At this point in Mother 3’s story, you might start feeling like the game really has it all. You might even start worrying about whether or not the game can maintain this level of quality. We’ve had a couple emotional character deaths, a robotic dinosaur, a hip tea party, and even a cute little monkey. It’s easy, I think, for many players to get to this part of Chapter 2 and say, “Haven’t I seen it all? The game clearly put its best monkey forward. Is it even worth it to continue playing the other seven chapters of this silly game? Shouldn’t I just replay Chapter 1 over and over?”
And I can’t blame these players. I, too, am smitten with the new monkey in town, and I’d much rather be playing with the monkey than hunting for anything shiny with Duster, what with his bad breath and sneaky demeanor. However, it’s in our best interests to hang on just a little longer, because things are about to get good.
To be honest, I don’t have much more of an intro than that. We all got a small taste of what Duster is capable of in Chapter 1, when he helped Flint fight the Reconstructed Caribou, but we haven’t yet had a chance in Chapter 2 to see the thief properly in action. Just like in Chapter 1 before it, we are four frogs in to a chapter, and we haven’t seen a lick of combat. Everyone from Leder to Boney is asking themselves, “Who is Duster going to fight tonight?” Not that Mother 3 is all about the fighting, but I can’t spend all of Chapter 2 keeping track of Bob’s bourbon intake. I have to spread my Wall Staples and climb!
You know, I also thought about introducing this post with a Cranberries reference, but I ended up cutting it out. You might think I wanted to reference the song “Linger,” because of how slow our pace can be when playing Frog by Frog. You might also think I wanted to reference the song “Dreams,” for any number of dream-like scenarios we’ll find ourselves in during Mother 3. Though, the most astute reader will know I meant to reference a song called…
Last frog, Duster couldn’t seem to get anywhere without someone running into him. On his first pass through time square, he encountered ???, the mysterious peddler, and ???’s pet monkey, who, for all I know, is also named ???. On his second pass through town square, he encountered Butch, the farmer, who let him on a little secret: ??? gave Butch 50,000 bucks of cold, hard cash, which Butch promptly hid in the well.
Well, hopefully Duster will now be able to continue his Thief Adventure uninterrupted from here on out. With a spring in his step, the thief with bad breath continues north, toward Osohe Castle, looking for something shiny.
Of course, before Duster has had a chance to separate his Scary Masks from his Tickle Sticks, a rumbling comes across the sky.
An airship (with a pig-like snout) passes overhead, dropping something in the vicinity of Osohe Castle. It certainly doesn’t look like good news, but I can’t help but laugh at the image of a huge pig-like airship spreading its droppings across the lands; the Pigmask Army sure has some class. Also, similarly to previous posts when I pointed out the creepiness of the Pigmasks’ clandestine camping locations, I think there’s something a little unnerving about seeing this ship pass in the night. Most Tazmilians are sleeping right now. They have now idea what’s going on. How many times has this thing passed overhead with no one noticing?
Would anyone believe Duster if he told them?
Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out what’s going on. Though, in typical Duster fashion, you can bet we’re going to be interrupted.
Duster runs north to the graveyard. Everything is quiet, still, and grave. A grade A, grave, gray, graveyard. If Mapson is right, which I’m sure he is, we need to keep our eyes out for Nippolyte, but he doesn’t seem to be around. Duster takes a few uneasy steps forward… and a stirring crawls across the ground… just ahead, the dead soil of the graveyard opens to reveal…
And not just zombies, but zombies that look like some people we know…
Hinawa? Claus? Why am I asking so many questions???
The zombies surround Duster and start saying creepy shit to him. At times, the zombies seem barely coherent, saying typical zombie things like “Ggguhhh?” or “Moooore.” At other times, the zombies seem strangely coherent, saying things like, “Is that you, Duster?,” and “Why, there’s so much of you I could eat you for three days and three nights.” The zombies are gruesome in their appearance, but uncanny in their personalities. Do they really recognize Duster? And why are they so eerily good at expressing themselves?
Who knows, maybe Itoi just decided that zombies have spent too many decades being incoherent, moaning and gawing at worst, and muttering “Brainsssss” at best. So, perhaps Mother 3 marks a landmark achievement in moderately literate, passably aware zombies; why not? And this isn’t the first time the Mother series has seen zombies, but it is one of the most effective times, for sure. Ever since the The Walking Dead hit its 30th season and launched its fifth spin-off (now there’s a zombie of a show), I get the feeling that everyone is a bit burned out on zombies, so I don’t blame you if this encounter doesn’t really do it for you.
