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.
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.
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.
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.