Frog #44: A Prison in Our Village!

There’s something I noticed in my most recent post that is becoming truer all the time:

As Tazmily gets worse for Lucas, it gets better for me.

Everywhere our blonde-haired protagonist goes, he sees a ruination of something that once was. Whether its the tattered shreds of Reggie’s tipi or the hypnotizing glow of the now pervasive Happy Boxes, this town has changed, and it’s hard to say things have changed for the better. Though, to be fair, I’ve always been a paranoid when it comes to technology–maybe because I played Mother 3 for the first time when I was thirteen years old. It all comes back around again.

Looking back, Mother 3 was the game, the story, that got me interested in other works of fiction like it. Dystopic visions of society, technology warped into control, loss of innocence, a blend of science fiction and fantasy… I went into my teenage years chasing the Mother 3 dragon. And, like many Mother fans discovered, it’s an endless journey. There’s really nothing quite like the Mother games. (Though I’m more than happy, at this point, to consider Undertale an iteration of Mother 4.)

But more on that later. Because while the left hand may be shrouded in darkness, the right hand holds a kind of light: Tazmily has become a delight to traverse, at least as a player. Like I touched upon last time, my sympathies lie with Lucas, but my proclivities lie with comedy, and as much as it sucks to see my old Tazmilian pals drool over their Happy Boxes and Happy Teddy Bears and Happy Cooling Apparati, I’m having a wonderful time with the new NPCs in town. All I really did for this entire frog was walk around Tazmily and talk to people, which was made all the more easy by the fact that there was a new save frog over on the Cerulean Beach.

Finally! Instead of collecting 80+ screenshots while desperately hoping to find a new frog, I can collect a normal amount of screenshots over a normal amount of time. Isn’t this such a utopia?

I could get used to this new Tazmily.

Ollie the reader.

There are of course many changes to chart and facts to report, and we’ll get to all that, but for as much as I can tell you Tazmily is headed in the wrong direction, I can also concede that, after spending three chapters in this village, it is nice to see a visual change. Don’t forget that one of Itoi’s biggest goals in Mother 3 was (say it with me, now) to see a single place change over time. And while many fans, including myself, might posit that our rapid three year time-skip isn’t quite as impactful as Itoi’s originally planned ten year time-skip (or, at least, a narrative that took place over the course of at least a decade, seeing Lucas age into a 17 year old boy), we are still witnessing Tazmily’s most significant changes to date, and they go far beyond the paved roads and flashing boxes.

To start, you’ll find that Tazmily now has a police force, a retirement home, and an entirely reworked housing infrastructure. Nearly every Tazmilian’s home has been entirely redesigned both inside and out, and those that were once connected are now separate properties. You’ll also find that Pusher’s wealth has increased to the level of affording him an automobile, as well as what appears to be a small plot of land next to his home, perhaps for expansion. Lastly, at least for this frog’s parameters, you’ll find that the once serene Cerulean Beach is now a tourist locale, with a budding romance between two NPCs and a suntanning pig who hasn’t a care in the world.

Yeah, old Tazmily might have been like morally pure or whatever, but new Tazmily has sunbathing pigs and quippier dialogue! Sorry, Lucas, but even yours truly, the curator of the Frog Blog, might be falling under Fassad’s spell. It’s like Apple said in one of their old Mac ads: Progress is a Beautiful Thing, baby.

But hey, we don’t need to make up our minds right away about Tazmily 2.0. Why don’t we kick it over to my favorite recurring segment on this blog? It’s been so long since we’ve had a true blue check-in with the people of Tazmily, and nowadays it feels as though their numbers have grown more than ever…

How many are there now, would you say? Ten? Twenty? How about…

A Million Tazmilians VI: For a Few Tazmilians More

Like I mentioned in my last post, one of the first things you’ll notice about the Tazmilians is that some of them have changed in appearance. These changes mostly encompass the children, as they’ve grown three years older and adopted some changes in fashion, though you’ll also notice some of the adults appearing differently as well, not so much in physical appearance but in dress (i.e., factory jumpsuits).

However, there are still some personality changes among the youngsters that have less to do with Happy Boxes and more to do with plain old growin’ up. Like Angie, who speaks just a single line to Lucas: “Potato-like men are my type.”

