Frog #25: War Pigs

Well my fellow frogs, we are approaching the end of Chapter 2. Just ten frogs ago, we were at the end of Chapter 1, and how long ago was that? Three months? In Tazmily time, it was only a few days, so maybe the secret to playing Frog by Frog is that it helps us feel like life is longer, slower, and deeper. Or, maybe the secret is that you just end up playing Mother 3 really slowly.

Hey, do you remember back in the early Frog Days, when I said I was trying to hunt down a citation where Itoi talked about the placement of save frogs? My hunch was that the frogs were purposely spaced so that players could experience Mother 3 in five-to-ten minute chunks. However, when I went looking for this citation, I could never find it. The only time I could find Itoi talking about save frogs specifically was in the Nintendo Dram interview, when he posits that, as long as there’s a frog around, things can’t be so bad. For anyone who needs a refresher on the beautiful little frogs, and why they’re in the game, here are the words from the man himself:

But really, the question I fear most is, “Why frogs?” But they are tiny, they seem like they could be anywhere, and they won’t get in your way, yet they do stand out. A dog wouldn’t really seem like a save point. I’ve written a song called Furimukeba Kaeru13. When someone fails, a frog comes along and says, “Oh, it’s nothing to worry about.” The lyrics show, hey, you’re being told this by a frog. It’s obviously not worth being that upset about. It’s a frog telling you this, what more do you want? (laughs) That’s where it comes from.

I think, even without this quote, the frogs of Mother 3 tend to feel like little, protective friends. Coming across them is relieving, and at times, weirdly parental. I don’t know how to say it, but when I see a save frog out in the wild, I feel just as safe as coming across a payphone in EarthBound, where Mom and Dad are just a ring away.

But I don’t want to get too far from the point: I did find an interview where Itoi talks about why the game is on the Gameboy Advance, but he doesn’t specifically talk about the frogs. In this interview, Itoi mentions that, because the game has switched from a home console to a portable console, he wants people to be able to play it in short bursts. Of course, the frogs are intrinsically tied with this idea whether or not he mentions them, so I guess I’ve found what I was looking for after all: the placement of save frogs, the attempt to make the game easy to play for anyone, was intentional after all.

A save frog in mid-air.

At least on the GBA. We know save frogs were going to appear in EarthBound 64, but I doubt they were meant to make the game playable in five minute chunks, seeing as EarthBound 64 was meant to be much more epic than the game received on Mother 3. Even this interview, Itoi bums me out a little bit–he seems to have conceded so much to make the game exist, sometimes. I guess I’m still on my quest to find out how Itoi really feels about Mother 3! But here are his thoughts in full:

I believe that the days of taking time off work to play games, and pulling all-nighters to make progress in a game are pretty much over. What’s most difficult for everyone nowadays, me included, is getting someone to spare their precious time on something they’ve made. That’s why we decided to make it available on a console as convenient as the GBA, so that you can play it a little bit everyday; that’s the kind of game we’re aiming for. This change of heart, in a nutshell, is what prompted us to revive “Mother 3”.

What we’re aiming for is the kind of game where the player can say: “Today I’m going to go this far, and get some sleep,” taking it a little bit at a time. Ultimately we hope the player can say, “Hey, this is pretty fun.” I would be extremely grateful if you can wait for it patiently, and accept it for what it is. And I know there are going to be people out there who will hear all this and be like “Awww man.” And I know that’s inevitable. But in response to that, I’d just like to point out that both “Mother” and “Mother 2” had some of the same unencumbered qualities. So once “Mother 3” is completed, I want to be able to laughingly say, “Don’t expect too much.” I want this game to fun in that way. I know the very next questions will be,

So, in a way, it’s possible that the Gameboy Advance helped to convince Itoi that the game should be revived. Maybe he was worried that his time to create Mother 3 had passed in more way than one; maybe he was afraid that if he could have moved development over to the Gamecube, for example (the Nintedo 64’s successor), that people would not want to play a long, epic RPG. In a way, the save frogs saved Mother 3! That must be why they’re called save frogs!

I’m sure I’ll talk more about this as time goes on, because I love reading about Itoi’s Mother 3 thoughts specifically, but I’m getting too far away from my actual point in this introduction–the end of Chapter 2! We’ve officially begun the beginning of the end, folks. I know I’ll have more to say as we truly approach the end, in the next couple frogs or so, but for now, I think you all know my major thoughts: Chapter 2 surprised me! I’ve always known it was different in tone from Chapter 1, and that Duster, as a lead man, goes through much less emotionally than Flint, but I’m still impressed by how much Chapter 2 accomplishes. In my memory, it was just the chapter with ghosts and zombies. Now, it’s more than that. It was full of amazing music, great character development, and fun battle scenarios. It was bizarre, quirky, strange, and unexpected–just like a Mother game should be.

