Frog #16: The Mind of a Thief

What do thieves think about?

Stealing, you might say, thieves think about stealing, and what they are going to steal, and how they are going to steal it. Or maybe you’d say, Sneaking. Every thief you know is a good sneak, so they must be thinking about where they are going to sneak, and how they will manage to be expertly sneaky. And if you’re not in the camp of stealing or sneaking, you might even venture to say, Lying. A thief’s mind is full of lies, and words that deceive, puzzles of the tongue and teeth that trick, outwit, and confuse. All good thieves are good liars, you might say.

Personally, I don’t think thieves are so simple. What do thieves think about? What is held inside the mind of a thief? Because to me, a cobbler does not always think about shoes, but maybe, sometimes, about pies, or socks. And so what does a thief think about? What is inside that sneaky mind? Certainly not always the next heist.

Well, I guess none of this is really here nor there. You don’t even know what thieves I’m talking about, yet here I am, going on and on when the train hasn’t even left the station. I think I’m all out of sorts because we’re finally in a new chapter; Chapter 1 has officially ended, and I can’t help but feel strange. By spending so much time in Chapter 1, by playing Frog by Frog, I feel like I lived in Chapter 1. I know that sounds silly, but it really does feel weird to be at the beginning of a new chapter. It feels wrong to not play as Flint.

The first chapter of Mother 3, to put it overly-simply, does a lot. It establishes character, plot, and stakes masterfully, from the first few minutes of the chapter. It sets up themes that the rest of the game will work with, mysteries that the plot will untie. Characters like Flint and Lucas don’t just walk away from Chapter 1 changed; their lives have been altered, and they will remain different from the rest of the Tazmilians because of what they’ve experienced. Chapter 1 kicks off the game with a bang.

Then there’s Chapter 2. It’s not an isolated chapter, but it sometimes feels like a side, or separate, story, and I love that. We’ve met Flint and Lucas–good. Now we have to meet another one of Mother 3’s central characters: the thief with bad breath, the kicker with a gait, the man without a plan–Duster.

Duster, loved by all.

Aside from Boney, who we all know I’ve sung the praises of for years, Duster is possibly my favorite character in Mother 3, but it’s hard to decide. The more I write about the characters, the more I love them all. But Duster is special. His arc in Mother 3, in my opinion, is more subdued, a little more understated, than Lucas’s arc. His role in Mother 3, however, is so important, and definitely under-rated compared to the other characters. Duster has so much to offer, and so much happens to him, that even though he’s supposed to blend in, he’s impossible to ignore.

Of course, we’ll meet more than just Duster in this chapter. We’ll learn more about Wess, we’ll meet another major character of the plot, we’ll learn more about the Pigmask Army and what they are capable of. I think when I say that Chapter 2 feels like a separate story, or a side story, I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean it, in a way, as an advantage. If we were to pick up where Chapter 1 left off, and if we had to keep playing as Flint or Lucas, I think that would be exhausting. We need a new perspective and a new pace. We need to feel like we’re going on an adventure.

Chapter 2 picks up, I’m pretty sure, in the middle of the night on the same day as when Chapter 1 ended. So, in a way, we are continuing right from where we left off, but the focal shift from Flint to Duster works so well. Hinawa was so popular around town, and so, to an extent it seemed, was Claus. In general, people knew Lucas’s family, and even though they lived a bit south from Tazmily on their little sheep farm, the rest of the villagers still seemed to have a regular rapport with them. They seemed as part of the in crowd, whether they liked it or not.

As a contrast to that, Duster and Wess are the town outcasts. Are they disliked? No, but they definitely aren’t the most popular folks on the block. Duster and Wes live nearly the farthest away from town square, if we’re talking about residential Tazmily. People like Duster, but I don’t know how much they like his bad breath. And people value Wess as a village elder, probably, but I don’t think anyone really loves when he’s around, being a curmudgeon about something or other. And sure, Lighter and Isaac live out in the Sunshine Forest, but that’s because they’re lumberjacks. Duster and Wes live outside of town, over a bridge, and up on a hill… and not because they’re blacksmiths.

They’re thieves.

Master and pupil first. Father and son second.

Okay, maybe not the most threatening thieves you’ve ever seen in your life, but this is Tazmily, remember? Nobody even locks their doors in this town, I’ve heard.

We’ll have more than enough time to analyze Wess and Duster as we play through Chapter 2, but that’s at least where I want to start off. I’m glad that Duster is our Chapter 2 protagonist. There are definitely times when I wish I could play as Flint or Lucas right now, or maybe even Boney, just to have additional insight into the family and how they’re doing. But at the same time, I think it’s important that Duster takes the spotlight before we have even had time to process Claus lying facedown in a valley on Drago Plateau. Duster is just some guy. He helped out for a bit in Chapter 1, but then he was gone. By learning more about Duster, we also learn more about Tazmily and Mother 3’s broader setting.

I also think that the switch from Flint, the hero, to Duster, the thief, might have been a dynamic that Itoi had in mine for a long time. Let’s look at this quote from Nintendo Dream in 1996. When asked, “I take it the heroes are the same?” Itoi replied:

No, they’re new. They’ve even got a different outlook on the world. It’s already a given that I’m going to deny expectations, anyway. Plus, the concept came from MOTHER 2 and I wanted to hurry and start on 3. First, I wanted to turn a hard-boiled detective novel into a videogame. That led me to another idea, and putting the two together made MOTHER 3.