When I first read this line, I literally laughed out loud. I was not expecting it all, and I certainly hadn’t expected little Angie, who once spent her days happily baking with her mother, to come right out with her physical preferences regarding men. I haven’t spoken to Angie in god knows how many frogs, and my first chance to catch up with her goes like this! They really do grow up so fast.

Though, one wonders: is Angie into potato-like men because she has spent nearly all of her childhood years, and now her early teen years, surrounded by Pigmasks? The glare of the Happy Box isn’t the only thing the townspeople have been subject to all these years; they’ve also lived alongside the Pigmask Army, and, in the case of the children, grown up surrounded by soldiers. As the old stereotypes go, kids in military families might go on to appreciate a person in uniform, if you catch my drift.

Wheesh! I wasn’t expecting for this frog to go this direction! Plus, why would Angie ever want to date a Pigmask? She has the ever-dependable Fuel working in the bakery these days!

Ah, good old Fuel, the might-have-been main character if circumstances had gone a bit differently. It’s nice to see that Fuel hasn’t changed a bit, both outside and inside, as he’s still sporting the same old appearance with his tried and true values: helping others out; being helped out by others; helping others out. A man who once worked with Fuel’s father cobbled together that short and sweet haiku, and it seems to have stuck with Fuel. The traumatic Night of the Funeral, I think, has stuck with Fuel as a call to action, even against the backdrop of Fassad and the Pigmask Army: it’s still important to help people out, no matter what.

Of course, we could interpret this scenario more negatively and posit that Caroline has simply recruited Fuel as an employee, wanting to take advantage of his hard-working nature. Seeing as Thomas has his son working the Bazaar, maybe Caroline wanted to increase her staff from two to three. Her daughter might be spending too much time thinking about potato-shaped men, after all.

But I don’t know. I don’t want to assume anything poor about Caroline just because she’s starting to scrape in some money. At least she’s a mother who works with her daughter, and with Lighter, likely, away at the factory all day, it’s nice for Fuel to have somewhere to go. My only hope is that Fuel wants to be helping Caroline out. If she, and the stupid Pigmask economy, is stealing the last of Fuel’s childhood away from him, then we are going to have issues.

Well, if Fuel’s good qualities have remained more or less intact over these past three years, then Abbot and Abbey’s qualities have gotten worse by a wide margin. See, back in the day, Abbot and Abbey were goofy, somewhat dimwitted, simpleminded villagers who often found themselves in compromising situations with an unwavering smile on their faces. Did Abbey slip and fall while looking for Hinawa, resulting in a bruise? Yes. And did Abbot get bitten by a Flying Mouse, making him one of the chimeras first true victims? Yes. And did Abbot also get absolutely floored by Flint, when the cowboy struck him down with a flaming piece of wood from the fire? Yes, that happened, too.

But Abbot and Abbey always seemed able to shake it off. They had their smiles. They had eachother. Like many of the other Tazmilians, they were heroes in their own way. Not by busting through doors into burning houses or beating up Mecha Dragos like Flint, but by participating in the search for Hinawa and the boys, by staying out in the relentless rain for hours, just like all the other Tazmilians.

That was the beautiful thing about Chapter 1. Everyone from Bronson to Bateau, from Flint to Fuel, from Boney to Jonel–everyone got to be hero, in a way, and Abbot and Abbey were a part of that.

Now, I’ve already charted part of the couple’s demise here, so I won’t go into huge detail, but compare the happy couple from Chapter 1 to the Happy Box Couple of Chapter 4. You might recall that Abbot was once weirdly enthused by the Happy Boxes, pattering around them and wondering at their purpose like a child. Now, he’s glued to the screen, assuming that Lucas is “jealous” of his “happiness,” so much so that he wants a look at the box for himself. His posture and attitude suggest any of the millions of couch potatoes we’ve seen over and over in media. Don’t let Angie see him.

Abbey, to her credit, at least acts polite toward Lucas, but even she doesn’t get it. Doesn’t she remember that her house was once full of plants? There was no other house in Tazmily like it! The flourishing pots suggested a flourishing, young love; Abbot and Abbey’s goofiness, at times, seemed to come from the giddiness of affection. I know this might be reading into it too much, but I always saw their bright, happy home as a mark of honeymooning. Despite living in a small town, these two lived in an even smaller, shared world. In the same way Bronson’s anvil told us something about him, Abbot and Abbey’s plants told us something about them. This was a place where love could grow.

