Tag Archives: earthbound

Wild Arms 2 Part 40: A Farewell to ARMS

Previously on Wild Arms 2: Liz & Ard only appeared in 10% of this Let’s Play. It has been an abject failure.

But now we’re in the final chamber of the final dungeon, so maybe we can turn this whole thing around.

And some dude is talking!

Oh, sweet. Guess we just have to do some punching and we’ll be home in time for Jeopardy.

Unfortunately, Irving’s brilliant plan has already hit a snag: the Kuiper Belt is too much for the vessel, so it is growing uncontrollable, physical roots.

So, anyway, new mission…

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

SMAAAAAASHSuper Smash Bros For 3DS is the most confusing, straightforward game I have ever played.

The Super Smash Bros. series is not at all complicated. Like Mario Kart, I’ve found that even videogame luddites can identify this series, and you can usually get a flash of recognition from “it’s that game where Mario punches Pikachu”. And it’s not hard to see why the game is popular among gamers and muggles alike: it’s a simple, fun experience for everybody. Here’s jump, here’s punch, here’s “special”, now go to work on blasting Jigglypuff into the stratosphere. Anybody can pick up and play Smash Bros, and that’s probably the main reason anyone bought a second (or fourth) controller for the Gamecube.

And speaking of the Gamecube, Smash Bros. has been practically unchanged from its original incarnation. Alright, yes, I know there have been all sorts of changes to the formula over the years, from wavedashing to tripping to some alternate universe where Donkey Kong is actually viable, but the core of the gameplay, and the basic, amazing concept (let’s you and him fight) has been unchanged through the console generations. Mario games are astounding, but if you’re somehow buying a new one blind, it’s impossible to know if you’ll be running around in 2-D or 3-D, or whether or not this will be a Mario that acknowledges powerups at all or is stuck gobbling coins to replenish a lifemeter. Smash Bros has been Smash Bros for four console generations, and there hasn’t been a Smash Bros: Spirit Tracks or Smash Bros: Federation Force anywhere in that lineup. From the moment a Smash Bros. game is announced, you know what you’re going to get.

DRILLAnd before Smash Bros. 4 (For?) was released, there was quite a bit of glee regarding what we were going to get. Mega Man! Little Mac! Pac-Man! On a personal level, the Super Smash Bros. 4 roster seemed practically made for me. I still remember when Super Smash Bros. Brawl (3) was released, and my greatest lament about the title was that it and Super Mario Galaxy were released too close together, so we were denied any references to Rosalina, Luma, or any of the pure joy that was emblematic of Super Mario Galaxy. And now here’s Rosalina and Luma! And a Galaxy stage with that amazing Galaxy music! Why more could I ask for? The Koopa Kids? The return of Ike? A Mega smash that featured multiple generations of fighting robots? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Super Smash Bros. 4 seems like it was made for me, practically from its first preview.

And Nintendo knew this. And Nintendo did its best to trick me.

Super Smash Bros For the Nintendo 3DS sounds like a wonderful idea. It’s a Smash Bros. game, and it’s portable. That should be all it takes! I want to say I committed roughly eleventy billion hours to Super Smash Bros. Melee. I didn’t play Super Smash Bros. Brawl nearly as much, but I did unlock the trophy that only appears after playing some ludicrous number of hours, so it certainly saw some usage. Even if Smash 4 3DS was just going to be Brawl again, I’d get it for that all important portability factor. But with the full roster we’d find on the console version, Smash 4 3DS was a no-brainer. I love Smash Bros! I’ll love it just as much on the terlet.

I want oneExcept…

I said I devoted hours and hours to Melee, but my own Melee save doesn’t reflect the “real” number of hours I’ve played the game. Why? Well, because a lot of hours I remember playing Melee took place at a friend’s house (and on a friend’s system). I had the “base” Gamecube when I went away to college, but in the local neighborhood, most of the playtime was spent on my buddy Sean’s ‘cube, because he had parents that were cool with us abusing his den until 2 AM. And, in thinking about it, I probably would have played Brawl as much as Melee, but even by Brawl’s release, I had gradually aged out of the “let’s play videogames until the sun comes up” demographic. Brawl saw a lot of play with my friends, but it was generally during previously unthinkable daylight hours, and before someone had to get back to feed the dog/kids/other walking responsibilities. Make no mistake, I did personally complete all one player challenges in previous Smash Bros. games, but that wasn’t what kept me coming back after breaking a few analog sticks; that would be the friends breaking my analog sticks.