I’m citing this quote to bring the “detective novel” idea back into play, and the “different outlooks on the world,” as that’s where I hypothesize the character of Duster originated. Flint, at some point in Itoi’s ideas, was probably supposed to be the “detective” of the story, and though I don’t know for certain, I’d say the creation of Duster couldn’t have been far away from this idea, mostly because it seems kind of Mother-ish/Itoi-esque to me. Having a detective and a thief live in the same town. Having a detective and a thief team up when things get dangerous. Playing as a detective for a significant portion of time, only to switch over to a thief… who’s also a good guy. I wouldn’t be surprised if, somewhere in all the cut content of Mother 3, we were introduced to Duster by investigating his doings around Tazmily, only to learn that he’s just an innocent, albeit strange, thief.

Of course, this is all EarthBound 64 conspiracy hypothesizing once again, so I’ll leave it at that. I’m mostly trying to ascertain what Itoi might have meant by emphasizing the characters’ different outlooks on life, and, to me, a thief and a detective seem like the perfect way to explore that.

On a personal note, I’ll say that I’m very excited to play this chapter Frog by Frog. In my mind, Chapter 2 gets a little overshadowed by Chapter 1 and 3. Chapter 1 has all those big plot moments and emotional beats, and Chapter 3 has an infamously more unique approach to party configurations, as well as some more memorable story moments in its own right. Chapter 2 doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed, of course. If anything, Chapter 2 has the best gameplay experience of the game’s first three chapters. Chapter 2 puts you into some unique battles and encounter situations, and Chapter 2 also dwells in, and seems to enjoy, ambiguity, which is so perfect to explore with an unassuming character like Duster.

So, basically, I’m excited to play this chapter Frog by Frog because I feel like Chapter 2 deserves the spotlight. I want to make sure to uncover as much as I can, to take my time, and, as usual, to find something new every time I turn on the game. I’m also excited because Mother 3, and the Mother series, always pushes the envelope in the tone department, and Chapter 2 is no exception. Does this chapter go to the same emotional places as Chapter 1? Well, I’ll let you decide that for yourself, but, to me, it’s inconsequential. Chapter 2 has its own unique pace, tone, and approach to narrative, and I love that.

I also love how it all starts out with Duster going for a night-time stroll.

The Mystical Tools of Thievery

Before Chapter 2 begins in earnest, we see a flashback from Chapter 1, of Duster and Flint outside the Sheriff’s office. The scene replays Duster’s dialogue, his reassurances to Flint that he’ll do whatever he can to help out. It’s a nice little reminder of who Duster is and the last time we’ve seen him. In playing Mother 3 Frog by Frog, it’s actually been a while since I’ve seen Duster, so I liked this little in-between-chapters flashback.

More importantly, though, to all of our collective surprises, it turns out Flint can talk! “Duster…” says Flint, the cold cowboy as cool as ever. “Thanks.”

The scene doesn’t do much other than show our focal character will be switching from Flint to Duster. In the Mother series, your lead characters are never shown talking, but they do indeed talk! I also like how Flint’s speaking animation shows him gesticulating with both hands. It cracks me up for some reason! It’s like, Mother 3 really wants you to know that Flint talks now. “See, he talks with his hands, too!”

Anyway, when Duster tells Flint that he’ll do anything he can to help, it seems like Flint had something specific in mind: he must have asked if he could pass on the main character duties for a little while, for which I don’t blame him. Flint’s time in the hot seat was literally tragic, so someone else can carry the burden in this chapter.

Then the flashback fades out…

…and fades in, to show us:

Sit this one out, Flint.

Thief adventure, baby! The first time I played Mother 3, I had no idea what this chapter would entail, and even now, replaying Chapter 2, I can’t remember all of the turns this chapter takes. Leaving Flint for Duster opens up Tazmily once again to a world of possibilities, and, like Chapter 1 before it, kick-off starts at night time. So let’s get into it.

Chapter 2 opens with the same vista as Chapter 1: The Nowhere Islands’ mountain ranges, the treetops of the Sunshine Forest, the deep purple night sky, and a calmness over everything. Last time we saw this night sky, an explosion ripped through the forest, throwing everything into chaos.

Thankfully, we are not greeted to a repeat of last night’s events. There is no explosion, there are no running animals, there is no admittedly sick guitar riff as masked soldiers wreak havoc; this is a new day. Everything is quiet. But is it too quiet? We’re past the Night of the Funeral, but we aren’t out of the woods.

Chapter 2’s intro is different from Chapter 1’s in basically every way. As we’ve discussed, Chapter 1’s intro is frantic and attention-grabbing, moving the plot forward with a surge of momentum. We are shown more than we are told, at least as far as some of the main action moments go. Chapter 2’s intro is careful, quiet, unassuming, and almost ruminative; in addition, we are told more than we are shown, as Wess explains the mission to Duster. I mean, I’m not saying Wess and Duster are the most serious pair in the game, but there’s something both understated and enthralling about listening to “Passing Down Secrets” as two thieves plan out… something. A mission? A heist? A thief related… thing?