Duster is the black sheep of Mother 3, I’d say. Even though we have spent just as much time with him as Flint, we don’t know as much about him, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think, because Duster ends up as one of your main party members later in the game, you’re supposed to project on to him a bit more, role-play him a bit in your own mind. Duster’s true personality is probably more up to the player than some of the other characters in the game. Either that or he’s just quiet and unassuming.

If there’s anything I know for sure, it’s that Duster has proven himself as a hero about fifty times over, whether or not Wess approves. In fact, it looks like Wess has a chance to prove himself this time around. What do you say we jump into it and see these two thieves take on an army?

Clayman: Fighter of the Night Man

Most people who play Mother 3 probably charge Osohe Castle as soon as they see the tank tread tracks in the ground. And don’t get me wrong, I wanted to charge and fight. Pigmasks? On my turf? In tanks? As a Tazmilian, I don’t know what war really means, but…

This means war!

However, as Frog Readers know, I desperately needed a break after my last play-session, but I’m not allowed to repeat frogs in a single chapter. It was then I remembered that I hadn’t yet saved at the frog in the Prayer Sanctuary, which was just as well, because Duster and Wess needed to offer up a prayer or two to the great Nowhere Gods before going into battle. I have just as much faith in the strength of thieves as anyone else, but the Pigmask Army has guns. I’m not sure how a Wall Staple compares to a tank cannon.

Approaching Osohe was a lot sadder than I thought, however. In some ways, I wish I’d just stayed at the Prayer Sanctuary, because this is rough. Nippolyte kneels next to his potato patch, bruised and bloody. Tread tracks cut through his little gardens, ruining their crops. Nippolyte himself is broken, saying, “Ow, ow, ow… Some pig-looking guys just bust right into the castle.”

I know we have already discussed the Pigmasks’ disregard for Osohe Castle, and the Nowhere Islands, but this completely crosses the line! Nippolyte is a connoisseur of shovels, a humble gardener, an astute gravedigger, and a decent man! I hate seeing him like this, tossed aside like a piece of rubble. Poor Nippolyte 😦

I mean, look, I know that Claus and Hinawa literally got killed because of the Pigmasks, but for some reason Nippolyte’s injuries make me just as sad. Everyone else in Tazmily is just hanging out today, taking it easy in townsquare or whatever, and poor Nippolyte has gotten stampeded by a pack of wild Pigmasks! All he wanted was to grow his potatotos! All he wanted was a quiet life in the Sunset Cemetary!

Hmmm… Well, I still think Dona wins my Tazmilian Award for Chapter 2, because I really wasn’t expecting the emotional depth she revealed to us, but I’m going to give Nippolyte the silver medal. I enjoyed interacting with him during this chapter. He is truly one of video game’s great gravediggers. I also how one of Tazmily’s weirdest locations, and one of The Nowhere Islands’ weirdest locations, is his home turf. I love his weird underground tunnel. I love how he’s the groundskeeper of a haunted castle. I love how he grows potatoes! Nippolyte: you’re a good man, and I will avenge you!

Examining the rest of the grounds, you’ll find (or perhaps first, hear) the Pork Tanks a-rumbling. Upon examination, Duster notes that they are a “strange vehicle,” but they are certainly much more than that. Duster has probably never seen nor heard of anything like a tank before. It’s too bad that the Pigmasks’ tanks are actually kind of cute–I wish they could be used for the forces of good! I suspect that if the Pigmasks are unsuccessful in whatever it is they’re doing here, they might blast the whole place to smithereens.

I also continue to enjoy Mother 3’s ability to repurpose and evolve environments with which we are familiar. The tanks feels so out of place here, their tracks an obvious desecration on Nippolyte’s carefully tended grounds. I didn’t exactly love Osohe Castle, but it’s sad to see it under “siege.” It doesn’t feel right. Osohe Castle wasn’t bothering anything, wasn’t drawing any attention to itself, wasn’t invading on anyone’s territory. But nothing is sacred to the Pigmasks! Seeing the castle grounds in broad daylight adds to how out-of-place the Pigmasks feel. It’s like running in to your professor at a grocery store.

