Where’s the fire?! Is it on fire?! Ooh! I bet it’s a big, giant, foresty fire!Butch
If someone had been using my blog as a way to introduce themselves to Mother 3, thus far the game would appear as some kind of small town simulator. Run around a village! Talk to people! Hear about a fire, but never see it! Play with frogs, chat with sparrows, and don’t forget to say your prayers!
Well, not anymore, folks.
If the above quote didn’t say it plainly enough for you: things are really heating up. Today, we’re finally headed into the forest. It’s time to pony up and separate the cowboys from the ranch hands, and by that I mean, it’s time to fight.
Yes, after much anticipation, it has finally happened. Flint has hit an animal with a stick. The animal hit back, even damaging the hero for a decent amount of hit points. In the end, Flint, our fatherly, fighting farmer, came out on top, with a victory tune in tow.
This, my friends, is called “combat,” and when you’re not chatting with Tazmilians or *hopping* lily pad to lily pad, it’s what you’ll find yourself doing the other 50% of the time in Mother 3. And I’ve gotta say, I’m ready! As much I love the non-combative portions of Mother 3, and as much as playing Frog by Frog has helped me to appreciate them even more, I’m ready to fight! Put me in!
Though, as always, that’s not all I’d like to talk about today. We have more Tazmilians to meet, some music to talk about, some fire to look at…
Maybe that’s where we should start. How’s the fire doing? Was Brenda right? Is the whole thing just some hoax?
To the Forest!
With no more time to spare, Flint and Thomas leave the Prayer Sanctuary. They pass by some Tazmilians, run into the Sunshine Forest (which is on fire, if you hadn’t heard), find Lighter and Fuel without a second to spare, and…
Oh, who am I kidding! I checked my reflection in the mirror before doing anything else! And in a church, no less! Jonel looked upon me with shame.
But then I went right to the forest…
…after talking to some of my fellow Tazmilians.
Look, like I said a few posts back: we’re in a hurry, but we’re not really in a hurry. And hey, maybe someone hanging around outside the forest is going to want to help out. I’m not so confident that Thomas is exactly made for combat, and in my defense, my play sessions are so short, so I like to take my time. If you only got to play Mother 3 in 7 minute bursts, you’d also delay running into the Sunshine Forest. I know that only I can prevent forest fires, but let’s not pretend this hasn’t been burning for about three frogs now.
Anyway, the group outside the forest is not exactly Tazmily’s cream of the crop, but, as usual, there are some designs, and some lines, to enjoy. Like Nan from last week, I love that guys like Ollie genuinely seem to want to help out.
So many people in Tazmily are just as ready as Flint to step up and be the hero, even if it’s only in their own way. I like getting to see where Ollie’s intentions lay. I guess it’s possible that, if actually pressured, Ollie could fold like Jackie back at the Yado Inn, but that’s the difference, isn’t it? Jackie’s about a half a mile from here. Ollie’s at the mouth of the forest. Maybe, in an alternate reality, there’s a different version of Mother 3 where Ollie joins the party and really helps out.
Though there’s also Butch, who despite being close to the fire, still can’t help but sensationalize it like the gossiping women. I’ve always really liked this as well, and I tend to enjoy Butch throughout the story as a background character. Tazmily is so unaccustomed to disaster that there’s still a literal spectacle to it. Butch wants a front row seat, and I can’t blame him.
And last, but not least, of our new faces is the tuxedo’d Ed, who appears immediately thankful that Flint is on the scene. Ed’s design has always reminded me of the real dressed-up NPCs from EarthBound, and I love what he contributes to Tazmily’s mish-mash of styles. Butch and Flint could belong in a western film, Ed and Ollie could be on their way to an office job, and Thomas–I’m not sure what Thomas is even wearing, to be honest with you.
Honestly, I haven’t even begun to drool over how much I love Mother 3’s sprites and character designs. More textures isn’t always the answer! Great character designs can exist on the smallest screens!!
Anyway, Ed says what’s on everyone’s minds: thank god Flint is here! And I suppose it really can’t be delayed any longer. It’s finally time to assess the damage.
