Frog #22: No Tall Maples

If I’ve ever said in the past that I wished a gameplay session of Mother 3 had more combat in it, then today my wish was granted tenfold: I’m in the middle of a grueling, ghostly gauntlet.

On one hand, I knew this was coming. Osohe Castle is, in my opinion, a legitimate difficulty spike in the game. As a lone party member, Duster is certainly capable of looking after himself, but it doesn’t take long for him to get overwhelmed by enemies. Today I actually had my first Game Over, or whatever it’s called in Mother 3, which means we got to this listen to this song. Is this not the best “You Have Died!” song that you’ve ever heard in a video game? It’s like Mother 3 gives you your own personal funeral. And look, even though they’re cheesy in sound quality, those Gameboy Advance organ tones just speak to me, okay? They take me to another place, beyond Tazmily, beyond game cartridges, beyond the beyond…

Sorry about that, I got a little bit transcendental there for a moment. Anyway, I don’t think I’ve had a game over yet. Did I fall in battle as Flint? Someone ask the frogs. I remember there being some close calls, but I think I made it through without a hitch. We’ll talk more about my Game Over when we get to it, but I can assure you it was a complete farce.

In addition to heavy combat, I also became much more acquainted with Osohe Castle itself. I’ve now seen more rooms, hallways, kitchens, dinner parties, and abstract art paintings than I expected to find coming in here. Well, to be fair, I, the player, knew these things were here, but it’s fun to imagine Duster finding all of these things for the first time. Did the thief know what he was getting into? Did Wess himself know what Duster was getting in to? And what was more surprising: a fierce monster living underneath the carpet, or a bumping part full of wining and dining ghosts?

Even though Osohe Castle becomes more and more of a battlefield, it still does have charm, which we’ll see today. There are mean ghosts, stinky ghosts, and artsy ghosts, but there are also friendly ghosts, and talking snakes, and ghosts who think wine is the “water of life.” I appreciate that Osohe Castle is able to be a little bit of both: a combat intensive area, and a whimsical space to explore.

As we’ve talked about before, Itoi, in his aims for Mother 3, wanted to avoid making another RPG that felt like a “road movie,” where locations are left behind forever once the player is done with them. I definitely think he accomplishes this through focusing on one place, Tazmily, and having it gradually change, but I also think he accomplishes this through locations like Osohe Castle, in their ability to have both great fighting sections and great dialogue. Because, yes, one answer to the “road movie” RPG is to make locations realistically change, but another solution is to make each location itself much more living, which, I didn’t go into this sentence intending for that to be a pun, given that Osohe Castle is full of ghosts, and yet here we are, still cunning and punning at Frog #22.

What I’m trying to say, though, is that Mother and EarthBound have some truly fun dungeons and locations, with creative enemies and challenging combat encounters. However, in these games, the fighting and the fun exploration/dialogue often feel compartmentalized from each other. You have fighting/exploration mode, which occurs out in the world, and you have dialogue/NPC mode, which occurs in cities (I know this is a simplification, but work with me here). In Osohe Castle, I like how we have a blend of the two. Seconds after surviving a difficult fight, you might duck into a room, only to find a ghost playing a piano, or a mouse who says he knows of “squeekret” passageways. One of my favorite locations in all of Mother 3, the party room in Osohe Castle, has incredibly powerful enemies just outside its door, and it was actually the Violent Cockroach in the kitchen area that killed me for my game over–literally in the same room as a friendly NPC.

So I guess what I’m saying is… I think I like Osohe Castle? I never thought I did. I used to always consider Chapter 2 to be fun and interesting, and a little bit unique, but not much more than that. And yet here I am, really warming up to this place, despite its cold, dead inhabitants. I like this place. I like what it does. I like that it keeps our smelly thief on his toes. In a way, I think Duster fits in here. I think I could live here!

Okay, I probably couldn’t live here, but still–I’m enjoying it more than I have in the past.

Well, with all that said, let’s get into the action before my prefacing gets too boo-ring.

Grabbed by the Ghoulies

When we last left Duster, he was in a small room with a fireplace, an abstract art paintings, and a frog. Smoke, steam, or some kind of ghostly gas floated up from a hole in the ground, beckoning the thief to check it out. What could be down here? What could cause these wisps in the air?

Well, lucky for Duster, the passageway leads to an underground hot spring. I was starting to wonder when we’d really see the wealth and royalty of Osohe Castle in full swing, and I don’t think you can get much swankier than an underground hot spring that gets its water from a Lion Head mounted on the wall. Nothing against the hot springs we’ve seen so far, but this is real relaxation. I could stay down here all day!

No matter how many times I go into a hot spring in Mother 3, it never gets old. I just love the fact that one of the most common occurences in the game is that your character or party decides to chill out in a hot spring to heal their wounds and injuries. If only we all had such luxury!

Actually, this hot spring in particular might become a common spot to revisit in Osohe Castle, for some players. I only used it once, but make no mistake: there’s a reason that the room with the fireplace in it connects to the hot spring. The fireplace connects to other fireplaces in the castle, making it fast and easy to access this hot spring, meaning that the castle can be a decent training ground for Duster if you feel like grinding out some levels, or if you’re stuck at a particular part. You also might have to visit this hot spring multiple times simply because Osohe Castle can unexpectedly kick anyone’s ass. You’ve gotta watch your back around here.

