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.
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.
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 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.
It is here that we have our first experience with the combat.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can take and equip Lighter’s lumber for a better weapon, after which you get into a fight with three firebugs.
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.
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.
Once you get back to the prayer sanctuary, Fuel is reunited with his father.
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.