It’s time to go…
In to the Forest
I THOUGHT I saw someone as manly as me walking this way.Mike
We’re finally here! What has been for four frogs just some far off blaze, the Sunshine Forest is indeed on fire.
My favorite thing about entering the forest is that the previous track–the laid back “To Sunshine Forest”–gives way to “Forest of Flames,” which starts with a quick drumbeat, a simmer of a bass line, then a frantically-paced Pigmask Army motif. The drums alone, with the plumes of smoke floating overhead, establish such a tangible change in tone that I’m always immediately like, “Oh yeah, something really serious is going on right now. I forgot because I’ve been opening presents and talking to frogs.”
And come on. This song is amazing.
It’s wily, it’s fun, it lights a fire under your spurs and confirms that no one has been exaggerating: it’s going to get chaotic in here. There’s even a weird excitement to the song (probably from the great bass) that works as an accompaniment to both the search for Lighter and Fuel, as well as the first instances of real combat in the game thus far (no hate to the Mole Cricket, but there’s not much to say about a fighter who loses to Hinawa’s shoes). Which, by the way, I haven’t even touched on the fact that, like Leder’s bell punctuating the previous track, this time around we can hear a knocking in the background, which is actually Matt banging on the door of Isaac’s cabin.
I don’t care what anyone says! This song sounds like it’s on fire! This whole sequence is amazing! Plus, the added tension of Matt’s knocking in the background is such a great idea. Sometimes I notice that simply making a scene a little bit busier is an amazing way to add tension. Like that scene at the end of Boogie Nights when like four characters have guns, and that one guy is throwing fire crackers around the room. Texture! Tension! T… Stakes!
Anyway, I also have to again praise the design of Mother 3 in terms of its simple, but effective, work with color. Okay, I’ve never been in a forest as it’s burning to the ground, and in this first area, we’re not even to the worst of it yet, but I like how the light is brighter than the village (the grass is blue-ish now, lightening from purple) while still remaining smokey. It’s all just simple coloring, with a few clouds of smoke floating over head to add to the effect, but, if you haven’t picked up on this already, I believe god is in the details! And Mother 3 is made up of a million, little, good ideas.
I also kind of love Mike, a new Tazmilian, who is just standing around and handing out cookies. He is also wearing an amazing multi-colored hat and a green jacket, and I’m not sure someone has ever walked into a forest fire more fashionably. And let’s face it: going into a burning forest is scary, and if you had to do it in real life, it’d probably be pretty comforting to know there’s someone nearby, and well-dressed, to give you a cookie.
Actually, Mike will give you a total of three cookies if you keep talking to him!
I’ve always wondered how Mike managed to get past Ed when other, more able-bodied Tazmilians were trying to push past him, but honestly, Mike is a bit of a kooky old coot, as we will see more of later on, so I’ll leave him here for now. I guess it’s a good time to start looking for Lighter and Fuel. It’d be a shame if anything got in my way–
Swooping down from a tree, the first real enemy of the game attacks, with a great battle theme to go along with it. I’m sure everyone has noticed this already, but you’ve got to love how the first few seconds sound like the old Batman theme song.
Mr. Batty is a simple combat encounter: you press A until you win.
The best part of this encounter, and all of the early encounters that he’s present for, is that Thomas will do things like run around and get nervous.
I also recently watched a pretty amazing video, which details how the developers made the psychdelic backgrounds in EarthBound. I don’t know if, and I don’t think, the process was the same for Mother 3, but if you’re a fan of the backgrounds like I am, give that video a watch.
I know I’ve said this in a different post, but the psychedelic backgrounds are one of my favorite things about EarthBound and Mother 3 (Mother’s backgrounds are just black). I have nothing against how this fight would be portrayed in other RPGs, which would probably include a few different Sunshine Forest backgrounds. Maybe they’d even show Flint and the bat fighting under this tree.
But I like the psychedelic backgrounds because, in any RPG, eventually those repeated backgrounds become invisible, and if something is going to become routine to look at over and over, it’s nice for it to be a moving, grooving, colorful backdrop. For a long time, battles in the Pokemon series took place on a white backdrop, with only the sprites of the Pokemon themselves represented, and Pokemon out-sold about every other RPG in the world a few times over, so I don’t think RPGs need one-to-one presentation between battle and setting to be successful.