Speaking of watching your back, when Duster continues his trek through the castle, he starts to encounter more than one ghost, or more than one enemy, at a time, which is where the battles can really get tricky. For instance, there is a room you can visit that has three doors, and the right-most door leads to a storage room. In this room, Duster can get attacked by both Stinky Ghosts and Arachnids!, and even though the Arachnids! don’t do much damage, everything can start to get out of hand if the ghost makes Duster nauseous, as the eager spiders chip away at his health.

Battles like this are where the Nausea status effect becomes more significant than you might have intitially thought. In my case, I was at the very end of a battle with around 20 HP left, and all I had to do was defeat one more spider. I thought I’d quickly heal myself just in case anything bad happened, but then I realized, too late, that when your character is nauseous, they can’t eat any food. The spider knocked me down to 12 HP, and I was able to end the battle quickly by hitting a rhythm combo.

Man! It was a close call, but that’s how your battles will be in Osohe if you aren’t careful. Stinky Ghosts, in addition to causing nausea and hitting for decent damage against Duster, can call more ghosts into battle. Even without extra spiders crawling around, fighting two Stinky Ghosts can get ugly quick. It’s a good thing that hot spring is so close by.

Even though Osohe Castle is a spike in difficulty, I also like how it fits Duster’s character. We’re playing as a Thief right now, so the best strategy shouldn’t always be to Brute Force our way through, like it was with Flint. While I had the occasional tricky encounter when playing as Flint, usually his strength would carry me through, leaving most fights down to a couple rounds of pressing the A Button. With Duster, I find myself weighing my options and trying out different strategies, sometimes attempting something risky when I’m in a pinch. Chapter 2 also gives fewer food items right off the bat, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to end a fight as Duster with only 20 or 30 HP.

There’s something strange in my

Anyway, what I’m getting at is, the Sunshine Forest segment allowed the player to witness Flint’s strength: we ran through a forest fire as a strong cowboy, swinging our stick and defeating all the monsters in our path. Osohe Castle allows to player to witness Duster’s abilities, but the stronger enemies and more dynamic encounters prevent Duster from bashing his way through, so both Duster and the player are encouraged to explore and experiment with these new abilities. Sometimes in desperation, Duster throws a couple Wall Staples, or brandishes his Tickle Stick, or fires the call of the Siren Beetle. A thief’s tools find all kinds of new uses when they’re used against the undead.

Before I get too far ahead of myself, I’ll just say this. I know that the player still has the ability, for the most part, to just bash their way through Osohe Castle; that’s what I’ve done in the past, and that’s basically what I’m doing in this play through as well. However, I still believe that the difficulty spike in this old, haunted castle is such a fun and creative way for the player to bond with Duster, and maybe experiment with his abilities a bit as well. I don’t know about you guys, but I think it’s hard to say goodbye to Flint, especially because we went through so much with him. For any players who weren’t really warming up to Duster, I think Osohe Castle forces a bond to form, as the Thief (and so the player) survive one close call after another.

So like I was saying, there’s a long, open hallway with three doors. The door in the middle leads to a shop of sorts, where Duster can barter Rotten Eclairs for prizes. The door on the right, which is where we’ll explore first, goes to a kitchen and a storage room. And the door on the left goes to a small library, where a unique item can be obtained.

The kitchen is where you’ll first find the Arachnid! enemies, which I think is a hilarious name. I like this room because of how well it shows the disrepair of Osohe. Again, we don’t know what happened here, but rooms like this make me not really care about what happened, or if anything happened at all. There are spiderwebs and ghosts all over the place. The whole castle’s haunted. Pieces of the wall are chipped off, and tile is upturned on the ground. What more should we know? Is the shiny something somewhere in here?

If you examine some spots of the room, you can find some fun text as well. Examining the stove leads to, “An old stove. It wouldn’t be surprising if it’s a bug house now.” And examining the bookshelf leads to, “This is now a castle of its own… for spiders.”

I don’t know why, but I love these descriptions! The castle for spiders cracks me up. Who would’ve thought this old, dead place would be full of lively descriptions!

Now, you may have a thiefly urge to climb down the ladder in the kitchen, which will lead you to a basement sotrage area. Down here, you’ll find the strange enemy called a “Big Bro,” a small pink figure that can attempt to cast PSI attacks, as well as the “Barrel Man,” a monster of some kind who hides its body inside of a barrel. Of the two enemies, I like the design and the idea of the Barrel Man more, because I think it’s a creative and effective idea, but I also appreciate the weirdness of the Big Bro. Especially if you sneak up on them from behind.

Big Bros also accompany the battle theme “Dry Guys,” which though I suspect they use this theme because their taut, pink skin could use some moisturizer, it’s also just a solid battle track that I can easily listen to on a loop. Perhaps a better fit for the enemy it portrays, “And El Mariachi” plays when you fight the Barrel Man. I like how easily I can imagine the strange Barrel Men scuttling to and fro with this song playing in the background. There’s a playful speed that, for whatever reason in my mind, matches up well with how I see the Barrel Men moving and fighting.

