Frog #45: No Tazmily for Old Men

There is a Word on the Wind:

Love.

And if the Word on the Wind is love, then:

Love is in the air.

But: these last few frogs haven’t painted the best picture of Tazmily. We have adults (and soon children) laboring away in The Factory, rumors of an Old Folks Home, the warbling of Happy Boxes, and the blaring of a fascist tune, drifting into town over the rolling, grassy hills…

Yet still–

I’m not sure what kind of love, exactly, is in the air. There’s a couple sitting on a bench who claim to be acting as lovey-dovey as possible, seated not far from a sign that says, “How about some nice love? Please call me anytime.” And of course, this is only a cigarette flick away from a woman sitting on another bench, who herself is spying the star-crossed couple from Frog 44 with a certain amount of distaste or at least half-hearted incredulity. And all of this is not far from Nana, who after a lengthy speech about trumpets, pianos, and destiny, tells Lucas that she likes his smile, and she may even like him.

What’s going on over at the beach? I don’t care what they’re putting in the water if everyone is acting like this! Even if Fassad’s regime is truly taking over, I’m happy to know that youngins like Lucas and Nana can still blush next to the ocean, as an over-the-top but admittedly fun couple says, “Amore. That’s love. Love. That’s amore.”

It’s all a little silly, but it’s also easy to tell that Itoi was having some fun writing this particular area. Again, I feel like the first three chapters of Mother 3, while necessary to the story, weren’t giving Itoi the typical creative freedom that he seemed to enjoy so much in EarthBound. But now, he’s got signs, pretty ladies, and wistful tweens to keep the fun dialogue flowing.

Goofy signage and Shigesato Itoi must be a match made in heaven. I don’t know how to say it better than that–something about Cerulean Beach and its offbeat “Call me anytime” signs has really opened up the humorous vibe of Mother 3, and I’d say now, more than ever, I feel like I’m playing a Mother game again. Which is of course not to say that everything up until now hasn’t felt like Mother, but long-time readers of the blog may remember that I’ve often tried to balance the influence of EarthBound against the rest of the series. Looking at things like Pollyanna is all the evidence one needs to see that both Mother and Mother 2, seemingly, are where the hearts of the fans lie. However, as I’ve been trying to point out now for 45 frogs, Mother 3 is just as much a Mother game as its predecessors–it just contends with their legacy in a unique way, giving it room to be its own thing.

See, to me, the original Mother was the prototype, and Mother 2 expanded and improved on it in mostly every single way. Red-capped protagonists fighting aliens, against the backdrop of a contemporary setting. The one thing off the top of my head that Mother 2 does not do as well as Mother is some instances of character development, namely, the relationship of Ninten and Ana versus Ness and Paula. Ninten and Ana seem like they’re given room to grow as characters, which is saying a lot when considering that Mother was an NES game. With Ness and Paula, other characters in the story always just say they look cute, or that they’re a fun little couple, but it all seems innocent–it doesn’t feel the relationship changes much throughout the story. Add on to that the arc of Teddy and the redemption of Loid, and suddenly Mother is much more story-driven than a newer player may assume off the bat. To me, it seems Itoi has always had big ideas when it comes to narrative, and I don’t think he scratched his storyteller itch completely with EarthBound; if anything, I think that’s where he first became a great world builder.

With this in mind, for me, at times, Mother 3 is the peak of the Mother series. We don’t get as much play in dialogue as we do with EarthBound, but we still get it, and we get a substantial expansion in character development. I know I’ve been bringing up this point nearly every frog since Chapter 4 began, but it’s a realization that keeps dawning on me: I want Mother 3 to get more credit for being able to balance the best parts of its predecessors, while adding some new flavor of its own.

Anyway, speaking of Paula, Nana is the closest thing we have to a blonde-haired, pink-dressed psychic in Mother 3, and I’d say that her conversation with Lucas was my favorite part of today’s gameplay session. I love how playfully and innocently Itoi explores a romantic connection between these two. The children of Tazmily are not just children anymore; they are teenagers, with thoughts, emotions, and big ideas. Nana has always been something special since we first met her, and it appears that growing up has only made her more inquisitive, more open-minded, and more talkative. The girl who once shied away from prolonged conversation now talks so much that the game actually fades to black to show the passage of time. (I’ve always felt bad for Nana when this happens–the girl just likes to talk!)

