We’re getting into the meaty parts of Mother 3 now, as our discussion arrives at the animal-abuse themed chapter. There’s very little that’s as affecting as a monkey in a shock collar. As always, this discussion contains complete spoilers for the third chapter of Mother 3. Since we released the discussion on chapter 2, the world of gaming lost one of its giants, Satoru Iwata, who was involved in the development of Mother 3 back when it was being developed for the Nintendo 64. We are all very grateful for his contribution to video games, and the fun spirit he was a part of at Nintendo that allowed games like Mother 3 to be published.
Evan: I think we’re getting in the swing of things now. We’ve just passed the 20th anniversary of Chrono Trigger’s release, and I’m in the mood for some RPG’s of the J variety. Let’s be honest. When am I not?
Adam: So true. This is definitely my favourite chapter so far, it feels less combat-oriented than the others and has a few quirky mechanics thrown in. Ironically, it was also the only chapter that I decided to grind for at the start, which turned out to be completely unnecessary. Also, this just in: Chrono Trigger is a vastly overrated game [ed: Adam’s clearly an idiot] and people should stop talking about it so much. Shots fired, JRPGs.
Evan: Urgh… You’re the LITERAL WORST. I know you folks haven’t been big on the way that the story keeps jumping around, but I think it really shakes things up. For a 20 hour game, not having the same systems of, “gain members, level up members, fight more difficult enemies” as every other game really highlights how the mechanics can be rewarding, but they don’t need to be the core gameplay loop. Every line leaves me in a slightly changed emotional state, and perhaps that’s just the context of what’s to come, but maybe it’s also the excellent writing and translation.
Aaron: I’ve come around on the jumping around in the story now that it looks like most of the set up is done. Like I mentioned in the last chapter’s discussion, I think breaking up the playing session into discrete chapters contributes to the disjointed feeling. It is nice that it tries to change things up with the chapters and how the characters play. The part I liked about this chapter is the fact that Salsa is very weak, when considered in the context of the combat mechanics, and it makes you play considerately rather than just spamming attacks. Although I do just spam dance and comedy routines…
Evan: I know you, Aaron, had issues with the main bad guy so far, and I’m hoping that the way the story progresses will add some context to Fassad’s actions. I love the story behind his name choice. Yokuba is the original name in Japanese, which has connotations of avarice or greed (as in, “欲張り” [yokubari]) and his new name definitely holds nefarious connotations as a different sort of pun. At this stage he’s selling a lie, thus facade/Fassad. I really enjoy the way some of the townsfolk don’t trust him. If you go out of your way to explore some of the houses to the west of the village, there are some pretty interesting lines of dialogue. Bateau and his doves, Nana and her abrupt honesty, and Reggie and his teepee all offer interesting, but easy-to-miss lines in this chapter. Speaking of easy-to-miss, Fassad was actually in both of the previous chapters – once trying to buy Butch’s pigs (what is it with pigs?!) after you’re sprung from jail, and once bumping into Duster. I love that there’s so much content to be discovered. Are any characters really jumping out at this point?
Adam: All the villagers kind of blend together into one generic, naive, sheltered character to me. Fassad was the most distinct character so far, though I do like their way of giving character to each protagonist by giving them unique moves. It’s a nice touch.
Aaron: I didn’t talk to many of the characters in this chapter, so I can’t speak to the optional dialogue. I did find it interesting that Fassad calls to mind the trope of a foreign “other” coming into a community introducing change and his design is reminiscent of a Turkish gentlemen. Salsa’s presence and sweet dance moves also evokes organ grinders with performing monkeys who have played that role of “other” in older tales. I noted that Fassad in this chapter really cranks up the “BWAHAHA LOOK HOW BAD A DUDE I AM” with the monkey-kidnapping and torture-by-banana-and-oh-yeah-also-electric-shocks. It felt pretty one-dimensional, but Evan’s been harping on that there’s more to him so I’ll reserve judgment on that.