However, I really like this scene, mostly because I’m a simple guy, and I like zombies, and also because I’m never sure how to interpret it. For one, I love that the zombies look like Hinawa and Claus (though I’ve heard some people say they are meant to reference Ness and Paula from EarthBound). I think it’s an awesome design choice that makes this scene uncomfortable for the player. Sure, these could have also just been creepy looking zombies, and it would have worked totally fine as a design choice, but making them appear like Hinawa and Claus (if that’s the way you see them) just adds an extra layer of disturbing association that I really enjoy.
I’ve also always wondered if Duster sees them as Hinawa and Claus because the last 24 hours have been so traumatic for everyone in Tazmily, and the images of those who have died linger (no Cranberries pun intended) in his mind. Either way, I don’t need to know the right answer; it works for me! What a brilliant way to make zombies feel scary! Even the patch of baldness on the Hinawa zombie is just so perfectly placed and unnerving.
Even the fact that the zomies say all that weird shit, while looking like Hinawa and Claus, really works for me. Zombies as a horror monster concept, to me, always work best when they make us both afraid of zombies, and afraid of humans. Basically, zombies can be a really effective mirror to explore our own mortality and consumption proclivities. So when the zombies slowly surround Duster, they begin, to me at least, to feel legitimately threatening, because untimely, unnatural death is a new concept to Tazmilians; they’ve never dealt with it before. I’ve also wondered what Duster is really seeing–perhaps actual corpses of villagers he knew? Because again, I don’t think the zombies are supposed to literally look like Hinawa and Claus, unless…
One theory I’ve had for a while is that the Pigmask Army made the zombies from butchering Butch’s pigs, combining pig flesh with human flesh, and making zombie “chimeras” of some kind, designing them on Hinawa and Claus because they were the first two casualties of the Pigmasks’ Attack. I know this is pretty gross, and it’s probably not true, but I can’t help but wonder! We don’t get many other chances to explore the graveyard at nighttime, so maybe zombies are a totally normal thing that Nippolyte has to deal with all the time. Or maybe the Pigmask Army is a bunch of deranged porkers who could actually concoct a plan that terrible. Trust me, by the time we get to Chapter 8, there isn’t much I’d put past these villains.
Anyway, as I was saying, the zombies take one step at a time, closer and closer, surrounding our poor thief. Is this it for Duster? Is the Thief Adventure over before it even begins? Perhaps Duster finds himself unable to land a punch as the zombies’ arms close around him, grabbing at his shoulders and pulling him in for a bite…
But no way! The fight begins, and it’s a Thrilla in Tazmilla, folks! Duster versus the zombies, kicks versus bites, all to the groovy, punchy, percussive “Zombeat,” my favorite battle track yet. This song can feel addictive to fight to if you hit some musical combos. I managed to get 15 hits in a row because I was vibing so hard!
Even though “Zombeat” gets re-used with some other enemies and encounters, I love its use here because of how it sets the tone and the scene. Duster is outnumbered, completely alone, fighting in the middle of a graveyard. We haven’t seen Duster fight on his own yet, and this is such a slick track for us to imagine our underdog thief’s first foray into fighting. The different percussion elements of the songs help me picture Duster’s fighting style, ducking this way and that to score some good kicks. It’s so much fun to imagine Duster, the unlikely fighter, fending off the fiendish flesh-eaters with a grave groove in his step.
I guess what I’m really trying to say is, I think this song is cool.
I don’t know, for some reason, Zombeat just makes sense to me as a one vs. five song. Duster’s attack instrument is a bass guitar, which sounds awesome when paired with this track, and as zombies fall and appear one after the other, the fight begins to feel truly formidable. If they ever make Mother 3 into an animated film, this entire fight should be a coordinated dance, with Duster front and center like a Tazmilian Michael Jackson.
