Frog #33: Return to Tazmily

They say that you can never go home again. I’ve always liked thinking of this quote in two different ways.

Sometimes, you can never go home again because the trees you grew up with have grown in new directions, or been cut down. The buildings you knew have been demolished, and rebuilt. The people you knew have changed–grown older, or colder, like you. The skeleton of where you came from is there, and you can feel it below your feet, but the flesh is different. Every seven years, a human body has an entirely new set of cells; maybe it is the same for places.

Of course, sometimes nothing has changed. The storefronts you knew are the storefronts you find. It’s as if the trees have paused for you, waiting to see your face before growing another inch. The neighbor’s old dog, who you were sure couldn’t have more than a few more years left to live, is somehow still sleeping in that same old doghouse, with its same old paint job. Everything is, as your high school friend says while meeting you at a bar, “Same old, same old.” This time, it’s only you who is different. You can never go home again.

There is, however, a third, lesser known interpretation of this quote. It involves being away from home for a few weeks and returning, not as yourself, but as a monkey and an evil man. In this instance, the village has not changed, but, rather, you are the one who brings the change.

That’s right, folks: today, we return to Tazmily. I guess I haven’t been gone for too long (certainly not as long as some of my deep jaunts into Osohe Castle), but it definitely feels like it has been a while, probably because of the characters I’m playing as and how different they are in comparison to the previous heroes. But the rumors are true: zombies and zom-dogs aren’t the only creatures emerging from the ground of the Sunset Cemetery; a man and a monkey join the mix of unlikely spelunkers, traveling through a grave with a sliding top.

I always knew there was something suspicious about that grave…

I know this isn’t the right grave but… pic incoming soon!

Anyway, it looks like today will be another brief frog. We’re at that tipping point of each chapter where the Tazmily frogs are going to pile up for a while, making for some shorter posts, then we’re probably going to be playing for long stretches of time when all of the frogs are used up. That said, we still have a fun interaction to discuss today, and I’m still recovering from the marathon of Frog #31.

Also, as a side-note, consistent readers of the blog will probably know that I began this project as a way to increase my productivity and write more consistently. As this blog has grown, so has my ability to write more consisently than I have in literal years, so I just wanted to thank everyone, again, for reading the blog and for supporting me. Which is also why I wanted to point out that, because of how much I’ve been writing, my spacebar on my laptop is actually busted! Usually, this would be a sad thing, as I’d have to find a fix for the issue, but I’m so happy about this! It means I’ve been sticking to my goal! It means I’ve been writing enough that my spacebar actually broke! That’s amazing! And it’s not totally broken, but I usually have to press it twice for it work. So…

Thank you, frogs!

Anyway. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Notes from the Underground

Poor Salsa. Have I said that enough, yet? I’ll say it one more time: Poor Salsa. Here he is, stuck underground, partnered with an abusive villain, surrounded by rumbling Pork Tanks. I think, as a player and as a writer, I tend to attribute a certain amount of cognitive awareness to Salsa, as if he is the talking, thinking, cartoon protagonist of a television show. I attribute Salsa with a more human intelligence, which in reality he may not have.

When I stop to think about, Salsa’s story is sadder when I remember that he’s really just a monkey. I mean, obviously he’s not just a monkey in the same way a monkey would be in our real world. Salsa can fight, date other monkeys, and perform a few different dance moves and mimic combat abilities. But Salsa is not given as many implied dialogue lines as Boney, for example. Salsa is just a poor animal put into this awful, confusing situation. It’s sad.

I guess what I’m getting at here is… imagine how confused Salsa is! How scared he is! How horribly conditioned he is becoming to the electrocution of the shock collar. His circumstances become sadder and sadder the more you think about them.

Salsa couldn’t park between the lines.

Well, at least Salsa will be among human beings who aren’t Fassad pretty soon. In fact, the only thing between Salsa and Tazmily, at this point, is a bunch of slimes guarding the exit out of this underground tunnel, which I’ve since learned is called the Candum Pass.

By the looks of these slimes, you might think Salsa’s encounter with them would play out more like a mini-boss battle, but it’s nothing too bad. Actually, a nearby sign tells you everything you need to know: don’t know running bombs indoors! Which, of course, means we’re going to throw some running bombs indoors so that we can win.

But really: this battle is nothing to worry about. I even went a few rounds without using the Running Bombs just to see what the slimes (or should I say, the Gooey Goos (look, I know that’s their real name, but it’s hard to take seriously, okay?)) were capable of, but outside of spraying digestive fluids all over Salsa (gross), they weren’t able to do anything too devastating or dangerous.

