Frog 41: Freedom! (Chapter 3 Finale)

I began writing this post as part of a self-imposed “Ten Days of Frogs” challenge, where I would post a new frog everyday for ten days. I ultimately had to abandon this idea due to hand pain, but, in a way, that makes me proud of myself. I began this blog as a way to write more and to push myself; it seems right that, at some point, I had to take a break because I was writing too much. Not that I’m advocating for pushing yourself past the limits of your health, but it’s good to see what you’re made of every now and again. I’m just happy to have given it my best shot.

Anyway, enough about my writing habits. Let’s get right into it then, shall we? It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to talk about setting in Mother 3. I mean, sure, I’m always writing about the setting of Tazmily, and how it grows and changes, and how the citizens themselves develop; but it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to write about a new setting, or a new area. In fact, I haven’t seen something new since the desert, and we didn’t even get to spend much time there.

But today: Salsa and Fassad went down, down, down, into the deepest depths of Osohe Castle…

I’ll come right out with it: I really enjoy this short romp in the Osohe basement’s basement. Similarly to Drago Plateau, it’s an area that I wish we got to spend a little more time in. I love the catacomb feeling of this place, how Cheery Skeletons hop around and throw bones at you, how the odd counterparts to Big Bros, Lil Bros, lumber about and actually pose a decent challenge in battle. I love the winding stairways, the suggestively deeper, unrevealed depths, and the over all design of the place. I wish the plot allowed us to traverse even more stairways, walking deeper and deeper into some forgotten secret far underneath the old castle.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to go that far, and to be honest, after this short trip through the basement, Chapter 3 is over before you know it, as Kumatora rescues Salsa, and the Pigmask Army chases you into the forest. Call me an Osohe sympathizer, but I feel like this underground area is so under utilized. It’s so perfect to me that Osohe, a place that is already wrapped in secrets, which are themselves wrapped in more secrets, would have such a dank, dark underbelly. I know we’ve already fought a snake down here in Chapter 2, but why not one more boss for Salsa and Fassad? Something old and evil that has crawled up from the caverns…

I do enjoy the enemies that we fight in here, even if they aren’t bosses. Both the Cheery Skeletons and the Lil Bros have some of the best psychedelic backgrounds in the business, and like I mentioned above, the Lil Bros are pretty strong in a fight. I wouldn’t want to battle two a time, seeing as a single Lil Bro can sometimes deal up to 30 points of damage. You’d better hope Fassad is feeling some fight in his bones today, or else Salsa is going to take down these heavy fellas all by himself.

And what the hell are the Lil Bros, and the Big Bros for that matter, supposed to be? Not that I want an answer–I’m just thinking out loud. Because see, if just the skeletons had been down here, or, say, the skeletons and some bats, or zombies, or zombie dogs, we might feel like we’re supposed to feel scared. But with the Lil Big Bros, I’m creeped out because I have no idea what they’re supposed to be. The Lil Bros are so bizarre, so odd, so out of place, that this entire environment has that much more character. Honestly, the more I play and write about Mother 3, I think the enemy designs, and how the enemies relate to the areas in which they are found, are becoming one of my favorite parts of not just this game, but the entire series.

Because, like I said, what is this area without the Lil Big Bro? A “spooky” place, where we should probably expect things like skeletons and zombies. But what is this area with a Lil Big Bro? A mysterious place, where I wonder what the hell these creatures are, where they have come from, and what would keep them down here. Something as simple as enemy design and placement can do so much for worldbuilding in a video game. The way I like to interpret the Big and Lil Bros is something like this: in a normal cave, we’d associate them with a troll or a gnome; but underneath Osohe, they’ve spent decades absorbing some strange, old magic, perhaps the magic from the Needle up above, morphing them into weird, strong trolls, that scratch themselves and bumble around.

But I don’t know. I’m sure if we asked Itoi, he’d say that someone on the team designed them, and he had nothing to do with it. I know this always goes without saying, but I’m never trying to say that my interpretations of Mother 3 are perfect. The important thing, I think, is that a game simply stimulates a player’s imagination. If an RPG can make you wonder about its world, make you wish the world was bigger or that we know the world better, or make you imagine how it became the way it is…

Then in my opinion, the RPG has succeeded.

Which brings me full circle once again, to wishing there was more to do down here. This place is so much fun to look at and explore. There’s even a mysterious locked door, which is perfect! It makes me want to explore more! It makes me want to encounter just one boss! Come on, Mother 3! Give me a boss to fight! Let Fassad and Salsa take on the battered Oh So Snake!

Maybe I’m disappointed because this whole area boils down to Salsa literally pulling a switch that only exists to advance the plot. I mean, sure, technically Duster and Company were flushed out of Osohe Castle, but I was always okay with seeing that as something that just happened when the fight had ended. I didn’t exactly need someone to have pulled a switch to make it happen.

So Salsa pulled a switch, and it flushed the heroes out the castle. Is that really all we want to do in an environment like this? I mean, it’s not Fassad or anyone planned for this scenario; we were originally chasing Duster and Co. up to the top floor of Osohe, and it’s only by coincidence that they ended up here at the bottom level. It would have been just as fun for Fassad and Salsa to navigate a larger area and see everyone pass by below, through the underground river. I guess I’m just not sure what the reason is for having this switch down here, and why Fassad would even know what it does.

It is pretty fun to see Duster, Wess, Kumatora, and the Hummingbird Egg all float by underneath the stone structure upon which Salsa and Fassad are standing (I wish I had gotten a better screen cap of it–dang it!), but that doesn’t make me feel any better about how this area was ultimately used. Even this stone walkway looks awesome! Any time an RPG shows me an underground cave with some water flowing through it, my mind goes to krakens, squids, Lovecraftian horrors, or at least a creepy old fish, or a water dragon, or something. I’m fishin’ for a fight, brother!

Okay, okay, I’m done lamenting the lack of a boss, now. I just really lose myself when I see an interesting area in an RPG. Although, I was a little miffed at how quickly the plot moves along after this. Salsa and Fassad run down to the basement, flush out the heroes, then run back to the surface where Butch is already having his public meltdown. Did anyone else have the impression that Kumatora and Wess were out for a while, after washing onto the shore? I mean, Wess wakes up in bed after the fact, with Lighter, Fuel, and Kumatora looking over him. I guess I was under the impression that more time had passed….