Also, I’ve gotta say: Chapter 2 has really upped its game as far as psychedelic backgrounds go! I’m loving all of these in this chapter. Someone needs to rip all of these from the game and make a 10 hour video on YouTube of each one. (If anyone does this, let me know and I will pay you real human money for your efforts).

There’s really not much to find down here for now, except for some strange markings on the wall and a door that won’t open. Unless you’re attached to the Big Bros and would rather shed your clothes and join their strange ways, I suggest you head back upstairs and continue the search for the shiny thing. Although, I can’t help but think it might’ve been right around here somewhere…

Well, let’s see what’s behind Door #2, shall we?

If you’ve been earning and saving your Rotten Eclairs, this room is one of your first opportunities to use them, a la barter system. Yes, the Ghost Bazaar, though not quite the cashless utopia that Tazmily is, also plays it fast and loose with its currency. You might need Rotten Eclairs to make a trade, but Rotten Eclairs are all over the place–trust me. For all we know, these ghosts were the former owners or operators of the Tazmily Bazaar, though now passed on to the next phase of life. I’d take a ghostly barter system over Pigmask Capital any day of the squeak.

Inside the Ghost Bazaar, there are two ghosts who look a little out of their minds. Maybe that’s just how thrifty ghosts look, but these two bizarros float around with their eyes closed and their mouths slightly agape. Maybe they’re supposed to look really relaxed, or something, but I don’t think you can get much more relaxed than being dead. Well, they are called “Friendly Ghost” in their dialogue boxes, and at least they’re not stinky.

The main attraction here, as I’m sure you can tell, is the little red snake in the middle of the mat: the Rope Snake. This helpful little reptile is necessary to pick up to progress through the game, but his necessity isn’t the only thing that makes him special; the Rope Snake is great! As an item, the Rope Snake is fun to use (when you get to use it), and the design is so creative and fun. The Rope Snake is right up the same alley as all of the Apple Kid inventions from EarthBound, straight from the heart of the Mother series, through and through. It’s no surprise to me that the Rope Snake has survived arguably more than Duster as a piece of Mother 3 iconography, seeing as Lucas’s Grab in Super Smash Brothers is a Rope Snake grapple. In the newest Smash Bros game, the Rope Snake is actually in Lucas’s official art, so he’s basically immortalized in the gaming hall of fame. Hooray for Rope Snake!

There are even more reasons to love the Rope Snake, like the fact that the “item” has an entire character arc of its own, but we’ll get to that in time. For now, I’ll say that the Rope Snake reminds me of a character out of a Tom Robbins book, if only for the fact that I recently started reading Skinny Legs and All, which features a roving band of inanimate objects that can talk. But come on–he’s a talking snake that eventually has an identity crisis. That’s some Tom Robbins material right there.

Anyway, Duster trades some Rotten Eclairs for the Rope Snake, and that’s that; he now has a companion in this lonely old castle. The Rope Snake will usually only come out when he’s needed, but like I said, don’t forget about this little guy. He’ll have his opportunities to shine.

From here, it’s on to Door #3, unless you want to hang around the Bazaar and pick up the Beef Jerky and Fresh Mint. It helps to have as many healing items as possible in Osohe, and to save them by using that Hot Spring as often as you can. As you’ll see by my video footage (if I ever find a purpose for it), I only used the Hot Spring once, at the beginning of my frog session, and I suffered the consequences for it: one game over, and not many healing items to show for it. Like I said, today was a ghostly gauntlet.

Anyway, behind Door #3, you’ll find a little, abandoned library, filled with spiders, books, cobwebs, and a gift box. Inside the gift box, you’ll find the Battle Memory, a book full of every enemy and boss you have fought thus far in the game. With the Battle Memory, you can fight them again anytime you want, studying their rhythms, maybe, or just having fun. Personally, I’ve never really used the Battle Memory, but I did fire it up this time around to fight the Soot Dumpling again, though I eventually got bored and didn’t even finish the fight.

Nobody’s perfect!

The best thing about the Battle Memory, though, are the little descriptions that accompany each enemy. I’m definitely going to be perusing these as the Frogs continue, and I’ll share any that I like. Maybe I’ll do special posts to cover portions of the Battle Memory, reflecting on the battles we’ve fought so far.

Before we move on to the next phase of our Osohe, I thought I’d share some of the content of these library books. For example, examining one bookshelf shows us this:

Well, this first book looks like a bit of a fraud, so let’s look at another shelf…

And these books aren’t fancy enough, you know what I mean? I guess that’s what I get for gambling on a haunted library. They say that even the greatest civilizations begin to fall when they no longer value the pursuit of knowledge, and maybe that’s exactly what happened inside these castle walls! Yes, that has to be it; there wasn’t an assault on the castle, nor was there a siege by ghosts. Osohe simply stopped reading!

Well, if you were hoping that every hallway in Osohe contained three equally interesting rooms, I’m sorry to announce that once you leave this room, it’s back into battles. A nearby staircase will see Duster fighting off some spiders, and, in the following hallway, you’ll have an opportunity to fight a haunted suit of armor, which I tried to do and nearly got myself killed.