I’ll also add that I appreciate how this is our first combat encounter of Chapter 2. Just like Chapter 1, playing Frog by Frog makes me anticipate combat. In Flint’s case, we had to wait about four frogs just to fight a single bat. In Duster’s case, the pay-off is much more satisfying–we get to fight zombies! Plus, the psychedelic background is another great one, and the battle sprites of the Zombie Man and Zombie Woman are even creepier than before. I love how their eyes look in different directions, unfocused, setting in their skulls but not seeming functional. I love how their jaws hang open, and their clothes hang in tatters. Their decaying skin, and its cold, dead coloring.
Though the zombies aren’t all that scary to fight. In battle, sometimes they have trouble balancing and fall over, or wander around aimlessly. When you defeat them, they “return to the dust of the earth,” which is endearing, in a way. As always, it’s a Mother game, so for as creepy as the zombies may initially appear, they’re also zombies made by Shigesato Itoi, so they topple and fall, lose their balance, and sometimes don’t attack at all.
I could see this encounter getting out of hand for some players, and it might be tempting to use Duster’s Thief Tools if you find yourself in a tricky spot. Honestly, though, I think your best bet, if you do have trouble, is to simply attack relentlessly and practice your rhythm combos. As a one-man combat unit, Duster may not have to buffing abilities of Flint, but he’s still quick on his feet, and his kicks pack a good punch. Sort of like Kick Puncher, whose punches have the force of kicks, except it’s Punch Kicker, whose kicks are stronger than punches or kicks.
Anyway, after you’ve returned the zombies to the dust of the Earth, you’ll find yourself back in the stillness of the grave graveyard. I wish I had more to say about the zombies, because the scene and the fight with them feels so unique in the grand scheme of Mother 3. For a while, my theory was that the flying Pig Ship had dropped the zombies into the graveyard, but we’ll learn what those droppings were in a couple frogs. All I can really emphasize is that the zombies aren’t the only spooky villain Duster will be up against. He’s got a whole gauntlet of Halloween heads coming his way.
If you want to talk to Nippolyte you can, but he is not as helpful as you might initially hope. Funny enough, in the same way that Mapson had to remind Duster about who Nippolyte was, the old gravedigger doesn’t seem to remember Duster’s name either, opting to call him “Wess’s son, What’s-his-name.”
Other than that, the night is once again your own. You can revisit some of the funny inscriptions on the headstones, and you can even visit Hinawa’s grave, if you’d like. The only new thing is a small boquet of flowers, left by Flint.
I like to imagine that Duster gets as much of a kick out of the zany headstones as I do. My favorite this time around is probably, “I leave the rest to you.”
Well, Duster is off to a rocky start. First, it was ??? and the cute monkey. Then, it was Butch, and his wild talk of money, which I have surmised must be a set of consistent set of objects that one can exchange for either goods or services. (Or, in the case of pizza delivery, a service which delivers the goods to you). Then, Duster ran into the zombie man and his cohorts, turning the adventure from a low-key chiller to a big time thriller.
Certainly it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out, right?
The Gate is Closed
Duster walks north, again, to Osohe Castle, only to find the drawbridge up. Looks like Duster won’t be getting in anytime soon, or at least not this way.
Well, you know what they say. Just because stealing is free, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Although, the trip north isn’t for naught; if you decide to throw in the towel and leave this spot (which you should, unless you plan on urging Duster to simply take a leap of faith and let the Wall Staples handle the rest) you’ll hear a voice from seemingly nowhere call out: “Anty anty antant!”
If you were hoping that Mother 3 would let ants participate in a more major role than simply keeping the player from entering certain areas, you’re in luck. This little ant scurries out of nowhere to let you, the player, know that you’re driving them crazy! Yes, like its distant cousin the Mole Cricket, this fiery little ant informs us very directly that we suck at rhythm combos!
Now, I took great offense to this, seeing as I just hit a 15-piece combo in my previous battle, but I can forgive the ant–it just wants people to know everything Mother 3 has to offer! And honestly, even though the whole “Don’t go that way, there are ants at your feet!” bit gets a little old for me, I love how this ant is used at this part of the game to elucidate something that some players may not have caught on to yet.
I can’t quite remember how I came to discover rhythm battle in Mother 3. If my memory serves me right, I accidentally discovered them in the same way I’m sure most people do. If I’m wrong, though, maybe I learned about rhythm combos from this little ant! Either way, I love how this ant is used as both exposition for a mechanic, and for humor. Mother 3 has an awesome track record for little bugs who think they’re the toughest guys on the block.