So, when I really thought about it, I realized I didn’t need Super Smash Bros For 3DS. It’s a party game on a system that is party-adverse. Yes, there’s online play, but that was never the scene for Smash Bros; Smash is all about hopping on the couch and pummeling your friends until they start pummeling back in reality. Get there!“Quiet” Pokémon may easily be played with friends across the internet, but Smash deserves the big screen and few friendships broken through excessive shouting. I’m sure this is fairly old fashioned thinking, but Smash isn’t Smash to me unless I can see my opponent sweat those final thirty seconds. That is impossible on the 3DS.

So, naturally, Nintendo released Super Smash Bros. For 3DS about a month before Super Smash Bros. for WiiU. And, yes, I’m weak. I probably would have purchased six copies if Nintendo gave me a remotely valid reason.

And that’s when the weirdness started.

As you might expect, I happily played Super Smash Bros. For 3DS (again, a game practically made for me). The game contains a host of one-player content, and, more importantly, a reason to play the one-player content (must… unlock… more… characters…). Smash Run could be a mere distraction of a mode, but the promise that you might collect all those rad special moves and extra outfits is enough to keep my attention for hours. It’s been a long time since I felt I had to unlock every last bit of content in a videogame (… when did Lightning Returns come out?), but I knew, with Super Smash Bros For WiiU on the way, I may as well get in all my practice on the 3DS version now. Maybe I’ll even have a super-powered Dark Pit to transfer into the console release!

And that’s about when it hit me: I wasn’t playing Super Smash Bros. For 3DS like a Smash Bros game, I was playing it like a demo.

Complete with batSuper Smash Bros. For 3DS is a real game. It easily features more one-player content than Super Smash Bros. (N64), and I’m pretty sure there’s more to do than in Super Smash Bros. Melee. This is the largest Smash Bros. roster ever (even if you don’t count the “uncombined” characters), and just completing basic “smash mode” with each character takes some time (and skill). There’s a strangely robust final boss, and an innumerable number of minions lurking around Smash Run. And there is multiplayer (even if it’s not couch-based) that only requires the simplest of Wi-Fi connections to get out and smash the world. This is, in every way, a Smash Bros. game, and not even an incomplete one at that.

But… I played it like a demo. I played it thinking “yes, this is a fun technique, I will use this knowledge on the real game”. I played it taking notes on what might be useful when I’m fighting my friends in a month. I played it observing every tactic I could utilize when I tackle Master Hand again, during the actual game. There is barely any practical difference between one-player mode on the 3DS versus WiiU, but I beat the 3DS version’s challenges knowing full well that I’d be doing it again “for real” on the WiiU. Super Smash Bros. for 3DS was the appetizer, the WiiU version was the main course, and I never played either game without that (subconsciously) in mind.

chompAnd this causes me to get stuck in an infinite loop of sorts. The game is just as robust as every other Smash Bros! But I haven’t touched it since the WiiU version was released… But that’s just because you don’t play it portably! But I don’t play it portably because I feel like I’m not making progress on the “real” game. But that’s just a fabricated idea, it’s just as robust as any other Smash Bros…

This game should be a forthright, mindless experience.

But it leaves me… jumbled.