That’s what’s great about Chapter 2. As if the title didn’t make it clear enough, this is a Thief Adventure, and not just in name. We’re really playing with thieves, here! Chapter 2’s story progression is odd, shrouded in mystery, almost unbelievable at times, as Duster fights ghosts, zombies, more ghosts, and–

Well, I guess I’m getting ahead of myself again. All I mean to say is, like its focal character, Duster, Chapter 2 feels different from the others. For my money, Chapter 2 stands out as a unique part of not just Mother 3, but the entire series. Hopefully, I’ll be able to convince you of that by the time we’re done.

Does that mean Chapter 2 is a masterpiece? No, but put on your thinking thief mind, and let’s have some fun.

Tell him how you really feel, Wes.

Anyway, the Nowhere Islands vista fades away, and we cut to inside Duster’s house. The best way I know to talk about this scene is to talk about the song, “Passing Down Secrets.” I’m having one of those moments where it’s difficult to express how much I like a song. To me, as a follow-up to Chapter 1, this song says, “Just wait–there’s more.” It’s the perfect fit for a late-night conversation between thieves, it’s a great song for suggesting conspiracy and intrigue, it’s a good sign, really, for a change in tone. I mean, we leave the highly emotional circumstances of Flint, to the incredibly strange goings-on of Wess and Duster. We’re with the village’s de facto outcasts. The oddballs.

I love how it’s these two (or at least Wess speaking, and Duster listening) who are up late having a semi-serious conversation. Wess paces the floor, eventually settling in front of the fire. He speaks vaguely, as if he’s not letting on what he knows, or maybe he doesn’t even know what he knows. He also speaks seriously, as if he has a bad feeling about something. He’s passing down secrets, but they seem enveloped in more secrets. “I had hoped this time WOULD’NT come,” says Wess, which can only mean one thing.

The time has come.

How is it that a single song can make me feel so ready to be a thief? I already feel stealthy! I already feel shifty! I want to trade conspiracy for conspiracy, rumor for hearsay. This is what the mind of a thief is all about! Sure, maybe the thing a thief ends up stealing, as far as we can tell, is an heirloom, or a sum of cash, or priceless (perhaps cursed!) gem, but are you starting to see what I mean about the way these thieves think? It’s not just about the item! Our world, and Mother 3’s world, holds many secrets, and the thieves of our lives sometimes discover those secrets as their greatest treasures. Among themselves, thieves pass these secrets down, down through the stealthy ages, in the same way the most royal families pass down their most heist-worthy diamonds.

And man, I love the song’s arpeggio, it’s tick-tocking percussion, it’s alien-sounding “shhk” effect. To me, all these little touches add to that “mystery upon mystery” feel, a winding tune that makes me dizzy with outlaw-ish anticipation! When “Passing Down Secrets” is playing, I know I’m on the path to The Secret Knowledge, and there’s not much time to sort out all the details. Not that I feel like time is running out at large, but time is certainly running out for talking: tell me what to steal, Wess! Tell me what the target is! I know Tazmily doesn’t use a currency, but I’ll use a five finger discount on whatever I can find!

Anyway, I like the song, and I like the scene. Wess can feel something bad approaching. He speaks of the enemy, the Pigmask Army, and how we still know very little about them. We only have a taste of what the Pigmasks are capable of, of their weapons and chimera technology, but that may only be the tip of iceberg. When Wess says “enemy,” I feel like he has already begun to sense some bigger forces at play, something bigger than the Pigmasks. He knows that shit isn’t about to get real. The shit has been real for a minute, so it’s time to get moving.

I also like how we learn more about the dynamic between Wess and Duster. Wess says it best himself: “I speak to you not as my son, but as my pupil.” Wess berates Duster, teases him, and belittles him. I’m not saying Wess is entirely evil, but he is not a kind man. He knows he has been hard on Duster, and he even admits that it was his own intense training that caused Duster’s leg injury… or so he can remember. Wess is too detached to know, or maybe too detached to care.

Like many characters in Mother 3, I still think Wess has redeeming qualities, but it is hard to appreciate him as a father. I do believe he cares for Duster, and that he has love in his heart, but man, he really doesn’t show it sometimes. After admitting to causing Duster’s leg handicap, Wess also admits that he failed as a parent in assimilating Duster with the other villagers. Wess, the outcast, raised an outcast. He is as aware as anyone of his personal failings. He invites Duster to begrudge him, if it will make his son happy. Sometimes the mind of a thief is sharp, but the heart of a thief is stony.

Like certain scenes of Chapter 1 with Flint, I actually wish we could see what Duster would say in this scene, but at the same time, that wouldn’t be necessary. This is the player’s chance to role-play a little bit, which I appreciate that Itoi makes room for even in the most scripted of the Mother games. How Duster reacts, what he’s feeling, what he might say–this is all up to the player. We know that Duster’s a little weird, that he’s kind, and that he’s an outcast, but the rest can be filled in by the player. Does Duster hold a grudge in his heart? How does he feel about his father? Is Duster brave? Scared? Both?

I also like that this is one of the most explored parent-child/father-son relationships in the entire Mother series. Honestly, I wish we got more of Flint and Lucas throughout the story, but I really like what we do get from Wess and Duster. It’s an interesting relationship, and they are two interesting characters. Like in Chapter 1, Mother 3 is exploring fatherhood, and fathers in general, more than the series has in previous games. Given Itoi’s own experiences with his father and as a father, I’m not entirely surprised to see that Wess is complicated and aloof. Don’t forget that “Mother,” the John Lennon song which partly inspired the name of the series, deals with emotions related to parents, abandonment, and estranged family relations, which Itoi responded too so strongly that he longed to communicate that emotional experience to others.

