. Being a traditional role-playing series, there are many of the regular actions, such as a physical hit, using an item, guarding, running away, and--for some characters--PSI attacks (basically the equivalent of magic attacks).
In overworld (out of battle) gameplay, players can communicate with several non-playable characters. There are shops, inns, and hospitals. Shops are to purchase items, weapons, clothing, and sometimes special "characters" to help you in battle (such as a teddy bear). Inns are where players can completely heal their party for a price. Hospitals are where fainted characters can be revived, and certain status effects can be removed.
The plot of Mother and Mother 2 is completely unrelated, but shares certain details such as general setting, some character similarities, enemies, and the same final boss. Mother follows Ninten, Ana, and Loid on their quest to defeat an alien menace known as Giegue. The prologue text of the game introduces George and Maria, a couple who were kidnapped and sent to Giegue's homeworld. Maria ended up getting an emotional connection to Giegue, while George stole the secrets of PSI from the aliens, and managed to escape back to Earth. Ninten, Ana, and Loid manage to defeat Giegue with the Eight Melodies, a song taught to the group by Maria that she used to sing to Giegue.
EarthBound (Mother 2) followed Ness, Paula, Jeff, and Poo, the four chosen ones. Ness is visited by a creature from the future named Buzz Buzz, who tells Ness that he and three other kids must defeat Giygas (an older version of Giegue). Ness's neighbor, Pokey, also plays a pivotal role in the plot of EarthBound. He becomes Giygas's servant, and serves as Ness's nemesis for the larger part of the game. In the final battle against Giygas, the group manages to defeat Giygas with Paula (and many of those met along the journey) praying for the group to be able to defeat Giygas.