I’ve always liked interpreting this sweet conversation in a couple different ways. The first is that Nana would have opened up to anyone, but Lucas is the first person to talk to her in quite some time. “It would probably be best if you didn’t talk to me,” says Nana. “Everyone hates me, you know.” As Tazmily shifts more and more away from what it once was, the loners like Nana become even more ostracized. The way I see it, it’s been so long since Nana has had a chance to interact with anyone at all, so when Lucas approaches her, she becomes excited and suddenly starts musing about how great of a trumpet player or pianist she might have become if given enough practice or, of course, destiny.

I also like seeing the conversation as something that happens specifically because Lucas talks to her. I think it’s sweet that Nana would have a crush on Lucas, and, in my interpretation of Lucas at least, I can easily see him having a crush on her. And even if no romantic feelings are involved, Nana and Lucas are cut from the same cloth: they both reject the changes of Tazmily in their quiet ways–Nana by looking ever off into the ocean, and Lucas by refusing what is expected of him and his family.

It also breaks my heart that Nana believes everyone hates her. From the first time we met Nana, she was talking about faraway islands. She seemed to harbor a quiet strength, a wisdom beyond her years. She never fully opened up to men like Duster or Flint, but who would? Nana has been a special person, a bright light in Mother 3, since we first shared words with her on the outer cliffs of Cerulean Beach, but sharing words doesn’t matter in Tazmily’s new society. Now, work matters, progress matters, and Happy Boxes matter. Honestly, Nana is holding it down for the resistance in Tazmily better than even Wess, who’s cooped up in the Old Folks’ home right now. Nana wakes up every day and continues being herself–a self that is at odds with what Tazmilian culture wants. A self that is its own quirky rebellion.

I guess I’ve never noticed how similar Nana appears to Paula, with the pink dress and blonde hair, but the visual connection does make me think, once again, of what might have been with this character. I talked more at length about Nana and her content-cut father here, but the more I play Mother 3, the more I feel this thread is one of the most sorely missing aspects of the game. Imagine, for a moment, that the disappearance of Nana’s father had factored in at least somewhere in the opening chapters of the game. And let’s also say that the Kraken did have something to do with it. Well, I feel like the bond between characters like Lucas and Nana would be so much stronger: both of them would have lost family members because of Chimeras. And, if the plotline with Fuel’s motther disappearing had been kept in as well, suddenly we have a whole slew of Tazmilian children whose parents have gone missing at the hands (or the claws) of various Chimeras. Perhaps these storylines were cut so that Lucas’s situation would garner the most sympathy from the player.

(For newer readers unfamiliar with EarthBound 64, Nana was going to have a father, Papa, who disappeared at sea. Some speculate he would have related to the similarly content-cut Kraken, a chimeric beast who seemed to have a much larger role in EarthBound 64. It is also speculated that Lighter’s wife was going to experience a similar fate.)

I’m bringing this up because, without the additional characterization that may have been present in EarthBound 64, Nana’s conversations in Mother 3 are mostly just fun anomalies. She foreshadows some stuff here and there, like Tanetane Island and other story elements, and she’s clearly more perceptive than your average Tazmilian… but that’s about as far as Mother 3 takes it. Because of that, her conversation with Lucas is still fun, but I can’t help but imagine the type of connection these characters could have had in a larger, more realized story.

I mean, I know the original plans for Nana and Papa were cut, but isn’t it odd that it was so literally cut? Nana, seemingly, has no parents in Tazmily, nor does she have a home. At this point in the story, we can assume that no one other than Lucas really gives her the time of day, and few other characters ever talk about her at all. It’s just odd to me. She’s a character with all these great, fun qualities, but they impact the game in such a small way because she’s so starkly untethered from the other characters. And I get that that’s partially because Nana is a kooky loner, but do you see what I mean? You’d think if so much story content around a character was cut, there’d at least be a small substitution, but I can also see the appeal of letting Nana remain mysterious. Maybe Itoi enjoyed how there was a Tazmilian without as strong of a connection to the rest of the village, even as a little girl. Maybe Itoi liked how there were no answers to the Nana mystery: who is she? Where does she come from?

