Frog #26: The Princess of Nothing

If there’s anything we can say about Mother 3, it’s been a bit of boys’ party so far. As in, we may have a mother as one of our central emotional threads, but we’ve been playing as the fathers. As in, we’ve been giddying up with cowboys and leaving the cowgirls behind. As in, we’ve been listening to “The Boys Are Back in Town” and turning down the volume on “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” As in, you probably get the point by now.

But there’s big news! We have finally met the last of one of our main characters in Mother 3! At least as far as the forces of good are concerned. And I’ve gotta say, I’ve always had a soft spot for this character. She’s rough and tough, she doesn’t take shit from anyone, and she’s quick to the up-take in a tricky situation. She’s one of the, if not the, most important offensive components of any party configuration. She’s the wise-cracking, bone-cracking, pig-attacking Princess of Osohe: Kumatora.

Kumatora is definitely the cool customer of the gang in Mother 3, but she’s also the continuance of a long-running tradition in the Mother series, that is, the female party member with a penchant for offensive PSI. Mother had Ana, EarthBound had Paula, and Mother 3 has Kumatora. While the protagonists of the Mother series–Ness, Ninten, and Lucas–tend to learn buffing and debuffing moves, the girls tend to learn attack moves. PK Fire, PK Thunder, PK Freeze, PK Ground–these are the ammunition of any good fight, and the girls have got the guns.

There’s also a lot to love about Kumatora narrative-wise, but we’ll get to all of that in time. When we meet her, all we know is that she’s the Princess of Osohe… but what does this mean? Osohe is, literally, a ghost town. There’s no land to rule, no halls to maintain. The entire place has degraded into a haunt.

I mean, I guess the irony is that Kumatora absolutely seems like the type of girl who’d love to preside over a castle of rowdy ghosts, or even over a castle of nothing… but something tells me she’s not revisiting her home to reminisce. And how exactly is she the princess? Where are the king and queen? They can’t have been gone for too long…

And I’m probably getting ahead of myself anyway! This is only the introduction! But that’s just how Kumatora is: her presence draws attention. Not only is she visually striking, with her red hair and light-purple outfit, but she is also loud, brash, and full of energy. I haven’t even officially introduced her yet and I can already tell she’s happy that I’m writing about her.

And that’s really all I can offer in the way of an intro, today! We’re going to meet Kumatora, we’re going to cast a couple spells, and we’re gonna wrap this all up before lunch. The next frog isn’t too far away–if you listen closely, you can hear it ribbiting–so what do you say we hop to it? The end of Chapter 2 is just around the corner…

The Princess and the Frog

(Quick commercial: did you know I have a YouTube series where I play through Mother with my dear friend? No? Well check it out!! Thank you!! ❤ )

When we last left Wess and Duster, they found themselves, again, in a Room Too Mysterious. While some players (me included) are probably most interested in the trash can in the corner (it’s funny to see a very modern-looking trash can in the otherwise stone castle), it’s hard to not be drawn toward the light, toward something shiny below…

Yes, it appears there was more to this castle after all: a courtyard, where in the middle rests… something. Something shiny. A sword, perhaps? Wess claims that the object has been passed down generation after generation in Osohe, but that the King was reluctant to tell him what the object was. Because of this, Wess decided to never ask too many questions, to forget the whole thing ever happened.

Or did he? The old thief can’t quite remember what he did or didn’t do. All he does know is that this shiny object, despite its obvious allure, is not the object they seek today. Their something shiny is still waiting for them.

This isn’t the first time that Chapter 2 has suggested something bigger going on in the world of Mother 3. Why can Wess remember all of these interactions with the King, yet also not quite remember them? And how did the castle fall into disarray in the King’s lifetime, in the otherwise peaceful Tazmily? What are we to make of all this information?