And while it’s a small detail, I feel like it’s worth noting that Abbot and Abbey are on opposite sides of the room. No, a couple does not need to be seated together to be in love, but they’re nearly an entire screen apart. We’ll also notice that Paul and Linda are separated when we first check on them, and so, too, are Betsy and Jackie. Yes, some of these separations have to do with factory work, or with Linda’s time at the Old Folks’ home, or with Abbey, maybe, preparing something in the kitchen, but that’s exactly the point I’m making. We used to see not just couples, but Tazmilians, together all the time. Now, they seem brought together only by Fassad’s speeches or by work. Even the seemingly happy trio of Fuel, Caroline, and Angie are all basically just coworkers.

Well, some people say architecture can tell you a lot about society, and as I walked from Abbot and Abbey’s place over to Paul and Linda’s, I saw everything I needed to see. Remember when all of the buildings in town square were connected? Remember when people’s homes were all a little different inside? Now, I’m not saying its a crime against humanity for married couples to want their own four walls, but the visual metaphor is basically up for grabs. Tazmily just isn’t as connected anymore.

In fact, over at Paul and Linda’s place, things are more dour upfront. Paul, who three years ago said he had “happiness right here with [him]” when referring to his wife, is now completely alone inside his own house, wishing for Linda to show him some of the same care that she shows the senior citizens. I’m not going to make any judgments yet, as we haven’t spoken with Linda, and for all we know Paul is a Happy Box-obsessed asshole who doesn’t pay attention to her anymore. Or, maybe Linda has allowed herself to become so invested in her work that she no longer has time for husband. The truth is we just don’t know, so we probably shouldn’t guess.

However, I do spy with my froggy eye a huge television, or at least what looks like a television. When examined, Lucas wonders if this TV is in fact another type of Happy Box, but he’s not sure. What exactly are these things? And why does everyone want them? I think that’s a conversation for next frog.

You know, I always kind of liked Paul. I liked his visual design, I felt bad for him when he had an asthma attack, and I appreciated his unwavering love for his wife. It’s sad to see him all alone like this. It’s sad to see Abbot and Abbey fixated only on their Happy Boxes or the idea of them. Like I’ve said for a few posts now, I’m not trying to be all doom and gloom about Tazmily, but can you call this a utopia?

All right all right, we have one more house to look at, then we’re hitting the streets. To no one’s surprise at all, Pusher’s wealth has grown to tremendous heights over the last few years, and, like our world’s politicians, he seems to take in money by… taking it.

Yes, outside of Pusher’s elaborate home, there is a donation box for money. In the same way that real life politicians make us half-assed promises while enjoying multiple vacation homes, Pusher has instituted himself, officially, as Mayor, and appears to be more than happy to accept donations for this undertaking. Don’t forget that Pusher himself discussed the senior living center with Fassad three years ago, which I assume was something he “raised money” for. There’s even an NPC outside Pusher’s house wondering if anyone actually puts money in the damn box.

But, again, this is all par for the course. Yes, there’s a new automobile outside, but inside it’s all the same story: Elmore sees Lucas as a fringe individual, going so far as to call his look “rebellious,” and Pusher yells at Lucas that he can find the retirement home “that-a-way.” Basically, they are both as dismissive of Lucas as they were of Flint, and as they were of Duster, and as they were of Salsa. These people don’t like protagonists, that’s for sure.

You might have also noticed that a few characters now have mentioned the retirement home to Lucas, and that is indeed where the game wants us to go, but compare this to Chapter 1’s streamlining. In Chapter 1, Pusher yelled to us, “North I say! North!’ whereas in Chapter 4, he’s a jerk to Lucas and he also happens to mention the retirement home. I’m not saying Mother 3 has drastically changed its linearity or anything (we haven’t tried leaving the town yet, and where would we go anyway?), but at least Mother 3 has acknowledged that the world has “grown,” and it can cool its jets (a bit) on always telling the player where to go.

And of course, there’s also Mapson outside, who claims to be able to talk about more than just maps, but then immediately tells Lucas where he can find the retirement home. Oh, Mapson. I’d just been starting to like you, too.

