Frog 27: From Rags to Wesses

Simplicity is a beautiful thing.

At a first glance, I thought Chapter 2 would be simple. My memories of it included Duster spelunking through the underground tunnels and ancient halls of Osohe, fighting zombies in the Sunset Graveyard to a groovy beat, and throwing the occasional Wall Staple. In reality, Chapter 2 held more than I thought: character development, subtle story progression, challenging sections of combat. And that’s all well and good. I’m glad Chapter 2 ended up being more than what I remembered.

But I’ll say again: simplicity is a beautiful thing, and today’s gameplay was simple.

You know, it’s weird to think that some of my favorite frogs have been the simplest ones. I enjoyed Frog #14, which included little more than walking around and fighting monsters as Flint. I enjoyed Frog #21, which saw me making my way through Osohe Castle for the first time. And I enjoyed today’s frog, Frog #27, because all I did was fight enemies, evade some haunted brooms, and call it a day.

But why? Do I like the short, simple frogs because I’m lazy? And they’re easier to write about? In a way, yes, probably. The shorter the frog, the less writing I have to do. It’s just literally easier to remember what happened, and so then, easier to write about.

But I also think I enjoy the shorter frogs because it gives me a chance to see Mother 3 without Mother 3 getting in the way. And what I mean by that is, Mother 3’s story and dialogue, though both great, often take a precedence over the adventure itself. I can’t tell you how nice it was to be able to simply explore Osohe as Duster, Kumatora, and Wess. And I mean, yes, “exploring” mostly meant walking down hallways and fighting enemies, but I liked that. I just got to play the game, and sometimes, even when playing frog by frog, it seems like Mother 3 always has something to tell you or show you instead of just letting you go.

I had fun playing as these three today. I had fun experimenting with Kumatora’s PSI abilities. I had fun imagining the types of things these three characters would say to each other. See, if there’s anything I think EarthBound truly does better than Mother 3, it’s the sense of adventure. When you play EarthBound, sometimes you spend long stretches of time outside of cities and towns, just out on your own with your friends. The effect, ultimately, leaves the player feeling like they’ve truly left their home, like they’re truly out on their own. I love this feeling in EarthBound, and it doesn’t happen in Mother 3 for quite some time.

Don’t get me wrong: this blog is a hobby, a passion project, a challenge, and a legitmate source of fun for me all at once–playing Mother 3 in this style, and writing about the game in this way, is something that truly brings me joy. However… sometimes, a frog like me just wants to kick back, play some Mother 3, and not worry too much about documenting everything. And that’s exactly what I got to do today. And in a way, because Mother 3 characterizes its cast so well, I feel like the characters come even more into their own when they’re not saying anything at all, and the player (me) gets to imagine them in various scenarios. No, there wasn’t really any dialogue today, but I can imagine what Wess would say, and how Duster would act, and how Kumatora would tell everyone to shut up and watch her cast an amazingly badass spell, or something.

So, where am I going with all of this? This feels like one of my longer introductions, kind of for no reason. Let’s kick it over to a Heading so I can keep talking with the semblance of organization!

Boot-Kicks and Broomsticks and Girls in Blue Dresses…

…Ghost Capes and Rope Snakes and Ghost Party Messes; Lingering Spirits expounding their woes, this is how a night in Osohe goes!

Excuse me for that little song. The fun doesn’t have to stop when the Gameboy turns off, folks! I’m still having fun even now!

Well, singing aside, there aren’t many ways to describe today’s gameplay outside of, “I walked down a hallway, leaped over a hole in the floor with the Rope Snake, and fought some Lingering Spirits.” Though sometimes I wonder: could there have been a better way to incorporate the Rope Snake? All he ever does is help you get over a hole in the floor… but isn’t it a little arbitrary? Whether the hole is there or not doesn’t really matter, because the Rope Snake is already in your inventory. There’s no other way around, and no other option. I do like the fact that Osohe is either so dilapidated, or so booby trapped, that there are huge sections of floor missing, but sometimes I wonder if the Rope Snake could at least include a little timing mini game or something.

