All posts by NonCon

Gay, white male, 22 years old. Grew up in conservative southeast Idaho, in the US. Didn't educate myself about most rights movements until after high school. Fan of "casual" and "core" games, and want to work towards making gaming culture more inclusive.

Reviewing Inclusiveness – Radiant Historia

I think I want to try a different kind of review. I want to review how progressive a particular game is, and that alone. I could do a full review, but there are plenty of other places where you can read about the story, the music, the graphics, the gameplay, etc. The Border House is about inclusiveness and progressiveness, so that’s what I’m going to judge. First up on the list? Radiant Historia, which is fresh enough in my mind that I can accurately talk about it, and also gives me some talking points. Some spoilers, but I’ll be as vague as I possibly can be when discussing them.

A man in red armed with a shield in the foreground, alongside a woman and a shorter man, both with surprised looks on their faces. In the background, there are partial images of a heavily armored man with a spear, a blond woman with earrings, a young girl with pointed ears, and a man with a white beard.

 

The Good

  • While a woman does die in the very beginning of the game, a man dies in the same incident alongside her. Stocke, the main character, would have also died were it not for plot happening. There are a couple of good character deaths later on, but they happen to men.
  • Raynie, the first woman in your party, starts off as a more fighter based character and wields a spear, the same weapon type that the strongest physical character in the game uses. She also gets to use the same heavy armor that the protagonist and the strongest physical attacker use. In contrast, the first man in your party who isn’t the protagonist, Marco, starts off as your healer.
  • While Stocke does try to discourage some of the women in the game from accompanying him on his quest, it’s never about their gender. In these instances, it is about either the political importance of the character or the character’s age. Additionally, every time it comes up he concedes and allows them to come with. His reasoning for not wanting people with him is also established early on. In fact, I can’t recall any lines that equated fighting ability to a particular gender, though it’s possible a few slipped by me.
  • Every woman in your party isn’t a potential love interest. This is kind of an obvious thing, but far too often jRPGs have every woman fighting over the main character, while wRPGs let male characters romance every woman. Having women who have romances with other characters, or reasons for not romancing the main character, is nice.
  • The most useful party member in the entire game is the little girl, easily doing double the damage or more than any of the other party members, regardless of the gender of those characters.
  • One of the women in the game, Field Marshal Viola, is described as being one of the toughest people in the military, as well as being very charismatic and skilled at battlefield tactics. From what I recall, she’s also not primarily a caster, instead wielding a sword, however she’s never in your party so I honestly can’t say one way or the other for sure.

 

The Bad

  • The armor type for the princess is a dress based on the in-game text, and an ornately armored blouse based on the character art. The former is bad because this character is involved in combat, she can buy some pants or something more suited to fighting. The latter would be pretty cool, but is instead just awful because her legs aren’t remotely protected. I can’t even tell if she’s wearing leggings or not, though I assume she is. Raynie’s outfit is a bit revealing as well, but not quite that bad. Granted, in both examples you can’t really see it in the in-game character portraits, but it’s still ridiculous.

 

Woman in an ornate, armored blouse wielding what appears to be a flintlock rifle. She wears a cap, and boots, but her legs are almost completely visible, though she seems to have some somewhat opaque leggings on.

  • The women who aren’t Raynie are the primary damage dealing casters of the game, and one of them is also the best healer in the game. Raynie eventually becomes more of a caster, but isn’t as good at it as the more feminine women in your party. At the same time, her physical abilities aren’t as good as two of the masculine men in your party. She falls into a kinda-sorta-useful middle ground. To be fair, Marco eventually becomes a similar character, as he gets a couple physical abilities, but that hardly excuses it.
  • Most all of the antagonists are men, and the woman antagonist is never fought directly. You defeat her by defeating her (male) soldiers.
  • Every character that is not the King of Cygnus is white. This could be explained on the basis that the country you start in is Europe based, while Cygnus is supposed to be a desert country, but since the king is the only one with a character portrait I can’t really judge whether that’s the case or not. If I can’t tell, I’m not going to try to excuse it.
  • Unsurprisingly, there are no bi, gay, or transgender characters.
  • The epilogue has one woman waiting for the man she loves to return home safe and sound. It’s the sort of cliché “I’ll wait as long as it takes,” nonsense you’d expect of such a plot element.
  • The closest thing to a non-dominant race of people is, as usual, anthropomorphic and laden with the standard “tribal” themes, like some members of the race being shamans and all the villages being in forests or jungles. (Other example to prove my point: Warcraft)

There’s some good and some bad about Radiant Historia. Judging its progressiveness/inclusiveness it wouldn’t be hard to name games that do better, but at the same time it’s even easier to name games that do worse, especially within that particular genre. It’s a mixed bag, but for the genre I’d say it does more right than I expected. I came away from the experience more or less happy with this aspect of the game, though the more critical will (rightfully) find much at fault with the problems I listed.