And I have no idea why I bought all this DLC for a game I don’t even play…

FGC #211 Super Smash Bros for Nintendo 3DS

  • System: Well, you know what, I’m going to say Nintendo 3DS.
  • Number of players: Technically four! Though I will never see the other three players…
  • Oh, like you don’t have friends with portable systems: You know what? Most of my friends have console systems, but it’s their kids with the portables nowadays. And it just seems weird to ask an eight year old if he wants to play videogames tonight.
  • PLINKFavorite Character (conceptually): The fact that Mega Man gets his biggest showcase in the last decade on a Nintendo game is not lost on me. I can’t play as the character for a damn, but man am I just happy he’s here. Fight for everlasting pieces of that Dragoon, little metal boy.
  • Favorite Characters (for realsies): He might be DLC, but Roy is my boy (and, man, did I think I was never going to see that guy again). Something about beefy, fiery hits just gets my motor revving.
  • So, did you beat it? I collected every damn challenge trophy before Super Smash Bros. For WiiU was released. I’m pretty sure I mastered playing this “demo” while asleep to pull that one off. Though I think I did golden hammer that one challenge about collecting every special move.
  • Feel like anyone is missing from the roster? Nope.
  • Did you know? Including his Black Hole Bomb final smash, Mega Man has a special move from each of his adventures… except Mega Man 10, 5, and V. Though I guess Beat works as a Mega Man 5 rep. Still would have liked to see the Spark Chaser, though.
  • Would I play again: You’d think this would be a yes, but there is evidence to the contrary.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Tick for Sega Genesis. Get ready for a heaping spoonful of justice! Please look forward to it!

Does it count?

Xenosaga Episode I Part 19: Let’s Review Episode I

Previously on Xenosaga: Everything. Everything happened. Let’s talk about that in vaguely listicle form.

What Happened Here?

I actually went back and re-read my introduction to this LP (written nearly five months ago now) before writing, and, to quote myself:

“Probably the best known feature of this trilogy was an inscrutable storyline full of religious imagery that could put Evangelion to shame…”

So let’s look at the plot first. Is it “inscrutable”? At this point, I’m going to say no. Yes, there is already an absurd amount of religious imagery (some of the first text in the game is directly quoting Genesis), but the base plot, as it currently stands, is still something you could explain to your deaf granny. To wit:

  • Shion built a robo-person, and is very concerned about that person. Complete with the X-Buster, this plot, at its core, is practically Dr. Light and Mega Man, and the gnosis are Robot Masters. It’s sci-fi 101. KOS-MOS even gets a variation on the typical robot, “What is love?” with her “What is pain?” query when she decided to go all genocide on the gnosis.
  • There’s a bad guy organization, U-TIC, and they menace the heroes in pursuit of some macguffin. Depending on the interpretation, they want a way back to (old, lost) Earth, and/or the Zohar, which is effectively the Holy Grail of space. Kidnap princess, get the treasure: typical villain motives.
  • Speaking of villains, there’s Albedo, who appears to be a wildcard in the bad guy power structure, but is basically there to be the evil twin brother of one of the heroes. His entire job is trolling the universe. Three guesses on how this plot is going to resolve.

And that’s basically it. On paper, Xenosaga Episode 1 is pretty straightforward.

However, the devil’s in the details, and that’s where everything goes a little… Albedo. This game seems to delight in generating minor mystery after mystery. Who is sending KOS-MOS orders? Why are Shion and KOS-MOS part of the Y-Data? What are the gnosis? What is Wilhelm up to? chaos? Testaments? What does the Zohar do? What did Ziggy “see” when he died? Why is Junior ageless? Why is Albedo invincible? Does Allen have more than one onesie?

These are all relevant questions, and, I assure you, I spent roughly ten million hours on Gamefaqs and alike discussing these finer plot points back in the day. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but for me, Xenosaga was my Lost, a series that I spent days pouring over the faintest glimmer of an idea and expanding it into a grand unifying theory of everything. There might not be any polar bears in this story, but those unicorn gnosis have to mean something.

And, come to think of it, that Lost comparison is more apt than ever, because the real show in Xenosaga Episode 1 is the characters. This is something I’m only able to identify with full knowledge of what comes next and not a four year wait for the finale, but the story of Xenosaga Episode 1 really cares about its characters and their interactions. It’s not perfect (“Ziggy? You’re still here?”), but it became abundantly clear over this playthrough that the gnosis, yes, are important, but what’s really important is the relationship between Shion and KOS-MOS, or how MOMO feels about her absent parents. Once you separate out the chafe of all the mysteries that will eventually be solved with varying degrees of satisfaction (“chaos is… an apostle of Jesus Christ? Did anybody guess that?”), you realize this game is much more concerned with the emotional state of its characters than if they ever learn anything interesting. In a way, that makes perfect sense, in another, well, it would be nice if Shion asked why, say, the ship just got covered in angel wings. Does everyone just assume that’s a typical feature of the Elsa?