I’ll also add that I did enjoy fighting the Lingering Spirits once again. Last time, I mentioned how I loved their ability to “expound on past sorrows in life,” making one of your party members cry, but I also enjoyed the fact that they have access to some low level PSI. At one point, a Lingering Spirit caused Duster to catch on fire by casting PK Fire a on him. I liked to imagine Wess yelling at Duster, telling him he’s a moron, all while Duster tries to pat out the flames. Meanwhile, Kumatora is still fighting the Lingering Spirits all by herself and saying something like, “Geezer! Geezer’s son! Stop the bickerin’ and help me out, why don’cha?!”

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I could see these three being like a little Scooby Doo group of adventurers. All they need is Boney. All any of us ever needs is Boney!

Though the Lingering Spirits aren’t the only enemies you’ll find up in the upper levels of Osohe. (How high are we now? Floor 7?) You’ll also see the triumphant return of the Barrel Men, which you actually might be able to simply Dash through instead of fight, and you’ll also meet the Osohe Cape, a strange but unique enemy that appears to be a possessed cape that floats around Osohe.

I like this enemy for a few reasons, but none have to do with its own abilities. To start, I like the Cape’s battle theme, “Accelerando,” which you might remember from fighting Mobile Graves in the graveyard earlier. I think I like this song so much because it feels like a perfect match for an ancient, spooky enemy. I, at least, like to imagine that the Osohe Capes are the ghosts of once great royalty, perhaps Kumatora’s ancestors, floating around the upper levels of the castle.

The Osohe Capes also have amazing battle backgrounds.

I know I shouldn’t put too much stake in a psychedelic background, but what can I say? 27 frogs in, and I’m still a sucker for these things.

Other than that, though, I can’t think of too much else to report, other than the Broom Room, but we’ll get to that in a second. Like I said above, I enjoy Duster, Wess and Kumatora as a party configuration, so it was nice to spend time with them today. It was nice to kick back and fight some enemies. It was even nice to get swept away by a broom in the Broom Room and have to do it all again. In the same exact way I said that the Drago Plateau could have been more of a larger “dungeon” and I would have been happy, I feel the same way about Osohe Castle. They could have put 15 floors on this puppy and I’d have had a blast climbing them all.

You know, if I’m having this feeling so often, maybe Mother 3 is missing a little bit, just an extra little bit, of gameplay and action. In EarthBound, I often feel like my party members, my supplies, and my own wits get stretched to their limits at least somewhat often, especially in the early- and late-game. In Mother 3, I always want a little bit more. I would have loved even just two extra floors of enemies to fight, to see (or image, I suppose) Duster, Kumatora, and Wess in action together.

Speaking of the adventures of our trio, most players, at some point in Osohe, will see Kumatora learn some new PSI abilities. This is good, because she doesn’t start off knowing PK Thunder, which is an incredibly useful attack to have for the upcoming boss fight. However, if you’re playing Mother 3 for the first time, you might be surprised when Kumatora appears to fall ill before learning abilities. Even the good old Word on the Wind returns to say, “It appears that one of your friends is not feeling very well.” In this new state, Kumatora will appear sickly while walking around with your group, and you won’t be able to “Run” anywhere.

In the lengthy Nintendo Dream interview, the interviewer prompts Itoi with, “The way you learn PSI is portrayed a little differently this time,” to which Itoi says, “It’s like, ummm…. it’s like menstruation.”

When the interviewer responds with “???,” Itoi elaborates:

One of my themes is representing the physiology of the human body. It’s a lot like the Asthma Spray [from Mother]. A character will start sweating while realizing PSI, almost like with a teething fever. Whenever a human being develops or learns a new ability, the body really takes a beating. I’ve had this experience myself–whenever I’m feeling sluggish and exhausted, it’s absolutely certain that good things will follow. When you’re given an overwhelming problem you just can’t deal with, the only way to cope with it is to completely mobilize your heart and your mind and make a strenuous effort to get through it.