Let’s Play Mother 3! Episode Two: A Big Firey, Flamey Fire!

Appy-polly-loggies! It seems I had forgotten just how time consuming screenshot LPs are to make, and how long it certain events in Mother 3 were. I’ll not make that mistake again, and I’ll try to do another update quicklike after this one to compensate for my falling behind. It’ll not happen again, I hope. Was hoping to address an event in this chapter, but it looks like it’ll have to wait for next one.

If you’re already far ahead, don’t feel a need to slow down, but I’ll still maintain the spoiler limits, simply for the sake of anyone who joins the party late. I’m also going into as much depth and mentioning as many things as I do for the sake of those who don’t necessarily play the game with us but want to participate in discussion. I don’t know how many of those there’ll be, but it’s worth doing, I feel.

One last thing: Mother 3 isn’t perfect. It does a lot of things I really like, but there are still things open to criticism. I want readers to criticize Mother 3, because this is one of the few places on the internet where we actually *can* criticize games about these aspects without being shut down. However, with many things I will likely try to offer context, my own perspective on why it was done a certain way and the like. I’ll take time to point things out, too. What I want to be clear is that when I offer context I’m not trying to excuse nor am I trying to shut down possible criticism. I am merely offering a perspective. However, if I do come off too much like I’m making excuses, call me out on it in the comments section.

Spoiler Limit – Nothing past when Flint gets home from the fire.

 

Text and four images: "Welcome to the World of Mother 3" An image of an island with two mountains on it. "Nowhere Islands" A house on a cliff bordering the ocean. "Tazmily Village" A forest. "Beyond the Sunshine Forest" A log cabin. "Home of Alec, Hinawa's Father"

 

We open to Lucas, our protagonist, sleeping in bed, and hear his brother, Claus, knocking on the door.

Lucas!! How long’re you gonna sleep?! Get up so we can play!

Get up, already! The Dragos brought their babies over!

They’re really cute!! Hurry up!

He stops yelling, and Lucas wakes up.

 

Four images: Lucas, in his pajamas, looking in a mirror. "The same bedhead as always." Lucas talking to his mother, Hinawa, who says, "Good morning, Mr. Sleepyhead Lucas. Claus has been up for a while, playing with the Dragos." Lucas about to leave, and Hinawa asks, "Are you planning to play in your pajamas? Scoot upstairs and change your clothes." If the player answers "No," she responds, "Then you can stay inside, in your pajamas, for the rest of your life." Lucas after having changed his clothes and combed his hair; Hinawa says, "You're much manlier now. Go have fun!"

 

A cute moment between a mother and her son, is how I read this. The “You’re much manlier now” line could be considered troublesome, not much but just a very tiny bit, though I never really payed it much mind because I could imagine my own mother saying something like that to me when I was Lucas’ age.

Once you’re outside, you can talk to Alec, Lucas’ grandfather, who mentions that he’s sad to see you leave. Alec kinda looks like Sean Connery, to me. I wish my grandfather looked like Sean Connery. You can talk to the animals, too, and they’ll say normal animal things, but Lucas knows what they’re thinking. Nothing new to Mother games, and it’s never explained, probably because Itoi thought it better without an explanation. I can’t help but agree.

“All cows, no matter what they’re thinking, go, ‘Moo.’ It’d be handy to remember that.”

At this point, you can go south or east. Going south, the game stops you with “There ants at your feet. You might accidentally step on them, so please don’t continue in that direction.” It’s a silly reason for Lucas not to continue, and you’re supposed to laugh, but it also gives a little bit of insight into the Mother 3 world. It’s a world where every life is precious, even an ant’s, and you wouldn’t want to take a life needlessly. Heading east, you meet a frog.

“A story is a series of memories. Memories are remembered with other memories,

and in turn become memories themselves. If you don’t take care to preserve your

memories, you’ll forget them. So, please tell us frogs your memories of everything

so far… That is what people refer to as ‘saving’.”

Memory is, in some ways, an incredibly important theme in Mother 3. It just takes a while for that to be clear. This line from the frog in some ways foreshadows memory’s role in the story, while also introducing the saving mechanic in a charming way. Why frogs? There is a song by Akiko Yano, that Itoi wrote the lyrics to, titled “Furimukeba Kaeru.” Kaeru, in this instance, is a play on words that means both “to return/go home” and “frog”. Translated, the song’s title is something like “If You Turn Around, Frog”.