Oh, well. I’ve always loved chatting with Nana, so, for me, this conversation is the highlight of Chapter 4 thus far. Talking to people, listening to people, spending time with people on the outer cliffs of a beautiful beach… this is what Mother is all about. I mean, if a Pigmask in Hotel Yado can tell you it’s a good thing to talk to people, then clearly this is a lesson that Itoi wants to impart on to us. Actually, that’s always why I found it odd that the game makes a joke about Nana’s talkativeness–does she talk so much that it’s too much for even a Mother game?

Poor Nana!

Anyway, I’ve clearly proven that I can be as talkative as Nana. Isn’t there some other direction I should be taking this blog post? I guess, before moving on from my odd pal, I’ll say this, for a theory: maybe Nana does come from Paula, or Ana’s, ancestry, and though she doesn’t have PSI anymore, or at least an awareness of how to use it, she maintains some of Paula’s prophetic abilities from EarthBound. Because in EarthBound 64, we could say that Nana’s worldly, sailor father, Papa, might have told her things about the world that most kids wouldn’t know. As it stands in Mother 3, Nana is just that much more inquisitive than your average person, maybe with a little psychic spice.

I mean, the outfit’s a match, anyway.

I know this has been kind of a scatter-brained intro, but one of the reasons I wanted to focus so much not only on the Cerulean Beach area, but also the conversation with Nana, is because I really have noticed a change in the writing of Mother 3. The way I see it, video games, when written with such a distinct style as Itoi’s, can, in a way, be “read” as novels. Or maybe what I mean is: in the same way a writer in a book can have a writing style, a writer of a video game can have a recognizable style as well–it just manifests in different ways because a game is not experienced sentence to sentence. And while I think Itoi has accomplished some excellent moments throughout Chapters 1 through 3 that clearly show his maturity as a writer and his ability to handle more complex ideas and raw emotions, it hasn’t been until recently that I really feel like he has come awake once more in that Mother-style, where nearly everything and everyone you interact with draws you ceaselessly into the world of the game.

I mean, what’s up with the “Call me anytime” notices on beachside signage? Does that crack anyone else up? Or is that just me? And this little meeting with Nana reminds me of coffee breaks with Mr. Saturns, and our characters getting lost for an afternoon in conversation. I don’t know… maybe I’m just musing, but something feels special about this part of the game–everything we have experienced has led to this point, and Mother 3 has now leveled out in a way that feels welcoming. Trust me: when playing Frog by Frog, I’d say 70% of the time, if not more, in Chapters 1 through 3, I always felt like there was some direction the game was funneling me toward, and playing Frog by Frog felt like playing Event to Event. Whereas now… I’m just playing. I’m exploring. I’m having a really good time, and it seems like Itoi is, too. Honestly, it’s probably been much too long since I’ve actually cited or referenced Itoi in this blog, so be on the look out for words from the man himself.

In short, I feel like I’m in that toy box again. You know, the one that makes Mother games.

Well then, where next? There are definitely a few more Tazmilians I’d like to check in with, so I say we keep up with everyone’s favorite series and kick it over to…

A Million Tazmilians VII: A Fistful of Tazmilians

A long time ago, there was a cowboy named Bob. Bob wore cowboy hats, cowboy boots, and cowboy socks (a lesser known cowboy accessory). Bob liked to drink whiskey, like a cowboy, and occasionally harass the bar staff (like a bad cowboy). Bob seemed to live a pretty simple life in a pretty simple town called Tazmily. Sure, he drank a lot, and instead of helping out in a town-wide search for a woman and her children, he drank some more, but Bob did not appear to be a bad man. This was Tazmily, after all. Anyone was welcome to live at their own pace, and according to their own principles.

But beneath Bob’s smiles and late-night toasts in the Yado Inn (many of which fell on uninterested, or even annoyed, ears) there lived a little cowboy lost. Bob drank a lot, and often became angry, and it did not take much for Bob to decide he would drink, drink, and drink some more. Sometimes Bob ended his day slumped over onto Jackie’s bar; sometimes, Bob began his day slumped over onto Jackie’s bar. If Bob lived in any other town, someone might look at him and say, “That guy needs to get a damn job.”