Other than the fact that there is now a random guy hanging out in Pusher’s house, I don’t have much more to say about the Mayor or his home for now. Ollie doesn’t seem to be around, and Sebastian is, as always, muttering about how much work still needs to be done. It makes me wonder: as the rest of Tazmily becomes more and more invested in mundane factory work, followed up with mundane viewing of Happy Boxes, perhaps the inner life of Pusher’s home was always a reflection of what was to come, at least when viewed through Sebastian’s perpetually engaged mindset of work, work, work. And even if that’s just how Sebastian is, then Pusher and Elmore have been bad apples from the start, so if anything the world has now changed to fit them, instead of them changing to fit the world. Other Tazmilians, however, I’m a bit more disappointed in.

Long-time readers of the blog might remember my enjoyment of the town square gossiping women. I enjoyed their spunk, their individuality, their ability to be both crass and realistic in times of danger and confusion. If the gossiping women were gossiping, then all seemed well in the world.

Of course, disappointment followed when I first noticed Fassad’s message trickling in to the thoughts of these once independently-minded women. One second, they’re making fun of Fassad behind his back and considering him a weirdo from out of town; the next second, Brenda is insinuating that she would take on multiple Happy Boxes if possible–as many as she could fit in her home! Then, Lisa, who stood up to Fassad during his first speech in town, even choosing to walk away pretty early on, is now one of his front-row listeners.

Three years later, the women are entirely changed. Which isn’t even mentioning the fact that Alle, a child, is also listening to Fassad–an image I find to be incredibly depressing.

Brenda tells Lucas that it’s about time Flint gave up looking for Claus in the mountains. And see, I wouldn’t necessarily put it past the gossiping women to say something so direct about Flint (they criticized Flint right to his face in Chapter 1, somewhat jokingly but also foreshadowing his temper and strength), but it’s the tone she takes with Lucas that lacks empathy. Don’t forget: there was once a time where almost every single villager helped Flint search for Hinawa, in the middle of the night, in the middle of a storm. And while I do agree that it’s about time Flint came back home and spent some more time with Lucas, I don’t think it’s necessarily Brenda’s place to be throwing shade at the distraught cowboy and his broken family–but we know whose opinion we’re really hearing.

Jill and Lisa are even worse off than I thought. Jill flat out says that listening to Fassad makes her “want everything,” and Lisa posits that Lucas wouldn’t be so down in the dumps if he just got a Happy Box already. What is he waiting for? Thinking of others is nice and all, but considering your own Happiness is what truly matters.

Of course, that’s not even a message I would necessarily disagree with in some lines of thinking. It is important to consider your own happiness and make sure you’re okay before going all in on helping everyone around you… but that’s a different situation than simply owning a Happy Box. These Tazmilians have somehow gotten everything backwards. Little Alle shouldn’t even be here. This is no place for a chid.

However, my favorite detail from this area of town is actually something not spoken, but witnessed: if you try to talk to Fassad with Lucas, the preaching peddler will ignore you. You can’t bump into him, you can’t speak to him, you can’t get his attention at all. He’ll simply continue gesticulating to his audience, taking no note of Lucas at all.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always found this to be a somewhat chilling detail. Maybe because it shows Fassad’s power and influence in the public sphere–despite whooping his ass three years ago, it’s clear that he won the true victory: the hearts of the townsfolk. Maybe it’s because it shows Fassad’s power in and of itself: his weapon right now is flat out ignoring you, but there’s a real threat in that, a message–you are beneath him and he is right where he wants to be. There’s also something about it that creeps me out. Fassad ignores Lucas because he knows there’s nothing there to harvest. No brain to control, no life to crush under the artificial weight of a Happy Box.

Why would he have anything to say to you?

I’m sure we’ll have more than enough time to talk about Fassad as the frogs keep hopping, so let’s continue on. There are two more familiar faces to check in with for now, and the first accompanies a sad, sad sight.

See, while Lucas’s abode may be known as The Lightning House, not all Tazmilians are so fortunate to live inside such a sturdy structure. Or, at least, a friendly Tazmilian in town has always chosen not to live within four walls like the rest of his town, but in the comfy confines of a tipi. Unfortunately, tipis don’t hold up well under incessant inclement weather, and poor Reggie’s home has been blasted to shreds by the latest barrage of lightning.