In an interview, Itoi said, “… they are tiny, they seem like they could be anywhere, and they won’t get in your way, yet they do stand out. A dog wouldn’t really seem like a save point. I’ve written a song called Furimukeba Kaeru. When someone fails, a frog comes along and says, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.” The lyrics show, hey, you’re being told this by a frog. It’s obviously not worth being that upset about. It’s a frog telling you this, what more do you want? (laughs) That’s where it comes from.”

Continuing east, you see Claus play-fighting with a Drago. He rams it, it makes a big show of falling over, and then stands back up. Dragos look like dinosaurs, but they’re peaceful, harmless creatures. In the world of Mother 3, that’s the natural state of being for all creatures. There’s an idea held by some that the reason some animals are as violent and dangerous as they are is because of humans. I can’t say if that’s a belief Itoi shares, but it seems to be the case in Mother 3. Humans are at harmony with nature, so the animals are peaceful, too.

 

Claus standing next to a Drago, which resembles a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Lucas stands behind Claus. There is a baby Drago to the side, and a slightly different colored adult Drago resting behind it.

Claus encourages you to ram one of the Dragos, too, so Alec shows up to teach Lucas how to ram.

“Try to imagine a thing called a B button! And then hold that B button for a second,

then let go. Doing this will let you ‘dash’. And by using this ‘dash’ ability, you can

ram into that Drago there!”

Lucas tries a couple of times, getting squashed if he rams the Drago from the side, when they’re suddenly interrupted.

 

A mole cricket confronts our heroes. "I can't jut sit idly by when I hear someone's play-fighting! I'm gonna wipe the floor with all of you! Get in my way and you're in for a world of pain!"

It is here that we have our first experience with the combat.

Lucas and Claus in battle with a mole cricket. They have "rolling" health meters, and aren't actually seen on the screen during battle, making it reminiscent of Dragon Quest combat. Text above the mole cricket's head says "2 HITS. TOTAL DAMAGE 10."

The first thing you’ll notice about the combat is that it’s first-person, like in Dragon Quest. What is unique to the Mother franchise is that when you take damage, the numbers don’t just jump down immediately. They scroll down to the new total. It gives the character an opportunity to heal after taking damage that would otherwise kill them, but Lucas and Claus have far too little health for that mechanic to really matter right now. During battle you can attack, use items, or use magic/abilities. If a character has magic, they don’t have abilities, and vice versa. You can also try to escape or defend. The main role defending plays is that it makes your health scroll down more slowly.

 

There is one more thing unique to Mother 3. When the message pops up, saying, “Lucas attacks!” or something along those lines, meaning whoever is attacking at the time, you can repeated press A in time with the battle music. Matching the rhythm of the song is incredibly hard, especially if, like me, you lack the rhythm skills. Later, some songs change unexpectedly and dramatically, making it harder for those who are good at the mechanic to get used to them. Some enemies can even change the pace of the song. However, if you can press A in time with the combos, you can keep hitting the enemy until you miss a beat. Each hit of extra damage is only a fraction of the opening hit, but since you can reach sixteen hit combos, that quickly adds up and can let you double your damage, or more. That said, the biggest combo I’ve ever gotten was eleven hits, and I only got that big once, so being good at the mechanic is hardly a necessity to beating the game.

“I see you have more of a spine than I thought. If you’d like, I can train you personally

sometime. Next time we meet, it’ll be at the big Mole Cricket Hole Stadium!

I look forward to seein’ you there! …Bro.”

Hinawa joins the group. "I stepped on a mole cricket. I hope it's all right..."

BROOOOOOOO!!!

Well enough of that. After a brief explanation from Alec on how to save, just in case you missed the frog from before, you all go to a delicious lunch of omelets, or whatever your favorite food was. During lunch, they talk about heading back home to Tazmily Village later, and that they want to head early. Alec tells them not to worry though, because the woods are so safe that even Lucas could walk them alone. This is the first time that we see Lucas isn’t an incredibly gifted or super-fantastic protagonist, at least not yet. He’s often described as a “momma’s boy” or “coddled”, which is, to me, an enjoyable role-reversal from characters who are magically good at fighting and swords and such from word go.

Hinawa steps outside and sends a pigeon to deliver a letter to Flint.

Dear Flint, just like you said they would, the children have been running around

the mountains and fields tirelessly since the moment we arrived. Claus is as daring

and full of energy as ever, while Lucas is still a bit coddled. But neither one seems

tired of playing at all. My father seems sad to say goodbye to his grandchildren after

seeing them for the first time in so long, but we should be home by this evening.