Tiptoeing past the rumbling tanks, Duster and Wess head inside the castle. In the foyer, two Pigmasks stand near a large, gray mass, with arms, legs, an antenna, and a simple face. One of the Pigmasks shocks the gray husk, a process that appears both enlivening and painful. The husk comes alive and charges at Duster and Wess, triggering a fight.

I’ll have more to write about the Claymen in Chapter 4, as Itoi himself has some interesting ideas about what they are and how he views them, but I’ve always appreciated our introduction to them here. While this Clayman may seem like a single entity, the Pigmask Army possesses Claymen into the hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe more. I don’t want to say too much yet, but they are essentially disposable workers/laborers that the Pigmasks use to various ends. Their existence is a sad and sorry one.

And like I said, even though I’m withholding my full thoughts until a later chapter, there’s so much to learn about the Clayman solely from its introduction. In typical Pigmask fashion, the poor thing is shocked to life; its flatline of a mouth opens agape, its eyes turned upward, its arms spurring downward in a jolt. Sure, you could argue we don’t know how much the husk has felt this surge, but it certainly appears painful. And it also appears that the Pigmasks don’t even have to augment already-living animals to be cruel–they can torture and abuse creatures that appear to be artificially made. They can truly inflict pain on anything.

Only the cruelest scientists find ways to descrate both the natural and unnatural world. Only the most evil pigs can make the artificial feel pain!

Who knows? Maybe without the antenna, the Clayman would be walking around, free to its own whims, not fighting two thieves in the foyer of a haunted castle. How do we know that there isn’t a planet of peaceful Claymen, and the Pigmask Army abducts them for their own purposes? How do we know that Claymen aren’t just old thieves themselves, worked so hard, abused for so long, that they look like this? Duster could be a Clayman some day!

Okay, that’s probably a bit too far. And, if I remember correctly, we learn a little bit more about Claymen before Mother 3 is over. I guess my last thought on them for now is just a classic, Frog by Frog, probably-unnecessary reiteration: I think the introduction of the Clayman, in a scene with no dialogue, is such smart characterization of the Pigmasks. We’ve already seen them shock the poor Reconstructed Caribou to life, which was so disturbing because it had once (or even still was) an innocent, living animal. The fact that the Pigmasks painfully jumpstart even their own creatures is so sad to me. It says everything we need to know about them, and then some. (And we already knew they were assholes!)

Anyway, whether you consider the Clayman to be a boss fight or a mini boss fight is up to you–either way, it’s a fun encounter. As long as you have healing items, you should be fine, because the Clayman has a couple attacks that’ll deal significant damage to Duster. For the most part, as long as you manage your health and keep bashing it, the Clayman should eventually fall.

I actually got lucky with this fight–Wess fought his heart out on my behalf, throwing Thunder Bombs, performing secret thief techniques, and bashing the Clayman to bits all while Duster cycled through Thief Tools to see what worked. Say what you will about Wess, but he’s a valuable ally in combat–leagues more useful than anyone we’ve had so far. Wess will sometimes throw one of Dusters socks, which won’t have an affect on the Clayman, but it can paralyze normal enemies. So, Wess at least walks the walk! He’s a pretty tough thief! He literally won this battle almost all by himself!

And that’s it: the fight is fairly simple. The most dangerous move the Clayman will throw at you is when it collapses on top of Duster, which, depending on your level, might deal anywhere from 40 to 60 damage. On the bright side, after performing this attack, the Clayman will struggle to stand up for a turn or two, so you can attack it as much as you want. Again, the way to lose this fight is to not manage your health, but other than that, I can’t see too many combat strategies going poorly.

Seeing as the Clayman doesn’t have its own unique boss music (it uses “Cumbersome Guys”) I guess it isn’t technically a boss, but that doesn’t matter to me. I appreciate our introduction to these characters, the Claymen. I think it’s interesting that the disposable Pigmask Soliders have disposable soldiers of their own. Decadence trickles all the way down in the Pigmask Army–what can be used or abused next? Also, when you really listen to it, “Cumbersome Guys” does actually sound a little bit sad. There’s something almost monotonously somber, here. Like the battle is happening even though one or both of the parties doesn’t want it to be. And this could just be me projecting new meaning on to the song, because of the context we have with the Clayman, but isn’t that also the mark of a good soundtrack? The fact that the way I listen to a song can feel completely different depending on which enemy I am fighting as the song plays? I feel like the Mother 3 soundtrack composer should be awarded a genius grant and sent to live on an island for the rest of his days.

