Frog 39: The Ransacking of Osohe Castle

Sometimes, it seems like all humans want to do is destroy and consume. Humankind has been waging wars for thousands of years, treating the environment like its own personal credit card and racking up debt in damages that some say are now irreparable. If a human wants something, what is to stop them from taking it? Some humans will kill an animal, eat its meat, and wear its furs. What should be done with humans?

Sorry, I’m feeling moody today, mostly because the Pigmasks ransacked Osohe Castle and the human race is destroying the environment. I’m not saying these two things are perfect parallels or anything, but you can see where I’m coming from. The Pigmasks are loud, boisterous, and obnoxious, from their uniforms, to their strategies, to their own musical theme. It’s hard, sometimes, to not think of the good old United States of America while watching the Pigmasks storm an ancient castle that they have no business being near. It’s hard not to think of the latent greed in all of us when watching the Pigmasks tear Osohe apart one brick at a time.

But I’m probably being dramatic. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know that, back in Chapter 2, I made an unexpected connection with Osohe Castle. When you play Mother 3 frog by frog, every now and again you get stuck in a specific place for a significant amount of time, and in Chapter 2, that place was Osohe. As Duster’s night among the ghosts stretched into the wee hours of the morning, my month in Osohe stretched far beyond the reaches of my own sanity. I wanted to stay at the ghost party a little longer; I wanted to find a room in Osohe, settle down, and take a quick rest…

But really: Osohe had never truly felt special to me before playing the game like I’m playing it now, and I’m so happy that my perspective changed in that regard. As the Pigmasks tear the castle apart to find the Hummingbird Egg before Duster and Co., there’s a part of my heart that’s actually upset about it. This place may look abandoned, but there are plenty of ghosts here making a perfectly acceptable after-living! Take your hands off Osohe, you pigs! You’re ruining everything!

But, to be fair to the Pigmasks as individual soldiers, they don’t seem like all that bad of guys. I mean, Fassad himself is evil (obviously), and he bosses around the Pigmasks whenever he has a chance, but the soldiers themselves seem like average, even goofy, guys. My favorite instance is when Fassad walks into the main foyer of Osohe, and two Pigmask soldiers are conspicuously sitting in the middle of the floor doing nothing at all. How can they be tired already?! They’re literally in the first room of the castle!

As Fassad and Salsa make their rounds about the castle, some Pigmasks seem excited to be on the mission, others seem hopelessly enthusiastic but ultimately ineffective, and others are still rubbing their backsides from where Duster and Wess kicked the lights out of them. There’s an entertaining array of soldiers, and they’re all very fun to talk to. I especially like the Pigmask who thinks they have eradicated the ghosts with the “powers of science,” when really all the undead denizens are packed into the kitchen upstairs.

And oh, the Osohe Ghosts! ❤ My favorite NPCs around! It has been so long since I’ve seen them–not since, I think, November of last year! It breaks my heart to see their party broken up, but my sadness is lightened somewhat by their relentlessly chipper attitudes. I’m sure that as soon as the Pigmasks clear out, these ghosts will be partying again like nothing ever changed.

But where does this leave our opinion of the Pigmasks? In Chapters 1 and 2, I remarked that, in a way, the Pigmask Soldiers were creepy. They were always hidden away in caves, squealing and running away when caught. Their pink, rubbery suits blurred the lines between flesh and uniform. Their silly appearance as overworld sprites was contradicted by their bulky, imposing battle sprites, where they hold guns and other weapons and appear as admittedly threatening foes. Their blunders are sometimes accentuated, but ultimately succeeded, by their clangorous, rowdy, authoritarian theme–a totalitarian tune that invokes feelings of oppression, power, and superiority.

For as funny as the individual soldiers can be, the army is no less threatening than when the first bombs were thrown in the Sunshine Forest. And even though I’ve said their main theme is oppressive, you can’t deny the semblance of a child-like obnoxiousness to the song, as if its being conducted at the careless whims of a spoiled brat. With the Pigmasks, everything is both ridiculous and legitimately dangerous. Truly nothing in Mother 3, even the bad guys, has only one tone; this game is so dynamic in how it presents information.

So what’s going on, then? How should we feel about the Pigmasks?

Well, it’s really not so complicated. Just like in real life, the machines of war, industry, and military are the scary parts, and the Pigmask Army has those in spades. And while these foot soldiers may be funny and entertaining to talk to, they’re still soldiers; they’d kill Duster and Wess if they could, and for every humorously out-classed, unmotivated soldier, there are probably about ten trigger-happy Pigmasks who’d fry Salsa on the spot if they felt like it. Of course, there are also the commanders, people like Fassad, who order these piggy guys around. So even if the men under the masks are eating Pork Chips and saying they have “Spicy Knuckle Attacks,” the people commanding the men are ruthless, and, as we know, evil trickles down.