I’m happy I got a screenshot of a transition into battle, because that’s what Osohe Caslte starts to feel like: one battle after the next, each one slowly wearing down our beloved thief. You know, another reason I’ll always dream of an animated Mother 3 feature is just to see how artists or writers would interpret Duster’s trek through the castle. There are so many ways Duster could be portrayed as a fighter and as a thief. I’d love to see Duster throwing smoke bombs, brandishing his wall staples, and using his complete arsenal of thief tools. I’d also love to see Duster jumping and kicking and scraping his way through some desperate encounters. Sure, sometimes my imagination does that for me as I play through this part, but there’s also a lot of A-pressing going on.

Even though the next hallway is full of suits of armors (some of which are, yes, possessed by spirits), you’ll still find a short respite in one of rooms, where a mouse hangs out near a fireplace, and a lovely piece of abstract art hangs on the wall.

The mouse tells Duster that there is a squeekret passageway (my heart!!!) through the fireplaces of Osohe, but they are, so far, a secret from the ghosts, so let’s keep them that way. Ignoring the fact that “squeekret passageway” is one of my favorite lines of dialogue in the whole game so far, I love that we once again have an opportunity to have a kinship with the mice of Mother 3. Each and every mouse, like each and every frog, seems like a friend in the most unlikely place. I love running in to mice in Mother 3 much more than I love running into mice in real life, but maybe this game is softening me up toward the little rodents.

By my estimation, however, an Osohe Artist must have lived in this room. How do I know? Well, the rubble you see about Duster’s feet did not happen from the years of degradation and decay that most of Osohe is subject to; no, this room has always been a mess, because a sculptor or painter lived in here. I know this because the piece of Abstract Art on the wall is not simply an odd assortment of shapes and faces: it is a living, breathing–or, it is a dying, breathing (?), Artsy Ghost, who decides to attack Duster from the moment it can tell that he knows nothing about Lee Krassner, or any of the Abstract Expressionists.

Actually, I love that I was able to get this screenshot of the Artsy Ghost headed right for me. I love how you can see the figure in the painting literally protruding from the canvas as it readies its attack. How cool is that? I love it as a small detail that might otherwise go under the radar. It is truly art that has come to life!

You know what they say: making art is tough, and fighting art is even tougher. Though the Artsy Ghost isn’t a mini boss or anything of the sort, I nearly lost in battle to it. It hits about as hard, or harder, as the Stinky Ghosts, and it’s pretty fast, too. Honestly, there’s something stressful about a ghost kicking the shit out of you while “Etude for Ghosts” plays. This is one of my favorite battle tracks in the entire game, and there’s a perfect chaos to it that just so happens to accompany your own health bar plummeting. The Artsy Ghost can hit fast, and use PSI attacks, so be prepared for the sweet sound of music to take you away… as Duster’s health drops to zero.

And really–come on, this song is amazing. This is a Gameboy Advance game, and it has this song in it! How cool! The Mother 3 buff will also know that this song has had a long history with the game, and was actually featured as a battle track for EarthBound 64 as well. I much prefer the EarthBound 64 version, simply because I think it sounds better, but I can also confidently say that, so far, this is probably my favorite battle song in the entire game. I can listen to it over and over and never get tired of it! I wish it was used more outside of Osohe Castle, or at least utilized in a few more spots in the game. I know I have been somewhat lacking on my citations lately, but I recall Itoi saying in EarthBound 64 interview that they were really trying to do something special with the music direction–something that would surprise, or even trick, players. I’ve always wondered if the original version of the game might have featured more songs stylistically similar to “Etude for Ghosts,” with a classical piano/classical instrument edge to them, and that’s what was meant by the surprise (as in, players might not have expected that kind of musical style in an RPG). Or maybe the surprise would have been something entirely different. Itoi is always one for cryptic statements.

Anyway, truth be told, I would have lost this fight, if not for the passion of a true artist. Even from beyond the grave, the Artsy Ghost couldn’t help but speak passionately about art, even though Duster barely understood a word of it. Perhaps Duster’s ignorance saved him in the end, because, like a drunk peewee Picasso at the back table of a bar, the Artsy Ghost just couldn’t shut up about art, and its past, and its future, and how we might enliven, and understand, its present.

But Duster, forever a mouth breather with bad breath, didn’t absorb a word of the ghost’s passionate panderings, and, in the end, it saved the thief’s life.

Seriously, though, the Artsy Ghost will sometimes waste a turn of battle by talking passionately about art (I love this detail), and, in my fight with the ghost, this happened at least two or three times, saving my skin. In the end, I felt bad to defeat the Artsy Ghost. What if this could have been a situation similar to the Walking Bushie, where you’re not supposed to attack the “enemy?” What if the Artsy Ghost can eventually get through to Duster if you let it speak passionately enough about art, ending the battle and instilling the thief with a greater aesthetic awareness? What if allowing the Artsy Ghost to live could raise Duster’s Intellect stat?

Personally, that is the Mother 3 world I’d like to live in.

After dabbling in Art History, I suggest high tailing it through the hallway to the door on the other end. Personally, Osohe had kicked me around pretty good by the time I made it to this point, so, though I tried to engage one of the haunted suits of armor, I ended up running from the battle to the safety of the next room. You can probably defeat one of these things if you’re willing to use every Thief Tool to its full potential, but I’d been fighting enough already! And sometimes thieves are allowed to run away, after all.

