Monthly Archives: May 2014

Coming together with purpose: “Mother 3” Chapter 5 (and also 6)

Chapter 5 involves a bit of journeying, a hint of the travels that are to come. In this chapter, the primary team is assembled at last — four characters who wander and fight together. They have all been part of the party before, but they haven’t all been in it at the same time before now. As a reminder, your party consists of:

  • Lucas — a young boy whose mother died and brother disappeared around the time that the evil Pigmasks appeared.
  • Duster — a thief.
  • Kumatora — a rockin’ punkass girl, somewhat older than Lucas.
  • Boney — a dog.

It’s funny that I think of them as the “real” party of Mother 3. I mean, they aren’t all joined up until Chapter 5 in an 8(ish) chapter game, and then they are separated again for a while in Chapter 7. Come to think of it, that’s rather different from EarthBound. In EarthBound, you accumulate characters one at a time until you have a full party of four, and I don’t remember any of them ever leaving the party. I certainly don’t think they are ever replaced by anyone else. In Mother 3, up until now we have also been accompanied by (if not necessarily in control of):

  • Flint (Lucas’s dad)
  • Wess (Duster’s dad)
  • Alec (Hinawa’s dad)
  • Salsa (a monkey)
  • Fassad (a jerkface meany-pants)

In any case, the Lucas and Co. dream team are the ones who will ultimately challenge the Pigmasks, and they start in this chapter. Lucas has kept his head down for the past three years, not agreeing with or going along with the Pigmasks and Fassad’s agendas, but not openly causing any trouble. Now, things are different.

Lucas etc. start out to recover the Hummingbird Egg. Shortly thereafter, they journey to the Thunder Tower — the mysterious structure outside of town that suspiciously appeared shortly before lightning began striking the homes of dissidents with alarming frequency. Lucas is allowed access following a mistaken identity. (Why do the Pigmasks insist on saluting this boy? Why do they fear and obey him? Who do they think he is?) Naturally, once there, Lucas sabotages the structure, destroying this abomination that has been raining lightning down on sleepy little Tazmily.

mother 3 thunder

Interestingly, while you are wandering around the Thunder Tower in your disguises, you get to talk to the Pigmask soldiers. Although they are as identical as Stormtroopers in their masks, the Pigmasks show signs of being people with personalities underneath. They even show signs of self doubt. One private manning a console explains how the lightning machine works, then says something like, “We aren’t doing good things here, are we?” I think this is a bonus for the childlike nature of Mother 3 — the Pigmasks are bad, but they aren’t exactly evil, not as individuals. Even one of the main bosses, a huge horned Pigmask Captain, is a DCMC fan.

mother 3 pigmask

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is very brief…a moment of motherly love and loss, a dream of that thing which is unattainable, the ache in the center of Lucas’s heart.

mother 3 sunflowers

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Three years later: “Mother 3” Chapter 4

The village of Tazmily was once a sleepy and peaceful place. We have gotten to know it rather well over 3 chapters — we know the people by name, we know the layout, and we have a pretty good idea of the kind of lives that people might live here. But now it is three years later, and the place that we once knew has changed. It is not unrecognizable. The layout is the same, the same people live here, but the way of life has been altered by the twin forces of consumerism and militarization. The training grounds of the Pigmask army occupy the old pasture, the local inn has been replaced by an ugly concrete box of a building, police officers look at you askance when you are just walking around. Lucas, finally taking up his role as protagonist, no longer knows everyone by name — there are strangers now identified only as “Man” or “Woman” … some are just passing through, but others work as cops or waitresses. Instead of simply working together to meet their needs, many of the villagers now commute to a nearby factory/mine, working long and unpleasant hours in order to earn money to buy things that three years ago they didn’t know they wanted. The factory workers are compensated with tickets to Club Titiboo, where the waitresses are expected to look cute and giggle at the end of every sentence, whether or not they want to.

The saddest part of the town, the real indication that things are worse, not just different, is the way elders are dealt with. In the previous chapters, two old men (Flint’s and Duster’s fathers) have helped you out. They have fought with you and provided you with information. Both these men once lived independently or with family. Now, they have been moved to the saddest old folks’ home in the world. They have become marginal, no longer a part of the life of the village. In addition to the two grandfather figures, Tazmily also had another old man. Scamp was frail and crotchety. He lived with his son’s family and never got out of bed, but his life was still meaningful — he had his giant teddy bear and his talking parrot, whom he’s trained to say amusing things. Returning to the village three years on, we learn that Scamp has died. His death notice, buried under a ton of others on a bulletin board, is just heartbreaking. I don’t remember exactly, but it says something like:

Attention:

Scamp has died.

That is all.

There is no place in the new town for old folks, and their passing makes people in this new and shiny future uncomfortable. We don’t really know how the Tazmily villagers dealt with natural deaths in the past (we know they were pretty rotten at handling Hinawa’s unnatural death), but I suspect that Scamp’s life once would have been honored with more than this briefest of notices.

A sad visit to grandpa.

A sad visit to grandpa.

The transformation of the town has not been totally forced — most people love their Happy Boxes and see this state of being as progress of some sort, even if maybe they’d rather not work in the mine quite so much. However, there is definitely a sinister element — Lucas and Flint have refused a Happy Box, and find their home and barn to be struck by lightning with eery frequency. In fact, there has been quite a lot of lightning in the last few years, all of it concentrated on the few houses that have remained Happy Boxless. How suspicious! And what is that mysterious tower that the Pigmasks built outside the borders of the town, anyway?

