Frog #21: How to Break Into a Haunted Castle, Vol. 1

You’re a pretty good thief, if you’re reading this manual. You’ve made it inside the Haunted Castle now, which is itself a feat that should be commended. But, like I said, you’re a good thief, and you know that commendation is nothing compared to treasure. You know that despite our musings of the Heart, Mind, and Soul of a thief, really we’re all here for one reason.

Something shiny.

My first advice is this: don’t get too close to ghosts. I know you can’t see them, thief, but remember that you yourself are also good at moving unseen. You’ll find that in some cases, a ghost’s stench will give them away. Haunted Castles are full of stinky ghosts.

My next advice is this: bring mints. Many new thieves think that it’s all in the tools. You have your Wall Staples, your Smoke Bombs, and your Scary Masks, and you think the mission is a done deal. Even without your tools, you know that you’re deft enough to slip past any guard, or to scale any rampart, if it came down to it. Bur trust me–when inside a Haunted Castle, you must bring mints. Keep your breath fresh, thief, and you’ll make it out of this unpossessed.

Next, thief, I will encourage you to barter. Yes, you’re used to taking, to stealing, to nabbing goods when others are unaware. But in a Haunted Castle, you will encounter trades of every kind. Life for death, snake for eclair, sanity for treasure. Remember that just because a being is no longer in the realm of the living, does not mean they do not have wants, likes, or desires.

Of course, nothing I tell you will be as pertinent as the following, although this is a rule you already know: look out only, thief, for Number 1. You’ll find both friend and foe within these walls, but that is only natural; even in the country of a villainous nation, one might find a new friend. Do not forget that dead things lurk here, and misery loves company. The blood under your skin, the breath in your lungs, the thumping of your heart–these make up the percussion of life.

Most things in this old place want nothing more than to stop the beat, dead in its tracks.

Zoinks!

I hate to say it, but I think Duster is in trouble.

Don’t get me wrong–I think he’s a great guy. The kicking, the Wall Stapling, the Smoke Bombing, the Tickle Sticking… it’s all well and good. If I had to pick one party member in Mother 3 who I know I can depend on to do his best 100% of the time, Duster is my guy. He has the Heart of a Thief, and the Mind of a Thief. He is brave and heroic, humble and unassuming. You couldn’t ask for a better hero.

But all the Tickle Sticks in the world aren’t going to stop Osohe Castle itself from killing the guy.

Sorry, I don’t mean to start out this post on a down note, but I have to express my concern. Duster is just a thief in training, after all, or at least a thief on his first real mission. He said it himself to Wess: he’s never actually used any of these techniques for real, just in practice. And the truth of the matter is, after only four minutes and forty-five seconds of gameplay today (I found the next frog pretty quickly), I’ve already been attacked by a Stinky Ghost, nearly crushed by a gigantic metal ball, and burped on by a compromised gift box, which had a smelly spirit hiding within.

Wheesh! Say what you will about the Sunshine Forest, but at least you didn’t have to eat a mint to stay alive.

But that’s just how things go in Osohe, my friends. Prepare to get burped on. Prepare to get stared at. Prepare to get lost in the winding hallways of this haunted place.

Well, there’s no turning back now.

Jinkies!

When we last left Duster, he had just entered Osohe Castle by scaling the outside wall. He found himself in the middle of a hallway, with a little frog hopping along and an ominous (watchful) portrait hanging overhead. To his left, there was a door, and to his right, there was a statue of a figure holding a large metal ball.

Like any good thief knows, when given the option of left or right, you always choose left, for luck.

I see you seeing me, lady.

So, I walked through the door on the left, and quickly found myself in a fight with an enemy that you’re going to have to get used to: the Stinky Ghost.

You know, it would be one thing if it was called the Scary Ghost, or maybe the Hungry Ghost, or the Noisy Ghost… but the Stinky Ghost? Something about that makes the ghosts all the more worse to fight. I don’t mind the idea of fighting ghosts at all, but I don’t like imagining them as stinky. Also, why are they stinky? Duster’s breath is bad enough as it is. I hope someone has a mint around here.

Anyone else seeing faces in the battle backgrounds?

Stinky Ghosts fight to the tune of “More Dangerous Guys,” which is an alternate version of “Dangerous Guys” from earlier in the game. The two songs aren’t all that different, except for differences in the rhythm combo. Or, if they are distinct, I’m not musically aware enough to tell. Sorry to all the rhythm-heads out there. Every time I hear a song from the “Dangerous Guys” lineage of songs, I start to nod my head to the beat and really get into the battle. When I hear this song, I know it’s time to play some Mother 3, baby!