Which, of course, leads us to now. Bob, it seems, has hung up his spurs and bandanas for the orange factory jumpsuit, though he was not wearing it when I visited him in his home. I assume that most Tazmilians who work in the factory simply work there because Fassad introduced it to them and told them they needed to work to make money. Basically, I don’t think each and every Tazmilian has, say, some dramatic story about how or why they turned over to the factory life. For many, I think it just happened.

However, this playthrough of Mother 3 made me interested in Bob as a character for the first time (as evidenced here), so I’m going to spend a little bit thinking this over, in hopes to paint a picture of how a character like Bob might be feeling in Chapter 4. See, last time we met Bob, he was drinking at Jackie’s bar. Earlier that night, we had learned that Bob seemed to enjoy storytelling, sharing “secrets” about Tazmily that he had numbered and categorized. Now, maybe the semblance of a “system” of Tazmilian secrets was just drunken ambition, but I thought it was cool to learn that Bob thought about this stuff at all. Even the Mother 3 Handbook points out that Bob has a taste for local lore.

By the end of the night, Bob was no longer sharing secrets with Duster, but toasting to Fassad and Salsa. Like many Tazmilians, Fassad quickly and easily won over Bob’s heart with a combination of well-placed kindness and, of course, the presence of a cute, disarming monkey. Suddenly, Fassad had a new #1 fan: Bob, the local cowboy, drunkenly cheering and toasting to both himself and Salsa, until passing out in his very own seat.

Fast forward three years, and we see a different Bob, or, at least, a Bob that was referenced but mostly hidden. Bob always had some flashes of anger, especially when confronted about drinking, and his wife, Dona, harbored complicated emotions about their dynamic, though at times in the early chapters, it was difficult to pin down exactly what Dona was dealing with (she even mentioned a world outside Tazmily she’d like to run away to). Now, however, we see Bob when he’s off the sauce, or at least when he’s off his shift and about to get back on the sauce, and: he’s kind of a dick.

When seeing Lucas, Bob says, “You must really think you’re something special. You don’t even work. Even kids are working at the factory nowadays, you know.” And look: I can see some interpretations of this line where Bob isn’t being that mean or critical to Lucas, and is maybe even joking (or thinking that he’s joking) but, to me, an amateur cowboy myself who has had more than a few hoedowns with tonic and gin… Bob comes off as one of those people who has a real bitterness inside him until that first drop of alcohol hits. Maybe it’s the Midwesterner in me, but I know so many people, and have even at times been the person, who works to drink, and drinks to live. When you live like this, many aspects of your life become enveloped in bitterness. I’ve seen it, and I’ve been there.

Look: I’m not trying to make this post an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, and I’m not trying to psychoanalyze Bob–a character who Itoi probably had drink so much because he thought it was funny. I think I’m just having an interesting time imagining how Bob would function in this world. I mean, from his perspective, a nice peddler and monkey came into town and bought him a drink. Within days, this same peddler probably said, “Hey Bob, if you want to keep drinking, you’re gonna have to start working. But if you start working, I promise you’ll really be drinking the good stuff.” Next thing Bob knew, three years went by, and suddenly he’s telling the kid without a mom that he should be working in the soul-crushed factory like the rest of the town. Suddenly, he’s not the fun-loving, bourbon-bubbling, secret-slinging cowboy anymore, but just a worker. One of many.

Again, I’m not trying to get dramatic about Bob. My musing here is a combination of a few interests. One, I’m always interested in how Fassad truly hooked each Tazmilian, because most of it happens off-screen. Are we supposed to assume Fassad basically just tricked everyone into wanting money? I mean, I suppose that could be the case, but, for me, I like imagining that it took at least a little bit longer, and that for many villagers, he had to entice them with the right thing or vice. For Bob, it seems tragic but realistic to me that Fassad would dangle alcohol over his head: start working at the factory, and you’ll get your drink. Basically I’m seeking to discover, or at least to imagine in some kind of head canon, what bargains the Tazmilians have made to justify this new life.

And again, I’m also just interested in Bob. He’s such a background character. He looks like a cowboy like Flint and Abbot, but even Abbot was around for some pretty major story moments, while Bob just guzzled strong drink at Jackie’s. I had never paid attention to Bob before, so I’ve had quite a time doing so now.