And in this instance, running away will bring you to safety. You may be surprised to hear of a safe room in a castle like this. Duster, I’m sure, found a ray of hope in the soft murmurs, and even music, behind the door. Of course, he’d been hearing voices all throughout the castle already, there was no doubt about that; whether bartering with beef jerky or ranting about aesthetics or simply stinking up the place, the dead have surely been alive in Osohe, and, at times, armed to kill. But these voices were different. Duster’s breath was thick, but his hearing was keen, and something dead but not deadly waited for him at the end of the hall.

Listen: there are good ghosts. Sometimes, good ghouls go bad, but other times, a ghost wants nothing more than to drink wine, eat cheese, and listen to the player piano’s tune in the corner.

And listen again: it was no player piano after all, but another ghost.

Wine + Cheese

Ah, the Osohe Party Room! In this ghastly getaway, treat yourself to fresh food and drink, listen to classic piano tunes like “I’m Here for the Booze” or “Prokofiev’s Toccata,” and, most importantly, don’t get killed by the Violent Cockroach in the kitchen area, like I did. It’s a real boos kill.

While I can’t say Osohe Castle is one of my favorite locations in the game, nor even the series, I can’t say the same for this room. I love this place. I love how the food and wine falls right through the ghosts’ bodies, I love how there’s a lonely ghost in the corner with no one to talk to, and I love how there’s a piano that seemingly plays itself, until you get close enough to see an apparition appear before you.

Everyone in this room seems like they’re having the time of their afterlives!

I also love the track for this room, “Ragtime Osohe.” Maybe it’s because this room, for some, may be the only diamond in the rough of Osohe, but I think this song is legitimately relaxing and also kind of hilarious. It just kills me that all these ghosts hang out in this super relaxed room, with some piano music going on in the background–a tune with some real heart to it. Honestly, I could have seen Itoi running a bit where instead of a ghost playing a piano, it was actually player piano. Maybe a player piano that talks, or something.

And maybe my heart is too easily swayed by the sweet sounds of Gameboy Advance piano, but doesn’t this good ol’ tune stir at least a pebble in your heart? I’ll accept that I’m more of a weirdo than Duster, but I could see myself living out the days of my afterlife in a place like this. A glass of aged, aged wine in one hand, two-hundred-year-old cheese in the other, and those classic lyrics floating through the air:

Even if you forget the small moles on my back and inner thigh// I’ll never forget you// In my lonely room, your wig weeps// Baby, believe my when I say I don’t attach anything to the walls of this room// Like moles or wigs or wall staples// Ooh, ooh, ooooh ~ // No wall staples ~~//

Ghost Pianist
Look at him leaning in to those keys and crooning!

Why am I having an emotional reaction to this song? I think someone has been slipping me rosehip tea again. Duster probably has a flask full of it in his front shirt pocket! Though really, I’ve also always liked the idea that the musical styles of the Mother soundtracks are so varied, in an attempt to introduce players (especially children) to different types of music. You can tell that both Itoi and his musical directors are passionate about music (Itoi himself has helped to produce some albums and write some songs), and, in the case of Mother 3, I truly believe that the six-hour soundtrack is a legitimate musical achievement. That said, I have always wondered if this amount of effort wasn’t put in tot e games just for the game itself, but to nudge children toward different musical styles and expressions! I mean, where else is a ten-year-old kid with a gameboy going to be exposed to piano like this? No, “Ragtime Osohe” is not some wild, intricate piano masterpiece, but it’s something different from what’s typically going to play in an RPG.

I also like that this room is a much-needed breather between more combat areas. Up ahead, we have an optional miniboss fight, and a boss fight, and it’s not like it was easy to get here in the first place. We’re safe here for now, but it won’t be long until we have to continue on. This place is like a raucous, weird, ghostly Rivendell: a safe place between two shadows.

Again, except for the kitchen, which houses the Violent Roach, which killed me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I lost to the cockroach. All to the horrifying tune of “Mambo De Battle Plus.” Look, there are few experiences in this world that will entirely change a man, getting killed by a Violent Roach while a catchy mambo plays is one of them. I’ll never forget the last thing I saw before closing my eyes: the grimace of the roach as it danced on my body and shook little salt shaker maracas…

But speaking of which, the violent roaches aren’t even the trickiest fight in the kitchen, what with a dangerous gloop of Strawberry Slime on the table. This thing is tricky to defeat because it has so much health, but the battle track, “Mischievous Blues” is fairly easy to combo attack. (Actually, I don’t think I could have won without hitting some good combos–if I ever find out what to do with my video footage, you can see my heroic victory over the hideous likes of the Strawberry Jam). There may also be some ways to subdue this enemy with Thief Tools, but I was in a bashing mood, so I can’t say much to that effect.

To me, this area of Osohe–the ghost party, the strawberry slime, the classic Mother witticisms strewn among the jovial, dead hedonists–fits right in with the greatest getaways of the Mother series. It’s all tied together by the ghost chef, who sings the incorrect lyrics. Don’t ask me why, but I believe that the world needs a content chef, singing his own lyrics to himself, to keep balance in all things. That’s the type of vibrational energy that keeps things right in the universe. I’m reminded of the Jim Daniels poem, “Short Order Cook.” In this poem, Daniels takes a short order cook, his grill, and an order for thirty cheese burgers, and plays with all of these elements to show technique, efficiency, and even zen-like perfection, all through the playful scenario of a big order for a lot of cheeseburgers. We see how an ordinary person can be extraordinary, if only for a moment.