That all said, I think it’s okay if some players see Wess and Duster, simply, as strange. They are a master and pupil before they are a father and son. They’re a weird family of thieves. I’m not trying to overlook any dark aspects of Wess’s personality, but I also think there’s a decent amount of humor that follows these two and their adventures, and that’s important as well. Maybe in Chapter 2, that’s our balance of seriousness and levity. Wess and Duster clearly have some issues in their relationship, but they also get put into some strange situations together, and, through that, they are able to grow as characters.

After Wess rambles on for a while about the enemy, and that maybe he’d have been better off born in a different time, he finally gets to the point: Duster needs to find something. To steal something. It is finally time for all of Duster’s thief training to pay off. Duster will need to go into Osohe Castle, an ancient structure to the north of Tazmily, and retrieve an important item. Wess won’t say what the item is, because he thinks Duster will (or should) know it when he sees it. Leave it to a Tazmilian to send you out on a mission and not even tell you what you’re looking for.

There is a dialogue option where Wess asks you if you want to know what the item looks like, and if you say “No,” Wes says, “I was just about to give you a hint and everything!” Eventually, when you say yes, the best description he can muster is, “It looks like… all shiny. Yeah.” As we can see here, the mind of a thief is not always serious, nor always sharp. Sometimes the mind of a thief describes treasure as “shiny,” and that’s that.

I love these two silly dialogue options because they defuse Wess’s tension a little bit. He might seem like the guy in charge, but he’s also just a weird old dude in Tazmily. “Passing Down Secrets” works on an increasingly more serious tone as the scene goes on, but not so serious that there isn’t room for humor. I like the humanization of Wess and the fact that, for a few seconds, he’s a little less serious about everything. It’s just a fun touch of comic relief, and I like it.

To accomplish his mission, Wess tells Duster that he’s going to need the Seven Mystical Thief tools, which can be found in the basement of Wess and Duster’s house. Except maybe there aren’t seven. Are there seven? Wess doesn’t seem to know for sure, but either way: there are thief tools in the basement, and you’ll need to grab them. And don’t try to leave the house without grabbing them, or Wess will throw a fit.

You might say to Wess, “I don’t need these tools! I have my noggin, my brain, my wits! The only tool a thief truly needs is his mind.”

And that’s great if you feel that way! I support you in feeling that way… but also, go get the Thief Tools. Tazmilian Thieves do business a little differently than what you might be used to. In these parts, we like to be well-outfitted thieves, relying on more than wits and charm. When you’re breath is as bad as Duster’s, you can’t exactly go around galavanting like a dashing, daring, Robin Hood.

Walk down to Duster’s basement, and you’ll be greeted with a Mother player’s paradise: a room full of gift boxes, ready to be opened! *Pop* after satisfying *pop,* opening these presents will reveal the Mystical Thief Tools, which contain the following: the Siren Beetle, the Smoke Bomb, the Tickle Stick, the Scary Mask, the Hypno-Pendulum, and last, but not least, the already-acquired Wall Staples. These six items make up the Mystical Thief Tools. Pretty cool, aren’t they?

Like Jeff and Loid before him, Duster is one of your main party members who cannot use PSI. However, he more than makes up for it with the Thief Tools, which each have a unique battle ability attached to them. As we’ve seen, the Wall Staples can pin an enemy down, but what do the others do?

Well, the Hypno-Pendulum can put enemies to sleep; the Scary Mask can lower an enemy’s offense; the Tickle Stick can lower an enemy’s defense; the Siren Beetle can make an enemy turn around, potentially wasting a turn or two of combat; and the Smoke Bomb can cause an enemy to cry uncontrollably, lowering their accuracy.

Personally, I like the Thief Tools a lot, even if I forget to use them sometimes. In my opinion, Chapter 2 has some tough areas and difficulty spikes, which, I think, incentivizes the player to experiment with Duster’s abilities. Yes, you can brute force (no pun intended, Flint) your way through Chapter 2, relying on some lucky hits or misses, but you’re better off giving the Thief Tools a try. Personally, I think the Smoke Bomb and the Scary Mask can help Duster defeat one of the chapter’s trickier enemies, and, in general, I think it doesn’t hurt to try a Thief Tool when you need something effective in a pinch.

I also like that these items are permanently tied to Duster. In past Mother games, the non-PSI folks could use some of the deadliest items in the game (thinking of Jeff and his multi-bottle rockets), but they still had limited uses. I like how Duster’s items are unique, letting him stand out among the parties he joins. Later in the game, when Lucas and Kumatora become invaluable as offensive and defensive PSI users, Duster’s abilities can get a bit overshadowed. Still, even if Duster moves from a utility character to a character who is basically going to select “Bash” every turn, I like that the Thief Tools are there just in case. They’re a cool and unique part of Duster. And again, you never have to worry about them running out of uses.

Duster is ready to doze off again, though if that means Boney will come to wake him up, I’m not opposed.