Shion, actually, is a fine example of how Xenosaga Episode 1’s story sucks sodium. Shion would actually be a pretty neat heroine in nearly any other medium… but she’s the star of a JRPG, and, thus, pretty much the player’s surrogate. She’s terrible for that role. She’s an interesting, independent character with concerns and baggage of her own, but part of her own issues is that she very rarely looks for information below the surface level (because, ultimately, she’s afraid of being hurt worse by the truth), which is awful when your audience wants some stinkin’ answers. The epitome of this would be when Shion is running constant diagnostics during the “beach episode” to see if KOS-MOS was experiencing something like emotions earlier, but she never even attempts to determine exactly where KOS-MOS’s mysterious orders are coming from (which, spoilers, would lead to her undead fiancée, and is not something the good doctor wants to deal with right now). You, the player, are expected to just go with the flow of Shion’s (and the entire party’s) lack of curiosity, and it’s frustrating when every third character is spewing a nonstop stream of mysteries.

On two different occasions, Shion distinctly states that she has no idea what’s going on… and she never does anything about it!

In the end, I feel this goes back to Xenosaga’s original concept, and how this was supposed to be game one in a more-than-three part series, and Xenosaga “Episode 1” was supposed to include a lot of plot from (what we eventually received as) Episode 2, but the team ran out of time, money, or over-highlighted Bibles before “finishing” Episode 1. XS1 is crap for answers, but you’re expected to just go with that (like Shion and co.) because answers will arrive eventually. We promise! Everyone is fine with a complete lack of resolution, right?

So, long story short, as of Episode 1, the “prelude game”, Xenosaga has not yet become “inscrutable”… depending on your interpretation. There are mysteries, but there’s also a story that’s very human, and we’re supposed to just take it on faith that the big mysteries will be solved later. We’ll see how that goes as we proceed.

Points for presentation?

What is wrong with your faaaaaace!?

Aside from featuring PS2 era anime faces, I really have to give high marks to Xenosaga Episode 1’s overall production. Yes, there are something like ten hours of cinema scenes, but the direction does everything it can to make those scenes actually interesting. It was mentioned earlier, but, compared to the modern age of non-Final Fantasy JRPGs, I am downright impressed with how many scenes are more than two heads and a series of text boxes. Once again using “working late” scene as an example…

Or when Shion is affectionately caressing KOS-MOS’s space coffin…

There’s a lot of incidental “acting” from the characters that adds to the story. Shion is downright giddy when she’s working late with her fiancée/boss. Shion tenderly touches KOS-MOS’s bed in the same way a mother might stroke the hair of her sleeping child. It adds something to the scenes without requiring (even more) talky talk.

And, just to be clear it’s not all sunshine and rainbows…

Every damn thing Albedo does is creepy. I’m literally disappointed when he’s strapped into his mech, because when he’s out prancing around…

You know you’re gonna have a fun time. Okay, maybe fun isn’t the right word.

Point is, for a game so lousy with “put down the controller, it’s time to watch a movie,” there’s a lot of reasons to actually enjoy that downtime. So another mark in Xenosaga Episode 1’s win column.

In the “boo” column, however, we have Xenosaga Episode I’s music.

XS1 has a lot of great music… unfortunately, it’s primarily relegated to cutscenes. I’ll admit there’s a number of XS1 tracks that I have had on my playlists for the last fifteen years because, frankly, they’re good tracks. Unfortunately, I just did an inventory, and I realized that only two of those tracks (Last Battle and UMN Mode) are from actual gameplay. Additionally, I saved Battle (the battle theme, duh) and Life or Death (the song that plays through a number of “danger is happening” areas) not because those songs are particularly good, but because they’re practically drilled into my brain thanks to repeated usage throughout the game (This is also the same reason I have Chrono Cross’s abhorrent battle theme on my playlist). Everything else I enjoy about the soundtrack plays almost exclusively during cutscenes, which is a pain because, well…

Click here to listen to the main theme of the Cathedral Ship dungeon

Oh, I’m sorry, does that link not work? That’s because there is no music in the Cathedral Ship. It’s a nearly three hour dungeon (more if you have a lousy sense of direction), and, aside from the battles and cinema scenes, there is no music. None. Just silence and footsteps, the whole stupid dungeon. Sometimes there’s the sound of a door opening. Woo.