I had forgotten how nice and refreshing the mountain air is. You’re always covered

in the smell of sheep back in Tazmily Village, so I really wish you could have been

here to take in this air. The next time we visit, let’s ask one of our neighbors to tend

to the sheep so we can all come up here as a family. Claus, Lucas, and I were always

thinking about you. When we get home this evening, I’ll start cooking some of your

favorite omelets right away. With love, your dearest Hinawa.

A bit heavy on the gender roles, but I kind of understand why it is. One of the things Itoi was trying to create a family many people could identify with, so he went with the most traditional one. He mentions in an interview how some players named Hinawa after their own mothers, which is something he actually wanted people to do. Not everyone has a family like this, but I understand his motivations from a design perspective. In many ways it reminds me of my own family, even what Flint does for a living, raising sheep, is very similar to what my own father does. Doesn’t excuse the gender roles from criticism, but that’s my perspective on why they’re present.

After the pigeon flies off, marching music starts playing, and a mysterious object flies overhead. Thus ends the prologue.

One thing that’s really clear, and always has been, is that Itoi draws heavily from the Dragon Quest games. To be fair, many jRPGs do, but it’s more than that. The first Mother game was a frustrating DQ clone in terms of gameplay, and Earthbound did a little, but not much to change that. The biggest change Earthbound made was to be less frustrating. All three Mother games use the DQ-style limited inventory system, first person combat, turn order system (wherein you choose your whole party’s commands before any are executed), and primary focus on buffs and debuffs. Itoi has refined and improved it as time when on, but it’s still easy to see its roots.

Mother 3 draws from Dragon Quest in a different way however. Dragon Quest IV has a short prologue where you play as the protagonist, followed by several chapters where you play as different people every time, before reuniting the group with the protagonist in charge. Whichever character is being controlled is silent, but they all, except the protagonist, talk once the group is all together. Without spoiling more than I already have, I will say that Mother 3 follows this plot layout fairly closely. So, when we’re controlling Flint, as we do the first chapter, he’s a silent protagonist, and Lucas talks. When we control other characters, Flint talks.

Is there some grand reason for this? Not really. It’s a fun way of doing things is all, though you could run with the excuse of “It’s so the players can project themselves onto the characters.” Honestly, though, I don’t buy it, but it works, and for one very simple reason. Every emotional scene in this game would only be hurt by whatever dialogue the characters might choose to say could they talk. The truly heartrending or touching moments in Mother 3 are ones where words are not needed, and because of that it’s okay that the characters don’t talk.

Moving on…

"CHAPTER 1: Night of the Funeral" Four images. Explosions going off in the Sunshine Forest. A father leaving his house wielding a large piece of lumber, and telling his son to go back inside. A caribou running from something. Soldiers in pig masks setting a bomb.

So we already have our villains, the Pig Mask Army. Setting a forest on fire isn’t exactly a good guy thing to do, but we don’t know why they’re doing it. I like their designs; simplistic, and with some Storm Trooper stylings. I also appreciate that the story doesn’t waste time. The game opens up, and we already know who we’re pitted against, even if we don’t have the finer details. Thomas, the fireman, runs down to Flint’s house and bangs on the door.

“Flint!!!! It’s a fire! A fire, a fire! The Sunshine Forest is on fire in a huge, fire, flamey fire!”

After wondering aloud, “Who would lock their door in a village as peaceful as ours?!” Thomas accidentally yanks the doorknob off. Remember this doorknob. Flint and Thomas join up. Bad times like this call for reckless nice guys like Flint! You can talk to Boney, the dog, to get a stick. Some jRPG characters wield guns, swords, staves, or wands. Flint uses sticks.

Walking around town, you can talk to the people, who are all freaking out about the fire. They also mention that Lighter lives in the forest with his son Fuel and that Flint needs to rescue the two of them. Noteworthy locations as you do strut about the town are the Yado Inn and the store, which is awesome for reasons I’ll get into later. The most important character to talk to in Tazmily right now is Mapson, who sits on a bench and gives you a map. He’s a helpful fellow. In fact, everyone in Tazmily Village is helpful, or at least tries to be, even if most are too frightened to go into the forest with you. Just outside the village, there’s nobody you have to talk to, but I always take time to talk to Leder.

 

An incredibly tall man in a suit and hat ringing an alarm bell.

Continuing on, before you can actually enter the forest, you have to enter the prayer sanctuary and offer a prayer to the forest. Jonel is already inside offering his own prayer.

“May the forest and the people and the animals and I all have happiness…”

Itoi believes in the power of prayer. Prayer is how you defeat the final boss of Earthbound, and while it’s not as important here, you still see that belief in Mother 3. Prayer is also a great way to show the concerns and worries of the people in the game without them outright saying to the character, “I’m afraid of ______” Jonel’s prayer is very short, but I always found it touching. When you offer your own prayer, the game asks for your name. Yes, the name of the player. This, too, is right out of Eartbound, and like in Earthbound it won’t be the last time we’re asked for the player’s name. As you enter the forest, you first meet Mike.