Personally, I wish some of Duster’s Thief Tools other than the Wall Staples had more appearances in the plot. Duster will use his Wall Staples every now and again as the situation calls for it, but none of the other tools in his aresenal ever show themselves outside of battle. I mean, I can’t think of any great applications for them off the top of my head, but still, I always thought it could be cool. Maybe you could throw a Smoke Bomb into an area of enemies, and there would be a certain percentage of a chance that the encounter begins with the enemy facing the wrong way, or something. I’m just Smoke Bomb spitballing, here!

Anyway, before you leave Wess, he has a little bit more to offer. If you talk to him one last time, he’ll mention that he originally hid the secret item long ago, somewhere in Osohe Castle, so that not even the king could find it. Wess worried that it would be too much for the king to handle, or so he vaguely remembers.

I like this small touch of world building. For one, we get to imagine a younger, thieving Wess, who apparently was so good at being a thief that he had usefulness even to a king. Or maybe Wess was simply the only thief in Tazmily back then…

But wait–was there a Tazmily back then? What was Tazmily back then? And what king is Wess talking about? What king, or what kingdom, would have fallen and disappeared within Wess’s lifetime? Was Wess “in” with the royal family, or was he just an asset? How big was the royal family, and where are they now? At least, I’m assuming that Osohe Castle no longer houses living royalty, but I guess I could be wrong. All I’m saying is, something in Wess’s story seems a little fishy.

Plus, Wess can’t even remember why he hides the Thief Tools in separate boxes! It seems the old man can’t even trust himself!

But what can I say? Wess’s That’s What I’d Like to Know brand of skepticism, when questioning his own memory and motives, is right up my alley. And besides, you know what they say about thieves, outlaws, and scoundrels.

If they trust themselves, they trust too easy.

Duster After Dark

Hello and welcome to Duster After Dark, the Nowhere Islands’ stealthiest radio show. Tonight, follow Duster as he snoops around Tazmily, on the prowl for something shiny. Can he find it? What did he have for dinner, and is it effecting the bad breath situation? And later: catch up with Lighter and Fuel, a Tazmilian tragedy in the making. Where will they live now that their cabin is a pile of ash? And finally, after that we’ll ask, What About Bob?, an examination of the Yado Inn’s loneliest cowboy.

Hold on to your Mapsons, folks.

Sorry about that. Sauntering as Duster just makes me feel cool. When you’re playing as Flint, there’s always something to stress you out; lives consistently hang in the balance at every turn. When you’re playing as Duster, you’re big chillin’, being a thief and whatnot. I love how Mapson, upon seeing the thief, says, “Oh, if it isn’t Duster. I see you still enjoy your nighttime strolls.”

I love that little detail about Duster! Personally, I assumed Duster slept through the day and snoozed through the night, keeping to the outskirts of town unless called upon. But maybe I’m underestimating him. Duster gets out every now and again, and he loves a nighttime walk. Well, I also love a nighttime walk, so it looks like Duster and I are in good company.

As usual, I think the music is a big part of why I have so much fun at this part. “Mind of a Thief” is an amazing song, truly one of my favorites in the game. When is a song not one of my favorites, you ask? Well, I know I goggle over every other track in the game, but I really love “Mind of a Thief.” If it sounds familiar to you, it’s a remix of “Sorrowful Family,” the song that plays on the day of Hinawa’s funeral, after Claus breaks Flint out of jail.

Ah, the triumphant return of Tazmily’s purple grass.

I don’t know which came first, “Sorrowful Family” or “The Mind of a Thief,” and I also don’t know if we’re meant to associate them with one another, or if “Mind of a Thief” is just a remix because it’s a remix. Either way, I personally enjoy connecting the two songs thematically, because it more strongly links Duster to the main conflict of the plot thus far; that is, the deaths of Hinawa and Claus, and the effect on Flint and Lucas (and Boney!). But where “Sorrowful Family” sounds like doom, gloom, and exhaustion, “Mind of a Thief” confronts the unknown with a groovy spring in its step. To me, this makes Duster feels like a brave character, even if Wess is always putting him down.

And if Duster really meant it when he told Flint he’d do whatever he could to help out, then “Mind of a Thief” should be a remix of “Sorrowful Family,” because now it’s Duster’s turn to bat for Tazmily. Flint and Lucas, and most people in Tazmily, have been through a lot in the past 24 hours, and if whatever Duster is up to tonight will somehow be for the betterment of the town, then I leave it all to him. We have to put our faith into the mind of a thief.

And really, I’m not trying to over-intellectualize this, or anything. “Mind of a Thief” is just a sick remix, that’s all. I just can’t help but link the two songs because of that, and muse about the information we can glean from such a connection. At the end of the day, “Mind of a Thief” is simply a sick track that I can easily listen to over and over.

Also, even though Mapson waits a stone’s throw away from Duster’s house, I like how the start of Chapter 2 makes me excited to explore. The reins have loosened a bit. Sure, you can’t go inside many buildings because it’s so late at night, but you’re still free to walk around at your own pace without having Thomas tell you where to go, or Bronson keeping you from running away.

Though like I’ve been saying for a while, I’m warming up to Mother 3’s approach to exploration more and more all the time. By which I mean, I’m sorry for being so hard on Mapson. The guy just likes maps and tends to know what’s going on in town! He is quick to receive gossip and updates! Who am I to judge a man’s love of cartography and helping others out? I mean, the poor guy even reminds Duster that he’s able to talk about things other than maps. When’s the last time anyone asked Mapson where he was heading? Maybe he was forced in to maps by being named Mapson, and he never chose this life. Maybe he changed his name, to suggest maps as a Higher Power, a father, and he himself as the son of all maps–the Mapson.