This is inexcusable, and I have to mention this is probably a contribution to the “worst dungeon ever” issue of this and a few areas. Xenosaga Producers, did you forget? Was there supposed to be music, and, whoops, never made it in there? And, no, the silent parts are not deliberately moody areas any more than Final Fantasy’s Marsh Cave. I think we could handle a little accompaniment.

Though, to close this section on a positive note, I really appreciate the voice acting in this game, and, more importantly, that it’s all in English. This is a problem I’ve had with some modern JRPGs and Fighting Games, but I get really annoyed when everything is in English… but battle quotes and victory cheers are untranslated (and worse, not even subtitled) (and even worse, KOF-esque lengthy battle intros that are completely incomprehensible). Everything is in English here, right down to the grunts and “Spell Blade!” shouts. In fact, stuff like signange…

Is also wholly in English. This is actually really important, as certain scenes…

Lose something if you can’t read what’s going on in the background. This flashback takes place on the planet Ariadne, which is never mentioned, but there’s a literal sign as to the location in the background. Show don’t tell doesn’t work if you can’t read what’s being shown.

Isn’t this a video game?

So, the presentation is overall good, the plot is bearable (YMMV)… but should Xenosaga Episode 1 be a video game?

Honestly… I want to say no.

Don’t get me wrong, Xenosaga Episode 1 isn’t a bad JRPG. I have played much worse. Much… much worse. Video game consoles as magical girls! Why did that happen!? Why does that keep happening!?! How are there nearly ten of those games? HOW!?!

Er-hem.

What I mean to say is that, while Xenosaga Episode 1 might not be a trailblazer in any amazing JRPG innovations (its battle system, when you get right down to it, is barely distinguishable from Final Fantasy 1, and its town/dungeon structure is the same as it’s ever been… Hell, I’d argue that Xenogears is more innovative than Xenosaga), it’s still perfectly competent. Despite some really difficult areas that primarily arise because a boss might not exactly be balanced with its surrounding dungeon, Xenosaga Episode 1 pretty much (emphasis on the qualifier) goes down smooth.

That said, being a JRPG doesn’t really add anything to Episode 1.

As an easy example, I cannot imagine Earthbound or Mother 3 working nearly as well as anything but JRPGs. The conventions used and abused in both of those games come from a place of understanding the genre as a whole, and like Watchmen did for comics, both of those games are practically impossible to imagine working as effectively in other mediums.

There is exactly one spot in Xenosaga Episode 1 that I feel is enhanced by being a video game, and it’s the destruction of the Woglinde. Here, thanks to your fear of death (or a Game Over), the gnosis are perceived as just as deadly to “you” as they are to the common humans of the Xenosaga Universe. You’re panicked, fleeing from terrible, unknown creatures just like every other resident of this ship, and it does a lot to drive home the threat to everyone that is the gnosis.

… And then you spend the rest of the game slaughtering gnosis wholesale. But! In general, the threat of the gnosis going forward is their menace to the common man (like the Kukai Foundation town invasion), so, while you may become empowered, you understand why it’s up to you to rescue survivors.

Other than that, though? I just played through this whole game, and I can barely remember a moment that had to be in a video game. Say what you will about ridiculous minigames in Final Fantasy 7, but slapping around Scarlet did feel good, “resisting” Sephiroth did feel futile, and vrooming out of Midgar did feel appropriately tense. Here, we’ve got a (near) final boss that barely flinches after a heated battle, and it’s back to cutscenes, like nothing ever happened. No omnislash for you, Junior.

And, yes, I’m kinda downplaying the fact that you’re spending a minimum of twenty hours with these guys, so of course you’re going to be more attached to The Realian Justice Warriors and their various and sundry issues than you would with the cast of a 26-episode, 12 hour “passive” television series. But aside from the general attachment one gains through playing a video game, there’s not much cause for the “game” here.