Doesn’t this little hot head know I just came out victorious in the Thrilla in Tazmilla?
Anyway, I’m sure most people who have already played Mother 3 will dismiss this interaction as an annoying, additional tutorial, and I know I didn’t even remember it was here… but playing Frog by Frog makes me change my tune about this. Yes, I don’t really care about a rhythm combo tutorial, but I like how Mother 3 decides to continue teaching the player even in Chapter 2. Despite Chapter 1 sometimes holding our hand too much, Chapter 2 still has some things to say. It helps to make Mother 3 feel more accessible to someone who has never played an RPG before, or to someone who just does not play as many video games. I think stuff like that is important!
Oh, the last thing I’ll say about this is that Duster has a unique advantage when it comes to rhythm combos: his Hypno Pendulum. Swing this bad boy in front of an unsuspecting enemy’s face, and you’ll be able to hear its heartbeat in no time. Some players use this to study an enemy’s rhythm so that they can execute rhythm combos with more easy in combat, though I’ve personally never done that. I figure, if I can get a rhythm combo–great! But if I can’t, it’s no big deal.
Still, I think Mother 3’s rhythm combos (combined with an item we get later, The Battle Memory) add an impressive amount of depth to combat for players who want additional features. It’s really a shame Nintendo won’t give this game a chance.
When you return to the graveyard, you’ll find it a much meaner place. It seems that when Nippolyte decides to turn in, the evil spirits come out to play. Or, maybe the graveyard denizens simply don’t attack the old gravedigger, because the zombies weren’t exactly too shy to show themselves earlier. Or, is Nippolyte more than a gravedigger? Does he fend off these creatures night after night, defending his fellow Tazmilians from a zombie invasion? Is there more than meets the eye with old Nippolute?
Whatever the rules of the graveyard are, it’s best to be careful around here. A new enemy, the Mobile Grave, will almost certainly kill you unless you employ all of Duster’s Thief Tools and hit a rhythm combo or two. The Mobile Grave won’t attack on every turn, but when they fall over on top of you, they’ll deal massive damage.
Speaking of rhythm combos, the Mobile Grave’s battle theme is “Accelerando,” a song that increases in speed throughout the fight, changing the timing of the rhythm combo hits. Personally, I find this song weirdly easy to combo (I’m pretty sure I got a full 16-hits, but we’ll have to double-check in the footage if and when I ever get it up on YouTube), but I don’t only enjoy it because of its combo potential. For me, “Accelerando” adds an urgency to the fight, because the Mobile Grave will probably kill you if you aren’t ready to fight it. As the song gets faster, I become more and more anxious that, any moment now, the Mobile Grave is going to topple over and bury Duster under its weight.
I’ve gotta say, I like the image/concept of a Mobile Grave toppling onto someone, pushing them into the ground, then positioning itself above as the new headstone. I know that’s a grave thing to say, but we’re in a graveyard, here! I’m just trying to fill in the blanks and imagine how the enemy might be interpreted. And what’s the fun of turn-based combat if you don’t let your imagination take the wheel every now and again? Also, seriously, be ready to fight when you encounter these things, or you will get killed. Get out your Tickle Sticks, your Scary Masks, your Hypno Pendulums–throw everything at it! Even the kitchen sink!
Personally, I enjoyed using the Siren Beetle on the Mobile Graves, which forces them to turn around. Honestly, I just like seeing what enemy sprites look like from behind, but in this fight, the Thief Tool had some legitimate uses. It often bought me a precious extra turn, either to heal or to get in a free round of combat. I can’t remember how much the Siren Beetle ultimately ended up helping me when compared to some of the strong tools in Duster’s kit, but its still a weird item that’s fun to use. I mean, we’re playing as a thief with enough gizmos to impress Inspector Gadget; use them or lose them!
Though even if you master defeating the Mobile Graves, you’ll want to watch out for the Zombie Dogs. Honestly, I’m not the most skilled Mother 3 combatant in the world, but I wouldn’t recommend getting into a fight with a Mobile Grave and a Zombie Dog at the same time. The additional enemy makes it all the more likely that the Mobile Grave will have a chance to topple onto to you and kill you. Which did indeed happen to me. Yes, it’s true–Duster fell in the graveyard.