Anyway, I also like this fight on a narrative level. Duster and Wess knew that storming the castle wasn’t going to be easy as soon as they saw the tanks outside, but I surely wasn’t expecting this the fight time I played Mother 3. I thought I’d have to fight a tank, or a large group of soldiers, or maybe even the Blue Squadron Leader, but instead the game throws an entirely new enemy at you. The fight with the Clayman is made all the more effective with how pathetic it is. I feel bad for it when it falls down. I feel worse for it when, after the battle, the Pigmasks leave it as a crumped husk.

Poor Clayman! Look at it, on the ground! The color has bled out of its antenna, and maybe it’s the angle of the husk, but I swear its eyes look sorrowful. The Pigmasks unsuccessfully try to shock the dead thing back to life, but their attempt fails, and it lays there and dies. Sure, maybe it’s just a sculpted clay body, animated by electricity, and without the Pigmask technology, it wouldn’t be “alive” in the first place. But that doesn’t matter to me! I don’t think anything truly artificial in life can look so forlorn in death.

I’ll pour one out for the Clayman.

Well, Clayman, if I ever meet another of your kind, I will do my best to be kind. If I ever see another walking husk of clay, I’ll walk beside it for a little while. Maybe I’ll pull the antenna from its head, and prove to the world that it is truly alive. Maybe I’ll round up the Claymen of the world, and we’ll rebel against the Pigmasks together.

Maybe I’ll mold the clay not into men, but into gods!

Ghost Town

After defeating the Clayman, Wess and Duster’s problems are far from over; the entire castle is crawling with Pigmasks. Actually, if you had decided to enter the castle from the second floor, with Duster’s Wall Staple path, you would have encountered some Pigmask Soldiers before fighting the Clayman on the floor below. I had gone this way initially, but I decided to turn back and go through the front door in the traditional way. But why? Why did I resist going a different path for once? Why was I afraid to break convention, again? It’s harder than you think to give yourself up to play!

Maybe it’s time I went back and reread Frog Zero, to remind myself why I’m here…

In its current state, Osohe Castle could use a little play. The bartering shop on the first floor has been abandoned, as has the little library. The kitchen is crawling with Pigmasks and their surveillance droids–annoying little robots that call more troops into battle. And for what? Are the Pigmasks also looking for something shiny?

The inside of the castle further proves my point: I honestly never thought I could feel bad for Osohe, and on prior play throughs of Mother 3, I never have felt any sympathy for this place. To me, Osohe Castle just so happened to be the location of Chapter 2 and parts of Chapter 3. It was a somewhat interesting castle, but it felt more like a pitstop in the grand scheme of Mother 3.

However, mark another point down for playing through this game Frog by Frog, because spending extended time thinking about Osohe has made me appreciate this place more than I ever have. In the same way I feel awful for the animals who were run out of the Sunshine Forest, I feel bad for the poor ghosts who were run out of their haunt. This was their home! Their place to drink, dance, sing, and play!

That said, the siege of Osohe means that the player finally gets to fight Pigmasks to their heart’s content, though I’ll warn that these guys aren’t always easy. I mean, if you catch a Pigmask on its own, you can probably defeat it without issue, but if you fight a couple at a time, with one of those drones in the battle as well, you’ll want to be careful. Just remember that Duster has his Thief Tools if you find yourself in a tricky spot, and if you end up being a total moron, I’m sure Wess can help you out.

The Pigmasks come with a new battle theme, “Piggy Guys,” which I think is a welcome addition to what we’ve heard so far. Like the snippets of the other Pigmask Army songs that have popped up in the early game, this song features a strong horn section with heavy percussion, which always makes me feel like I’m really fighting against an evil empire. The song also features what I assume to be Gameboy Advance flutes, adding an element of levity that I think matches the Pigmasks’ more comedic side. Like, yes, they’re bad guys, and their battle sprites are actually more intimidating than you might think when you see their over world sprites… but they’re also the bumbling, squealing Pigmasks. The fact that they’re sometimes played for comic relief makes them even more satisfying to defeat.

But again, don’t get too complacent with these Piggy Guys. They have an array of battle abilities, including bum rushes, bombs, offensive debuffs, shields, and a decently strong standard attack with their laser guns. I noticed a few fights where I didn’t exactly walk away from the Pigmasks unscathed, but that’s the other thing: every time you defeat a Pigmask, there’s a decent chance you’ll walk away from the battle with a Bag of Pork Chips, so you can usually heal yourself up immediately afterward.