Which circles back to…

Xenosaga Episode 1 and Me (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb)

As I’ve randomly alluded to, I adored Xenosaga Episode 1 at its release. No, I didn’t play the game through any more than once, but I did strive for 100% completion in the “post game”. All segment doors unlocked, all (non missable) equipment collected, and all techs leveled up. I also heavily analyzed the game, not from a “character” perspective, but in an effort to “figure out” all the mysteries of the story, and somehow generate answers before the next release. I truly believed there was some Xenosaga Master Plan at work here, and, with my friends from THE INTERNET, we all mined the game and minutia of random conversations and UMN database entries to attempt to grasp the whole picture.

It… was pointless. But, hey, I want to say this was my first “unknown” fandom. I was already a giant nerd for “complete” works like Dragonball Z, Sailor Moon, and any given Final Fantasy game, but this was my first fandom for something that was ongoing and still a mystery. This wasn’t like the previously mentioned Sailor Moon where the series was already over in its native land, and it was just a matter of talking to some wizened old 30 something about that time he played the SNES RPG, no, we were all in the same pot for this one, with holy wars starting over whether Xenosaga would directly tie to Xenogears, chaos’s true motivations, or whether or not Great Joe was supposed to mean something. In retrospect, it all seems so very, very worthless, but in its time, it was like the most important thing on my mind.

Which brings me to that clear data save. Literally no one knew the purpose of that clear save. Like everything else with Xenosaga Episode 1, there was rampant speculation, but no one could say for sure. Some believed everything would carry over, others, nothing. I wasn’t taking any chances, and I already liked the game, but I wasn’t sure I’d want to revisit it by the time Episode 2 was released (and, in my fantasies, apparently Episode 2 would just drop randomly from the heavens, and I wouldn’t be privy to weeks and months of advertising touting its incoming release). So, in an effort to “be prepared”, I grinded that stupid card game to generate as much in-game cash as possible, bought every last item in every shop, and made sure everyone was leveled up to at least 50 to be ready for the challenges of Episode 2. Whatever that clear save transferred, whether it be items, weapons, or levels, I’d be prepared.

That clear data save… unlocks a pair of swimsuits in Episode 2. That’s it. Finish XS1 at level 1 or level 50, and you get the same, trivial thing.

That would likely be the exact moment I stopped 100%’ing games.

Next time on Xenosaga: The real, final post on Xenosaga Episode 1. For everyone curious about the plot minutia, I’ll analyze all the major players, where they started, where they are now, and what they seem to want. This will serve as a review of what happened that also doubles as a handy guide to anyone coming into Xenosaga Episode 2 without reading everything else, because, what, you don’t have hours to pour over XS1? Weirdo.

The Gaming 5 #5 Mother 3

Note that this post contains massive spoilers for Mother 3. I’ll warn you when they’re about to get rotton, but if you want to experience the game clean, you’ve been warned.

Go fridgeWhy is it on this list?

The four preceding games are all “games” first and foremost: yes, there’s a story, heroes that grow, and villains to be defeated, but the primary focus of all of these games is the actual experience of playing the game. In a way, they are a miniscule step up from sports: you can play a game of football, but that game won’t be about something, the best you can hope for is to win, or at least to improve your own skills. Give it a few playthroughs, and nobody cares about Sigma, he’s just the last obstacle before completing the challenge.

This, of course, isn’t to say that there can’t be intricate stories hiding within even the thinnest plots. Super Metroid stars Samus Aran, a woman who, to my knowledge, only speaks “in game” during the introduction of one game out of three, and even that “dialogue” could rearrange a few pronouns to make her a complete mute. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), even though Samus only had a total of three games between 1986 and 2002, she somehow acquired a number of apparently fan-attributed personality traits. Samus is brave and determined and solitary in her dangerous missions… uh…. like every video game character that stuck around long enough to topple the final boss. Regardless, look at the backlash against Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Other M for sullying the good name of Samus Aran… a character that had previously been little more than a player cipher. The reality is that Samus could either bulldoze everything on Zebes, or cower and never fire a shot to do anything more than defeat a boss or open a door, it was entirely up to the player.