(Maybe even enough time to fight a boss while the heroes recover!)

Oh well. I can at least take solace in the fact that Osohe has a secret switch in its basement that, for whatever reason, turns the entire underground river into a huge toilet. That’s just as good as fighting a boss. And it’s kind of funny to me that Fassad makes Salsa flip the switch instead of doing it himself.

So let’s continue! Mother 3 really wants this plot to keep happening (even if the timeline does potentially get muddled), so let’s not dawdle. Fassad and Salsa have some criminals to catch!

Monkey Free Monkey Do

You know, when I play Mother 3 like this, you’ll often hear me say that my sense of time gets distorted. Sometimes, this improves the gameplay experience, like with Duster’s trek through Osohe Castle. Like I’ve said before, I felt like I was in Osohe Castle for weeks, and it gave me an all-new appreciation for the setting. Similarly, at the beginning of the game, the night of the Sunshine Forest Fire endured for, I think, around nine or ten frogs? On my end of things, as the player, I felt the fatigue of the characters more vividly. As I came back to Mother 3 day after day, week after week, those poor, tired Tazmilians were still searching for Hinawa and the boys, and I began to feel their desperation and confusion a bit more intimately.

That’s the fun part of playing Frog by Frog–the way it opens up the world for you. I’m sure some tension and immediacy is lost, as everything becomes a slow burn, but, for the most part, I really do think I’ve gained an all-around appreciation for Mother 3, which goes back all the way to my aims in the very first frog. As you can expect, then, it was so satisfying to see Salsa freed from Fassad’s grasps. In game-time, Salsa has been captured for a couple days, but in frog time, Salsa has been in Fassad’s clutches for three months.

When Fassad and Salsa were in the underground of Osohe, I wasn’t even sure why Fassad was still instructing Salsa to listen, saying, “Monkey do as monkey told! Or monkey zap!” I was like, “Doesn’t he know by now that Salsa will listen? Doesn’t Salsa understand what’s going on?” But then I remembered that, for this unlikely, unwanted team-up between man and monkey, the relationship is still fresh. They’ve only been at this for like 48 hours, with Salsa getting electrocuted at nearly every step of the way.

And what a terrible 48 hours it has been. Salsa fits right in with Mother 3’s most broken characters: Flint, Lucas, and Alec (so far). I think that’s why I loved that scene between Salsa and Alec so much, a few frogs ago; neither one truly understood the other, but I like to believe they were brought together because of the deep pain they each individually felt in their hearts. That might sound goofy, but as we see at the end of Chapter 3, Tazmily still maintains some forces of good, and they do all they can to stick together.

Oh yeah–the end of Chapter 3! We’re nearly there! I was surprised at how quickly things wrapped up after Salsa flushed Duster and co. out of Osohe’s underground. Personally, I feel like Itoi did fudge the timeline a bit so that the confrontation with Butch would happen as soon as Fassad and Salsa returned to town, but there’s still an interesting moment I’d love to talk about, while we have time.

While Fassad and Salsa are leaving the castle grounds (remember to talk to the Pigmasks before you leave–there are some amazing lines), they get held up by two higher-ranking Pigmasks; both are trying to get through the castle grounds at the same time with tanks, and there simply isn’t enough room for everyone. Fasssad tells the Pigmasks to get out of his way, but they only continue to argue, until Fassad finally lets loose.

Now, what happens next might have just been added for effect, for cartoonish emphasis, or for any emphatic reason–I’m not 100% sure we’re supposed to think Fassad actually did this… but, if it was intentional, then I love the detail. When Fassad yells at the Pigmasks, on a few separate occasions, a sound of lightning, or thunder, crashes down, while the screen lights up with a purple, pinkish hue. (I wish I had been recording my gameplay so I could have captured it). For a moment, Fassad feels more threatening, and more powerful, than ever. I imagine his voice bellowing out his commands, a great and terrible voice, accentuated by a clap of thunder, and a far-off bolt of lightning that pierces the clouds with purple-red fire…

But why is this so cool? Well, if it was intentional, then we’re actually told quite a bit about Fassad through these surges of energy (and again, for the skeptics, I also think it’s possible that this was just added for effect, to show how mad Fassad was). For one, we’re shown that Fassad is much more powerful, much more terrible, much more wrathful than we’ve seen thus far. He has been electrocuting Salsa with a shock collar, but the shock collar seems a mercy compared to the true powers Fassad can call down around himself. Once again, Fassad has been a facade, except this time in his own favor: he has been concealing his true strength. He could probably snap his fingers and kill Salsa, honestly. (and SPOILERS: we end up fighting Fassad in combat more than a couple times throughout the game, and he is definitely tuff stuff…). Maybe Fassad had originally planned to simply shock Salsa with his own powers, but he learned that his strength with magic would be too strong, and he’d kill the animal before being able to make it his servant.

I also like this lightning/thunder detail as a foreshadowing of the Thunder Tower from Chapter 5–the Pigmask invention that shoots lightning all across the land and punishes certain Tazmilians, while controlling the others with fear. Soon, folks like Lucas, Alec, and Reggie are going to be literally ripped from their homes as strangely targeted lightning falls from the sky. Fassad’s wrath is just so deliciously evil that it does more than just foreshadow Thunder Tower–we’re seeing the facade break down; we’re seeing the true reveal of a villain, one that we are going to come to hate, but also come to ponder, more than most others in the game.

But if I’m going to sit here and praise Fassad’s character development, then I need to issue a bit of an apology to the Tazmilians. All chapter, I’ve been writing about how insensitive they are, and how spineless they can be, and how easily hoodwinked they have been. And in some cases, I still hold true to those critiques: if the Tazmilians had been more supportive of one another, and more skeptical of a man selling “happiness,” instead of simply pretending that things were okay, I think things could have gone much differently for them. However, I also have to acknowledge the fact that, when everything is really on the line, the Tazmilians are tricked more than anything else. And I’m sorry, Tazmilians. I’ve painted you thus far, almost, as ignorant villains, when really you’ve been well-meaning victims (mostly).