And lastly, I’ve just been there. I’ve had hard manual labor jobs that made me hate my life. And I’ll also say that while working these jobs, drinking and drugs take on an entirely new meaning and feeling. If you think you enjoy an occasional beer or cocktail, drink whiskey after moving furniture for 11 hours. It is dangerous and all too easy how quickly alcohol can become your pain management system, both for physical and emotional difficulties.

Oh god. Am I starting to sound like a DARE commercial? All I’m trying to say is: I think Bob is kind of an asshole now, but I can empathize with how his labor has trapped him.

I bet you weren’t expecting thirteen paragraphs on Bob to start off this section, were you? I think I’m starting to see why some people worry that I’ll never finish this blog… (I’m at least starting to see why I’ve been called long-winded).

Anyway, like I said, Bob was an NPC I never paid much attention to on previous playthroughs, so much so that I assumed he disappeared after the time-skip. Dona, on the other hand, is an NPC I’ve always noticed. She seemed broken up at the funeral of Hinawa, and in Chapters 2 and 3, I thought the narrative took an interesting direction with her grief. She began to feel trapped in Tazmily, and emotionally confused, as her husband spent night after night at the bar, while Dona spent hour after hour at home.

That’s why I’m a little disappointed to see Dona defaulting to Happy Boxes. All she really says is that it’s about time Lucas gets one, and, to me, this is such a disappointing pay-off to what was a unique emotional set-up. Dona, Bateau, Lighter, Bronson, Alec, Wess, and Nana seemed like a group of Tazmilians who were a bit more keyed in to what was happening–not so much the deception of Fassad and the Pigmasks, but of the evolution of Tazmily, and the confrontations that Tazmilian culture was facing. Why would Dona want to leave Tazmily? Did it imply she knew there was somewhere she could go? Dona is a surfer, after all, though that is a dangerous profession when you don’t know how to swim.

I guess what I’m getting at is… Dona’s father, Jonel, was the man of faith; Dona’s husband, Bob, was a deadbeat-in-the-making, but he had some redeeming qualities. For Dona to actually acknowledge her emotions in Chapters 2 and 3 felt unique to me, and I felt the beginnings of a complex minor character being formed. I’m not saying Itoi needed to go literary with this and give us some Chopin style awakening, but I was at least hoping for some follow-ups or resolution to Dona’s situation. Very few Tazmilians, if any, expressed emotions as directly and as hopelessly as Dona in those early chapters. But now? Happy Box, Happy Box, Happy Box.

My chagrin with every Tazmilian becoming so hypnotized by the propsect of a Happy Box is that I think it undermines a lot of the compelling character work Itoi was doing in those early chapters. Or, at least, if everyone is going to end up wanting Happy Boxes, I wish we could have witnessed a bit more of that change taking place. Right now, it seems that Fassad just showed up one day and won everyone over immediately. If anything, this is where Mother 3 really does start to feel a bit different than what might have been in EarthBound 64, though we can really only speculate.

It seems that Itoi wanted the changes in Tazmily to be much slower in EarthBound 64, with the Pigmasks and Fassad influencing the town over time, as opposed to after a single time-skip. It should be said that Itoi still wanted a time-skip or time-skips in his original conception, but other things would have been happening around town, like villagers starting to wear pig noses as a fashion statement, for example. The way it stands, three years pass, and the compelling, if not emotionally-stifled, villagers we’ve come to know have been brainwashed over night.

And I want to emphasize again: I’m not against everyone in Tazmily becoming so dim; it’s clear from the start of the game that though Tazmily is a bit of a Utopia, it is by no means perfect or impervious to exploitation. It just happens so fast in Mother 3 that it feels a bit cheap. Take Matt, for instance, who was a wreck at Hinawa’s funeral and who the game has thus far been implying may have some issues with alcohol. When we catch up with Matt in Chapter 4, he’s gone to the world, staring into the glow of a Happy Box, saying absolutely nothing.

Or what about Bateau? Bateau was a goofy character in the early chapters, but he also had a deep emotional reaction to Hinawa’s death and Claus’s disappearance. Like Dona, he spent a few days, seemingly, at his wit’s end, asking big questions about life, grief, and happiness. Now, when we meet up with Bateau, he just remarks on their new and improved postal system to Lucas. And look: I understand that three years went by, so Bateau will have changed… but I just feel cheated out of some unique character development because of this. These characters and their situations had so much promise, but it seems to have all been undermined by the Happy Boxes.