There is a calm, self-assuredness to Jam Daniels’ short order cook, but there’s also an impeccable confidence; a trust in the process and the domain of the grill. It’s like what Anthony Bourdain said about working in a kitchen, something along the lines of, no offense to his university professors, but he learned more about life, more about the world, and more about himself through working in a kitchen. And maybe I also have an affinity for this poem because I worked at a burger joint for a summer, and there really was nothing quite like having a full line of ticket overhead, and about 25 sizzling patties below. Somehow, for some reason, that’s where things get fun.

Am I really digressing through various sources, all to explain why I love a singing chef? Let’s put it this way: If the world didn’t have zen-like short order cooks; if the world didn’t have chefs who mumble the wrong lyrics, but smile all the same; if the world didn’t have soft, mumbly music floating through the kitchen walls, what kind of world would it be?

Not one for me, that’s for sure.

Even if you forget the small poles on my vaccuum dinner pie// Hmm hmm hmmm// Like coals or pigs or tall maples// Boo, boo, boo// No tall maples

Friendly Ghost Chef

But hey, “No Tall Maples” is just as good as “No Wall Staples” if you ask me. I think this chef may very well be a poet. Anyone who’s been a line cook can recognize a couplet.

Speaking of tall maples, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played Chapter 2 and gotten stuck at this particular spot. Usually my eyes are trained to catch all Wall Staple locations, but every now and again I entirely miss this one. There have been times where I search every nook and cranny of Osohe, retracing my step in every single room, only to remember that there was a wall staple location in the party room.

Actually, around the time I began writing Frog by Frog, my girlfriend started playing Mother 3, and she was stuck for a short time at this part. Honestly, if she hadn’t gotten stuck and reminded me of the Wall Staples in here, I know I probably would have completely forgotten about them and gotten stuck myself. Even when seeing the Wall Staple path in this room, already having been reminded that it is here, I had a short moment where I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s here.” Why is it so easy to pass this one up?!

Though the ghosts do try to push you in that direction, given the title of the song is called “No Wall Staples.” But hey, every time I play Chapter 2, I don’t always talk to every little NPC, so sometimes I miss that bit.

To some players, I’m sure the Wall Staple track seems impossible to miss, but I’m sure I can’t be the only person it has eluded over the years. I think my brain tends to register it as another mark of damage, given that the rest of the castle is so beat up. And because we know the Pigmasks are about, it could even appear to be the mark from a tread of some kind. Maybe the pigs have wall-crawling tanks, or something. Chimeras that combine monkeys with tank treads. I don’t know!

Well, I’ve done all this talking about cockroaches and strawberry jam, but we’ve barely gotten to the life of the party: the ghosts! Like the mouse in the hallway puts it: “Many of the ghosts here are actualy pretty friendly, huh? That’s not what you would expect.” You said it, mouse! And don’t worry: your squeekrets are safe with me!

The ghosts are friendly because they know how to have a good time! For them, the afterlife is not an endless duldrum, but a forever feast!

Among these grateful dead, Duster meets a sommelier. They are a ghost of few words, sharing this poignant thought, “Wine… It’s the water of life. It’s my burning passion. Try to understand me more here!” For my money, this ghost is one of the best sprites in all of Mother 3. What, really, is cooler than this friendly, albeit smug, ghost, toasting his wine glass for all of eternity? Even better, all the wine passes right through the ghost’s body, making a red pool on the floor. Now that’s a ghost joke!

There’s also something hilarious to me about the general wreckage and poor state of this room, which does not seem to bother the ghosts at all. Nothing comes between a bottle of wine and a good time, it seems.

Although one ghost’s gorging is not as picturesque as the perpetual wine drinker. Nearby, a ghost with wobbly, bobbly eyes shoves a mysterious brown pile of food into its mouth, over and over. “We’re not wasting any food,” says the ghost, more even keel than I’d expect from someone in this state of activity. “Honest.”

And come on! Don’t you just love all of these sprites! It’s a ghost, making a toast! He must be wiser than most, or at least the host! Without him, the others would be lost!

(I guess that last part didn’t rhyme, but I’m no Jim Daniels!)

Across the table, another gorging ghost says its plate of rotten eclairs taste just how their mother used to make, which makes me think that perhaps our sense of taste is dulled in the after life. Big bummer, if true. I was hoping that at least the after life would involve a buffet, or a rotating all-you-can-eat menu, with really good waffles. Maybe I’m just hungry!

Now we all know what type of ghost I’d be in the after life. Screw it–send me over that pile of brown food! I’ll eat it!

To round up the last of the ghosts, you’ll find none other than the personality wall staples of any good party. One ghost hangs out near the piano, crooning along with the song, expressing how much the music touches their vanished, but still beating, heart. Another ghost takes over the role of “surprisingly but acutely aware drunk person,” as they sense that Duster is not a normal person, but a “thief-person!”

And last, but not least, we have the aforementioned wallflower: a lonely, moping ghost who sits just right of the wall staples. Ah, yes. The wallflower, wall staple combo.

