Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Mission for a Thief: “Mother 3” Chapter 2

One of the interesting things about Mother 3 is the changing perspectives – in Chapter 2 we leave behind Flint and his family tragedies for a little while to instead focus on Duster the thief. In a village as perfect as Tazmily, thieves such as Duster and his father know many wily tricks, but they don’t actually steal anything, as the houses don’t have anything worth stealing. That is changing, however. As the Pigmasks begin to wreak their destruction, another force has begun to invade Tazmily in the form of a traveling merchant. You see only glimpses and traces of this man, but he is nonetheless working to change the dynamics of the village with the fiendish new concept he introduces: money. Greed, secrecy, and suspicion come along with money, though the villagers are somewhat baffled by what exactly money is and what it does. By the end of the chapter, Duster’s status as a thief has made him much more suspicious in the eyes of his fellow citizens – after all, now there is something to steal.

The previous Tazmily way of life is now changing, but Chapter 2 introduces the idea that there has also been change in the past – that Tazmily has not existed outside of time or been totally isolated from previous tragedies. Duster’s mission in this chapter is to obtain a mysterious shiny object from the ruins of a Oshoe Castle. Duster’s father hid this object inside the castle sometime in the past, deeming it too dangerous for even the presumably benevolent king to have possession of it. But who was this king of Oshoe Castle, and what happened to him? The castle itself is a haunted ruin, uninhabited except by ghosts and the occasional mouse. Whatever disaster befell Oshoe is unknown, at least to us. We are told explicitly that the inhabitants of Tazmily have never known sorrow, but why do none of them recall the abandonment of the castle, the death of the king (for he, too, must have died here)?

In any case, by the end of the chapter, you learn what you were looking for: the Hummingbird Egg, which contains within it all the secrets of the world. With the new pigmask threat changing the face of nature, and with the threat of money changing the hearts and dynamics of the townsfolk, the dangers of the Hummingbird Egg must be faced in order to access the wisdom within.

mother 3 hummingbird egg

On the lighter side, Chapter 2 is also where we first meet Kumatora, the spiky pink-haired tomboyish princess of Oshoe castle. We first see her darting around ahead of Duster, dropping her pendant clumsily on the way, but we only catch up with her when she catches her leg in a trap. Undaunted, she informs us that there’s nothing for it, she’ll just have to cut the darn leg off. Yep, she’s a firecracker!

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A Beautiful Game: “Mother 3” Chapter 1

Sometimes you come across a thing that you love beyond all reason – a thing that someone created that brings you deep and lasting pleasure whenever it is experienced. The films of Hayao Miyazaki are this way for me, as is Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince.” Every time I return to them, I am filled with the familiar joy and wonder that they inspire. They are infinitely rediscoverable. The game that most inspires the same love in me must be “Mother 3,” written by Shigesato Itoi and released in Japan in 2006. However, unlike “Spirited Away,” which is two hours long, or “The Little Prince,” which can be read in an afternoon, “Mother 3” requires dozens of hours to complete. Therefore, despite the place it holds in my heart, I have only every played through it once, years ago, with my then-boyfriend (now-husband). Until this month, when I began a long-desired second playthrough, this time on my own. Mother3Logo I am far from alone in my love for “Mother 3”; it is shared by many others. As the title suggests, it is the third and final installment in the “Mother” series, though the three games are only loosely and thematically related – they do not share a plot or characters. The first was never released in America, while “Mother 2” was released for the Super Nintendo as “EarthBound.” The fanbase for “EarthBound” is devoted and loyal, and with good reason, as it is a fantastic game. Set in a satirical version of America, it is silly, cartoonish, and yet also sweet and suffused with a deep melancholic nostalgia that gives it a lasting depth and meaning. After many calls for re-release, it is now available for download if you have a Wii U. “Mother 3” never fared so well in America. The final installment in the franchise was beset with all manner of problems and took over a decade to produce, switching systems multiple times in the process and being released on the GameBoy Advance, of all things. After such a tortured process, you would expect the final product to be an overhyped mess and an inevitable disappointment. You would be wrong. “EarthBound” is a wonderful game, but “Mother 3” is a masterpiece. However, for reasons unfathomable, Nintendo of America ignored the desires of the American “Mother” fanbase, and eventually declared that there was no translation of “Mother 3” planned – that it would never be available in America. But this game inspires love like no other, love that drove a group of fans to take on the Herculean task of translating the game and creating an English language patch so the game can be played on an emulator. And no more loving translation can be imagined – it is professional quality and polished so that you would hardly realize it wasn’t official. (You can and should read all about their translation adventures;  instructions for how to emulate and patch the game are here.) So, that brings us to now. The game exists and is playable in America in this odd limbo which may never be resolved. It is sort of technically illegal to download the ROM and play the game, but no other way exists, so that is what must be done. As weird as the process is to play it on the computer, the process is even more strange to make it playable on the original handheld system. But for my birthday this year, my husband jumped through all the weird hoops and purchased all the obscure bits of hardware necessary to make it workable and allowing me to start this second playthrough of what I would probably not even really hesitate to call my favorite game. And as long as I’m playing it and thinking about it, I might as well write about it too. I’ll try to write one post for each of the 8(ish) chapters. There may be some spoilers, but I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. So here we go:

Chapter 1 (and also the Prologue)

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A monster in a monstrous world

What follows is a long and spoilerful post about “The Last of Us.” If you haven’t played it yet and you plan to, you may want to skip this one.

I hadn’t really been excited to play “The Last of Us,” Naughty Dog, Inc.’s critical darling of last year, mostly because I’m about done with zombies for the time being. But it has received massive critical attention and praise (by people such as Tom Bissell), so Ben and I played it together. It’s not an ideal game for playing in a pair – too much shooting and sneaking, which can be frustrating for the non-controller-holding person. It does have an interesting story. But for all the moments that were close to great, and all the potential, I found myself frustrated by it, in the end, because of some failures in the way the gameplay intersects with the narrative.

TheLastOfUs

The game follows the story of Joel, a man who has lost his humanity during his struggles to survive in the post-zombie world. (Sidenote – these zombies aren’t reanimated corpses but are instead infected by a mind-controlling parasitic fungus. Kind of awesome, but also kind of irrelevant, in the end.) Joel lost his daughter in the first days of the zombie outbreak, and we catch up with him 20 years later as a gun-runner, smuggling weapons and other supplies into the military-controlled Quarantine Zone in Boston. Joel somehow finds himself tasked with a mission: to bring a teenage girl named Ellie halfway across the country by whatever means necessary and deliver her to the scientific outpost of a group of idealists and revolutionaries, the Fireflies. The Fireflies are an organization which struggles to restore democracy and civil liberties to the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, but they also are the only remaining organization with the ability to conduct scientific research into the fungal infection that causes zombiedom. Ellie was bit by a zombie months ago, but instead of turning, she is now immune to the fungus. If Joel can deliver her to the Fireflies, a cure may be possible – humanity might be saved. Joel and Ellie journey across the ruins of the country by car, horseback, and quite a lot of the time, by foot. They encounter many adversaries and kill a lot of zombies and evil people, and by the time they finally reach the Fireflies, they have come to love, trust, and depend on each other.

The relationship between Joel and Ellie has garnered a lot of attention and praise. Ellie is a compelling and engaging NPC (non-player character…but sometimes you do play as Ellie for short periods), and we see her change and develop over time. Joel changes as well, opening up more and more, facing his past, coming to put Ellie before anything else. But although this story was compelling, I feel that it was marred by some storytelling and gameplay choices that are, I can think of no better word for it, cowardly.

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