Well, I guess we’re supposed to do what Wess did, all those years ago: forget about it. If that something shiny isn’t the something shiny we seek, then I guess it’s time to move on. I guess it’s time to sweep this entire conversation into the trashcan.

Duster and Wess decide to proceed into the next room, but as soon as they step through the door…

Bang! A flash of energy flies toward the two thieves, but they jump out of the way just in time as a small explosion erupts around them. Nice reflexes, boys! But who shot the shot?

It seems to have been none other than a red-haired girl, holding a knife, with her leg caught in a trap. “Wess?!” she says. “Is that you, you old geezer?!” Maybe Wess is better with the ladies than I gave him credit for…

Wess runs to the girl’s side and seems to recognize her as a Princess. The dialogue that Wess and the girl exchange implies that they know each other, or at least have met in the past. Poor old Wess, however, isn’t as slick as I might have taken him for. He keeps slipping and sliding over his words, getting his tongue twisted up, to the point where he finally blames it on Duster. “I’m so giddy that I’ve mixed up my words!” says Wess. “I haven’t forgotten about you for but a bit! No, no… wait. Duster! You moron! Get your act together!”

Really makes you wonder if Nan was simply humoring Wess after all, back when he was hitting on her in Tazmily. Though it’s also sweet to see Wess reduced to blabbering over a cool girl. Wess should know he doesn’t have too much to prove–he just dodged a bolt of PSI magic on reflex alone! I’m really impressed.

The girl, however, doesn’t care about any of the old man’s babbling. “Whatever,” she says. “I got my leg caught in this stupid-ass trap.” She says she was considering cutting her own leg off, but she just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Wess assures her that his Thief Skills can take care of that trap easily, and, before you know it, the girl has been freed.

Of course, I don’t have to keep calling her “the girl.” We all know who this is: it’s Kumatora! With her knife brandished and one eye partly closed, Kumatora looks more like a pirate than a princess, but that’s just exactly who she is. Throughout Mother 3, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another character more determined, more formidable, more unwavering than Kumatora. It’s not hard to see why Wess likes her so much. Kumatora’s great.

You also have to give some props to Wess in this scene. It’s endearing that he’s so nervous around Kumatora, even though I could see it as being a little bit creepy to some people. But the way I see it, Wess is just an old guy who talks to Duster most of the time. He seems to know Kumatora, and she knows him, so I think he entertains an innocent old-man-crush. He wants to seem like a cool, confident thief in front of Kumatora. And, to his credit, he is able to get the trap off of her leg.

Just like last frog when Wess did the secret dance to get through the door, again we’re seeing Wess humanized a bit. He stammers over his words, puts the wrong words in the wrong places, and defaults to blaming everything on Duster, even though Duster hasn’t spoken. More and more often, Wess is becoming the butt of the jokes, and I think it does so much for his character. For me, anyway, it helps me to see Wess as a, at least partially, redeemable character.

And again, while Wess may be a bumbling old man when he’s nervous around Kumatora, I don’t think all of it is a Master Roshi style perviness. I think he legitimately cares about Kumatora and wants to make sure that she’s all right. He appears genuinely relieved when he gets the trap off of her leg, and even in battle, Wess can sometimes waste a turn worrying about Kumatora’s safety. Yes, it’d be nice if he showed the same love and attention to Duster, but at least we see that he’s capable of it. This doesn’t mean Wess isn’t a bad father, and it doesn’t mean he’s a great guy, but personally, I enjoy seeing this side of Wess. It feels real to me. It feels like Wess cares about someone other than himself.

When Kumatora is finally free from the trap, Wess introduces her to Duster, which finally prompts the player to be able to name Kumatora. I’ve always enjoyed how Kumatora walks up to Duster, stands in front of him for a second, then says his breath stinks. These two don’t know it yet, but they’re going to be traveling companions some day!