That’s right! Frog by Frog has all been a scheme to get people talking about Mapson! Has been from the start.

But actually, for a guy who implies he’s game to talk about non-map stuff, Mapson doesn’t say much other than telling Duster where to go. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Thanks, Mapson. It’s nice to know there’s someone looking out for me.

Mapson mentions Duster should go see Nippolyte, the gravedigger from Hinawa’s funeral. Even though Mapson emphasizes this for the player’s sake, I also enjoy the idea that Duster himself wouldn’t know, or would forget, who a fellow Tazmilian is. There’s only like twenty of them!

From here, the night is your own–it’s Duster After Dark. Personally, I took Duster around Tazmily to see if anyone else was awake. Like I mentioned, it’s kind of a bummer that you can’t enter anyone buildings (I’d like to have a late-night drink at the Pusher residence, myself), especially considering that you’re a thief, but just like way back in Frog #8, I simply enjoy walking around!

Listening to “Mind of a Thief” is half the fun of Mother 3, when you get right down to it! It’s such a fun song. I’ve heard it so many times that I’ll always associate it with Mother 3 and Duster, but I also enjoy it as a song in its own right. Also, it reminds us that sometimes the mind of a thief is a mind that hunts fun over anything else. Duster might be on the quest to steal something shiny, but he’s also on a mission to go for one great walk at least once a day. Thieves are good walkers, too.

Okay–sorry, I’ll stop talking about the same song over and over, starting now!

To begin my night excursion, I asked myself, “Where would a thief start looking?” To which I answered myself, “The beach! Duh!”

Who’s they?

The Tazmily beach, so far, rarely seems to be a happenin’ spot, but it’s still nice to walk around and take everything in. Plus, Nana’s out here as usual, and she opens up to Duster a bit more than she did with Flint.

As always, Nana introduces herself, but this time she tells Duster about Tanetane Island, a place of “dreams and nightmares” somewhere across the sea. Is this island haunted? Filled to the brim with dark magic? Nana doesn’t offer much more than that. “They also say that nobody knows the real truth about it,” says Nana. “But then how do I know about it?”

I don’t know, Nana. How do you know about it?

Nana is awesome. I really wish she were involved in the main plot of Mother 3 more often. I love how she talks about this island with some a strange air about her. The first I ever played Mother 3, I remember being unsure if Nana was telling the truth, or just playing with her own imagination. Like we explored in Frog #11, Part 2, Nana was originally the daughter of a sailor in EarthBound 64, which is likely why she would know about a place like this (if it’s real). Nana also strikes me as the type of kid who would make up something like this, just to have something fun and weird to say to the town oddball.

Now that I think about it, Nana and Duster make a pretty good match. Both are outcasts as far as the town seems to be concerned. Nana’s into creepy islands, and Duster’s into creepy castles and Hypno-Pendulums. I can’t help but think Nana and Duster would make an amazing team. Let’s grab Boney while we’re at it and turn this team-up into a party!

If Chapter 1 showed us that any NPC could have the spotlight, then Chapter 2 shows us that every NPC has a little room to grow. I mean, I definitely wouldn’t have expected Nana to bring up something as strange and disturbing as Tanetane Island, yet here we are. Our favorite Tazmilians still have some secrets up their sleeves! I probably should have called this section “A Million Tazmilians 4,” now that I think about it.

As for last thoughts on Nana… what can I say? I think she’s a cool character. Of the minor characters in the game, I always think Nana deserves a little more love. I feel like she opens up to Duster more than Flint because she can sense that Duster is a fellow weirdo, you know what I mean? Not many young girls would too receptive of a man with bad breath joining them on the cliff, next to the ocean, in the middle of the night. When Nana says, “So then how do I know about it?” I feel like she’s telling Duster a little ghost story, something to keep his thiefly mind occupied.

I also think I’ll just always have a fascination with Nana because of that EarthBound 64 stuff. How much would she have known about the sea? How much knowledge would her dad have shared with her? Would Nana herself have had any experiences with Tanetane Island? If we believe her that the place is true (it is), how, really, does she know about it?

Ugh, just like other unsuspecting Tazmilians, I’ve allowed Nana to talk me into a strange circle. I think it’s time to go say hello to someone else…

So, after chatting with Nana, I headed over to the Yado Inn, not knowing that behind one of the doors, hid a little frog…

The Yado Inn was as lowkey as ever. The half asleep lullaby, Homely Yado Inn, plays as Jackie greets Duster, adding that they don’t see Duster here to often. You know, I was hard on Jackie a few times in Chapter 1, but this dude really spends all his time standing behind the counter at the inn, it seems! No wonder he’s so deflated all the time. I know I’ve already softened toward Jackie, but I think Mapson put me into a more forgiving state of mind. Sorry for assuming the worst of you at times, Jackie. You’re just a guy with an inn and a dream.

So, I’m starting to see and to treat Tazmilians as real people. What’s so wrong with that? My sanity is perfectly in order, thank you very much!