You’ll also start noticing that Duster has more abilities than just his Thief Tools. Sometimes, Duster will deftly flip behind the enemy, or even attack with blinding speed, at the start of a battle. I assume it’s all determined through RNG, but it’s a cool feature to Duster nonetheless! He’s really starting to come into his own as a thief! Take that, Wess!

Does anyone else think the soldiers look weird from the back?

Even though the Pigmasks will continue respawning every time you leave a room and come back, sometimes I like to imagine that I’m clearing them out of the castle as I fight. I mean, there’s not much else to do on the first floor anyway, so you may as well enjoy the simple combat and, if necessary, give Duster a level or two while you’re here. Mother 3 isn’t a game where you’ll often find yourself under-leveled or anything, but why not? The guy wants to get strong!

I’d also like to point out that, if you try to revisit the Osohe basement, Wess cuts you off completely, saying, “There’s nothing in there.” Personally, I thought this was one of the least lame “invisible walls,” because it makes sense for Wess’s characer, even though I did want to explore the basement again just for the fun of it. I guess that Wess must know where the something shiny is, and it wouldn’t make sense for him to permit any unnecessary castle galavanting, so I get it… I just wanted to see the basement again! That’s all! Sorry if that makes me a moron!

Although, the Osohe heartbreak doesn’t stop on the first floor. On the second floor, you’ll notice that the Pigmasks have smashed every suit of armor, leaving them in shattered heaps on the ground. Maybe it’s the dialogue box that says, “This suit of armor has been mercilessly destroyed,” or maybe it’s my too-sentimental heart, but this actually struck a chord with me! As we know, some of the suits of Osohe were haunted, but not all of them were! So you have to wonder if the Pigmasks were simply destroying everything in sight, or if they were fighting ghosts.

To be fair, I fought these ghosts, too, and they aren’t exactly friendly, but Duster didn’t destroy the suits or armor or anything! And why are the Pigmasks taking a scorched earth policy to their Osohe scavenging? Before long, there isn’t going to be so much as a haunted whisper in this castle!

I also wonder if “This suit of armor has been mercilessly destroyed” could be taken at a humorous angle as well. Like I said, some of these suits of armor were possessed, and I could see how this would be funny to someone. It still makes me sad, seeing the destroyed armor strewn about the floor, but different strokes for different folks! Maybe this is funny to some players.

But the jokes stop there. Because what the Pigmasks did next was unforgivable.

The entire party room has been cleared out by the Pigmasks, and all of the previously cheerful ghosts are huddled together in the kitchen. And I will admit that even though I haven’t really cared about Osohe before today, this particular section of the castle has always bummed me out, even on previous play throughs. It feels so wrong, so unfair, for those partying ghosts to be cooped up like this! What were they doing to harm anyone? Nothing!

All they wanna boo is have some fun.

But I guess that’s the power of the Pigmasks, isn’t it? None of the animals in the Sunshine were harming anyone. The Caribou wasn’t harming anyone, and neither was the Drago, but the Pigmasks transformed them both into reckless, confused machines. Hinawa wasn’t harming anyone, nor was Claus. All these ghosts were doing was enjoying a little tune, a little wine, a little (or big) pile of rotten eclairs, which they gladly shared with any newcomers to the party. A ghost wallflower became brave enough to make some friends, and a happy chef in the kitchen hummed along to a tune… no longer!

Honestly, the ghost party in Osohe has been one of the most carefree, silly things we’ve seen in the entirety of Mother 3, which is why, at least for me, I get (probably too) sentimental to see it abandoned. Yes, Tazmily is a peaceful place, but the time we’ve spent here has been dour at best. And even still, Tazmily is quaint, it’s not necessarily fun. I bet Claus and Lucas and all of the other kids have had their fun, but sometimes the adults just seem like they’re just there. Just living out a simple, sterile life. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it ain’t no ghost party! Osohe is where the fun is at!

The Pigmasks have even taken joy from the dead!

I do love the detail that, because there’s not a ghost at the piano anymore, the music in this room hasn’t changed to “Ragtime Osohe” like last time. Do the Pigmasks really have to ruin everything? Well, I guess the answer to that is yes, but… I’m not the only one whose heart hurts for the Osohe ghosts, right? I know they were little trouble makers, and I know they could be a little odd sometimes… but I really liked these guys! And sure, maybe it has to do with the fact that playing Frog by Frog had me essentially subleasing in Osohe for a couple months, so I really got to know the place, but something about the assault here stings more than the assault on the forest, because all of the ghosts have their own personalities.