See, I still think it’s weird that Tazmilians don’t really know what happiness is. And I understand that the Tazmilians probably are, and were, happy, and it might have even been a genuine happiness in the sense that it wasn’t sought, or supplemented, or supposed: the Tazmilians lived a simple life, and they were happy, they just didn’t call it happiness. They didn’t worry about the label. It’s like Reggie says, “When happiness is sought, it goes away.” Though even when saying this, I’m not convinced that Tazmily was the utopia that some might think it is. By which I mean, I still think some villagers were and are in major denial about reality. Though we’ll learn more about this as the game goes on.

But that’s where my apology comes in: I’m sorry, Tazmily. No, you weren’t perfect, but, if left to your own devices, I think things would have gotten better again. I’m sorry because it is ultimately the trickery of Fassad, and the fear-mongering of Fassad, that ruins the town. Nowhere is this more evident than when we see the full scene of Butch’s breakdown.

Picking up where Chapter 2 left off, we see Butch arguing primarily with Flint, Kumatora, and Wess, accusing the old thief of covering for Duster after stealing the farmer’s money. Then, as if on queue, Fassad appears to ham it up and play the innocent card. He says he is shocked that someone would steal Butch’s money, and that perhaps Tazmily truly is becoming cursed. The only way for the Tazmilians to avoid sure destruction, then, is for everyone to strive for happiness.

And this is where it all comes together. Fassad, by first commodifying happiness, now turns it into a solution for the darkness to come–a darkness which he himself orchestrates and prophesies. Pretty convenient that he sells Happy Boxes, right? It’s saddening to know that most of the Tazmilians, not all, but most, will fall for this trick, chasing both happiness and money as a solution to the evils at work. It’s also saddening to know that, without Fassad, there’d be no evil to fear, and no “happiness” to strive for. And like I said–the Tazmilians definitely weren’t perfect in the first place, especially when it comes to emotional communication… but it’s just unfortunate to see it all changing so fast, to see the wool going over everyone’s eyes.

This scene, of course, also has implications that go all the way back to the beginning of Chapter 1. Make no mistake that nights like the Sunshine Forest Fire were also efforts to fear-monger. Yes, some Tazmilians may have had a placid response to Hinawa’s death and Claus’s disappearance (Wess himself says later in the chapter that he still believes Claus will return home), but I think that night still shook everybody up. And when Fassad gets his fear-mongering off the ground in earnest, with the construction of the Thunder Tower, what is a consequence of an electrical storm?

Another Forest Fire, another death, another long night and another funeral. Fassad hangs this fear over the Tazmilians’ heads.

Oh, Fassad. He’s truly a villain’s villain, and he only gets more interesting from here. Thankfully, there’s one thing he overlooked, and it’s that Kumatora has PSI powers, meaning that she can communicate with animals… or at least that’s what I assume is implied, seeing as both Lucas and Kumatora have this ability. While Fassad is waxing on and on about the curse of tazmily village, and how happiness will save us, Salsa and Kumatora share a glance, and an energy seems to pass between them. This small moment may seem inconsequential, but it’s what leads to the monkey’s freedom later on.

Before I move on from this scene, I just thought I’d add that it’s fun to see so many of Mother 3’s major players all gathered in one scene. Fassad, Salsa, Wess, Kumatora, Flint, and Boney… I don’t think we see these characters gathered again like this for quite some time, if ever (at least until way later in the game). It reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, before the fellowship breaks and parts ways, or the early arcs of Dragon Ball, where all of the characters actually fight alongside each other instead of deferring to Goku and Vegeta. And I know this is a weird allusion to make, as really none of these three stories are similar at all, nor is Fassad a good guy, so the metaphor grows increasingly thin…

But I think I’ll be nostalgic for these early parts of Mother 3, some day! When we catch up with Tazmily again in three years, so much will have changed. The people, the place itself–none of it is like the village we see here today. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself!

Anyway, Fassad and Salsa peace out from town square, then Fassad proposes that it’s time for bed. Does anyone else feel like this part of Chapter 3 is racing toward the finish all of the sudden? I know I’ve said this a few times, and I already pointed out some (possible) timeline truncation to get Fassad, Salsa, Kumatora, and Wess all in town square at the same time, but now Fassad just wants to go to bed in like, the middle of the afternoon?

I know this is a nitpick, but I feel like Chapter 3 has just decided to wrap up quickly for no apparent reason. I would have loved the chance to take one more romp around Tazmily to talk to the villagers after Butch’s public meltdown. Surely people would have opinions about it, especially the villagers who were literally there to witness it. I’d be especially interested to hear Paul and Linda’s take, as Paul has pretty happy-resistant so far, saying that the only happiness he needs is Linda, while Linda has been critical of Fassad but still somewhat curious about this whole happiness thing.

I guess I’m left feeling a little bit like, “What was the point of this?” Yes, we saw some major characterization of Fassad, as well as the introduction of “happiness” to Tazmily… but now Mother 3 seems to be saying, “Okay, we caught up with the end of Chapter 2, let’s wrap things up! Straight to bed! Because the plot needs to keep moving! Better catch those zzz’s, Salsa, because tomorrow is going to be exactly like today! Speeches to give, dances to dance, villains to serve… This is the first day of the rest of your life, little monkey. Sorry.”

It feels a little bit jarring because of how different so many of these people will be next time we see them. Because I’ve played Mother 3 before, I’m left asking myself, “This is how we leave things before Chapter 4?” A half-hearted dungeon underneath Osohe, a rushed dialogue scene in the town square, and a mid-afternoon nap to wrap everything up? I don’t think it would bother me as much if Chapter 3 didn’t paint so many things from Chapter 2 as if we’re seeing them for the first time. From here to the end of Chapter 3, not much is actually added to the ongoing plot of Mother 3; we’ve just been taken up to the end of Chapter 2, and now there’s a fight in the Sunshine Forest and the chapter ends.

But maybe I’m asking for too much. We’ll just have to see how everyone and everything is when we pick things up again after the three-year time skip. Perhaps this a downside of playing Frog by Frog–I’m thinking too much!