Honestly, I don’t mind fighting the Stinky Ghosts, but they can get out of hand if they start to call their cohorts. Ghosts may be shy when they’re on their own, but get a few together and it won’t be long before they break out some booze and get rowdy. What I like about the ghosts is that they finally seal the deal as far as Chapter 2 feeling like a mini Halloween-themed Mother game. We took some time off last week with the lobsters and leeches, but this week we’re back in the zombie zone, folks.

Anyway, Osohe Castle can be a bit of a difficulty spike if you’re careless, so make sure to monitor Duster’s vitals. For a second, I thought my fight against the Stinky Ghost was turning foul, but I managed to make it out alive.

All I’m saying is, watch your back in those old castle, thief! The eyes on that painting aren’t the only eyes watching!

After leaving the room with the ghost and picking up a Rotten Eclair (don’t toss these, you’ll need them, but you’ll still get sick of finding them after a while), it’s back into the hallway for your first of many potential dead ends in Osohe. I’m not saying it takes a high level puzzle solver to figure out the upcoming scenario or anything (there’s a crack in the floor, right next to a huge metal ball, held up by a statue), but I do think it’s the first instance of Osohe keeping you on your toes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I think some players could have forgotten that dashing in to things can break or shake them. Chapter 1 had us dash to save Fuel, breaking through a door and a flaming pillar, but other than that, Chapter 1 didn’t have a wealth of dashing puzzles or situations. At least, I’m pretty sure 12-year-old me didn’t know what to do at first, but hey. I’m no genius.

Being more of a jazz guy, Duster attacks the statue entitled “Heavy Metal,” and the heavy metal ball itself crashes through the floor, passing down from this floor for the rest of its days. Duster may not look it, but he feels passionate about these things. Down with metal, up with jazz!

And you know where we’re going next!

Remember: thieves do a lot of jumping down from high places.

Pre-emptively setting a Wall Staple escape route, in case the Stinky Ghosts get brave.

In the room with the heavy metal ball, there is also a gift box, but don’t be so quick to open it, unless you want a ghost to burp in your face. When I told you Osohe Castle can become a rough place, I’m sure you thought more along the lines of difficult fights and formidable foes, but what I really had in mind was all the burping ghosts. One run-in with these guys, and Duster will start feeling nauseous.

Now you know why I told you to bring those mints.

In fact and luckily, the next room contains a gift box with a mint in it, accompanied by a sign that says, “You know that feeling when you’re kind of bleh and can’t eat anything at all?” However, don’t expect all of your gift box ghost burps to be followed by convenient, free fresh mints from a gift box in the next room over. If you aren’t careful in these haunted halls, you’ll be managing Duster’s nausea just as much as you’ll be managing any fight with an enemy. And though it may not sound that bad, nausea is a brutal status ailment that can turn a perfectly winnable battle into a close call, or worse.

Don’t let status ailments overtake you, thief!

From here, you can continue onward down the Osohe Staircase, into the castle’s main foyeur. Is that what it’s called in a castle? I have no idea, but it’s a wide, open room where, if you want to, you can actually pop open the ol’ front gate of Osohe and let in some moonlight. Before I do that, though, (which I only did to poke my head out and listen to some more “Mind of a Thief”), I want to talk a little bit about Osohe’s visual style.

Even though these old ghostly grounds get to me sometimes, I like exploring Osohe Castle. I like the dark red carpet on the pale purple ground; the cobwebbed, stained, and chipped gray walls and floors. I even like the brown trim, and the fact that it, too, is damaged along certain points. I guess what I’m getting at is, as usual, I just like looking at the environments of Mother 3. I like taking them in. And is Osohe Castle always as fun as the Sunshine Forest? And is the song “Osohe Castle” always as enthralling as some of the game’s previous tracks?

Well, in a way, my answer to both of those things is no, but it’s also yes at the same time. No, Osohe Caslte isn’t always as fun to traverse as some of the environments as Chapter 1, but I still love how it is so different, and how it is its own thing. Like I said, I love the color pallet in here, and I like the challenge of the enemies and bosses. If I’m always pointing out the spots where Mother 3 is easy, then I should be more open to the sections of the game that are hard. And also, because we spend so much time in Osohe Castle, it would be exhausting if its song was doing too much, you know? We have an understated, ghostly track that I think does exactly what it needs to do: suggest both the antiquity, and the spookiness, of the castle. Check and check, mate.