But I came back, and made sure to avoid the Mobile Graves, at least when paired with a Zombie Dog. You can never keep Duster out of a fight for long, even when his head gets handed to him!
That said, a Zombie Dog by itself isn’t anything to shake a bone at. I still love it as a design, with the missing eyeball, goofy teeth, purple belly, and bald spot on the top of its head, but without the Mobile Grave to fight alongside it, you’ll be able to defeat a Zombie Dog pretty easily. I also just like dogs, so this could have been a Vampire Dog, Mummy Dog, or Frankendog, and I’d still enjoy fighting it. The Zombie Dog’s battle song, “Fate,” is one of my favorite combat tracks in the game, too. Even if the enemy I’m fighting isn’t all that powerful, “Fate” adds an element of drama and desperation to the battle. Like any great RPG track, it helps me to not feel like I’m looking at a screen and pressing A. Suddenly, I’m Duster in the graveyard, fighting off Zombie Dogs and Mobile Graves, trying not to succumb to a terrible fate.
I really love how the theme of Chapter 2 commits to being spooky, at least for this first leg of the adventure. I don’t really know why Itoi went this direction, but it definitely makes sense. Threed, from EarthBound, was once zombie-infested, after all (not that everything has to exist in accordance to EarthBound). Plus, the spooky feel helps to characterize Duster, in my opinion, as an oddball. I think I’ve already said this before in my writing on Chapter 2, but it’s something I like to revisit because even when Duster becomes a mainstay in your party later on, he’s still a misfit among misfits (not that we don’t love him all the same).
Like my zombie theory above, I don’t know how much, if at all, the Pigmasks had to do with the enemies in the graveyard, but I like imagining it both ways. Maybe Tazmily just straight up has a haunted graveyard with packs of zombies (and their dogs), as well as Mobile Graves that will fall on top of you and nearly kill you (I guess “leaving the rest to me” was literal!). This seems like the perfect approach for a Mother series graveyard. Why wouldn’t it be haunted? It’s a graveyard!
I also love the idea that, I don’t know, maybe the Pigmasks put some cursed soil in the ground here, making evil things live, grow, or find hosts. That Pigmask Airship certainly wasn’t shy about fertilization. Maybe the Zombies are another type of chimera–a fusion of corpses and the newest cocktail of whatever the Pigmasks are cooking up. Maybe those droppings were zombie seeds! If anyone else has theories on the Tazmily graveyard, please write to me! I’ve always enjoyed thinking about this strange little place.
If we run with the idea that the Tazmily graveyard is haunted every night, or at least often haunted, then you might doubt Nippolyte as a guardian. Certainly he doesn’t do all the fighting himself, right? He probably outsources his Graveyard Defense needs to Flint, or Isaac, or Lighter, or someone with the brute strength to keep the dead at bay. Right?
To that I say: Don’t underestimate Nippolyte! If you examine his shovel, you’ll learn that “True connoisseurs know that this is the ultimate shovel of the highest quality.” Nippolyte wields the Excalibur of shovels, basically, and I see no reason why his shovel connoisseur-ship shouldn’t also bleed in to all areas of his graveyard upkeep. Maybe Nippolyte doesn’t need combat to maintain the peace. Maybe he feeds the Zombie Dogs treats, goes on stumbling walks with the Zombies, and helps the Mobile Graves stay steady instead of toppling over. Nippolyte, like Duster, may be an outcast compared to the rest of the town, but the graveyard is his domain, and I bet he’s a worthy king.
Either that or the guy is really into shovels. I don’t know. I don’t have much to go on, here.
Well, when you can’t find anywhere else to go, you may as well follow Nippolyte into the graveyard shack, which you’ll find to be not too shabby, but definitely a little bit shabby, and a little shacky. He doesn’t seem to keep a bed in here, but maybe he sleeps on the big, empty bookshelf. I’d say you could put a pillow and a blanket on that thing and manage to get comfortable. He also keeps a few gift boxes around, which I think is a nice touch to the interior design. Most notable, however, is a little green friend, who sits off to the side.