So, while I could understand if some players think it strange for Itoi to liken learning new PSI to menstruation, I actually love his description here. In the prior Mother games, characters like Ninten, Ness, Ana, and Paula seemed to just… be able to learn PSI. The only character we ever saw actually train his abilities was Poo, but even his training for the strongest ability he learns, PK Starstorm, happens off-screen. For me, I just like the idea that a new PSI ability requires the physical body to go through some kind of crucible. The body and mind are connected in millions of strange ways, and I like how Mother 3 explores that.

I have heard some players over the years criticize this aspect of Mother 3 quite a bit, citing it as one of the main reasons they dislike the game. In these instances, players have said that they simply hate the Dash ability being removed for a short amount of time, to which I say, “…..!!!” I mean, is the Dash ability really so fundamental to Mother 3 that you can’t go without it for like, two minutes? Personally, I don’t even dash very often. Most of the time in Mother 3, I find myself walking around and taking everything in, and not even just because I write the blog. Usually, I’m walking.

Even though I think it’s big talk from Itoi to say that one of his themes is representing the physiology of the human body (I thought games couldn’t have themes?), I love where he’s coming from with this idea. PSI is a strange, incredible power, and even though we don’t learn anything new about it because of the physical ramifications… we also kind of do. I mean, I like the implication that the human body has to go through something to learn an intangible power.

So no: we don’t learn where PSI comes from, or how it actually works, or even why the ability effects Kumatora (and later, Lucas) like this, but the physical illness does give us something to think about, to chew on, to expand our view of PSI and of Mother 3’s world, and, for that, I appreciate it. I also really like Itoi’s statement “When you’re given an overwhelming problem you just can’t deal with, the only way to cope with it is to completely mobilize your heart and your mind and make a strenuous effort to get through it.” No, not everything in life can be surpassed in this way, but I think this is an awesome message and something that I try to remember as often as I can. I love that this idea is represented through PSI–it makes it all the more magical, at least to me. It’s so cool that, on the other side of lethargy, teething fever, and uncomfortable sweating, would be such a powerful, versatile ability, that only two characters in your party are allowed to wield.

And while much of this fascination probably has to do with the language barrier, in that the amount of translated materials will always be limited, I think Itoi as a person will just always interest me. I want to know what sorts of things he has gone through that made him tougher on the other side. I want to know what he imagines it feels like for a character to learn PSI. I know this probably sounds silly, but it’s true. I really love his interpretation of this physiological state, and I want to know even more about why he thinks of it this way.

So to all the players out there who dislike this feature of PSI because it requires them to walk, to that I say: oh well! So you have to walk sometimes! Slow down and smell the Tazmily Gerberas!

I know I’d like to revisit this idea of PSI illness again, but for now I’m going to sweep it aside to talk about: The Broom Room. After battling through a couple hallways of spirits and capes, the gang finds themselves in a new stairwell, with a sign on the top stair: “Danger! Brooms ahead!” You might think to yourself, “Is this going to be the boss of Osohe? A Giant Broom? Or a bunch of ghosts, riding on brooms? Or is Kumatora going to show us her truly witchy powers and ride a broom around like nobody’s business?” What’s on the other side of this door?

Exactly what the sign says: brooms!

The Broom Room contains three brooms, each sweeping in different rotations, with a giftbox to open in the middle of things. Your objective is simple: walk across the room, and don’t get swept up. This is easier said than done, of course, because the brooms are quicker than they look, and every time you think you’re going to get by just fine, the tail end of a broom nicks one of your party members, and you’re swept away in the blink of an eye! Down, down, down to the garbage can from the room with the balcony. So that’s what it was for after all!

I don’t know if anyone else has trouble with the Broom Room, but I always find myself getting swept away at least once, no matter how confident I am that I’m going to make it through without getting touched. I think the Broom Room is a fun, silly, and effective idea all the same, even if it is a little frustrating sometimes. I’m not sure if the Brooms themselves are possessed, if ghosts we can’t see are sweeping them, or if they are another defense mechanism against intruders, but I don’t care to know. I don’t need to know!