I guess I shouldn’t say that, though. I mean, the ghosts are already dead, whereas I’m sure the assault on the forest resulted in the actual deaths of plenty of animals. The ghosts are only missing out on a night of fun, while the animals of the forest are missing out on the rest of their lives. Because they’re dead. No one call PETA on me! I’m just saying, you know? I like the ghosts. I think they’re funny. I feel bad that their party was crashed. Who knows how long it had been going on? Days? Weeks? Years? Centuries? And hey, who knows, maybe when we die, it doesn’t matter if we’re human, animal, plant, or idea; maybe we all become ghosts!

Although, there’s still fun to be had back in the kitchen–the party is by no means over. And I don’t know about you, readers, but my favorite place to be at any party is in the kitchen. I feel like that’s where the cool people always tend to congregate. In a kitchen, you can dance, you can talk, you can eat, you can play with fridge magnets. If you’ve never been to the kitchen during a party, trust me. You’re missing out.

What’s fun about this Osohe Kitchen is that you can squeeze your way through the room (seeing as they’re ghosts, you’d think you’d be able to walk right through them) and talk to a handful of hideouts, including the ghost chef himself. This reminds me of the Blue Blue Cult in EarthBound, who pack themselves like sardines into Carpainter’s house. At times, it seems like you can’t press any farther through the crowd, but if you find just the right spot, you can experience more dialogue!

One of my favorite images in Chapter 1 was all of the Tazmilians gathered around Lighter, shortly after the rescue of him and Fuel. I don’t know why I like this simple scene so much–honestly, not many characters are gathered, and there are other moments of the chapter which are much more visually striking. But still–it’s one of my favorite parts of the entire chapter.

Similarly, while Chapter 2 probably has some cooler parts that are more fun to look at, all of the ghosts packed into the kitchen is my favorite image in Chapter 2. It has always stuck with me! I think it’s funny! I think it’s sad! I think it’s hilarious that ghosts, who shouldn’t even be able to take up physical space, are all packed on top of each other.

Now that’s ghost comedy! Get out of here with your boo-berry jokes! Mother 3 has spatio-illogical ghost jokes, thank you very much.

Also, I’m not sure why I was boo-hooing about the Pigmask siege of the party so much, because the ghosts don’t really seem to mind. Sure, the chef laments that he was just about to start on the main course, but, for the most part, everyone is still joking around and being their goofy selves. One ghost says he was getting sick of partying anyway, while another ghost, likely counting all of the “bodies” in the room, says that counting is a good form of brain training.

I hope writing is, too!

You know, people say that, when we die, all is revealed to us. Whether in an afterlife, or in rebirth, or in clarity of the movement of our karmic wheel, or in extended DMT-induced dreams, or in long-awaited revelation. “You’ll see, you’ll see, you’ll see–you’ll see why you went to see that movie,” says Isaac Brock, listing all the things we’ll see and come to understand in death. And what I’m getting at is, to me, a mere mortal, it’s a bummer, a buzzkill, a killjoy, for the Pigmasks to have crashed in here like this. But, to these deadly fellows, the cancellation of the party is no big deal. Yeah, they have to hide out in the kitchen for a while, but that’s all. It’s not the end of the world or anything.

Though now that has me wondering: are the ghosts in here, hoping to not be seen? Can’t they just turn themselves invisible? Maybe not, because as one ghost says, “Even with ghosts, when you get this many all in one place, it gets stuffy!”

I guess that is kind of hilarious when you think about it. The ghosts, instead of making themselves unable to be seen, decide to hide in another room. And who knows? Maybe ghosts aren’t invisible! Maybe ghosts are always just hiding behind doors, around corners, or under beds. But that’s kind of creepy, isn’t it? Maybe all of the ghosts in your house are always moving from room to room, just in time so as to not be seen!

I don’t have much more to say about these ghosts. I just enjoy hanging out in here. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve gotten attached to locations in video games, even when there’s no more “playing” to be done in a particular spot. It’s not always fun to move on! Though that’s another lesson I could learn from these ghosts, isn’t it? We all have to move on eventually. From place to place, from perspective to perspective, from life to death!

I think I’ll give the “Funniest Ghost Award” to Friendly Ghost #9, who says, “Wow! Real-life live people! What do you do for a living?” Now that is a ghost joke!

After you’ve checked in with the ghosts, there’s nowhere else to go but up! Duster and Wess climb back up the Wall Staple trail and onto the upper floors of Osohe Castle. From here, there’s not much new to see, though I did decide to visit the Ghost Knight’s room again and found that it was still alive. Or still dead, or whatever. You know what I mean.