Even though this battle isn’t super memorable, I like the detail that the somewhat unfinished tunnel has a bunch of aggravated slimes ready to pounce on an unsuspecting Pigmask. Who knows how often the army has to deal with these things blocking the exit? Maybe there’s a Pigmask Janitor who’s supposed to deal with these but didn’t come by today. Maybe these piles of goo are the aggravated bodies of ectoplasm left behind by the ghosts and spirits of the Sunset Cemetery, which have seeped through the ground and landed here. Most discarded ectoplasmic piles should evaporate in accordance with the 4th law of supernatural matter, but perhaps this ectoplasm fed on the bad vibes of the Pigmasks and became something evil.

You never know!

If you ever thought a shorter post on Frog by Frog would mean I’d leave more stones unturnd or unexamined, feast your fears on the fact that I just spent two paragraphs on the Gooey Goos of Candum Pass. And you know what? I’m not even done! I also want to know what the designer at Brownie Brown was drinking on the day they designed the psychedelic background for the Gooey Goo fight, because wheesh!! It might not come through in the image, but the way that thing moves and jives is legitmately trippy. I found myself transfixed for a few seconds in front of my Gameboy Advance (which I used to legally play this game).

Well, I think that’s enough of these goos. Let’s head above ground, shall we?

Sunset on Tazmily Boulevard

Salsa has traveled what felt like 40 days and 40 nights across the desert. Then, the monkey went down, down into the underworld, where he crossed the length of the land in a hyperspeed bean. And now, the monkey finally emerges again–somewhere where the ground is gray, the sky is purple, and enemies lurk all around him..

Look familiar? It should! We’ve only seen just about all of our main characters shed tears or their own blood in this graveyard. It’s the Sunset Cemetery! Remember way back when Flint observed that one of the graves seemed like a “new type” of grave, different from the others? Well, turns out the cowboy has a keen eye: Fassad hasn’t been coming to town as a peddler in a caravan, or as a weary traveler descending from Drago Plateau in the mountains; he’s been crawling right outta the ground like the demon he is!

Though, now I’m wondering if there is a design, a purpose, to Tazmily’s construction: the ocean to the south, the forest to the west, the mountains to the north, and a sealed cave to the east. Not exactly easy to infiltrate, or to leave…

The return to the graveyard also crushes some of my zombie theories from Chapter 2. I guess the zombies don’t only show up for Duster; aren’t a Pigmask creation made of recycled pig flesh; and will attack anyone. Which is fine! If anything, it’s a more fun, lively detail of Mother 3’s world for Tazmily’s cemetery to straight up have zombies in it, I just wasn’t sure.

I also decided toavoid combat in my revisitation of the graveyard. I wasn’t feeling it. Sue me! I mean, I fought a zombie dog so I could listen to “Fate” again, but other than that, I minded my own business, paid my respects at Hinawa’s, and headed North to Osohe Castle, only to be promptly electrocuted by Fassad because I’m not allowed to go that way.

See, folks: it’s not always ants at your feet that prevent you from exploring the world according to your own whims. Sometimes, it’s the maniacal, mastermind peddler who’s so fucked up he won’t even share a banana with a monkey.

Who doesn’t share a banana with a monkey!!

But yes: Fassad’s electrocution is now also the new version of Mother 3’s “ants at your feet,” which I get, but it’s still a little lame. I think it would be fun if, at times, the obstacle was someone or something a little different. Like, I don’t know, Nippolyte shoving you away from the castle grounds, or Fassad saying he’s a little bit afraid of ghosts.

Even though not much happens in the graveyard, I think it’s cool to simply “be” in this place with new, somewhat out of place characters. I can’t tell if it’s sacriligious or honorable to be visiting Hinawa’s grave, though, considering Fassad probably had an indrect hand in the whole Mecha Drago fiasco, I’d say it borders on sacrilege.

The most important part of today’s frog, however, was running into Butch in townsquare. I’ve already talked about Butch extensively here, so I’m not going to go through everything again, but I dohave two observations to add.

To start, I’ll say again that I don’t think Butch is a bad person; I think he a simple-minded guy with an exploitable penchant for indulgence; Fassad is the problem here, at least initially–not Butch. That’s why this short interaction with the farmer is so sad. You can tell he still doesn’t really understand what money is, but Fassad eggs him on. In a way, yes, Fassad brings out the bad in people like Bob or Butch, but he also creates the bad in them. He lies to them, deceives them.