Actually, I’ve gotta say, I enjoy the Duster, Wess, Kumatora team quite a bit. We don’t get to spend much time with the three of them all together, but I think they’re a surprisingly formidable team! Duster has strong melee attacks, as well as his Thief Tools, which make him both a consistent source of offense and a reliable support character. Kumatora comes loaded with, I think, three PSI abilities, but she learns more as soon as you start fighting with her, including Lifeup, which means she can both heal and deal damage (Healin’ and Dealin’, baby!). Then there’s Wess in the background who, at least for me, throws more Thunder Bombs than I even need! Sometimes I barely get to fight because Wess decides to blow up half the castle with his explosives. And that’s not even to mention Wess’s normal melee attack, and his Secret Thief Technique, which can deal some impressive damage.

(Also, I just realized that I enjoy how we don’t get to control Wess in battle–it makes him that much more of an uncontrollable, crazy old man who’s liable to do whatever crazy thief shit he wants at any time).

Though we’re still a ways away from the point of the game where our Core Four (Duster, Boney, Lucas, and Kumatora) are all together, I’m also just now noticing how Lucas’s companions all have such unique introductions. In Boney’s case, we got to see him heroically run through the Sunshine Forest, in the middle of a storm, with “Run, my Dog, Run!” playing, which I cited as one of my favorite moments of the game. However, Duster’s introduction, in the following Wall Staple episode, is a great moment as well; I also think we could consider the Zombie Battle as the true introduction to Duster, which is itself one of the high points of Chapter 2, showing off Duster as a fighter and a thief.

Kumatora’s introduction, though, is also excellent for a lot of different reasons. She has clearly been up to some hijinx of her own, and is also exactly equal to or greater than the skills of the thieves. Though you have to wonder: Kumatora passed Duster late last night. How did she get passed Mr. Passion? How long has she been stuck in this trap? 12 hours? Hopefully she can use PK First Aid!

But really–Kumatora’s introduction may not be as heroic as Boney’s or as thrilling as Duster’s, but you have to admit that it’s still pretty badass. I love how, as soon as the thieves walk in to the room, Kumatora starts flinging some PSI attacks at them. I bet if Pigmasks had walked into the room instead of Wess and Duster, they’d have been deep-fried on the spot. Also, it’s hard not to admire someone when your first impression of them involves a potential, self-sacrificial amputation, solely for the fact that they “can’t die here.”

Kumatora also is living up to what we learned about her from Nippolyte: strong as bear! I mean, while we don’t know the exact calculation (maybe Kumatora hung out in the garbage can room for a while), we know that she’s been stuck in this trap for at least a couple hours. And even though Kumatora had been considering cutting her leg off just moments before, she then claims “Just a little spit on it and it’ll be good as new” before urging the thieves onward in the castle. I guess this group has a new leader!

Well, what else can I say about Kumatora? Her line “Stupid-ass trap” has become a fan favorite, but even if she wasn’t as salty as a sailor, I’m positive that fans would love her. Just in comparison, when I asked Twitter what they thought of Wess, the responses were mixed to negative. When I asked Twitter what they thought of Kumatora, it was an outpouring of love.

I think my favorite part of the scene is the end, when Kumatora takes the lead and reminds everyone that there’s a mission going on, here. “Hey! Geezer’s son! Escort me, will ya?! Geez!” says Kumatora, running to the head of the pack. Thus, it is official: Kumatora joins your party, and the thieves combine their talents with the lost princess.

Also, I don’t know how much of this is 100% accurate, but the description in a YouTube video (i.e., a very reliable source) says that “kuma” is “bear” in Japanese, and “tora” is tiger. So, the joke of this scene was that Kumatora was stuck in a “kuma” trap, or a beartrap, which was clasped around her leg. Though EarthBound64 fans will remember that, at one point, Kumatora was going to have her foot stuck in a trap that looked like a pair of chattering teeth.

Oh, how the times have changed!