But yes! The Ghost Knight was still there, and this time around I fought him properly, with all of the pieces assembled. The fight wasn’t very difficult, especially with the help of Wess. Actually, I can just imagine Wess berating Duster the entire time, saying, “What, you couldn’t defeat this thing on you own, moron?”

Well, Wess can say whatever he wants. I was happy to have his help, the knight went down peacefully and easily. I’m also happy to have gotten a second chance to fight this guy, because I want to fill up my Battle Memory as best as I can. Even if it requires me grinding encounters for a rare enemy, I’d like to see everything Mother 3 has to offer! So if anyone has any advice for how to see it all, please write to me! I don’t know where every little hidden thing is.

And that about does it for Osohe exploration. The only other observation I can make is that, if you fight more than one Rockin’ Ghost at the same time, they’ll sometimes attack one another instead of attacking you! It’s pretty cool!

But other than that, Duster and Wess didn’t see much else. They retraced Duster’s steps all the way back to the room where Mr. Passion once composed his songs in a fury, where furniture, mice, and candlesticks once floated through the air. They walked through the door, re-entering The Room Too Mysterious.

Wess Can Dance If He Wants To

Duster has been here before. After a long trek, alone, through the castle; after countless battles against both seen and unseen foes; after toppling the regime of a raving, undead composer, Duster found himself in this very room. And on the ground, as per his mission guidelines, he saw something shiny. Right in the middle of the floor. A Noble Spittoon.

Unfortunately, the Noble Spittoon was not the correct shiny object. And so now Duster is back in the Room Too Mysterious, because he forgot one of the most important rules of thieving: sometimes, a wall is a door.

Yes, as Wess, the Master Thief, points out, the real treasure is further inside, but someone has recently been through the stone-faced door on the other side of the room. Very few people know the way. The Princess of Osohe knows how, as Wess points out, but what if it was a Pigmask? They’ve shown themselves capable of muscling through just about anything in their path.

Well, enough suspense! Duster steps forward, ready to pick the door’s hidden lock (surely one of his Thief Tools should do the trick) when Wess stops him and tells him to turn around. “This is embarrassing,” says Wess. “Turn the other way.”

If you haven’t seen this scene in a while, please watch it again. The scene itself is better than any justice I could do to it through writing, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. The way I see it, you have to watch this video at least every couple years, to keep your heart feeling youthful and alive.

Duster turns away from Wess as a bubbling, bombastic beat begins to build. Wess, as is custom, begins twerking, occasionally checking over his shoulder and telling Duster not to look. As the song builds in intensity, so does Wess’s dance. We see the old man shake his hips like no one in Tazmily has in decades. We see him spin around, gyrate, and throw in a few more shakes for good measure.

Ignoring the conversation surrounding “Open Sesame Tofu!” and its longstanding capital as a quality meme song, I think this is certainly one of the most iconic, if not mainstream, moments of Mother 3 (if we’re talking internet reputation, which I know can be nebulous). If you have ever been a somewhat nerdy person on YouTube, you’ve probably encountered this song, and maybe this scene, before. I’ll also mention, though I’m sure most fans know, that this song is a sped-up version of The Water’s Great, the hot spring song.

Anyway, there’s a lot to love here, and most of it’s obvious. Yes, the dance that Wess does is hilarious and funny. Yes, it’s amazing to see Duster peeking a couple times, only to quickly turn around as Wess does a cute little twirl. We get to see the power dynamic switched between these two: instead of berating and yelling at Duster, Wess is now showing off some moves that could make a Spice Girl jealous. Could this be Grumpy Spice?

Also, it’s so nice to see Wess doing something that humanizes him a bit. And, if not humanize, then belittle, or remove some tension. Not only do we see him doing something silly and embarassing, but also we see him doing something silly and embarrassing because the situation asks for it. Wess might be mean, rude, and abusive, and I’m not going to forgive that. But when it comes time to be a hero, Wess will do whatever takes. Even if that means dancing like a lunatic in front of his son.

How can I better say what I want to here? Well, this is kind of a stretch, but it’s kind of like when Vegeta, who is basically an asshole for the entirety of Dragon Ball Z, jumps in front of Cell’s deadly blast aimed for Gohan, taking the hit and completely incapacitating himself. Or in Lord of the Rings, when Boromir, after losing himself to the temptation of the Ring and attacking Frodo, sacrifices his life for Merry and Pippin, who (in the film, at least) he calls “the Little Ones.”