While it’s nice to see that Reggie himself hasn’t changed, it’s incredibly sad to see his home destroyed. Inside, Reggie made art in the forms of sculptures, paintings, and various contraptions. He was a self-sustained person, living in his cozy nook, with the sound of the sea always hushing in the distance. In short, Reggie was, is, a good man who pursued a simple life. Given the location of his tipi alone, Reggie, for a time, had the best gig in town: a quiet life by the ocean.

Unfortunately, the Pigmasks have taken issue with that. Of anything in town that has changed under Fassad’s influence, I’ve always found this to be the saddest. While there are definitely arguments to be made against how Tazmily conducted itself as a village before Fassad came along (namely, some stark, emotional tone-deafness), one of the best things about the village was that anyone could live however they wanted. Villagers contributed through crafts and trades, like Flint, Bronson, Lighter, or Caroline, while other villagers operated or performed services, like Thomas or Bateau. Some villagers, however, seemed to just live, and I think that is a beautiful thing. Reggie lived the life of an artist, contributing to town-wide efforts whenever he was needed. In a sea of emotionally-detached villagers, it was often Reggie who said the most calming words, even if they were vaguely prophetic.

Even thinking back to the first time I played Mother 3, seeing the destruction of Reggie’s tipi always meant something to me. I can’t really explain it. So often in RPGs, I struggle with the scope of stakes; it can seem like either the entire world is in danger, which can feel isolating on a personal level (save the Elemental Crystals, e.g.), or like my character’s personal conflict is understood by no one else in the entire game (while I’m dealing with X, Y, or Z conflicts, villagers are telling me that ‘Armor can be bought in the shop!’). But with the destruction of Reggie’s tipi, we see that Lucas’s problem is at least partly shared. There are other villagers resisting Fassad’s changes, and they do suffer consequences for it. This is not just an isolated problem that only Flint and Lucas have–this is a problem that any form of resistance will encounter, even when the “resistance” is a simple man living a simple life.

In a way, Lucas is a little less alone. Though I do wish we could just have Reggie move in to Flint’s house or something. It’s not like anyone else is in there nowadays!

Of course, this situation also introduces us to Tazmily’s police force, which are just as ridiculous as the police from EarthBound. I have always loved the playful irreverence with which Itoi writes his cops. They are hilariously quick to anger and frustration, and they always seem to handle simple situations with an unnecessary amount of confusion and complication.

Just like real life!

In seriousness, I do like (and fear) how the Pigmask and Policeman are both at Reggie’s place. We see how the military force and the police force exist together, as I’m sure the police force is something Fassad himself suggested. The sad thing is that, if Reggie’s home had caught fire three years ago, Thomas and a slew of villagers would have been there in a heart beat to put the fire out and save Reggie’s possessions. Now, when Reggie’s home catches fire he is visited by the law and the military, as if it’s something he did wrong.

And that brings us to the final Tazmilian (for now) to check in with: good old Bateau. Tazmily’s favorite postman can be found in his ocean-side shack, which now looks like the inside of a silicon valley start-up instead of the cozy Nicholas Sparks paradise it once was. Bateau tells Lucas that in the old days they sent letters by pigeon, but “now look at how we do things.”

Well, what am I supposed to be seeing here, Bateau? A mail system? Look, call me civilized, but I’m basically okay with the fact that Tazmily has moved from pigeons to postal. I mean, is something really lost here? My poetic soul tells me yes; Tazmily has lost an opportunity to commune with nature, having animals carry their messages to and fro. But my brain tells me, what’s the big deal? So pigeons don’t carry letters anymore–good for them! Pigeons aren’t our servants!

Though it can’t be denied that not using pigeons certainly feels less cool, and I have to admit that the visual change in Bateau’s home is a bummer in its own right. See, I’m always trying to be open-minded about the presentation of post-timeskip Tazmily–is there goodness to be found? So, in the case of Bateau, maybe abandoning pigeon-based mail isn’t the worst thing in the world, but abandoning a truly beautiful coastal cottage certainly is. Wasn’t Bateau able to see how good he had it? Wasn’t he able to see what made his home special in the past?