Personally, I enjoy how one moment the Pigmasks are my enemies, and the next moment I’m laughing at the absurdity of some of the foot soldiers. The Pigmask in the staring the contest, the soldier “putting his life on the line” to remove a statue, the poor guy who disappointingly reports that the bum and his cohort knocked him senseless… all of these guys remind me of characters on MASH, or any military comedy, really. And maybe I’m the only person who ever actually thought, in the early chapters of Mother 3 at least, that the Pigmasks were creepy and threatening, but I’m impressed at Itoi’s ability to make an army as its whole feel powerful and dangerous, while also writing the soldiers as your typical Mother NPCs: somewhat lighthearted, somewhat down on their luck, but still cracking jokes along the way (or trying to).

The Pigmask Soldiers are characters you can laugh at, or laugh with. And I’m sure there’s someone much smarter, and much more serious, than me, who could talk at length about military indoctrination, and how normal, simple people are turned into unquestioningly loyal soldiers all the time, and how this is a bad thing, and how I agree with that…

But these are just Pigmasks! I don’t doubt that Itoi wanted to comment on a hell of a lot of things in Mother 3, but with the Pigmasks, at least at this moment in Chapter 3, I think he’s just having a little fun. There are definitely a few characters later in the game who will make me explore some darker parts of the Pigmask Army, but I feel like Chapter 3 is also showing us that some people like Fassad are evil, evil, evil, and some people like the Pigmasks are really just people. Who knows how they got here?

However, the Pigmasks did do something I can’t forgive them for, which is where I’ll end today’s frog. I know! A shorter frog for once, but I’m not sure what else to say. To make sure we’re on track with the story, I’ll add that Fassad receives a phone call when you go up to the ghost party room, alerting him that Duster, Wess, and Kumatora have now gotten into the basement, which means that as we speak, they’re fighting the Oh So Snake, or at least they’re about to be…

I do enjoy how little things like this match up through Chapters 2 and 3. It’s cool to see what Fassad was up to while that other stuff was going on, and it’s interesting to see where the Tazmilians were at as well. I also like the visualization of all of the Pigmasks hunting for the Hummingbird Egg throughout the Osohe Castle. Just like when the Claymen stormed the door at the end of Chapter 2, I like having that context of how the army operates, and how they seized the castle. My only wish is that we could see the poor ghosts fight back!

Which leads me back to the unforgivable thing.

The Pigmasks ruined many treasures inside Osohe’s ancient walls. The suits of armor, the library, the party room for chatty ghosts. But above everything the Pigmasks destroyed, there was one instance of destruction and disregard that touched me in my soul, and that was: the ruined painting.

You might remember be fawning over the Artsy Ghost, back in Frog #22. The Artsy Ghost is an enemy who, in the middle of the fight, will become so impassioned about art that it actually skips a turn just to tell you how uncultured you are. The enemy’s battle sprite of a ghost coming out of a painting is all well and good, but my favorite thing about this enemy is how, in the overworld, the ghost actually sticks out of the painting, taking the 2D dimension of the painting and creating a 3D visual gag.

Anyway, the Artsy Ghost was just one of those great enemies that you come across every now and again in the Mother series, and I couldn’t help but absolutely adore it when I first encountered it as Duster in Chapter 2. As soon as I heard that the Pigmasks were ransacking the castle, though, I worried about the fate of this ghost, and it turns out my fear was not misplaced.

When revisiting the room that once housed the Artsy Ghost, you will not find a painting on the wall. Nor will you find a possessed frame floating about the room; in fact, the room will appear quite empty. Though you might notice on the floor an overturned object, difficult to make out at first. It will appear discarded, like trash, with a boot-print across its back. Then, you will realize that this is all that’s left of the Artsy Ghost.

But Frog, you’re saying, didn’t Duster beat this painting’s ass? How is he any better than the Pigmasks? And to that I say….

In Mother 3 we’re the good guys! So when Duster fights the painting, he might be kicking it around the room and pinning it with Wall Staples, but, you know, he’s not trying to kill it. And besides, the Artsy Ghost can respawn after Duster fights it, so maybe it just needs to sit a few rounds out before standing up again.

The Pigmasks, on the other hand, have destroyed the painting! And, I assume, the ghost has been destroyed with it, though maybe not. Maybe this ghost finally left the painting, a heartbreaking separation, leaving its inspiration behind to be destroyed and joining the ongoing ghost party a few rooms over. Or maybe this ghost went down with the ship–maybe ghost and painting had become so intertwined that the death of one would mean the death of the other. And maybe while this painting lies torn on the ground, the other ghosts of Osohe Castle regard it with a great sadness, knowing that a soul has finally, finally, finally departed from this place.

And so folks: that’s where I end today: with the death of a painting, and the departing of a once-impassioned soul. My only hope is that there is an after-after life, and that poor spirit is there right now, enjoying art once more.

Next time, Fassad and Salsa will chase the trail of Duster, Wess, and Kumatora into the underground caverns of Osohe Castle.

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