What can I say? After reading Dune, I’m very interested in the idea of heroes with depth. Wess may not be a good man, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a good dancer. It doesn’t mean that when everything is on the line, Wess can’t do the right thing. And I know what you’re thinking, “Geez, Frog. Itoi probably just wanted Wess to do something silly. It’s funny that there’s a secret door you can only open by doing a dance.” And I’m saying that, too! It’s funny! And by choosing Wess to be the vehicle for that joke, Itoi enrichens our experience with the Mother 3 world and the characters within it. I also think it gives Wess some credibility–there’s more to thieving than stealing.

Thieves can dance, too!

But, finally, with a twirl and a fabulous point up into the air, the stone mouth opens, and Duster and Wess are able to pass through the other impassable room! Open Sesame Tofu!

Wess mentions to Duster that he taught him the very same dance when he was young, just a little thiefling. I can only imagine, after a long day of practicing wall staples, Wess then saying, “All right, time to practice The Dance!”

Duster sure had it tough.

And so then the thieves passed through the door, and into another room. Though this one was different from the rest of the castle’s caverns: bright light poured through from beyond a wide balcony, where, just ahead and below, a singular (shiny) object protruded from the ground. A trash can in one corner lay in the shade, while a frog hopped back and forth in the light.

The frog reported that Wess came up to it first, eager to take a rest and to share his memories. He described the fight with the Clayman and the thunder bombs he threw. He described taking down Pigmasks, though he rarely mentioned Duster slipping deftly behind them. He described Duster’s errors, and what brought the thieves to the castle, but never did he mention Duster leading the way, and Duster putting himself before the old man in every fight. Wess said that when you want something done right, you must do it yourself.

Wess mentioned the dance, and how heroic he looked, and how Duster had to stand on and do nothing.

It is said, at least among Frogs, that Duster decided to rest on top of the trash can. His mind was elsewhere. He was still a youngster, just a boy, but being pushed to the limits of a man. He saw himself kicking targets with blinding speed, using his legs like weapons, before he had even experienced his first growth spurt. He saw himself going to bed hungry, having not earned a meal or even the chance to brush his teeth. He remembered for a moment, then pushed away, the first occurrence of a dull pain in his lower leg, and wrapping the injury at night.

Duster sat on the trash can and leaned against the wall, letting his eyelids grow heavy for a few seconds. He thought about rubbing his leg, not that it hurt anymore. Not that there was any pain to sooth. Sometimes, it just felt right to do it. People forget that a thief’s heart is lonely, and hard to build a foundation upon. People forget we spend our whole lives in our bodies, and so must learn to make homes within ourselves. Frogs remember, but people forget.

2 thoughts on “Frog #25: War Pigs

  1. Hi,

    Caught up to this post today

    First of all, I really appreciate your nuanced analyses of Tazmily and its residents in both parts of Frog #24. I feel you’ve outdone yourself with the sheer dedication and detail you put into dissecting characters and themes. In particular, I really like your take on Wess and the different sides of his character (as someone easy to hate, laugh at, and perhaps even respect at times), which is something that I’m curious if you’ll return to when talking about ??? in Chapter 3.

    Also the “you call this a utopia” line was clever. I’m really looking forward to the summer of 2021.

    Funny you mention Vegeta taking a hit in relation to Wess dancing silly. Ever watch Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods? Has one of the best Vegeta moments IMO

    Update on my Mother 3 progress:

    I’m at the very start of Chapter 4! Yeah, it’s a big jump from my previous place at the start of Chapter 2, but I’ve been giving myself some more downtime recently.

    I’ll refrain from mentioning stuff you haven’t covered yet on Frog by Frog, so I’ll just say that the game is pretty dang awesome

    I actually had a lot of fun playing as Duster in Osohe. Scary Mask was my favourite Thief Tool. There is little more satisfying than seeing a suit of armour strike your lanky thief body for a grand total of 1 damage.

    I’m really enjoying the Battle Memory descriptions of all the enemies! The one about Zombie Lady was especially funny. Major props to Clyde Mandelin and the translation team.

    It’s weird how Wess seems to get along with most (assuming he’s being funny and not creepy with Nan), but can’t spare much kindness for Duster. My headcanon (which I doubt is very original) is that Wess may not have “wanted” Duster, if you catch my drift. Though that begs the question as to why he cares so much about Duster being an adequate thief heir? Maybe it ties into the idea that Wess, garbage father that he is, still wants to do good, so he “fixes” his “mistake” by training Duster (that felt a little gross to type).

    Looking forward to the next frog!

    Best regards,

    Alexander

    Like

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