However, there is at least one good thing about the new life of the town. Club Titiboo may be shady have poor policies regarding their waitstaff, but they do allow for something that Tazmily wouldn’t otherwise be able to experience. Live music! The house band at Club Titiboo are a Blue Brothers-like group called DCMC, and they are pretty awesome. But it isn’t just this one particular band that is good, but the possibility of connection with culture. Tazmily was idyllic in its past isolation, but before I get too wrapped up in nostalgia for imagined times past, I will say that connection with larger urban centers, as well as technological advancements, do allow for a cultural life that wasn’t previously possible. There are some bad things about the new future: unnecessary and unexplained militarization, enforced conformity, wage slavery driven by the desire for material goods prompted by corrupting media influences, marginalization of old people, destruction of the old and the natural in place of uncritical acceptance of the new and the artificial. But technological and societal advancement aren’t necessarily bad things…DCMC shows that they can be positive as well. Tazmily was once a lovely place, but it was a bit stuck in a rut and its people were emotionally stunted. As the destroyed castle of Chapter 2 and the poor emotional judgement of Chapter 1 show us, it had some forgotten or overlooked problems of its own that were never really addressed.

mother 3 dcmc

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A Changing Economy: “Mother 3” Chapter 3

Chapter 3 begins with yet another viewpoint shift. The events of this chapter run in parallel to Chapter 2, but this time, we see more clearly what the enemy is really up to. This time, we follow the deeds of the mysterious merchant, a man named Fassad, who, we learn quite plainly, is in league with the Pigmask army. We follow Fassad as he travels through the desert to the town of Tazmily, starts to seed his influence in the town, and tries to track down the Hummingbird Egg. We don’t play as Fassad in this chapter, but rather as Salsa, his unfortunate monkey slave. It is a fairly uncomfortable position to be in. Salsa is just a poor li’l monkey, and Fassad is without a doubt evil. However, as the two of them are traveling together, and as Fassad is much stronger than Salsa, you come to rely on Fassad’s help during battles.

mother 3 fassad

Salsa’s girlfriend is being held hostage. This makes Salsa even sadder than his shock collar does. Poor li’l monkey.

There are two important things that happen in this chapter, besides demonstrating Fassad’s allegiance with the Pigmasks. The first thing happens about halfway through, when you have finally arrived at Tazmily. Fassad gathers a group of villagers together and begins speechifying (whilst forcing poor Salsa to do the performing monkey routine). He explains how they are not really happy, that they need him and what he can provide in order to be happy.  Though most villagers wander away, a few stay and want what Fassad’s selling: Happy Boxes. Salsa’s next task is to drag around the heavy Happy Boxes, delivering one to each home that requested one. These Happy Boxes (which suspiciously resemble TVs) are the future source of much of the dissatisfaction which will ultimately destroy what Tazmily once was. As the villagers buy into the idea that they need more stuff to be content, they lose their ability to be satisfied with what they have.

mother 3 happy box

The second important event in Chapter 3 happens at the very end. Kumatora, the spiky-haired princess, rescues Salsa and they flee from Fassad and the Pigmasks. Alas, the Pigmasks and their tanks catch up with them and surround them. At that moment, they are saved by none other than Lucas. Up until this point, poor Lucas has been nothing but a bit of a crybaby. Less brave than his now-missing brother, Claus, Lucas has spent the time since his mother’s death weeping for her. But he somehow recognizes that Kumatora and Salsa need him, and he fetches his Drago friends for an exciting rescue. Not only has Lucas proven that he is not a weakling after all, he also shows that he has not broken with the old ways of the village. Even though his mother was killed by a Drago and it seems likely that Claus was as well, Lucas recognizes that they were innocent, and when he is in need, he calls on them still. He hasn’t let anger change his friendship or his allegiance with the natural world or his old way of life.

Bite him, Drago! Bite his head!

Bite him, Drago! Bite his head!

As Chapter 3 deals with the changing economy of Tazmily towards a consumerist society, I thought I’d take a moment to discuss some of the in-game economy as well. Many games, notably RPGs but also a lot of stealth games and shooters as well, require/allow the characters to carry around a large quantity of stuff at all times. In addition to armor and weapons, there are items which replenish health or eliminate various health problems (like poison or sickness). Game designers have to make a decision at some point on how much stuff a character or team can carry. Often, characters wind up hauling around piles of unworn armor, scores of not-as-good swords,  gallons of health potions, and dozens of antidotes. It is not uncommon for characters to have no upper limit to what they can haul, but it is certainly not the only way to deal with inventory. In early Final Fantasy games, for example, there is an upper bound on what you can carry. On the one hand, it is unreasonably high from a realist perspective (obviously those extra six shields are probably too heavy to go dragging around everywhere you go), but it is also too small for practical purposes. At the end, you wind up trying desperately to figure out what is really disposable, and what might actually come in handy somewhere down the line, besides trying to figure out how many health items you really need to have in order to beat an area. And annoyingly, some things actually are more important than they initially appeared (like the freakin’ Blood Sword in Final Fantasy II — who knew that was the most powerful weapon against some bosses?).

Mother 3 takes a totally different approach. The inventory is actually super tiny. However, I find that the small number of items that I can carry actually makes me be less conservative about using items. I tend to just go ahead and use health items, for example, instead of trying to hoard them, because holding on to stuff that you aren’t going to use isn’t worth it. Instead of relying on your stash of items to get you through to the end of the dungeon to the next store, you have to count on coming across enough stuff as you go to keep you going.

Of course, this being the most adorable game ever, sometimes holding onto items gives you an awesome reward. If you get some Fresh Milk and don’t drink it right away, it turns into Rotten Milk. If you still don’t get rid of it and drag it around with you for a good long time, eventually it turns into Yogurt. This is the sort of detail that just makes playing this game a delight. Even inventory management sometimes gives you an amusing little surprise.

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