Long after both monkey and man have konked out for the night, a tap comes at the window… and it’s none other than Wess and Kumatora, here to rescue Salsa! See what I mean, though, by the plot moving so quickly? Fassad goes to sleep in the middle of the day because now that the story is right where it needs to be, it’s time to break up Fassad and Salsa! Just as easy as that! I’m reminded of the end of The Revenge of the Sith, where Anakin is in the Darth Vader suit, Obi-Wan is on Tattooine, Yoda is on the swamp planet, and everyone is exactly where they need to be for the next 20 years. It feels to neat and clean! Even the Death Star is being built! Badda bing, badda boom, get to your places everyone! And don’t move until the next movie!

Okay, I’m done complaining about this particular issue–and the rescue of Salsa is actually done pretty well. Wess and Kumatora peek their heads in through the window and beckon Salsa to join them, then Wess goes back inside to swipe the Shock Device from Fassad. I’ve always enjoyed this short sequence with Wess. I like how his thievery occurs off-screen, showing us that he’s such a confident and accomplished thief that we can assume he’s succeeding. I also like how he accidentally presses the shock button on his way back, shocking Salsa one last time. I mean, I don’t like that it happens, but it’s a fun way to subvert our expectation and make us worry that Fassad got the better of Wess, or something.

And even though I’ve been bemoaning the speed of the plot, I do love where the story goes after this, however brief it might be. I like that Kumatora, Wess, and Salsa become a little team, and I especially think they are fun to use in combat for the, say, three or so battles we get to use them for.

Also, I wanted to add here, that I enjoy how Wess seems to have softened up a bit since Duster’s disappearance. He’s now reluctant to call Duster a moron, and he even corrects himself when he does. I’m not saying this suddenly makes him a good person or anything, but I like the subtle character development. Now that Duster is gone, Wess realizes, or is at least starting to realize, that he cared about his son. “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone,” or so they say, so hopefully the old curmudgeon is having some serious regrets about the way he used to treat Duster. If Wess is losing sleep over Duster’s disappearance and how he used to treat his son… good! I hope he loses a bunch of sleep and becomes a better person!

In fact, with Wess softening up, and Kumatora assuming a leadership role, and Salsa destroying the Shock Collar’s switch… for a moment, you think everything is going to be okay. For a moment, you actually think Salsa is going to escape. For a moment, you think the good guys have won, and these three unlikely friends are going to run off into the sunset, looking for Duster and saving the day. I don’t know about you, but I’d definitely play a Chapter 4 starring these three as they hunt for Duster in the wilderness of the Nowhere Islands.

Unfortunately, Fassad has other plans, and just as our heroes think they’ve won, the indefatigable bastard shows up in town square for one last laugh. Or should I say, one last “Nwehehehe!”

Fassad says some villainous things and gives a typical bad guy speech, but the thing that sticks out to me is when he says, “To think I would to get to meet you here, of all places, Princess Kumatora…” Pretty weird, huh? What could he be talking about? I like this line because it’s one of our first suggestions that many larger plot things are happening in the background that we don’t even know about. How would Fassad know who Kumatora is? And why would he anticipate meeting her? Hmmm…

To make a long story short: monkey, man, and princess run away, and the Pigmasks give chase! But where could our heroes be headed?

You know, it makes me sad that you’d even have to ask.

Into the Sunshine Forest!! Once More! For Old Time’s Sake!

It’s been a while since we’ve had to run to the Sunshine Forest. In fact, I’ve gotta say, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic for Chapter 1 and our many returns to this place. We’ve seen it in flames, we’ve seen it in storms, and now we see it all laid bare. Most of the trees are burned down, and the scarring of the Earth looks like the claw marks of a great Drago. Call me dramatic, but I think it’s sad to see the state of the forest, to see it stripped and scarred like this.

Are you there, Itoi? It’s me, Shane. I just wanted to say that your goal of having one place change over time… well, it’s working! For as much as I’ve complained that Chapters 1 through 3 of Mother 3 sometimes feel rushed, I can’t deny that I feel like I’ve grown with this forest. In the same way a reader grows with the setting of a novel, and comes to feel that it is a version of home… I feel that way about the world of Mother 3. I’ve always believed that great stories live and die by the strength of their settings, and the Sunshine Forest emphatic to Mother 3’s narrative–like a window into the workings of the games themes and storytelling devices.

Think of it this way: how perfect is it that, as Fassad’s influence has started to take over Tazmily, we now see Pigmask surveillance droids flying through the Sunshine Forest? Sure, the surveillance droids are there because they’re searching for Kumatora and the gang, but if we think about the health of the Sunshine Forest as reflective of the health of Tazmily as a societal ecosystem… it’s perfect for these little droids to be flying around. They’re the representation of Fassad’s ideological infection of the town. And I’m not trying to get too highfalutin with this one, I’m just saying: what’s going on in the forest is often indicative of what’s going on in the town.

That’s what makes the forest such a perfect set piece for a chapter finale. The Sunshine Forest has been such an integral part to the first three chapters of our story, so it makes sense for a showdown to take place here. The Pigmasks drew first blood in this forest, but now it’s the same spot where our heroes will fight back.

Again, you can see why Mother 3, at one point, had the subtitle of Forest of the Chimeras, or The Chimera Forest. Forests and wooded areas can take on special, spiritual significance in Japanese culture, which is perhaps why characters like Jonel are so ardent about praying in the Forest Sanctuary. With this in mind, I think it’s especially significant that so much of Mother 3’s first three chapters take place in this forest; because of the Pigmasks, humans and animals die here, and the environment is permanently altered for years to come. If we see the Sunshine Forest as a place with spiritual potential, then we can see the Pigmask Assault as a deeply wicked thing–an encroachment upon a sacred place. I don’t think it is a coincidence that, before the Pigmasks, humans and animals lived in such harmony that even the powerful Dragos were considered peaceful. There was something intangible and special about this area.

Anyway, there’s a lot I love about this short sequence: the Pigmasks and Pork Tanks strewn about the edges of Tazmily; the little Pigmask robots flying around, surveying the area for runaways; the return to the Sunshine Forest’s blue-ish, nighttime color scheme, which at this point feels like an omen.