I’m sure I’ll revisit this idea as we go, but I wanted to point out for now that, yes, I’m a big fan of the backgrounds.
As for fighting itself, the Mother 3 combat interface is simple. The player can select Bash, a basic physical attack that can be combo’d up to 16 times for additional damage; Goods, to use an item; a character’s special abilities, which in Flint’s case is a set of moves categorized under Brute Force; Guard, which reduces damage taken; or Run, which attempts to flee the encounter. To combo with the Bash option, the player needs to press A along with a song specific “heart beat,” which can be simply felt by the player, or revealed by putting an enemy to sleep. As for the other non-ability combat options, I think Mother 3, especially later on, does a good job of making mid-battle item management an important task, so knowing who your fastest party member is (it’ll be Boney) is important for getting the right items out at the right time.
Though I’m not really here to just discuss combat mechanics–I’m here to discuss characters! For Flint, his Brute Force ability contains four possible actions: Swing, which can hit multiple at once but cannot be combo attacked; Power Smash, which sacrifices accuracy for, you guessed it, power; Power Up, which raises Flint’s offense; and Toughen Up, which raises Flint’s defense.
Simply put, as a combat unit, Flint is incredibly complex and not suitable for beginners.
Just kidding. Flint hits things. He can hit things harder if he uses an ability, and even harder if he uses a different ability. Because Flint can hit multiple enemies at once, and also is packing a Hail Mary move with his Power Swing, I’ve come to see Flint’s combat as mostly a means to an end. In Chapter 1, you want to hit things and get back to the story as soon as possible. Which isn’t me saying there is no strategy in these early fights–you can, and will, lose if you aren’t careful. However, I don’t think it’s by mistake that, when you eventually fight the first boss of the game, a few other party members join you, then leave when the fight is over. Like I said, Flint needs to hit things and get back to the story.
Which also isn’t me trying to speak badly of any of this. Most RPGs have simple combat in the opening hours of gameplay, so that players can familiarize themselves with what enemies, and what their own characters, are capable of in simple terms. For Mother 3 it works exceptionally well because we have an incentive to prioritize the story right now. Mashing and bashing your way through straightforward encounters is exactly what it should feel like. We did say we were in a hurry, didn’t we?
I’ll also go a step farther and say that Flint is a cool character to play as in Chapter 1 because of his limitations as a party member. He works as a good comparison for the power of the Pig Mask Army, as well as the abilities of some of your future party members, like Duster or Kumatora, who really shine in their special abilities (Spy Tools and PSI, respectively). Flint may be strong, but his strength only gets him so far in the rapidly changing landscape of Mother 3.
Look, Tazmily is a simple town. Flint, a bit of a stereotypical image of an action hero, is the simple town’s simple savior. Tazmily is changing, losing its innocence, and a traditional hero, then, like Flint, is not enough to save the day this time around. Whatever is attacking is much more powerful, much more sinister, than a strong man and a stick.
But now I’m definitely getting ahead of myself. I won’t say much more here, because I’m saving my character commentary on Flint for later. For now, I’ll bring everything back around and say: Flint hits stuff and he’s good at it.
Unfortunately for me, a Mother 3 prize fighter in training, that’s all the fighting I get to do for this frog. After that fight, I finally find the source of the knocking, which, as I pointed out earlier, is Matt knocking on Isaac’s door. I also check a nearby sign that tells me to beware of poisonous snakes, but it also adds:
Foreshadowing for next time? Stick around to find out!
(Or, if you’ve already played the game, bear with me–I need to drum up suspense, you know)
Actually, here’s some suspense for you: the next frog is near a locked cabin, and an unopened gift box: what could be inside? Who is Isaac, and where is he? Who is Matt, and how does he get his afro to look so good? Will Thomas save the day? Will the frogs revolt and fight along side us?
Speaking of the frogs, has anyone ever heard this song?
Listen to that, get back to me, then we will talk about the frogs.
Take care of yourself ❤
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