“*cough* *cough* Oh, it’s you, Flint. I THOUGHT I saw someone as manly as me

walking this way. This smoke is terrible, and with my sensitive throat, I can’t

continue any further. So you can have this cookie instead. Let this slightly

unclean and not very tasty cookie be of use. …… Please let it be of use.”

Again, this is one of the things I love about Mother 3. Is Mike an important character? Was Jonel? No, none of them are important, but you remember them, because the game gives them really memorable lines. Mike’s line sums up the tone of the game perfectly, funny, but layered with sadness. The forest is where we start experiencing actual battles, primarily against bats and yammonsters. There’s also a nearby hot spring where we can rest and rejuvinate, an interesting twist on the “Go stay at an inn” cliche, in part because staying at an inn has always been a bit of fridge logic. Using a hot spring for a little bit makes a little more sense, even if not much more. One interesting trick to the combat is that since all the enemies actually show up in the world, and contact with them initializes the combat, if you can position yourself behind them, you actually get to attack them from behind the first round of combat. All the enemy sprites even has a backside to go with this. It’s not a game-changer, but it’s nice. After a few battles, we encounter Lighter.

 

Four images, all of Flint and Thomas talking to an injured Lighter. A dead bug lays on the ground off to the side, as does a large piece of lumber. Ligheter: "I try to beat these things up, but more just keep coming." Thomas: "What IS that thing?! A bug?!" Lighter: "They're goin' around the forest, lightin' fires. But never mind that, Fuel's still at home!" Thomas: "What?! Fuel's still in your shack?! Flint! You go help Fuel!"

You can take and equip Lighter’s lumber for a better weapon, after which you get into a fight with three firebugs.

 

Three firebugs on screen. At the top is a list of special moves Flint has.

Flint has four special moves, Swing, Power Smash, Strengthen Up, and Toughen Up. Swing isn’t worth much, and while Power Smash does a TON of damage, it rarely hits, though they’re abilities and not magic skills, so you wouldn’t be wasting PP (PSI Points) even if Flint had any. The most important ones are Strengthen Up and Toughen Up. The former increases your damage, the latter increases your defense. Using each one once in all the Flint’s more challenging battles removes any real need to grind. I can’t combo for the life of me, and none of the battles were particularly challenging so long as I didn’t avoid battles on the way and remembered to use healing items. Shortly after that battle, you finally reach Lighter’s cabin, and see Fuel trapped inside.

 

Flint standing outside a burning cabin. Fire is everywhere. A small child, Fuel, can be seen standing in front of the upstairs window, calling for help.

The door to the cabin is stuck, so you have to ram the door. Once you’re inside you have your first decently challenging battle, against a flying mouse, but so long as you heal and use buffs on your character there’s very little risk of losing the fight. If you’re short on healing items, you can kill yammonsters for nut bread before going inside. After that head up the stairs, bust some wood out of the way with another dash, and you can leave the cabin with Fuel in tow. The cabin collapses the moment you’re outside.

“Wahh! I’m pitch black and covered in soot, but I’m alive. You’re pitch black too, Mr. Flint.

Thank you, Mr. Pitch Black Flint! Thank you so so so much, Mr. Pitch Black Flint!”

For extra laughs on your way back, stay in the hot spring.

 

Flint and Fuel standing outside the hot spring. Their bodies are clean, but their heads are still pitch black and covered in soot.

Once you get back to the prayer sanctuary, Fuel is reunited with his father.

 

Four images, all of villagers gathered around Lighter, who is resting on a table. Flint and Fuel stand next to him. Lighter: "...Thanks, Flint. Guess I showed my not-so-tough side, huh?" Lou: "I think that could be the first time I've ever heard the boss thank anyone." Bronson: "The only way this could be any stranger is if it suddenly started pouring rain." It starts raining.

“Let’s just hope this rain puts out the fire.”

Back at the Yado Inn, Flint is bandaged up, and Lighter recovers from his injuries.

“Did you see anything else in the fire besides those weird bugs? I’m talking about

some… suspicious people with pig-like masks on. Those bastards… They turned

the forest pitch black! And you, Flint! You wound up pitch black, too!”

“When are Hinawa and the others coming back? With the forest like it is now,

won’t the way back be dangerous?”

You can rest in a spare room before leaving the inn. There’s an antidote inside. It’s worth taking the time to grab it. Outside, Isaac is waiting for you.