When we last saw Butch in Chapter 2, he was raving and accusatory, meaner and cagierthan we’ve seen any Tazmilian so far. This is the moment where that begins. Fassad even tells Butch specifically to make sure no thieves swipe his money. And I don’t know if Fassad meant to specifically set up Duster and Wess, or just to sew the seeds of distrust, but it obviously worked on Butch, whatever the plan was.

When looking at how Mother 3 shakes out, I do wonder at times how the characterization would have been handled in EarthBound 64, since it is speculated that these pre-timeskip events might have taken place over a longer stretch of time. As in, in Mother 3, at least, it often feels like Tazmily is both exploited and tricked. They’re simpleminded people who, in a span of days, fall to the influence of the Pigmasks and Fassad. And obviously the three year timeskip means there are plenty of things we don’t see–more Fassad speeches, more empty promises, perhaps even more threats–but as the plot of Mother 3 stands, it still sometimes feels like it all happens so quickly.

But don’t take my word for it. Peruse the EarthBound 64 gallery on Mother Forever, read some descriptions of the Mother 3 Times. When I look at the version of this that never was, it seems to me that the Pigmasks’ influence may have been more subtle, even to the point of infecting Tazmilian culture, rather than attacking Tazmilian life.

Of course, this could all just be speculation. I obviously never got to play EarthBound 64, so I have no idea what it could have been. As I play this game Frog by Frog, however, I tend to experience an interesting effect. Remember that, though Duster spends a single night in Osohe, for me, it felt like a month. As that month stretched onward, and I crawled to the next frog, I bonded with Osohe in a way I hadn’t expected; I saw the castle in a new way.

I’m having a similar experience with the passage of time in Mother 3. See, to me, it certainly feels like Tazmily is slowly changing, because I’m playing the game at such a slow pace. But when I think about it, it’s like, “Oh, only like 2 days have passed since the beginning of game. Do I believe the villagers could be tricked so easily?” As in, does Itoi rely too much on Tazmily’s ignorance as a writer? Or, does he rely on toomuch on Tazmily being seen as a utopia, albeit a somewhat emotionally stunted utopia?

You call this a utopia, Itoi?!

Of course, I’m not being too serious right now. I don’t think it’s actually worth analyzing how quickly or how slowly the Tazmilians should have fallen to Fassad; it’s a story, it’s a fantasy, and the characters can change in nature however quickly Itoi wants them to. My reason for pointing this out is mostly because I’m interested in what the structure of the game would look like if things progressed more slowly; I’m interested in a narrative where the Tazmilians are more influenced than tricked. That idea alone seems like it would fit more into Itoi’s idea of one place changing over time, doesn’t it?

But maybe I’ll have more to say on this later. Maybe it’s just my molasses frog brain talking.

Anyway, the other thing I wanted to point out about this interaction with Butch is that this is the first time we’ll see events from Chapter 2 in a new perspective. Perhaps this storytelling method could have been more pertinent in this chapter, but I still like what we get from it–little things here and there to enliven our perspective on the story. Although, if we’re running into Butch here, we should be running into Duster any second…

But not today, because there’s a frog to chat with, and this frog has seen many people in this townsquare. Not too long ago, he saw an anxious cowboy, running back into a forest that had been burned to a crisp. That same day, he had seen a little boy, with a knife clutched in his hand, walking with slow, strange confidence out of the town; he hasn’t seen this boy since. He’s listened to the gossiping women, to children playing, to an old man yelling at his slightly-limping son. If there’s any frog in Tazmily who’s truly tapped in to the goingson, it’s this little one.

How surprised he must be to meet these new travelers today! A monkey, a man! But maybe he’s seen one of them before… dipping in and out of Pusher’s house, perhaps? (Personally, I think it would be cool detail if, even at nighttime, Fassad and Salsa were allowed to visit Pusher’s house).

Personally, I like attributing a weird omniscience to the frogs of Mother 3. Not that each one individually knows all, but that they themselves makeup a little network of froggy intelligence. So this townsquare frog would have seen Flint run out of town, then the frog in the prayer sanctuary would have seen him later that day, and maybe a frog up in the mountains saw his fateful fight with the Mecha Drago… and who knows? Maybe the frogs get together sometimes at Aeolia’s house and swap stories.

Anyway, that brings us to the end of today’s frog. Honestly, the only other thing I wanted to point out is that Fassad can also introduce Salsa to Leder when they first get into town. As usual, Leder doesn’t say anything, but I thought it was interesting that Fassad explains to Salsa how Leder never talks. It’s another one of those small things where I wonder how long Fassad has been snooping around. Not that it takes long to understand that Leder isn’t exactly a man of many words, but still. How acquainted is Fassad with this place?

The adventure continues next time, folks. If you’ll miss me, then listen to me in the mean time.

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