I’m reminded of the slipshod writing of the Star Wars prequels, where in lieu of actual character development, Palpatine (Darth Sidious) is conveniently behind nearly everything. And it’s like, sure, we want a villain to be a mastermind, and we want a villain to have an intricate plan, and we love when that intricate plan actually works… But in my opinion, a writer should be careful with this type of storytelling. I love when a villain succeeds for a portion of the story, but I don’t like when a master plan supersedes all other aspects of storytelling and character development, which is what I personally feel like has happened in Mother 3 with Fassad, his lightning, and his Happy Boxes.

So what are the Happy Boxes? Itoi says they aren’t TVs, and he says that during development he even had them changed multiple times, but they are certainly still shaped like them. In a typical Itoi answer, he also says they could even be fish tanks–they’re just “Happy Boxes,” after all. Though Bronson mentions wanting to watch his later in the game, and when Lucas examines what appear to be large televisions, he wonders if they are a type of Happy Box. Given that Abbot and Abbey have many Happy appliances, one wonders if the Happy Box is not just the cream pink TV in a Sears catalog.

That said, some houses in Tazmily seem to contain both televisions and Happy Boxes. So what’s up with that? And, for what it’s worth, Ed, who we haven’t seen since Chapter 2, doesn’t have a Happy Box in his house. Maybe it’s a home that can never be happy, seeing as Scamp has finally passed away. Although if I know anything about Mother 3, Ed and Nan had better not grieve Scamp too long, or the lightning will come.

Well, I think Happy Boxes are what they look like: boxes that emit color (a very groundbreaking observation, I know). If Happy Boxes did something, like if they were televisions or computers, they wouldn’t have the same symbolic meaning, I think, for Itoi and for Mother 3. Happy Boxes are an arbitrary product; they don’t do anything. The point is that it’s an empty device, because Fassad’s Happiness is an empty promise. It is only a Happy Box in name, which allows the device to make stronger comments on consumerism than if it were an actual device with a function. I think Itoi is showing the dangers of consumerism as validation, as personality, as wish-fulfillment; at the end of the day, most of these things people buy are just products with names, marketed as the (har)bringers of happiness.

It’s like this: imagine for a second that the Happy Boxes were just TVs. If so, the residents of Tazmily would have programs to watch, perhaps Pigmask Propaganda, which means the driving force behind the villagers choosing the box would be entertainment. Fassad could still drive consumerism into the Tazmily people through televised entertainment, but it wouldn’t have the same metaphorical effect on the story.

Because the Happy Box is just a Happy Box, the Tazmilians accepted a message, not a service. Buying in on the Happy Box is buying in on Fassad’s facade. I’ll also point out that Tazmily didn’t have technology anywhere close to this just three years ago, so while it might seem weird for us to imagine Tazmilians simply staring at colorful screens for hours on end, but yourself in their shoes for a moment. A man comes to town and tells you this box will make you Happy. You don’t know what TV is, or anything like entertainment projected through a screen. It would make perfect sense, I’d imagine, for a simple-minded Tazmilian to just sit and stare, hoping to absorb some happiness. Don’t forget poor Abbot, whose mind seems to be entirely chewed up and spat out by his fruitless pursuit of happiness, peering deeper and deeper into his screen.

Now that the Tazmilians live in the days of lightning that the peddler foretold, the Happy Box has become a cultural norm that the Pigmask Army easily manipulates by targeting the sans Happy Box homes with electrical attacks. Those who had Happy Boxes all along only become all the more vindicated as time goes on. I still have some hesitancy to accept the lightning strikes, as it seems to cut corners in the writing process… but more on that some other time.

The Happy Boxes also become a more memorable and interesting image by being just boxes. As I walk into various Tazmilian homes, I know the all-too-familiar glow is going to be there, but that doesn’t make me comfortable beholding it. A Happy Box in a home means the entire place is under Fassad’s infuence. Whatever he says, goes. In a way, I’m reminded of EarthBound’s Mani Mani statue, that was able to manipulate people and animals en masse just by being in a location. The Happy Boxes are like a symbolic successor to this idea, although their effect is docility instead of hostility.