“Perfect timing! I heard you were taking a rest here. ……Mighty heavy rain, isn’t it?

Think I’ll join you under the awning. Flint. Tell me… Have you seen Hinawa and the

kids? ……I see. …Actually, I was up in the mountains earlier, picking mushrooms.

While I was up there, I caught sight of Hinawa. Then, while I was taking a break

by the river, I heard loud roars far off in the distance… It sounded like it might

have been a Drago that was roaring… After that, I heard… what I think… might

have been screams… Say, Flint. Hinawa and the kids made it back home, right?”

Heading home, Flint finds the pigeon with the letter waiting for him. He, and we as players, read the letter. The music is slightly different, sadder, and the letter has new meaning as we wonder if Hinawa and the kids are okay. Inside, Flint is still reading the letter when  Isaac and Fuel come to check on him. This is what I mean when I say dialogue would only hurt this scene. What is there for Flint to say here? Staring at the letter is enough. With that, the village of Tazmily set off into the forest to look for Hinawa, Claus, and Lucas, and thus ends my first real post on Mother 3.

 

Let’s Play Mother 3! Episode One: OK Desu Ka

I’ve been toying with the idea of The Border House playing through a game as a group, at least those who are interested. To me, there is no better game to start with for this project than Mother 3.

The Mother 3 box art. A plain, red background with the title in the top-right corner.

 

Mother 3 is a Gameboy Advance sequel to Earthbound. It’s a jRPG with Dragon Quest styled turn-based combat, as well as a rhythm mechanic, though it’s mainly a background element to the standard combat. It has a low bar of entry, as it was designed as a game to be played by very young children, as well as adults, and is often presented in an innocent way, though there are definitely darker themes.

The game was made by Shigesato Itoi, who is regarded as a popular cultural figure in Japan. He’s written a novel, made several video games, manages a popular website, and writes essays on subjects such as spirituality. The music is by Shogo Sakai, who has done the music for several Kirby games, as well as Super Smash Brothers Brawl. It’s inclusive in ways not generally expected, charming, and accessible, all while having solid gameplay and the best story of any game I’ve played. I’ll try for a once a week update on this, though I may fall behind at times.

While I’m going to analyze, discuss, and somewhat review this game all at the same time, I think a big part of this experience will be all of us playing through it. At least, all who are interested. Even if you’ve played through before, feel free to join us as we go through this gem. I’ll start every post with a “spoiler limit.” How far into the game I’m going to spoil things, and how far I’ll allow the comments to spoil things. This is both to let people know how far they ought to be into the game before reading a post, but also so nobody posts end-game spoilers when we’re in Chapter One, for example. Normal TBH rules apply, of course.

What You’ll Need

A Mother 3 Rom (You’ll have to find one on your own, unfortunately.)

The Mother 3 Translation Patch

A Gameboy Advance Emulator (I’m using VBA, but I can’t link you to one.)

This is of course if you want to play the game in English. If you understand Japanese and can get your hands on the actual game, more power to you. If your native language is not English, I apologize, but I’m not aware of any translation patches to other languages. If someone knows of other language patches, though, I’d be happy to link them.

With that out of the way, let’s begin! We’ll only be naming our characters today, so no Mother 3 spoilers whatsoever. I will be posting some Mother 1 and Mother 2/Earthbound spoilers, but they will be incredibly minor for the latter.

Episode One: OK Desu Ka

The first thing you’ll see is the title, shown below.

The Mother 3 title screen. "Mother 3" appears to be made of trees, but much of the wood has been replaced with silver-colored metal. The 'O', normally an image of Earth, is nothing but a metal sphere.

The title “Mother 3” is a rough, ugly combination of metal and wood. A fusion of nature and technology. It doesn’t look pretty, and this is intentional.

In an interview, Shigesato Itoi, the game’s creator, said, “When things that don’t match at all are attached to one another, it’s mentally unsettling. I’ve only written one novel, and in the opening, I wrote about a hearse. A hearse has a casket of both metal and wood, but when you try and think about how and where they connect to one another, it makes you feel a little weird. It’s also interesting how it’s meant to carry bodies. Modern things can all be seen in that same way. And you can’t question whether we can negate all of these things. In this room, too, for example, there is a wooden table… but this is a reinforced concrete building. Forcibly coordinating incompatible things and matching them… (…) I feel like these are all things of modern times–these feelings of uneasiness and discomfort. But I still understand that they make up the world I’m in. That logo is a symbol of that.”

Note: I will be referencing this interview frequently, but will avoid linking it for the time being because it’s impossible to avoid early game spoilers.