Part of me wonders if other Tazmilians had to deal with lightning strikes over the years as well, leading to these total overhauls in the housing structures. Sure, maybe most Tazmilians elected to see the changes, but maybe some were forced out of their homes, and forced into a remodeling, just like Lucas seems to be. Hell, maybe the Tazmilians who hung on to what they knew can barely even remember now, the first time lightning struck years ago…

And that’s about it for the Tazmilians this week. They’re certainly a sorrier bunch than the last time we met them, but I’m going to hold on to hope. We haven’t seen Bronson, Lighter, Thomas, Wess, or Alec yet. There might still be some goodness out there if we just know where to look for it. For now, however, it seems that husbands and wives spend time apart, and former friends are now judgmental adversaries. The richest guy in town has a donation box outside his door, while the simplest man in town is now without housing, with his tipi burned to a crisp. Those who once aided in search parties now chide the very idea of a man looking for his lost child.

Things have changed around here. Simple as that.

…And All the Rest

When Gilligan’s Island first began airing, The Professor and Mary Ann were not included in the theme song’s list of characters. After listing Ginger, the movie star, the song would finish with, “…and the rest,” as opposed to “…the movie star, the Professor, and Mary Ann,” which would accompany later seasons. I’m pointing this out mostly because I like TV trivia, but also because I’m not trying to insinuate that the following conversations are less important than talking to the main Tazmilians, but until some of these NPCs find a name for themselves, it’s tough for me to consider them part of the main line of conversations.

And also I just wanted a weird segue.

That said, in the same way the actors who played the Professor and Mary Ann would insist that their roles were important enough to be considered main billing, I consider these NPCs to be just as important, if not more important, to the over all experience of Mother 3. I mean, who doesn’t love a Stray Dog who puts himself in jail?

In the same way that I enjoy Itoi’s cop-writing, I enjoy his dog-writing as well, especially his underdog writing with my beloved Stray Dog. In fact, what is on one paw a humorous situation (the Stray Dog jailing himself so as to have a home), is on the other paw perhaps a world-building detail. Why would the Stray Dog want to put himself in jail? Well, either he began facing endless harassments from the Pigmasks and Policemen, and so turned himself over, or perhaps he too noted the change in Tazmily. The new, improved, and paved town square isn’t exactly a place for a roaming dog and his mangy mug, and maybe Tazmilians used to actually pay attention to him before becoming so absorbed in their Happy Boxes. For these reasons, the Stray Dog abandoned the confusing world of warbling boxes and fascist tunes for the safety of four walls and a couple meals a day.

As usual, I’m not trying to over analyze or look into something too hard–it’s funny on its own that the Stray Dog would jail himself, but I think it is also additionally funny and additionally interesting that he would jail himself because Tazmily sucks now.

There’s another guy in the jail cell who says he got arrested for larceny, but all he did was pick up a door knob lying on the ground. And speaking of callbacks to Chapter 1, the cop by the door of the cell says the lock was ruined by some jerk named Flint, who, if you recall, was the first person to ever be put into jail in peaceful Tazmily.

But why did jailing persist in this little town? Why did it catch on? Why is prison a component of a more modern society, ala what Fassad brings in?

Well, I could start citing Foucault and get down and dirty with everything from punishment to the panopticon, but I think I’ll leave it at this: a prison is an obvious sign of populace control (duh). A prison (or a jail), whether or not you ever get arrested, is a threat that hangs over everything, a consequence enforced by law. Now, Tazmily still doesn’t exactly seem like a crime-ridden place to me, but when you already have soldiers marching through the streets, you may as well have cops, and you may as well have a jail. This place is a symptom of modernization. It also reminds us that many Tazmilians, while not in jail, basically live as such: cooped up inside all day, staring into their happy boxes.

Of course, the Tazmily jail also gives us the amazing line: “Please don’t stare directly at me. It might make me want to arrest you.”

But what else is there to talk about? There’s a sign outside the jail that contains a reference to the band The Who (“WANTED: My Generation. It appears to be an old concert poster put up by someone…but who?”), but other than sign jokes and dolphin ossicles littering the beach to the south, there’s nothing else to see around here in Tazmily unless you head west, to Cerulean Beach.

Actually, wait a second: if the sign outside the Tazmily jail is a concert poster from The Who, then that means The Who exists, or existed, at some point in Mother 3’s world…

Okay, now it’s getting pretty obvious that I’m grasping at straws to keep this post going, so let’s start to wrap this puppy up.