It doesn’t surprise me either that Jackie wouldn’t see Duster too often at the Yado Inn. He already lives with his dad, so he doesn’t need a room, and Duster doesn’t strike me as a drinker. Though, to be fair, getting away from Wess for a night or two at the Yado Inn could be a good idea for poor Duster, and maybe a drink would take some of the edge off from the fast-paced thief lifestyle. Sometime the mind of a thief needs to be dulled with the sweet taste of whiskey!

I’m not saying Duster should start throwing back shots, but maybe he should join Bob for a drink or two, at least in celebration of his feat with Wall Staples. Word must be getting around town, because Betsy says she heard about “that wall-climbing stuff” that Duster did in the forest, and usually Betsy doesn’t take too easily to random acts of heroism. It’s nice to know that words of Duster’s skills are spreading around town a bit! Maybe this thief will finally get the recognition he deserves. No more bad breath as a defining trait!

Speaking of Bob, he’s a few whiskey sours away from whisking himself out of the bar area. Whether he’s drunk or just inspired, Bob asks Duster if he knows about “the seven mysteries of Tazmily,” but I’ve gotta say, he better be serious about there being seven. Wess already let me down once tonight with the whole “Slightly-Less-Than-Seven” thief tools fiasco.

Now, I’m not going to pretend Bob’s response is riveting, or anything. He adds that his favorite mystery is mystery number #3, “Tall Mr. Beanstalk of Cross Road.” I’m starting to get the impression that people like talking to Duster about weird things, maybe stuff that’s been on their mind for a while, or, in Bob’s case, whatever comes to mind when you’re buzzed at Jackie’s bar.

Unfortunately, that’s all Bob says about Mr. Beanstalk, the tall and solemn Leder, who you’ll likely remember as the bell ringer in Chapter 1. “Yeah, that’s actually the entire story,” says Bob, which I doubt, because I don’t think Bob has the full story, but whatever. I’m just happy to have gotten to talk a bit more than usual. In the past, I’ve always cited Bob as unmemorable, as tangential to the real Tazmilians, as not having much to offer. Plus, if I’m going to listen to Nana as she tells me vague stories about a distant island, I may as well listen to Bob as he tells me half-baked “mysteries” about Tazmily. And what could the other seven mysteries be?

Anyway, hats off to Bob for having something fun to say, and hats off to Itoi for truly, truly giving each and every NPC a chance to say something fun. I think it would have been easy to just have Bob sit here and say something like, “Oh, hey Duster,” or anything along the lines of a simple greeting. Instead, we learn that, at least in Bob’s mind, there are seven mysteries to Tazmily. Off the top of my head, I think Osohe Castle would count as a mystery. And maybe the Forest Prayer Sanctuary? Hmmm…

Well, even though Bob’s having his fun, Tessie isn’t having a great night. All she wants is for Bob to get out so she can close down the bar for the night, but good old Bob is taking his sweet time with those bevs.

I kind of like how, despite the craziness of the events surrounding Tazmily lately, some villagers still deal with relatable problems, like an annoying customer at work, the last hanger-on at the bar at closing time. It’s just nice to know that Tessie, who helped Claus and Lucas recover after being rescued, who made everyone Innit Tea, who guarded the twins during Flint’s breakdown… is also still just a normal person, who has to serve annoying customers at the Yado Inn.

While I wouldn’t say Tessie has been invisible to me in the past or anything, I would say that she’s standing out more to me on this play-through than she ever has before. She’s just such a good Tazmilian! She’s always doing her best and making her way. She naturally takes care of people, but she doesn’t pretend to be a saint about it. Bob bothers her, and she makes that very clear. Though in a town like Tazmily, with no currency, I’m sure a guy like Bob can easily drink past his limits.

And that’s not all the Yado Inn has to offer. They may not over-pamper you here (not that it seems that way, what with the free drinks), but they sure do give a guy a thing or two to write about!

Behind Door #1, you’ll find Lighter, Fuel, Bud, and Lou. Honestly, I’ve never caught up with these guys at this part of the game. In the past, I’ve run straight for the graveyard, more or less, but as we’ve discussed a million times, playing Frog by Frog changes habits like that, and I still get a lot of enjoyment out of that. Lighter and Fuel were a big part of Chapter 1–the story was nearly their own tragedy–so I love the opportunity to hang out with them here.

Bud and Lou, for I think the second, but maybe the first, time in the game, have no bits to run. Even though we last saw these guys workshopping a new punch line involving sea otters and freakshows, there are fewer laughs to be found tonight. Lou flat-out says that, even though Lighter has remained positive, he himself doesn’t think things are going to be easy in the slightest. Grim words from the comedian.

Bud, however, admits that they’ve been mooching off of Lighter by staying at his house, which I’m sure has its practical benefits considering that Bud and Lou are Lighter’s apprentices/”employees.” They’re like little lumberjack interns, or something.

Take it easy, bud.

Anyway, the problem with squatting at your boss’s house is that when the Pigmasks burn it down, you also become homeless. So, the two naturally stay in Lighter’s room at the inn as well, which is actually pretty funny. You’d think Jackie would let the poor guys spread out a bit among the three empty rooms, but it’s also funny to imagine that Bud and Lou stayed with Lighter simply out of habit. Maybe Lighter is too tired to turn them away, or maybe everyone’s Tazmilian kindness kicked in at the inn. Maybe they wanted to make sure there were two empty rooms for others, like Bob, who has had too much to drink, or like Duster, who is surely about to take a nap.