Interestingly, Duster and Wess have names related to cleaning supplies. If you thought Duster, with his cowboy-esque shirt, was to supposed to be a reference to a duster coat, then you are mistaken! Duster is named after dusters, “like those feathery things you use to clean dust off surfaces.” Wess’s name, however, isn’t as straight-forward. I’ll let Tomato himself explain it:

Anyway, Wess’ name is a Japanese reference to a rag or cloth for used for wiping things clean. In a really weird, roundabout way it originates from the English word “waste”, but when it was adopted into the Japanese language its pronunciation and meaning got all twisted up into something that sounds like “Wess”.

Basically, his name is meant to be thematically linked with Duster’s as a cleaning tool.

In all honesty, I really should’ve changed his name to some other cleaning item to make the thematic connection clear. Off the top of my head. things like “Rags” and “Mopp” come to mind. But I bet given some time I could’ve come up with something better than those.

From Mother 3 Translation Comparison

So there you have it: maybe it makes more sense than we could’ve ever imagined that Duster and Wess find themselves facing off against brooms. In any event, I like the Broom Room because it gives Osohe Castle one more thing to make it unique. I know earlier in this post I was lamenting there not being more floors to explore, more enemies to fight, more dungeon to crawl… and even though I’d still like those things, I feel like Itoi is always a step ahead of me, saying, “Well, how about this instead?” And do I expect to run through a room of autonomous brooms? Absolutely not!

After the gang bypasses the self-sweeping brooms, the swish, swish fades away and is replaced with ribbit, ribbit. Another save frog, another friend, hops up and down another stairwell. I thought the previous frog was significantly displacing himself by hanging out in a stairwell all this time, but turns out there’s another frog even higher up in Osohe’s rafters. Could this be the final frog of Chapter 2? Personally, I don’t remember, but I’ve got a feeling…

If this is the final frog, then let me say penultimately: I’ll miss you, Chapter 2. Days like today are part of what made you special. No dialogue, no cutscenes, just straightforward, strange gameplay. Osohe Capes, and surveillant brooms–I’ll miss the feeling of not knowing what’s around the corner, even though it is a pain in the ass to fall all the way back to the garbage can after getting swept up. I’ll miss Mr. Passion, and the little mouse by the couch who warmed Duster’s heart. What a ride this has been!

From what I’ve heard, Wess immediately criticized Duster after the trio settled down for a rest in the stairwell. The old man paced up and down the stairs, saying moron this, moron that, as Duster half-listened and looked up: at a small ray of filmy light, coming through the dark Osohe bricks. And while Wess waxed on and perhaps even off, Kumatora took the little frog into her lap, then into her hands, and whispered her memories from the day. She made sure the frog knew Duster wasn’t a moron, and that Wess wasn’t as bad as he appeared, and that she herself was even cooler than she looked. She set the record straight with the frog, and recorded her memories, and the frog, who had grown accustom to this haunted place, could have been fooled by the princess. When she spoke, it was as if they weren’t in such a dour place as this, but far, far away, on a beach somewhere, or a field of sunflowers and light. Not because she spoke some kind of spell, or willfully ignored the environment around her, but because she had a sense of someone who had been through something painful, something stressful, and now, briefly at least, held everything in a sense of heightened gratitude. And when she became really excited, little bolts of electricity, little wisps of flame, and little snowflakes would shoot from her fingertips, as if by total accident, her unwieldy powers surging in her retellings.

And once, the little lightning bolt zapped the frog, and he leaped high up into the air, and each member of the trio circled around him when he landed, petting him and holding him to make sure he was okay. Even the old man procured from his pocket a piece of hard candy, which kept the frog occupied for quite some time. And when the trio packed up their things and headed even deeper into the castle, the frog, who had seen ghosts and capes and spirits and zombies and carpet monsters and barrel men and even the beast far, far below the depths of the castle, said to himself:

“What a weird group of people I’ve found!”

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