I’m not surprised to hear that the afterlife can be a lonely place. The real world is a lonely place, after all. But, just like the real world, sometimes all it takes is one kind, unassuming person to get us back into the light again. I’m not sure what Duster said to this poor, lonely little ghost, or if he said anything at all, but I’m glad to know that by the time the thief makes his way up the path of staples, the quiet ghost has decided to try again.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Duster just sat with the ghost for a while and listened to what it had to say. The mind of a thief can be patient, and the heart of a thief can be kind. Thieves may be known for making themselves invisible, but they also make themselves visible at only the best times. Like when it’s time to cheer someone up, or to show off something shiny.

If I could, I’d stay here all night with the ghosts and live it up. Or whatever the expression would be. It’s nice to know that somewhere out there, there’s an ancient castle with a room full of partying ghosts. What a gem in the rough! What a perfect break in levity, from the danger of the castle! If Wess wasn’t breathing down Duster’s neck, I bet he’d stay the night. Maybe even a few nights, on a boozey bender! Duster might be an outcast, but I bet he could make great friends with ghosts. Tazmily would think him all the more strange if he made occasional treks to Osohe with jugs of wine under each arm, but I think he’d have fun. Once you’ve found your people, you can’t just let them go, even if there is a dangerous hallway full of haunted armored suits on the way to the party. We all make sacrifices for our own greater good. I think Duster could belong, here.

And so: Duster puts one wall staple in front of the other. He climbs up, up, up, until he is gone. He hoped he would be able to hear the piano for a little while at least, humming softly through the living walls of this old place. But it wasn’t like that, in the end. As soon as Duster left the room behind him, the tune stopped abruptly, like someone had pulled the plug. All around him was quiet again, and he was lonely. It was like someone had shut everything in the world behind a big, heavy, metal door, except poor old Duster.

He’d have like the music to have faded out, at least. That would have been nice.

Ropesnake!

All’s well that ends well. Like a good party. Or life itself.

Yikes! Maybe this castle’s turning me dour. Or at least a little sour. How long have I been in here? Over an hour?

Sometimes I think the real haunting of Osohe is the malaise of it all! I’ve been in here so long! Oh, how I miss Tazmily’s fresh, purple grass! And that monkey! What was its deal?

Well, at least I’m not totally alone in here. As soon as Duster climbs up the ladder, he’s greeted by another Friendly Ghost. Now, I don’t want to judge my relationships with ghosts based solely on what they have to offer, but of any of the Friendly Ghosts you’ll meet during your travels in Osohe, this guy is one of the most important. An enthusiast for rotten eclairs, trade this ghoulie as many as you can muster, and he’ll give you beef jerky in spades!

Look, the road ahead is tough, and if you’re not packing the absolute necessities at all times, you’re gonna end up as Osohe’s newest permanent resident. For example, anyone who didn’t barter for the Rope Snake is going to be regretting it around this point. Let’s face it: Wall Staples are pretty good for traveling vertically in pre-ordained locations, but what about crossing an impassable chasm? What, is there a Pencil Bridge thief tool we don’t know about?

For the rest of us geniuses who already have the Rope Snake in our packs, let’s talk about this little fella. As soon as Duster needs to cross a gap in an Osohe hallway, the Rope Snake leaps from his pockets and says, “Looks like this is a job for me!” After that, Duster takes the Rope Snake and casts it outward (or does it leap of its own accord?). The snake latches on to the candle stick, and Duster swings across, showing Flint that there’s more than one Indiana Jones in this ol’ town.

Now, I love when I get to use the Rope Snake, or when the Rope Snake chooses to assist me–however we want to interpret it. That’s the great thing about the Rope Snake: it has a personality! Throughout Mother 3, the Rope Snake even goes through its own simple character arc. It’s not just an item that you use–it’s a living thing! It wants to help! It wants to do its best!

Also, I really just love the “”animate item” idea coming to fruition in Mother 3. One of my favorite “items” in EarthBound was the Exit Mouse, which was a small mouse the player carried with them in their backpack. In “reality,” the Exit Mouse is a normal mouse, with a family, with a house! So each time you use it, the mouse leads you out of the area you need to escape from. While I’m not saying it’s the exact same thing, I like how the Rope Snake isn’t one of Duster’s kooky thief tools, but a living thing. It’s a simple design, a red snake that can talk, but mark my words: you’ll be surprised at how you bond with this snake by the end of things!

Even though Duster never has, and likely never will, make his way into a Super Smash Bros. roster, I like how the Rope Snake has been incorporated into Lucas’s moveset and design. He’s even holding the Rope Snake in his official artwork for the newest game! This piece of artwork alone might make Rope Snake the most obscure Nintendo character who is actually represented in official Smash Bros. artwork. I mean, this thing is an item in Mother 3, a game that only came out in Japan; in addition, the Ropesnake only appears when Lucas grabs, grapples to the ledge, or attacks with it mid-air–it’s not, like, out all the time. Yet here it is! As part of something so big!

37: Lucas – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate - YouTube

I’ve always felt like Sakurai, the developer of Smash, had a bit of a soft spot for the Mother series. The fact alone that it has two representatives, and has had two since Brawl, has always surprised me. I think the Rope Snake is part of Lucas’s moveset in the first place because Sakurai has an amazing eye for detail–sometimes, characters in Smash are truly representatives of the games they come from, down to the tiniest detail.