Kumatora - WikiBound, your community-driven EarthBound/Mother wiki

Speaking of which, Kumatora’s role was likely going to be much different in EarthBound64, seeing as Flint’s role was going to be bigger. In a couple videos and screenshots, we can see Flint involved in plot elements that, in Mother 3, Kumatora is involved in. I won’t go in to the specifics now, but I’d be curious to know how different Kumatora’s role in the original game was going to be. Maybe just as big, but involved in content that ultimately got cut, leading to her larger roll in Mother 3’s story. Or who knows! Not me!

Now, I could also use this as a chance to talk about PSI, but maybe we should keep today’s frog short, what do you say? I mean, before you leave the room with Kumatora, a literal “Word on the Wind” blows by and lets you know that Kumatora is a wielder of PSI, but that’s really all it says. I think Itoi just wanted to make sure that the player knew how to properly use Kumatora in battle, but there’s not much to know. You scroll over to the PSI section, pick a move, and let it rip.

There are a few other nuances to the PSI in Mother 3, but we’ll talk about them when we get to them. No need front-load the discussion. I think Kumatora comes with PK Freeze and PK Fire, but she might have PK Thunder in there from the get-go as well. I’ll have to check next time I turn on my Gameboy Advance!

And so, the three new friends walk onward, passed the word on the wind, and into yet another Osohe Hallway. All throughout the hallway, spirits flitter in and out of vision, like flickering flames, here one second, and gone the next. At times, the spirits appear to speak, to weep, to laugh. Duster finds that kicking them doesn’t do the trick, and Wess’s thunder bombs won’t even scratch them. Kumatora steps up, focuses deep within herself, and summons the powers of ice, as the flames become extinguished, destroyed, and wait for a new form in the next realm…

At least that’s what happens in my mind! In this hallway, you’ll fight the only enemy of the day: the Lingering Spirit. And I’ll be honest: if not for one thing, if not for one, random status effect, if not for one little detail… I would have passed this enemy over as nothing special. But not anymore. I think the Lingering Spirit might be one of my favorite enemies in Chapter 2, if not Mother 3 as a whole, simply because one of a single small thing.

Now, I don’t expect everyone to share my enthusiasm with this small detail–it’s honestly not that crazy, and I can accept that even as the person who’s all jazzed up about it. But let me set the stage anyway. (And no, I’m not talking about the sick textures in the psychedelic background).

The Lingering Spirits can be encountered in the hallway beyond where Kumatora joins your party. They appear as flames, as wills-o’-the-wisp, and cannot be damaged easily by melee attacks. The Lingering Spirit’s battle song is “More Troublesome Guys,” which you may (or may not, it’s okay if you don’t) remember as one of my favorite battle tracks in the game. “More Troublesome Guys” sounds desperate, and even a little forlorn, which I think is the perfect match for an enemy called “The Lingering Spirit.” This song manages to feel both energetic and tiring–like the heat of battle continues, but there’s a desperation in the back of your mind. The willingness to fight is slowly evaporating.

The whole point of the Lingering Spirits is to make sure the player experiments with Kumatora’s PSI Abilities, and for the player to see the power of these abilities in battle. For example, kicking with Duster will deal about 8 damage, while using Kumatora’s PK Freeze will deal over 100 damage and kill the Lingering Spirit immediately. This is because the Lingering Spirits have high defense, but defense does not defend against the magic of PSI. To be honest, during one of my Lingering Spirit fights, I used only melee attacks, just because I was enjoying listening to the song and I didn’t want it to end.

Anyway, why do I love this enemy so much? Well, it’s all because of a single interaction that I had never experienced while fighting the Lingering Spirits (or, if I have experienced it, I don’t recall it). Right as I began my first battle with a Lingering Spirit, the enemy, instead of attacking, decided to bring up its past regrets in life. Now, I don’t remember the exact dialogue prompt, and I’m kicking myself for not taking a screenshot, but it was something like, “The Lingering Spirits recalls its past regrets!” Immediately after this, Kumatora began to cry!