Mother 3 often draws attention to the themes of modern life and the world we live in today, the good and bad about that, and other elements of our everyday lives that we don’t often contemplate. The title’s appearance does a great job of setting that tone, especially when you hear the logic behind it.

Also worth noting is the Sound Player option. As you play throughout the game, you unlock the music to listen to in the sound player. Itoi loves music and themes of music. In the first Mother game, you defeat the evil alien Giygas (also known as Giegue or Gyiyg) by singing his mother’s lullaby to him. It’s an emotional defeat brought about by song. Earthbound has Ness, the protagonist, collecting the Eight Melodies, all which are tied to a certain, long-forgotten memory of his. Being able to listen to the game’s music whenever you want makes sense, though it’s still a pleasant surprise. There are roughly two-hundred and fifty audio files in the Sound Player.

When you choose New Game, our characters slowly fill the screen.

 

An image of the naming sections for Claus and Lucas. Lucas is a young, blond boy in a striped shirt. Claus is the same but with brown hair. In the second image, their father is standing behind them. Lucas is described as the younger twin brother and a gentle boy. In contrast, Claus, the older twin, is described as being energetic.

I’ve decided to name the characters after my family this playthrough. I’m censoring their names for this update, but will find a more convenient solution by the next one. Skyler is my name. The default names for these characters are Lucas, for the protagonist, and Claus, for his older twin. This is a reference to two characters in the novel The Notebook by Ágota Kristóf. Mother 3 shares some of its themes with The Notebook, specifically war, destruction, loneliness, and love.

 

Naming sections for Flint, Hinawa, Boney, as well as a section for stating your favorite food. Flint wears a cowboy hat and has a goatee. Hinawa wears a red dress. Flint is refered to as the strong, kind, and dependable father. Hinawa as the beloved mother. Boney as the brave and smart dog.

I’ve named the parents after my own. It helps that in some ways they do remind me of my own parents. The father even looks like my dad! The father’s default name is Flint. The mother’s default name is Hinawa, after a type of matchlock. There are several other characters in this game named after fire-starting tools. I may delve into this a bit more later on. The dog’s default name is Boney, but I named the dog Mele after a rottweiler my family used to own before we had to put her to sleep. She was my first pet dog, so she holds a special place in my heart. My favorite food is actually enchiladas, but that was too many characters, so I went with tacos. The default food is omelets, but as far as I know it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s just food, kinda like how Boney’s default name doesn’t have any depth to it. They can’t all be winners!

The game asks "What's your favorite thing?" The default answer is Love.

It asks your favorite thing, but unless I’m being a goof I always run with the default. In Earthbound, the default favorite thing was “Rockin’”, which obviously didn’t really mean much. Love is a major theme in Mother 3, so I find it fitting to opt for love every time. It’s relevance as your favorite thing will become obvious later on.

A summary of the names given all the characters.

That’s what I’m going with. Feel free to share what you named your characters, or where you got the names from at least. In fact, I highly recommend it. This is an experience that I really want as much participation from the TBH community as possible. I, and I’m sure many other TBH members agree, want to know what you think of parts of the game as we get to them, things you noticed, jokes or tricks you found, and your interpretation of characters and events.

I hope you all enjoy playing through Mother 3, not just for the game itself, but also for the community experience I want to have while we do it!

The Pornification of Parasite Eve 3

I recently played Parasite Eve for the first time, and its protagonist, Aya Brea, is quite possibly my favorite female protagonist of any game I’ve played. She was a strong female character, and when put into hazardous situations, she survives and outperforms all the male characters around her. What emotional and psychological issues she has to work past have nothing to do with her gender, and her gender is never made out to be at all relevant to her skills.

The only time a male character has to save her is when she needed a special weapon to kill the final boss. In that instance, her being rescued had nothing to do with her gender or ability, nor the gender or ability of the man saving her. He was just getting the tool to her that she needed to finish the fight. It barely qualifies as saving her, if it does at all.

Aya’s character design is also very nice. She wears a normal shirt and pants, because she’s a cop. The only outfit in the entire game that she wears to emphasize her femininity or sexiness is a dress and high heels she wears on a date at the beginning of the game, before everything goes to hell.

On December 22nd, Parasite Eve 3: The 3rd Birthday was released in Japan. I have not even played this game yet, and I could not hate it more if I tried. Of this game’s many grievances, the first is an unnecessary shower scene. Now, while I haven’t played it, Parasite Eve 2 also seems to have a shower scene, however a quick comparison, offered below, makes it quickly clear just how much worse about it Parasite Eve 3 is.


(Shower scene from Parasite Eve 2. A slow, panning shot of Aya Brea’s legs, followed by an extended shot of her from the shoulders up.  Aya turns off the shower and stares at the drain for an extended period of time. The last few seconds of the scene focus on Aya’s face.)


