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.
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.)
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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!