But this is important, and it’s just as much a part of video games as jumping and shooting. More than any other medium, you are the protagonist in nearly every video game ever released. You may relate to Harry Potter, you might admire Schwarzenegger’s latest role, but it’s only in the realm of video games that you so totally inhabit a character. It’s no great surprise, really, as prior to the advent of cinema scenes, you controlled literally every movement of your digital hero for hours, so it’s only natural to feel a close bond with that tubby plumber or little metal boy you’ve been guiding all this time. Who needs virtual reality? We’ve been living it ever since the first person got into the headspace of that long, white paddle (no, it’s not just a vertical rectangle, that’s silly).

So if you get the same feeling from Super Mario Bros., why Mother 3?

Because Mother 3 knows.

For anyone that is reading this site exclusively because they like the sound of my voice in their head, and not because they like video games (hi, Mom!), Mother 3 is the sequel to Earthbound, aka Mother 2. Mother 3, like the rest of the series, was the brainchild of Shigesato Itoi, a name that Powmeans nothing to most Americans, but a fellow that has made quite a name for himself in Japan as a writer. Like… a for real writer, not someone who had to fill up a cutscene with words so “Over 40 hours of gameplay!” can be stapled onto the back of a box. Hey, I admire you, video game writers, it can’t be easy to get JRPG Protagonist #371 to prattle on about friendship for an entire scene and make it seem fresh (or at least not completely horrible); but Itoi was a writer first and foremost, which is very different from the rest of the video game industry where that skill appears to be valued somewhere below “guy who models armhair”.

Itoi started with Mother 1 (and, before I go any further, I want to be clear that I’m not claiming Itoi was solely responsible for these games, as Earthbound in particular was obviously a labor of love for other luminaries in the industry… there’s just an unmistakable tone that runs through all three games, and I find it hard to believe that kind of thing could originate from any more than one dedicated person), a game that was meant to emulate (the big in Japan) Dragon Quest series. It had its fun moments, but it was way too opaque for much of the game, and the charm that would define the following installments was buried under a crushing difficulty. Mind you, this was pretty much standard for JRPGs of the NES era, so whaddya gonna do?

Earthbound, Mother 2, still cribbed heavily from the Dragon Quest series (which, by the SNES era, was becoming about as relevant as Kabuki Quantum Fighter in the West), but anyone willing to deal with its “dated” graphics and gameplay was in for a treat. This was where the meta-elements of the Mother series really came to the forefront, and while it could all be seen as nothing more than silly jokes to a child player, a mature gamer might recognize the variety of components on display that, in their way, mocked the very concept of video games from within a video game. In order to read a sign warning of the dangers of stepping on the grass, you must stand on the grass. A city where everything is the opposite of how it should be proves how a simple switch between Cup o' Joeyes and no really means little when you understand what will happen. A village that caged itself in is convinced that their confinement is an illusion and it’s the outside world that is trapped. A statue gets you high, a stone calls to you, and a rock speaks words. I always disparage the thinking that someone “was so high” to create something creative, but the entire game feels like a trip: something just outside reality so you can return and experience life in a new way. Earthbound may reflect the real world, but it is a fantasy first and foremost, and its tone reminds you to just have fun with it.

Mother 3, though. Mother 3 is reality.

It’s amusing that Mother 3 is the Mother game most based in a fantasy world. Mother 1 & 2 were both set in a modern, suburban environment… albeit one with psychic powers, giant pencil statues, and invading aliens. Mother 3, meanwhile, is tucked into a rural village that has a few modern conveniences at the start, but there’s no reason this couldn’t be some corner of an early Final Fantasy world (or maybe Wild Arms. I do see a cowboy hat). But while the setting is absolutely important to the game, what’s more important are the characters, and, specifically, your character. Yes, you “play as” your entire party (and one mischievous monkey) at one point or another during this game, but the central protagonist, and the number one body you inhabit during this adventure is that of Lucas, a young boy with a mother, father, grandfather, and brother.

This is about where the spoilers get intense… so click to proceed.