Though how much Tazmilian kindness can I assume of Bud, who also adds, “But this place is nice and comfy, too. Plus, Tessie is here. Heheh.” Bob and Bud both needs to cool their jets and give Tessie a break!

Then there’s little Fuel, the brave boy who wanted to help as much as he could last night. He mentions to Duster that he wishes he could have seen his Wall Staples technique, but, more importantly than that, he wishes he could have done anything to help out more.

I love how Fuel’s most consistent trait is that he wants to be able to help out more. Sometimes I feel like Fuel was practically begging Itoi to let him be a more active character in the plot of Mother 3, but not everyone with a song in their heart can join the big leagues, bud. That said, I’ll always give Fuel credit for his consistency. He’s a good kid who’s old enough to grasp the weight of what’s going on in Tazmily, or at least he’s starting to understand. He’s taking after his father with his own brand of bravery, and I love that. Maybe there’s a way that I could start a Thief Training program with Duster, and Fuel could be my first student.

I do really like how, while Bud and Lou are remarking on their own circumstances (the fact that Tessie’s around, the fact that there’s only one bed), Fuel is still fixated on his own powerlessness. I know Bud and Lou are the town comedians, so it’s not like I expected maturity from them or anything, but I just like the contrast. Fuel is every bit as a brave as these grown, or nearly grown, young men.

Last but not least, Lighter simply says that he needs to start thinking about how he’s going to build his own. Simple as that. Lighter knows what needs to be done.

Are there any groundbreaking conversations, or plot movements, happening in this little room? No, but I really love that it’s here. Like I said above, I’ve never known that these guys were hanging out in the Yado Inn during Chapter 2, because I was too quick to go to my next task. Tazmily and its many residents are basically a side story, or a parallel plot, to everything that goes on with Lucas’s family, and little moments like this, quiet nights of recovery and recooperation in hotel rooms, are as much a part of that story as anything else. I wouldn’t even say we get new information. We know Fuel is brave. We know Lighter needs to rebuild his house. Do we really get anything from being in here?

Well, that’s what the Mother series is so good at. Not everything in a video game needs to be about getting something. Sometimes it’s just about doing or seeing something. (The minds of thieves are always tuned in to the seeing and doing channels of life.) In Mother 3, you have the opportunity, if you’d like, to catch up with some characters from Chapter 1 and see how they’re doing. Considering the (at least somewhat) memorable time you’ve spent with these characters, a visit like this is its own small reward. That’s really all it is, and it’s still pretty cool. In fact, why don’t we see what’s behind Door #2 and keep this Tazmily party going?

A camera shy little frog.

…except there’s no party at all! Just a frog! Our first frog of Chapter 2, which is actually a frog we’ve met before, in Chapter 1!

Although, this frog poses a unique problem, now. See, I knew that many of the same frogs can be found in the same spots, no matter which chapter you’re in. But, I’ve never actually known if it’s every single frog, or if it’s just some frogs here or there. Basically, what I’m getting at is, if all the frogs in Chapter 2 are in the same spots as the frogs from Chapter 1, we’re going to run into a bit of an issue next time.

See, I was planning on popping down to Lucas’s house to see how they’re doing, or if Boney’s awake outside or something. The problem, as you can likely guess, is that the rules of Frog by Frog are that I play up to each frog, and no more! But we have two, potentially three, frogs coming up very soon if they are all in the same spots as they were in Chapter 1. This might mean that my next few posts are bite-sized, if I don’t find a way around this particular situation.

Oh well. That’s just what happens on a late-night stroll in Tazmily. There’s always someone hopping around, somewhere.

Just like Duster, looking for something shiny, I’ll figure it out.

2 thoughts on “Frog #16: The Mind of a Thief

  1. Very excited to see you go through this chapter, given that Duster and a “certain-someone” are probably my favourite characters from Mother 3. Although my personal rankings may be reassessed soon, since I actually started playing the game myself a few days back (count that as another victory for your blog). I previously experienced the Mother 3 story through watching the Super Beard Bros go through it.

    Branching out from your “Smoke Bomb in the overworld” idea, how about using the Scary Mask to scare away enemies? Really, it’s an excuse to see what the thing looks like.

    I love “Badass Normal” characters like Duster and Jeff (still waiting for Earthbound on SNES online, Nintendo…). Something really cool about keeping up with your superpowered friends through intelligence and outside the box strategies)

    Well done on another great article!

    Like

    1. Thank YOU so much for another amazing comment!! I wanted to response to this a while back, but I have been going through a very trying time with my family, which is also why I’m behind on posts. Luckily, I write them ahead of time!!

      Oh, how cool! Have you ever played the game before, or was your only exposure through the Beard Bros? I hope you enjoy it!! It is such a fun and special game. Please keep me updated on your progress 🙂 I mean it! I’ll be sad if you don’t! 😛

      And yes! I love your Scary Mask idea. I feel like Duster would be a fun character for things like that, given that he is already a bit of an oddball. For some reason I imagine the Scary Mask as something like the mask from Courage the Cowardly Dog lol

      Man, here’s hoping we get EarthBound for SNES Online, though I’m hoping it hasn’t been added yet because of something bigger. IF (and it’s a big if) Nintendo is planning any kind of commemorative re-release or remake, they probably want to funnel as many players as possible toward it, so maybe that’s why we haven’t seen it show up online yet. Here’s to hoping, anyway!

      Like

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