(Shower scene from Parasite Eve 3. A brief shot of Aya’s face, followed by the camera panning down her chest, her nipples hidden by her forearms. The next shot is a low, rear angle that shows part of her behind, her back, the side/bottom of her right breast. She lowers her arm, her hand sliding over her breast.  The camera angle cuts to a view from the side, panning down as her hand slides down her body.  Once again, her breast is partially visible, as is part of her backside.)

Parasite Eve 2′s shower scene was actually somewhat tasteful. It’s still rather unnecessary, but it doesn’t come off entirely as pathetic pandering to an audience of horny teenagers. The scene in Parasite Eve 3, however, is all about showing off as much of Aya’s body as possible, as sensually as possible, without upping the rating for nudity. It’s pathetic fanservice with no point but to fetishize a character I love. This makes me not want to check out the game, because if the creators don’t respect the character the way I do, I have no reason to expect she will be written in a way I can respect.

Parasite Eve 3 also includes battle damage, which an idea I actually like and support. However, the application is atrocious fanservice. The only battle damage is her clothes, which can be destroyed until she is practically naked, with the naughty bits only barely obscured so the rating doesn’t go up a notch, much like the shower scene.

Two screenshots from Parasite Eve 3. The left is a front shot of Aya Brea, her clothes torn to shreds. Her breasts are concealed by a barely intact bra. Her pants have been torn until they resemble a shredded bikini bottom. On the right is the same image, but from behind. The torn pants reveal much of her backside. She doesn't appear to be wearing any other clothing in the images.

Almost as offensive as this “battle damage” itself is Yoshinori Kitase’s excuse for it.

You may actually find some of the features erotic or sexy. But that’s not our intention, really. For example, Aya, as she continues to fight, sometimes what she’s wearing gets ripped and torn to reveal more of her skin, which lots of gamers may find quite sexy. But we didn’t do that because we wanted to show her in a very sexy light. It’s more like that’s reality. If you keep fighting obviously you’ll get ripped and damaged and injured and wounded. So we just wanted to make it plausible and realistic. That’s all.

Even were I gullible enough to believe this, this excuse has problems. Her clothes are torn to shreds, but the damage on Aya’s body is shown through a minimal amount of blood. The ridiculous level that the battle damage has been taken to makes the excuse very unlikely as well. Apart from all that, if the creators wanted to show “realistic battle damage” they could actually tone down the clothes tearing quite a bit, and have the clothes get fairly muddy and bloody. They don’t have to show any actual wounds, and this way conveys a much more realistic, dark feel to the battle damage. If realism was their primary interest, this, or something like it, would certainly have occurred to them. The shower scene from earlier also renders their excuses invalid.

After all this, which would dissuade me from checking the game out already, there is yet more. In Parasite Eve 3, Aya has alternate costumes. Some of them are cool, like a Lightning outfit. Those sort of alternate outfits I can respect, because they’re just fun unlockables. However, there are other outfits that I find far less acceptable, like the sexy businesswoman costume. Two more are on display below.

Two images showing alternate outfits for Aya, both alongside a long list of other outfits. The top is a maid outfit with an apron and headband. The one below is a bunnygirl outfit, complete with a garter belt and high heels.

If Parasite Eve 3 “isn’t trying to be sexy,” then why is the strong, female protagonist wearing fetishy outfits? There’s no reason for this but titillation. I am at a loss for what I can say about this aspect, because it’s just so clearly stupid and pointless sexism. When you put something like this in a game, you are saying that this is a game for straight, male players above all others. You don’t care about giving female players a character they can respect, only about giving male gamers a character to have wet dreams to, because “sex sells.”

As I was preparing to write this article, I skimmed the Wikipedia article on Parasite Eve 3, seeing if there was anything else I might want to mention, and indeed there was. Under Aya’s character profile, I found the following information: “She has lost her memories as a result of unknown circumstances, which has led to a drastic change in personality since the first two Parasite Eve games: She is shown to be more vulnerable and fighting for unknown reasons.” While I am already upset that they’re changing the personality of a character I love, what worries me more is their need to make her “vulnerable.” I can’t help but feel them making her vulnerable is based primarily on her gender. You rarely, if ever, hear about games writing male characters specifically to be vulnerable. As predicted from the shower scene, the creators do not respect Aya the same way I do, assuming they respect her at all.

I will not be buying Parasite Eve 3 new when it comes out. If I do play it, it’ll be through rental, used purchase, or piracy, because I cannot in good conscience contribute to this abomination’s sales. I recommend that no one else buy it new either. Sex may sell to some, but it doesn’t to me.