And that brings us to this frog, folks. Who would’ve thought that lonely old Nippolyte kept a frog as a roommate? Maybe the gravedigger, like the frog, is also a recorder of memories. I’d imagine that someone who has dug grave, has buried bodies (especially of people he knows) would certainly have something to say about memory. Honestly, I bet this frog and Nippolyte sometimes stay up late into the night (or early into the morning) talking about the many mysteries of life, death, and everything in between. Not that it’s all serious talk. I bet no one is better at keeping things light than a little save frog, and no one’s better at accepting the unknown than a gravedigger. I’d pay to be a fly on the wall for just one heart-to-heart between Nippolyte and froggy roommate.
And that’s a good reminder to have about the save frogs. We shouldn’t take them for granted! They aren’t just arbitrary frogs who save our game; they are the record-keepers of our very memories. Don’t tell me you already forgot that life is a series of memories? *hop*
Well, typically I would end my frog blog here, but I can’t go on any longer with this on my conscious. We have to talk about…
It’s true: I cannot tell a lie. I did not visit just one frog today, but two.
You see, after watching the cutscene of the pig airship, I decided not to go north, toward Osohe, but west, toward the forest. Old habits die hard, folks. I just can’t stay away from the Sunshine Forest!
And that’s not all. See, I knew that if I went to the forest, there’d be a chance I could run in to a frog, but basically have nothing new to report. In which case, what would I do for Frog #19? Two paragraphs about how I went to the forest and found a frog? A few screenshots of Duster doing nothing?
At the end of the day, I decided to at least acknowledge the frog I visited in the forest, and the new things I learned around him, though there wasn’t much. In fact, there’s barely anything new to find in the actual forest because the game doesn’t let you in. If you try to walk past Isaac’s cabin, you’ll see a familiar message about ants at your feet. Maybe Mapson’s ant farm broke or something, spreading his pets all over Tazmily to keep people on track. Maybe the Pigmasks are working on chimera ants with Mapson DNA, to create a breed that will always tell us where to go.
I totally get why the Mother 3 team wouldn’t want us going over here, because the Sunshine Forest has nothing to do with Chapter 2, but maybe I want to find that out for myself, you know what I mean? It could be cool to retrace the steps of Chapter 1 as a different character. But I also bet that the designers didn’t want Duster to be able to grind up a bunch of levels before going in to Osohe Castle, so that the new enemies couldn’t be immediately overpowered. Some of the difficulty of Chapter 2, in my opinion, comes from the fact that I end up feeling so trapped inside Osohe with the new host of ghostly enemies. The combat encounters inside the castle, and the scarcity of healing items (unless you trade a bunch of eclairs for beef jerky), is what makes Chapter 2 so much fun.
However, there is at least one small new piece of information in the forest. Even though most doors are locked in Tazmily, one isn’t: good old Isaac’s cabin.
The lumberjack doesn’t have much to say–he remarks on the state of the forest after the fire–but it’s nice to see him again. Like I’ve said before, I’m a simple guy. I like being able to check in with NPCs. I like being able to see what people are up to. And that’s really all this is.
And that’s all there is to the Sunshine Forest, these days! And yes, I technically saved at the frog outside Isaac’s cabin, which technically means the post should have ended there… but come on! This doesn’t count! Barely anything happened! I am going to ask your permission to use this frog as an actual stopping point later in the chapter, and you’ll understand why. Just allow me this one discrepancy…
I’ll tell you what. As retribution, I’ll go to the Forest Prayer Sanctuary and say a few prayers. I’ll offer up some kindling to the swirling dragon gods, or whatever Tazmilians do.
Hey! This doesn’t count either!
Well, what can I say? I believe in honesty! I visited these frogs, so I have to include them.
But I also believe in breaking the rules! We’ll just consider these “The Frogs That Got Away” and call it a day. And trust me–I’m going to need these frogs. Without them, there’s a certain point of Chapter 2 that would be even longer than my two parter Frog #11, and I would just much rather avoid a situation like that if and when I can. If it can’t be avoided, then I’ll ride with it, but the way I see it, I have two extra frogs to work with, and I’m going to use them!
And for anyone who thinks I’ve broken the sacred Frog Rules, I won’t say that you’re wrong. But I will say that Duster and the Sanctuary Frog had an incredibly deep conversation about life, swirling dragons, zombies, and the greatest questions that keep thieves up at night. They explored the Mind, Heart, and Soul of a Thief, leaving no stone unturned. There were smiles and tears.
But that’s a story for another time.