However, something I love even more is a tiny, tiny detail I had never noticed before. If you go to Isaac’s cabin, you’ll see that the lights are on inside, yet when you try to go into his house, the door is locked. And look, we know Isaac is a bit of a loner; you can bet he’s not at the Yado Inn having a drink right now. He’s home. He’s inside his cabin. But his door is locked because he doesn’t want to let the fugitives in.

Hey. wait… what was the line? Something about no one ever locking their door in Tazmily? I guess those times have changed.

It’s possible that Itoi just meant for this door to be locked because that is sometimes the case in Tazmily: certain buildings and certain homes can’t be entered at night, and the game will tell you that it isn’t polite to disturb people. But I think we all know this is a little different. As we discussed in Frog #37.1, Isaac is already fully indoctrinated, or at least nearly so, into Pigmask ideology. He considers himself a follower of Fassad. Why would he let in the fugitives?

I just love this detail because it’s a great way to raise stakes, and a great way to communicate character development. I may have lamented not being able to walk around Tazmily one more time before the end of Chapter 3, but this instance of change and development is nearly just as good as a replacement: Isaac, a man who in Chapter 1 put his life on the line for his fellow villagers more than once, now hides behind a locked door when some Tazmilians need him the most. And sure, only Wess is technically a Tazmilian among our group of misfits, but don’t forget out introduction to Isaac. He was literally on the ground, nearly passed out, from smoke inhalation, trying to get to Lighter’s cabin to make sure he was okay. In Chapter 1, the man was a hero. So many Tazmilians were heroes and they didn’t even know it.

Now, he’s a locked door in the village where no one locks their doors.

So as the trio of Kumatora, Wess, and Salsa try to run away into what’s left of the forest, the Pigmasks cut off their escape routes one by one. There are Pork Tanks everywhere, and nowhere to hide! What hope do an old man, a monkey, and a princess have against the weapons of the Pigmask Army? If these three fall in the forest today, so much will die with them.

Before we get into the upcoming fight, I’ll add here that I love the re-usage of “Beyond the Sunshine Forest” for this section of the game. Chapter 3 hasn’t added a ton of new music, and I’m pretty sure this song is just the default song for the Sunshine Forest ever since it’s destruction, but I don’t care: purposeful or not, I think this song is a great fit for our heroes being on the run from the Pigmasks. The song’s dark tone works well for the fact that, no matter where the trio runs, there’s another tank staring them down, and the song”s synthy breakdowns will always perfectly imbue the technological edge of the Pigmasks over the once tranquil nature of the destroyed forest.

Basically, things are looking dire.

And finally, after running as far as they can into the forest, the truth becomes apparent: there is nowhere to go. Salsa’s escape into freedom has been a false hope; Duster’s sacrifice has been for nothing; Kumatora’s resurgence into society has left her directly in the Pigmasks’ clutches. The walls close in around our heroes: a Pork Tank approaches, and soldiers march in behind. The old man, monkey, and princess are left with one option.

They’re going to have to fight their way out of this one.

Well, I’ve only been asking for a boss fight for about the last ten frogs, and it looks like I finally got one–and a fun one, at that. I’ve always enjoyed facing off against the Pork Tank. I think it’s because, later in Mother 3 our heroes face off against such wild and wacky foes, that fighting against a tank feels so quaint. It’s also fun to finally fight the Pigmasks in a meaningful way. Not that Duster’s assault on the unsuspecting soldiers wasn’t fun in Chapter 2, but this fight has always felt more real, with meaningful stakes as its backdrop: our heroes are surrounded. They’re fighting for their survival, here, and the odds are grim.

Also, I think the name “Pork Tank” is funny.

The battle theme is also perfect. “Audacious March,” like the Pigmask themes that have come before it, is loud, boisterous, obnoxious, and, dare I say, audacious. But there are no bumbling, goofy, Pigmasks this time; “Audacious March” is a great representation of how it feels when the Pigmasks truly have the upper hand. This song recalls power, oppression, and overwhelming force; it communicates the insurmountable odds at stake, here, as well as the true potential of the army we’re up against. If we were playing Mother 3 from the Pigmasks’ Perspective, I imagine a song like this would be playing any time the army was destroying an environment: throwing bombs, shooting guns, starting fires, rolling tanks over trees and animals and villagers alike.

Can a monkey and his friends really defeat an entire tank?

Pigmask Tech is so advanced that their tanks can actually slip.

Anyway, this tank is no push-over if you aren’t prepared! My strategy revolved around Salsa keeping everyone’s health up, while Kumatora used PK Thunder. The Pork Tank shouldn’t be able to overwhelm you with damage unless you get careless. You can also opt to use Salsa’s Monkey Mimic to copy the tank’s moves, which is more fun to imagine than anything else. When Salsa mimics the cannonball attack, I imagine him flinging himself at the tank as a little Monkey Ball.

This is also a fun fight to imagine. The Mother series has faced criticism over the years for its bland representation of battles, despite the groovy backgrounds; Mother 3 is the first game in the series that gives visual representation of the player’s characters on screen. And while I’m not outright defending the Mother series’ approach to battle representation (the first to Mother games can feel a little lonely sometimes, as far as combat visualization goes), I do feel like it lends itself more to imagination (oh boy, here’s the Frog Blog guy going off about imagination again). Don’t forget that Itoi himself says that the player’s imagination, and the player’s interpretation, accounts for 50% of what a game ultimately accomplishes.

With that in mind, I like to imagine our heroes using the forest to their advantage. Salsa climbs around, hopping tree to tree, distracting the over-eager tank operators. As they fire at Salsa, Kumatora casts PK Thunder from another concealed area, which starts a small fire on the forest floor. Meanwhile, Wess is flitting around, the master thief barely visible, as he checks on Kumatora’s safety and launches some attacks of his own. In my mind, the battle becomes a a fight between the guerrilla tactics of our Tazmilian heroes, and the destructive total war of the Pigmasks: cannon balls are flying, thunder spells are falling from the sky, all while Salsa and Wess are flipping through the trees and trying to keep things moving.

I dont know. I’m just having fun, over here!

When you’ve damaged the tank significantly, it’ll explode, but the fight doesn’t end there! The tank’s defenses will be severely weakened, but both the tank and its operator will fight until the bitter end. At this point, the tank will take more damage from physical attacks, which is just as well, because Kumatora’s Psychic Power is likely diminished.