Evan: All I do is harp. Yeah, when you remember the fact that he’s originally called Yokuba, then the obvious arab flavour is perhaps formed partly because you start out in the desert, and partly due to his new name having an Arabian Nights feel, rather than being especially related to in-game character design choices. I like having a different roster of special moves for each character, and I liked the fact that even though Fassad is awful, he’s still the only reason Salsa lived through the battles. I never found any of them a challenge, but I still liked some of the lines of battle dialogue, especially as they pertained to Salsa apologizing to the enemy, or trying to distract them with dancing. All in all, a very easy chapter.
Aaron: Actually, wasn’t there a bit with Duster and Kumatora where only her PK attacks were effective and Duster is relegated to spamming status attacks? This was reminiscent of that. Also, I liked that Fassad was pretty unreliable and would sometimes just do nothing. Kinda like Wess. Or you could think of all Salsa’s attacks as having a “also deals a random amount of damage every turn” rider. We’re certainly seeing variety thrown in, even with a seemingly limited gameplay palette.
Evan: We even got a delivery quest part way through! Spread the propaganda! This village needs happiness (read: capitalism), so GET YOUR HAPPY BOXES! I don’t think we got to see these in operation in this chapter (all they do is glow, anyway… SPOILERS!), but as an interesting aside, Itoi states that they weren’t meant to be a stand-in for television, as most of the internet seems to assume. He said they were just meant to be glowing boxes. Still, it was kind of cool hearing the variation on the “party member joins” and “you got a cool item” melodies done in a sombre minor key. I love the little touches. There lots of flavour found in playing with the tropes.
Adam: I like the idea of an inn that doesn’t take money, they just give you rooms for free. I’m getting a kind of colonisation-metaphor vibe so far, with the capitalist pigs blundering in and inadvertently causing a lot of disruption and damage to the sheltered villagers who just want to be left alone.
Aaron: COMMENTARY. Also, music-wise, I’m glad to see the return of the silly dance music. I was curious in the previous chapter whether you’d get to go back to the basement to get through that door. I like Salsa’s version of the silly dance to open the door in the basement. That part was the only slight stumper, as I kept trying to use Salsa’s regular dance moves before I realised you had to learn new moves from the murals.
Evan: Hehe. Adorable. I like how there’s a contrast. This is a village that knows how to produce bombs and all manor of modern conveniences, but there’s no factories or money or anything. There’s a modern knowledge with a communal, almost tribal set-up. It’s explained later, but at this stage it’s just a cute juxtaposition.
Aaron: It just dawned on me that it’s pretty strange to have the tunnel system connecting the desert to the graveyard which hints at some form of long-term setup. Did the Pork Army build it for infiltration or did they repurpose something that was already there? It’s already been hinted that there’s some serious shit that went down in the past with the castle so maybe this is linked to that.
Evan: FORESHADOWING! There’s an explanation for a lot of the crazy stuff we see at the moment, which is cool, but with the sheer volume of oddness, I’m sure there’ll be stuff left unexplained. There’s a lot of flavour that comes from RPG tropes, for sure. I like how silly the RPG naming vernacular becomes in a modern setting. “Luxury Banana”, etc. I guess that had already started with EarthBound, and the “Cracked Bat”, “Mr. Baseball Bat”, “Skip Sandwich”, “Skip Sandwich DX”, etc. It’s a funny contrast with the often dark storyline. Much like stopping to eat a pineapple you find on a dead policeman in BioShock Infinite. But I feel like the use of these tropes and clichés helps make it feel like something familiar – like a children’s picture book – so that it can surprise you by exploring genuinely engaging issues with stirring imagery.
Adam: I want a Luxury Banana. I spent a minute or two trying to interact with the banana skin Fassad dropped on the ground.
Aaron: We all want a Luxury Banana. At least you’re learning that it’s wise to examine everything in this style of game. This chapter felt quite short and inoffensive. I did like that it gave you a different perspective on the happenings concurrent to your actions in the last chapter, and it was nice to see Kumatora being a badass again. Also, Lucas returns with some heavy duty backup and I’m guessing it’s main character development time. I’m looking forward to what might be ahead, and it’s actually pretty engaging.
Evan: Again, thanks for playing with me, folks. I’ll see you very soon as we dive back into Mother 3 after our lengthier-than-intended break.