And that’s it! I told you it was a simple thing! I just think it is absolutely hilarious that Lingering Spirits can invoke the Crying status ailment by sharing regrets from their past life. It’s one of those small details that takes what could have been a generic enemy, meant to train us in PSI usage, into an enemy that, to me, contains a legitmately funny, and even kind of sad, battle prompt. Mother 3 once again makes sure that each and every enemy has at least something unique about it. It’s also even better that the status ailment effected Kumatora and not Duster–the Princess just had her introductory cutscene where she’s all tough, all nails and spit, then, in her very first battle with my party, she immediately starts crying on the first turn of combat after a spirit shares its sad memories.

It’s like poetry!

Other than that, though, the Lingering Spirits don’t offer much of a fight. And I’m not even trying to say that the whole “past regrets” thing is like the funniest joke in the world. I think, for my play-through, the timing of it was everything. The fact that I had never seen, or at least not remembered, that ability; the fact that it happened to Kumatora on the very first turn of the very first battle; the fact that a Linger Spirit’s past regrets can be so sad that your party members start to cry. To me, moments like this are the successful moments of JRPGs: when little things in the turn-based combat create unique battle scenarios that can impact how the player thinks about the game in their own mind. I think sutff like this allow for moment-to-moment role-playing in a game with a very linear story. In a similar sense, I thought it was funny that, in the very same battle, Wess threw a Thunder Bomb on the second turn, as if to protect or impress Kumatora, and it had no effect on the Lingering Spirit. So you’ve got Kumatora crying, Wess throwing Thunder Bombs that don’t damage the enemy at all, and Duster frantically kicking at a flame in the air.

It’s like Mother 3 is a game that writes itself! And again, how cool would it be to see a Mother 3 animated feature? I can see why Itoi sometimes considered adapting Mother 3 in other forms outside of video games. It also makes me wish that the Pollyanna comic book had contained more Mother 3 art, but I get that most people are more familiar with Mother and EarthBound.

Anyway, I totally understand if someone reading this thinks, “So what? It’s a status ailment?” To which I say… you got me there! But that’s exactly the thing. In other games, a venomous snake will inflict the “Poisoned” status on your party members. In Mother 3, a sad ghost can inflict the “Crying” status on your party members! To me, that’s so much fun.

Oh well. Maybe I should just tell the frog about it. We are here, after all. What floor of Osohe is this by now? Six? Five? Ten? We’re definitely getting pretty high up. I wonder why this frog is even in here. Maybe a bunch of ghosts pranked him, and told him to wait on Floor Six for a special surprise. Or maybe the frog knew to be here, just in case, in anticipation of the princess returning some day.

How do we know that the save frogs in Osohe Castle weren’t just Kumatora’s pets at some point? To Wess and Duster, the frog may act cordial, kind. To Kumatora, the frog might hop for joy, encircling her and jumping up on to her shoulder. Maybe the save frog has been waiting years for his princess to return, not leaving this single spot, believing that one day, Kumatora would return. And maybe just after Kumatora leaves, this will frog will hop all the way back to another of its brothers to have its own memory recorded, never wanting to forget the day Kumatora came home.

One thought on “Frog #26: The Princess of Nothing

  1. Yay for Kumatora!

    Here’s something neat: Kumatora’s PP when she joins the party is 75/80, I believe. This is because the PSI attack she fires at Duster and Wess in the cutscene was PK Freeze, which costs 5 PP. Love the attention to detail.

    I do sort of wish Kumatora could use her knife in battle. If only due to how weak her gloves are for physical damage.

    That is a really great emergent narrative! I too enjoyed the surprisingly sad Lingering Spirits. Now that the stone door is open, I hope these forlorn flames can find something fun to do with the friendly ghosts in the lower floors (once the Pigmasks clear, anyway).

    Looking forward to the next frog,

    Alexander

    Like

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