I think, in a way, I’m defending Osohe Castle from myself right now. Of all the environments I’ve never given a lot of attention in Mother 3, Osohe is definitely up there. And again, it’s not because I don’t have fun here: I like the difficulty spike, and I like some of the weird things we’ll find in this castle. That said, I can’t deny that Osohe is difficult to write about, on my end. The frog posts about Duster do not go as easily as the frogs about Flint. As I’ve already touched on, Flint’s chapter is so emotional, and from the moment the first bomb explodes in the Sunshine Forest, its a mad-dash to the climactic end. That said, in a way, I’m more invested as a player in what’s happening to Duster, because I feel less constrained by the shackles of the story itself, and I love playing as a thief in the night. When I play as Duster, I am Duster; when I play as Flint, I’m playing as Flint. Does this make sense?

On the other hand, though, it is still challenging to write about Osohe Castle. Compared to Flint, Duster’s journey isn’t emotional, or filled with a bunch of NPC dialogue. I’m having more fun as a player, as far as moment-to-moment gameplay goes, but I’m having to do more sleuthing as a writer, to find the stuff I want to discuss. I think that’s why I wanted to point out how much I enjoy the color schemes of Osohe–it’s at least a small way to show I appreciate this weird old place. Mother 3 isn’t giving me as much to riff off of, as in Chapter 1, but I’m still able to find the fun in Osohe.

I also can’t help but enjoy guessing at what might have happened here. Before, my guess was that maybe a battle had happened here, or the castle was outright abandoned on a whim, and before long, ghosts came in to join the tattered halls. However, I also never considered that the ghosts themselves were the undoing of Osohe. Maybe all the ruin of the castle was really at the hands of all these ghosts, who needed a big, spacious place to live, kicking out the royalty, or even scaring them off. As we meet more and more rambunctious ghosts throughout the castle, I think this theory might hold true. Osohe wasn’t defeated by a siege of earthly enemies, but of otherwordly ghosts.

What are other people’s thoughts on this? Do you have an Osohe theory? Personally, I think all this talk of ghosts is making poor Duster even more nauseous, so I decided to pop open the front gates for him.

Remember, thief: you’ll never make it in this world if you’re nauseous all the time.

Anyway, I did decide to open the front gates of Osohe, though I suppose I could have left them closed and opted to take the long way back around to get out of the castle. I think I mostly wanted to hear “Mind of a Thief” again after the dreariness of the interior. But the song isn’t called the “Mind of a Thief” for no reason–Duster is smart, and he knows he can’t stay out here for long.

Actually, Duster is so smart that he managed to avoid a nasty slew of ghosts right before finding today’s save frog. See, I, the player, led Duster through the northern doorway of Osohe’s main hall, but, upon seeing multiple ghosts forming out of the air, red-eyed and smelling something awful, Duster himself ran out of the room and down the western corridor, where he stumbled upon today’s little frog. I would have been happy to fight the ghosts, but Duster took us in a different direction. I won’t blame him! He’s the thief. I’m the writer.

I’d say today is as good a day as any to take solice in the protection of the frogs. When we’re with these little green friends, nothing else is supposed to matter, right? Quote from Itoi about save frogs. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure if the positive message of the frogs is supposed to be for the player’s sake, or for the character’s sake. I wouldn’t blame Duster if he’s scared witless right now!

Of course, the room he ends up in is as cozy a room as one could hope to find in a haunted castle. There’s a giftbox in the corner, a nice piece of abstract art hanging from the wall, and even a ladder for basement access–though what kind of gas is leaking up from below? Could it be smoke? Steam?

If I could close this frog with a thought, I’d say I’ve been thinking a lot about that quote from Frog #15, the one that ended my ruminations one Chapter 1. Asked whether or not there were recurring themes in the Mother series, Itoi said: “No way. Games are just that–a game. Not something to revolve around a theme. Say we come across a falling ball. What can we do but turn the ball into a game?… So if you want to know what the theme is, it is: ‘there was a ball.'”

Honestly, I feel like this quote has come into play really well during Chapter 2. There is a bunch of weird, goofy, creative stuff to find in this chapter, not always in the form of dialogue, like in Chapter 1, but just through the gameplay. This is a fun chapter to simply play, and I admit that it is a difficult chapter to write about. But maybe, if that quote is coming to my mind again, it’s a good reminder for me to communicate to you, the reader, how I’m finding fun, how I’m finding play, and when I am finding a ball, which I can turn into a game.

I guess what I’m getting at is, yes, I like to go on interpretive rants, but in a way, I’m just trying to stay true to my goals from Frog Zero. I’m trying to play as best as I can. And today, when I’m surrounded by Stinky Ghosts from nearly every angle, the frog has reminded me of that.

Thank you, frog, for putting a hop in my step.

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