That’s another reason I like this boss fight: the stakes are clear, and the battle itself is represented so well. I love the idea of the tank operator continuing to fight while his vehicle is literally in flames. Like we discussed a few frogs ago, sometimes the Pigmask Soldiers can seem silly, but other times they become fierce evildoers with powerful weapons. Sure, they may just be following orders, but when a well-equipped soldier follows the orders of a wicked, wrathful commander… well, you end up with a flaming tank and a fight that goes down to the wire.

I mean, you can’t really say it’s not crazy intense for the Pork Tank to continue on like this. The Pigmask’s suit is literally scorched, and smokes and flames are erupting from the tank, yet the battle continues. This is all pretty metal if you ask me.

I’m also a big fan of boss fights having multiple phases with visual representation. I’m not saying every boss fight needs to do it, but the simple fact that the Pork Tank has a second phase, even if it easier than the first phase, helps me feel more immersed in the action. I would’ve loved to see something similar in the Mecha-Drago fight, or in the fight against the Oh So Snake. Maybe the final boss for a chapter could always have two phases, or something. Not that it’s required. I just like the detail, that’s all!

The fight just feels so right for the end of Chapter 3. All chapter long, Salsa has been in Fassad’s, and so the Pigmasks’, clutches, and I get a sense of satisfaction when scrapping this hunk of junk, because it feels like I’m sticking it right to the army itself. The “scrappiness” of the fight feels at home in Chapter 3 as well; I haven’t mentioned him as much, but I do love that Wess is also present for the battle, though not controllable by the player. In my case, Wess flung Thunder Bombs, performed Secret Thief Techniques, and really turned up the heat so that Team Tazmily could take home the victory. As my supply of healing items grew smaller, and Kumatora’s PP became totally depleted, I felt more and more like this was my last ditch effort to defeat the tank until finally…

It was over.

But not quite! Because here come more Pigmasks, and Fassad himself, and the freedom which tasted so sweet, which seemed to be right in Salsa’s grasp, is immediately wrenched away.

How could we have been so stupid? All chapter long, Salsa has tried to escape, and each time Fassad has dragged him back. So we defeated one tank–what about the others? What were we thinking? Salsa, Kumatora, Wess, all of the Tazmilians… it seems everyone is in Fassad’s grasp at all times, and any ounce of freedom is truly an ounce–in semblance only, minuscule, nothing, a facade.

Game over.

Or at least, it would seem that way, until an unlikely hero shows up to the battle field: mild-mannered Lucas strolls up to the show down with a subtle spring in his step. He stands still for a moment, taking in the scene, then whistles, sending a call out far and wide to the animals of the forest. And before Fassad can wheeze out a “Nwehehehe,” the music changes to something you may recognize…

That’s right, baby! This song is aptly named “Drago?!” because that’s exactly the reaction we all have as the Dragos of the Sunshine Forest descend upon the scene to wreak havoc and kick Pigmask ass. Lucas’s father may be a stick-swinging cowboy known for dramatic entrances, but Lucas’s approach has some style to it. Lucas is more of a “walk up nonchalantly and just-so-happen to save the day” type of guy.

And man, there is so much I want to say about this scene and so much I love about it (I should’ve known it was going to be impossible to keep this post short).

To start, the scene itself is a joy to watch, especially for first-time players. The Dragos truly bring the smackdown onto Fassad and his cronies, destroying their tanks, flinging soldiers around, and bashing Fassad so hard that he flies off the screen to hopefully never be heard from again. After three chapters of misery, it’s so nice to see our heroes land an actual victory, and it’s all thanks to the crybaby, Lucas.

And that’s another great part: Lucas has officially thrown his hat into the ring! I He’s no longer on the sidelines, and he’s no longer just another passive Tazmilian (I mean, he was a grieving child, so I’m not saying he needs to do anything, but this was still a nice move). Lucas becomes the main hero of Mother 3 by the end of the game, so it’s so much fun to watch this scene play out. Lucas’s act of heroism is also a collaborative act: both he and the Dragos get their sweet revenge, here. Both Lucas and the Dragos are fighting back on behalf of the Sunshine Forest, and on behalf of their now broken families. More than one mother was lost on the night the Pigmasks attacked.

And that’s the other thing I love: the song “Drago?!” It doesn’t take long to recognize that this song is a faster, more upbeat version of “Fight with Mecha Drago.” I am a HUGE fan of this simple musical decision, and I’ll do my best to explain why.

Anyone who has read the blog for a while might remember why I loved the Mecha Drago fight so much, and why I thought it was the perfect end to Chapter 1, so I won’t go over all of that again here. In short, I love the fight because it’s parent versus parent: Flint versus Drago, in a battle that nobody wanted to happen. It’s poetic, it’s loud, it’s heartbreaking, it’s explosive, and it’s everything you want from the end of a chapter. To me, the ending of Chapter 1 pushes Mother 3 from “pretty good story with an emotional center” to “amazing story with legitimately fun and interesting ideas.”

One of the saddest things about the Mecha Drago fight is that Flint and the Tazmilians know that these are strong, beautiful, peaceful creatures, and under any other circumstances, there would be no reason to fight a Mama Drago. Yet Flint has hunted this Drago to the ends of the Plateau, and “Fight with Mecha Drago,” to me, has always been an excellent personification of the Drago’s literally awesome power, as well as the fear that a Drago can strike into any would-be victim’s heart. Before him, Flint sees a once peaceful, once majestic creature, morphed into a technological weapon. The literal fight with the Mecha Drago goes down to the bloody, bitter end, and call it nostalgia, but I’ll simply never forget the battle theme’s heavy composition–it’s rumbling, unabashed call to arms.

But the Drago’s strength was never meant to be evil, just as Hinawa was never meant to die that night, and just as Claus was never meant to disappear. All of this has been the doing of Fassad, of the Pigmasks, of the unseen reaches of evil that has seeped into Tazmily. The Tazmilians and the Dragos should live alongside one another in peace and harmony, which is exactly what Lucas reminds us of in this scene, and which is exactly why I love that “Drago?!” is a mostly unchanged rendition of “Fight with Mecha Drago.”