Now, Cerulean Beach never featured prominently in the early chapters of Mother 3, but I think enough happened here (the conversation between Lighter and Fuel, meeting up with Nana, for example) for the player to make a connection with it. That said, now that Cerulean Beach is populated with all kinds of NPCs, and sunbathing pigs, and save frogs, and even a Pigmask wading somewhere out at sea… well, it doesn’t feel wrong or anything, at least not in the same way it feels wrong to see Fassad hogging town square. It seems cool, it seems good, for Cerulean Beach to have people here who are enjoying it. Maybe I would feel differently if I had, say, seen Nana’s content-cut father get swallowed up by the Kraken on this very shore or something, but I’m mostly just happy to see people enjoying the beach.

What’s so wrong with that?

Honestly, Cerulean Beach might be the new best spot of Tazmily. In the central-west area, we have a jail and a destroyed home; in the east, we have an old folks’ home, a construction of Fassad’s; and in the central town square, we have a false prophet spoiling everyone’s minds as the Happy Box hours tick by. On Cerulean Beach? We have man in a suit-shaped swimsuit! We have two potential lovers, crushing on each other from a distance! A Mother classic! What is there to dislike about the possibility of love?

I don’t know, maybe it’s the amateur EarthBound64 enthusiast in me, but I can’t help but both like and dislike Cerulean Beach. Sometimes I just feel like more was supposed to happen here, like I should have connected with it some kind of way…. but think about it. Even the conversation with Lighter, a high point of Chapter 1 in my opinion, can be missed by the player. In fact, I’d been accidentally skipping that conversation for over a decade of playing Mother 3. The first time I had ever seen that dialogue was during my Frog Blog playthrough. And other than that, nothing brings us here except for our own whims (or a want for strange conversation with Nana).

So yeah, I don’t know. Am I supposed to see this beach as, like, a bad thing? Because to me, it’s just people (and pigs) enjoying nature. Something the Tazmilians of the past would have loved. But as far as I can tell, the Tazmilians of the past rarely came to the beach, so I’m down to consider this a success of modernized Tazmily.

Salt life, baby!

Honestly, the only “bad” thing around here is that Bud and Lou seem to have been banned from practicing their comedy around the water, and I’m not saying that makes me happy or anything, but other than that everything seems okay. I don’t like that Bud and Lou are working all day in the factory, but I do like that Itoi has added some star-crossed NPCs in this area, and I also do really like the detail of the Pigmask swimming. Pigmasks, up until now, have been either comic relief or surprisingly effective threats, but Mother 3 adds things here and there (and a later plot point) to humanize the people behind the pigs, and I like that. Actually, I can remember the first time I encountered the Pigmask boots on the shore, and at the time (I was 12) it freaked me out to imagine the solider swimming out at sea. They had become so dehumanized to me that I didn’t like the idea at all. Pigmasks shouldn’t be swimming!

But leave it to the Mother series to make me happy that even the villains of the game get to take a dip every now and again. Even this week’s save frog is having some fun in the sun, hanging out in the wooden barrel near the water. Which makes me wonder… Is it time to pack it in for the day? I think so. Let’s go see what this frog has to tell us.

When spying Lucas’s curl of blonde hair from beneath the water of the barrel, the frog pauses for a moment… he recognizes this boy. A night, three years ago, fire, then rain, then children’s smiles…

Or were the children smiling? Weren’t they crying? Wasn’t death in the air? The smell and the sound of it? Lucas would not know this, but his father would: there was another frog in a barrel once, living in Tazmily. It found itself surrounded by flames one fateful night; it found itself urging a cowboy to tell it all his memories, in case he succumbed to the raging fires. That frog (is it this same one here today? Having rolled its barrel far?) might say something like, “You have your father’s eyes,” or, “You have grown so strong, now.”

But this frog brings up nothing of the sort. He sees anxiety in the boy’s face, as well as shock: the boy was not expecting a frog to pop up from beneath the surface, and it seems the boy still may not be accustomed to the fact that these frogs talk to him, that they’d want anything to do with him at all.

So, instead, the frog looks to the dog, and the dog to the boy, and before long the three are sitting together on the sand, taking in the sun, and discussing the day as they have found it. For a little while longer, everything is okay.

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