But really–even Porky, who was a major character in EarthBound, and who was a boss in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, is entirely cut from the game in Smash Bros. Ultimate. Yet, the Ropesnake lives on! I think that’s an impressive legacy for such a little guy.

All of this is to say: we love you, Rope Snake! You’ll never let us down.

Queue the Jaws theme!

On the other side of the gap, though, is no paradise. Moving shapes below the carpet shark back and forth, waiting for a chance to strike. If they catch you, which they will, a battle against the Carpet Monster will begin, and you shouldn’t take it likely.

Yeah, even if you traded a good amount of eclairs for some jerky, Osohe Castle doesn’t turn down the difficulty dial. The Carpet Monsters, though not difficult to defeat or to subdue with thief tools, are no push overs. They hit pretty hard, and if you only bash them without any other strategy, their damage output will overtake you eventually.

Also, what a great enemy! I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed what Osohe’s already packing–the Artsy Ghost might still be my frontrunner for favorite enemy of the chapter–but the Carpet Monsters are such a fun, menacing foe that contribute to Osohe’s spooky, strange, sharp-toothed rogues gallery. Even though I’m not sure exactly what’s going on with these weirdos, I don’t think they’re ghosts, which I like as a touch to the environment. I mean, I know ghosts have been the least of what we’ve fought, with cockroaches, strawberry jams, and the barrel monsters from the basement (not to mention the strange Big Brothers), but I’m just saying–I like having weird monsters in the mix as well.

In addition to hitting hard, possessing PSI abilities (it can use Offense Up on itself), having a sick psychedelic background, and peeking out from below the carpet with one menacing eyeball, the Carpet Monster also has a great battle song, “Serious,” which you’ll likely recognize as an altered version of “Fate,” from the Zombie Dogs. I think I like this song so much because it makes me feel like I’m in a Halloween music video. Every time I fight enemies, and this song is playing, I’m able to transcend the turn-based format of Mother 3 in an instant, turning instead to my imagination, where Duster hops, skips, and jumps around the hallway of Osohe, in deadly battle with the monster beneath the floor. Which, by the way, the Carpet Monster can also pull the carpet out from under you, causing you to miss out on a turn if you haven’t already attacked.

!!!

That’s why I love this enemy so much! It has a great introduction (the sharking lump underneath the carpet), and unique battle circumstances, and it’s not a boss, miniboss, or anything! It’s just another monster you can encounter in the halls of Osohe. I love that.

The last thing I’ll say here is that I like how we don’t know the monster’s true shape or nature. People always say that the reason Jaws was so effective as a film is because the movie waited so long for us to see the entirety of the shark. You get glimpses of it throughout the movie, as it picks off citizens of Amity Beach, but it’s not until about 2/3 of the way through the movie that you truly get a good look at how massive the thing is. Am I comparing the Carpet Monsters, a nearly one-off enemy in Mother 3, to the shark from Jaws?

Yes! I am! I like when things play their cards close to the vest!

Speaking of dangerous enemies that we don’t know the full power of… I decided to skip out on fighting the Ghost Knight for this frog. For those who don’t know, the Ghost Knight is an optional miniboss in Osohe, accessible through the door in this little hallway. Honestly, I’m a little too tuckered out from how long this frog has been already, so I decided to save it for next time.

However, we aren’t missing out on anything by not writing about the Ghost Knight just yet, because as soon as you enter the next room (and final room of the day! Wheesh!), someone drops from above! A red-haired person, moving too quickly to see who they are, appears from nowhere and lands on the ground. Before Duster can pin them with a Wall Staple, or grab their ankle with the Rope Snake, they run away, leaving behind only a small little sparkle on the ground.

Who is this mysterious Osohe resident? Another ghost? An agile zombie? An exorcist on an urgent mission? Well, all of the questions and more will be answered in time, but for now we have frogs to talk to…

I think the last frog of the day hangs out in this stairwell not because it wants to, but because it knows that a weary traveler might come this way, some day. I bet there’s a perfect lily pad out there somewhere for this little guy–I bet he has it picked out like a retirement home. I bet he’d even like to join up with the ghost party, just down the hall. Maybe sip some wine every now and again.

But the frog knows that someone is going to need him in this hallway. Someone is going to come along some day after fighting through a gauntlet of ghosts and ghouls. Someone is going to need just one more rest before finally making it through this castle. And more importantly, that someone is going to have stories to tell, and memories to share that must be recorded, so the frog knows: he will sit here, and wait, no matter how long it takes, for that traveler to come along someday. No, this stairwell isn’t where the frog might want to be, but it’s here anyway.

I think I’ll save my final thoughts on Osohe Castle, at least this leg of it, for next time, seeing as we’re already running pretty long here, and we are so near to the end. For now, I’m going to sit around and swap stories with this frog, and maybe also see what I can do to treat this rug burn. I know playing Mother 3 looks like it’s all fun and games, but when a Carpet Monster gets the upperhand on you, you don’t want away unscathed just because you have jeans on.

Anyway. I’ll see you all next time, as we finally find something shiny, and make our way out of this place.

Take care ~

One thought on “Frog #22: No Tall Maples

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