By simply speeding the piece up, Mother 3 shows us how the very same animal that can be transformed into a chimeric weapon is also the very same animal that can save the day. The awesome power, the vicious strength of the Drago… these things are not innately evil. They are not supposed to be bad. They are not supposed to take away Mothers from their families. And they would have never been any of these things, or done any of those things, without the influence of the Pigmasks. Dragos, and their power, are good.

So, to me, “Drago?!” says, “Hey, it’s good that Dragos are strong. And Dragos can even be heroes, right along with our main characters. The heart of the Drago had never changed–just the technology wrongfully imposed into its body.”

Is this reaching? I don’t think so, honestly. Mother 3’s soundtrack is a fucking masterpiece and I think this is another of the many reasons why. The songs handle a lot of the characterization, and I really believe this was the soundtrack’s way of making sure the player understands that Dragos aren’t bad–Pigmasks are!

And I’m not done yet! I also love this ending because of how it brings the first three chapters of Mother 3 to an (almost) perfect thematic close. At the end of Chapter 1, Flint nearly killed the (Mother) Mecha Drago, until at the last moment the creature’s child jumped in his way. The Mecha Drago had killed Flint’s wife, had been indirectly responsible for the disappearance of his son, and Flint wanted nothing more than revenge. But, as Alec yelled from the sidelines, killing the Mecha Drago would mean that the Drago’s children would also lose their mother, just as Lucas and Claus had.

It’s an amazing scene full of redemption and loss and all-around broken hearts. Which is why this scene at the end of Chapter 3 is so great. This time around, human and Drago work together. It’s beatufiul to see Lucas and the baby Drago standing next to one another. I’ve never been sure if we are supposed to interpret the Baby Drago in this scene as the same from Chapter 1, and the big Drago as the father, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the Sunshine Forest has lost so much. Tazmily has lost so much. Lucas has lost so much… and in one scene, at least for one night, Lucas and the forest fight back.

See, to me, the ending of Chapter 1 shows us the circumstances at their worst. When Flint holds the spear above the injured Drago, we see that the Pigmasks’ plan has gone perfectly. Everyone is killing each other, whether or not they’re a chimera. The Pigmasks sewed discord and hate into the fabric of the Sunshine Forest. We later see this hate trickle down to Isaac’s fervent need for a leader; in Dona’s longing to leave Tazmily; in Flint’s quiet, desperate depression after his showdown.

At the end of Chapter 3, we see that there is still a chance for victory. Which works so well, because Chapter 3 has been the most hopeless, the most desolate, and the most inescapably oppressive chapter of the game thus far, all of which has been personified in Salsa’s journey. Every time Salsa was shocked, every time Fassad reigned him back in, every time Salsa had a nightmare of his girlfriend being taken away from him, the player was also reminded of the tightening grip that the Pigmasks have not just over Salsa, but over Tazmily and, honestly, the world. Chapter 3 was Salsa’s story, but it was also Fassad’s story, and Salsa was mostly (unfortunately) a vehicle for Mother 3 to tell us things about Tazmily.

And I’m sorry to say that I don’t have as much to add about Salsa anymore, at this point; I feel like I’ve said everything that can be said. Chapter 3 was the story of Salsa’s captivity and escape, sure, but poor Salsa hasn’t just been used by Fassad; he’s been used by Mother 3 to make a point. Salsa joins Kumatora at the end of the chapter, and I’m sure she goes on to reunite the monkey with his girlfriend, which is all well and good…but to me, Salsa’s freedom also highlights the simple fact that, with new heroes like Lucas around, anyone can become free from the Pigmasks. There is hope! Salsa’s captivity helped us understand Fassad’s control over the town, just as Salsa’s freedom helps us understand the possibility for liberation.

And here at the end of Chapter 3, I’m not trying to say that Salsa wasn’t a hero for what he endured. Salsa has endured literal torture throughout this entire chapter, and a hero doesn’t always have to save the day. Lately, I’ve been reading Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, and one of my favorite things is how she characterizes her protagonists. In a Le Guin book, a hero does not become great by killing people, or by winning wars, but by enduring hardships and helping others when they can. So please don’t think I am belittling Salsa’s survival, which he has accomplished against all odds, and please don’t think I am saying our sweet little monkey is not one of Mother 3’s greatest heroes, as he certainly is.

I just think, or at least I’m observing, that Chapter 3 ultimately ends up being more about Lucas’s heroic act at the very end, which is too bad, in a way, for our monkey. After Fassad has been knocked straight out of the forest by the Drago, Wess fills Lucas in on what’s been happening around the village. After this, it is decided that Kumatora and Salsa will join forces for the time being, while Wess and Lucas keep watch over Tazmily. And while I know it would kill the pacing of the game, I wish we could have a chapter where Kumatora and Salsa hunt down Salsa’s girlfriend and steal her back from the Pigmasks!

Instead, Salsa basically disappears from the plot until Chapter 7.

There are other things I’d love to say about this ending, and I think I could say, if Salsa were in the game more. Mother 3 is largely about found family in its second half, as opposed to the broken families of its first half, and I’d love to say that the Dragos, which were the weapon used to break Lucas’s family, are also here used as a way for Lucas to bring his new family together. Except the only character in this scene who really ends up as one of Lucas’s found family is Kumatora, so I can’t quite go so far.

But that’s how it all ends: right when the heroes were cornered, Lucas came in with the Dragos, and the Dragos saved the day. I wish I could tell you that this victory meant more in the long run, but this was mostly just a way for Salsa to be freed and for our heroes to evade capture. So it’s a big victory in that it solidified Salsa’s freedom, and it’s certainly a symbolic victory for Lucas and his allies, but at the end of the day, the Pigmasks remain in Tazmily, embedding themselves more and more into its culture as each day passes.

One last thing I’ll add here is that this is definitely a moment where the three-dimensional capabilities of the Nintendo 64 would’ve added a more cinematic touch to this ending scene. I have no problem with how this scene ended up looking Gameboy Advance, but I’ll admit it has never stuck with me visually. I can only imagine that on the Nintendo 64 there would’ve been a bit more nuance in the portrayal, pacing, and framing of the scene. I notice this most blatantly when Fassad is flying through the air at the end, with no change to his sprite.

Chapter 3 finally ends quietly, with Wess and Kumatora bringing Lucas up to speed about the recent goings on against the Pigmask Army. Then, there’s a freeze frame, and our text scroll song begins, this one sounding more like a triumphant battle theme that foretells of the hardships still to come. And I’m sorry–Id say more about the ending, after the tank fight, but the chapter just kind of ends! Wess decides what everyone is going to do, then it’s over. Just like that.

So, how do I feel about Chapter 3, now that it’s all over? Well, as always, I have to say again that I certainly have an all new appreciation for it. I’m not sure that I love how the time skip works, seeing as when Chapter 4 begins we’ll be three years into the future, but I’m also willing to admit that the things I would like to see (a little more time with the Tazmilians, additional characterization of a few main characters, etc.) isn’t really needed. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all, and Shigesato Itoi has spoken a few times on how chapters and content were ultimately cut from Mother 3. And even though I’m sometimes able to spot what I think are areas where content has been cut, there’s no way for me to truly know, so I can’t bemoan not having more of this or more of that.

For me, I think Chapter 3’s major shortcoming was its rushed ending. I loved the first half of the chapter, and I made it abundantly clear in a few different posts that I thought the Salsa + Fassad combination was a brilliant idea–something right at home in the Mother series’ history of RPG experimentation. That said, when the story began to take over, I wasn’t sure where we were headed and why. Did Fassad and Salsa really have to pull the switch that flushed Duster and Company out of the castle? Did the chapter then need to conveniently end that same day, with Lucas’s bravery conveniently developing in the nick of time?

See, only like two days have passed since Chapter 1, so my main issue with how Chapter 3 ultimately wraps up is just that everything happens to quickly and conveniently. Fassad shows up at Butch’s breakdown right on time, Lucas grabs the Dragos right on time, Wess sneaks in and out of Fassad’s room and steals the shock device in like five seconds. What feels missing, to me, is just a little more time with the Tazmilians, who are all about to undergo a significant change. Honestly, I think Chapter 3 should have just taken a place over a few more days. After Fassad’s speeches, Salsa could have a quick walk around town to talk to NPCs, then head back to the Yado Inn to do it all again the next day. Salsa could hear rumors of Lucas taking long walks out in the woods, just like his father, and maybe he could even run into Wess or Kumatora, reporting to one another about searching for Duster.

I don’t know–I don’t think it needs much! There are ultimately just a few things I didn’t love about Chapter 3’s pacing and its approach to telling Mother 3’s story. As soon as it had caught us up with the events of Chapter 2, which we were already acquainted with, it was over in the blink of an eye. Of Mother 3’s eight chapters, this one definitely feels like the weakest so far, at least in its second half.

But I’m not here to review Mother 3, really. I’m here to talk about it! So I hope it has also been apparent that I enjoyed this chapter. I loved Kumatora’s comment at the end, “Oh, right. Gotta say hi. Hi! Nice to meetcha! And thanks!” That line cracks me up because Kumatora spends so much time on her own that she takes a moment to remind herself that saying hi is a normal thing to do. That just cracks me up.

I also loved the Happy Box portion of the chapter, as well as Fassad and Salsa’s trek through the desert. Honestly, Chapter 3 was an excellent introduction to Fassad, one of our main villains, who I assure you will return after this loss to the Dragos. And like I pointed out above, I think the ending of Chapter 3, with the Drago rescue mission, has the semblances of something thematically resonant with both these opening chapters, and with the rest of the game… I’m just not convinced that Chapter 3 actually developed everything as well as it could.

But hey, we got to see the Cactus Wolf! I love the Cactus Wolf.

And again, to be fair to Itoi, I do appreciate hands-off storytelling from time to time. At the end of the chapter, Wess tells Kumatora to take the monkey and handle the search for Duster, while he wants Lucas, Flint, and “the others” (I’m not sure who this refers to) to protect the town. We never see any of this search, nor do we meet up with Salsa again for three chapters, but I do like the idea that after the time skip, we just haven’t really heard from Kumatora at all. Similarly, after the time skip, I’m sorry to report that Lucas and Flint will not be a father-son protection team for Tazmily. Flint will be aloof once again, and Lucas and Boney will be mostly fending for themselves.

But wait! I can’t start talking about Chapter 4. We’re not even done with Chapter 3…

Or, I guess, we are done with Chapter 3. I think I’ve said enough, folks! There’s nothing left in my head to say! Actually, there’s technically one piece of music I did not discuss in Chapter 3, that only the most astute Mother 3 minds might have noticed, but I’m saving it for later! And if you know why I’m saving it, well… if you know, you know.

I will see you all very soon, when I begin Chapter 4, but a few words on that first…

If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I have been dealing with bad hand and wrist pain lately. This is something I’ve dealt with off and on as a writer for about six years now, and there are always highs and lows. I recently had to take a significant break from the blog (or at least significant for the schedule I’d like to have) to rest my hands, and I think I’m going to slow down the rate at which I write the blog, just for a little while. With Chapter 4 approaching, Mother 3 is about to change quite a bit, and even become somewhat more open-ended, and I know that I’m going to have a lot to say and a lot to write about, and I want to be able to do it in a way that is comfortable for me.

All this really means is that I won’t post about Chapter 4 for maybe a month or so. Maybe sooner than that, maybe later. It all depends.

But, in the mean time, I am finally finally finally, actually actually actually, going to be working on audio/video editions of Frog by Frog. So while you wait for Chapter 4, you’ll be able to listen to a growing catalog of older posts in audio form. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, both for accessibility reasons and for the fact that I think it’s a good idea for growth, so that’s what I’m going to put my time into. Recording means I can use my hands less, which is the main reason why it’s easier.

So that’s what we have coming up! Audio posts! Chapter 4! And all in due time…

Until then, I wish everyone reading this a lovely month of March, or whatever month you are reading it in, and I encourage you to take good care of yourself. I’ll talk to you very soon. I know this following phrase is the bane of many online content creators, but I truly believe that great things are on the horizon, and I’d be honored for you to be there with me.

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