So what am I getting with all this? Well, on one hand, I love Itoi’s rejection of giving explicit meaning to the Happy Boxes; I think this does more for his goals in the story, and I think it shrouds a technological device in mystery, which also fits with Mother 3’s various thematic plays on chimeras and chimeric natures (look no further than the logo, which is both wood and steel). As the story progresses and complicates, we’ll see various chimeric motifs played out on large and small scales, and the unknown qualities of the Happy Box play into that. How often do you buy a technological device that you have no idea what it does? How often does a story render its science fiction elements with such ambiguity? It’s not so uncommon, but it’s still an approach I love to see, and a perfect fit, in my opinion, for the Mother series.

But on the other hand, I don’t love the Happy Boxes, or at least I think something about their implementation in Mother 3 feels lacking. See, a wise man once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit,” and, in many ways, I think Mother 3 is probably Itoi’s preferred version of the story he drafted so many decades ago–he himself says that he has become a nicer person, which impacted the story’s ending. But I wonder where the brevity ends and the needless truncation begins… Sometimes the plot surrounding the Happy Boxes and Fassad’s takeover seems too convenient…

Let me explain.

In Chapter 3, Fassad makes his great prophecy about lightning raining from the sky, and animals turning into monsters, etc etc. We, the player, know that all of these things Fassad prophesies are just things he himself is going to orchestrate, which creates dramatic irony for the player: we know something that the characters don’t. As Fassad’s predictions come true, more Tazmilians will want Happy Boxes to keep themselves safe. I like this part of the scenario. It’s one of the reasons I think telling Chapter 3 from Salsa and Fassad’s perspective is so fun.

I think my disappointment in this plot line comes from what the end of Chapter 3 sets up, and what ultimately pays off. As Chapter 3 closes, Lucas and his friends have struck back at Fassad. Wess, our de facto (ish) leader sets up a plan: Kumatora will hunt for Duster, while Lucas, Flint, and Wess watch over the town. There’s a sense that Fassad may corrupt the villagers’ natures slowly, exploiting what he observes to be their weakest traits (Butch’s greed, for example, or Bob’s drinking). There’s also a sense that Lucas and co. will do what they can in the village to resist this change, however futile it might be.

I guess for me, it’s just kind of lame that most villagers pick the Happy Boxes because if they don’t, they get struck by lightning. It removes (again, for me) the character from the situation. What we’ve learned about these NPCs over three, well-written, impactful chapters seems to go out the window because lightning is scary and dangerous. It seems to me that there’s no choice in the matter: you pick a Happy Box, or you suffer. Does this make sense? Am I explaining this right? I think that’s why EarthBound 64’s (potential) difference here is what enthralls me: it seems that in that version of the game, Fassad and the Pigmasks went to great extents to influence the town over a stretch of time, which would position the Happy Boxes as an end-goal, not a forced decision to avoid lightning. Perhaps the NPCs observable routines, which Itoi and other developers mentioned on various occasions and have been compared to Majora’s Mask, would have become more predictable and bland as they welcomed a Happy Box into their life. Perhaps a Happy Box would have essentially marked a character’s “death,” in this regard.

Instead, there’s a timeskip, everything and everyone changes, and most of the Tazmilians are now just Happy Box zombies. To me, there is some disappointment there. And look, I’m not saying this to take away from Fassad or the Pigmask Army–if anything, their total grip on the Tazmilian populace through violence is realistic to actual totalitarian regimes in real life. Maybe Itoi, by looking at the world around him, realized that slow social influence wasn’t nearly as effective, or as historically accurate, as weaponized change. In fact, the way that Mother 3 stands now, Fassad and the Pigmasks are much more threatening villains. They control every aspect of the situation with an iron fist. Sure, the story may feel truncated to someone who falls down the rabbit hole of alluring EarthBound 64 information, but maybe Itoi realized there was a simpler and more accurate way to tell his story.

I mean, think about it: when Itoi first wrote the draft for Mother 3, it would’ve been around the mid-90s. Any ideas he had about people’s relationship to technology would have been formed by a largely pre-internet age (at least pre-home internet, on a wide scale). I think it’s totally possible that when Itoi revisited his script in 2003-2004, he had a completely new opinion on our relationship with technology, and how easily technological trends take hold over an entire society, whether for good or for evil. Couple this idea with the prevalent realities of the military industrial complex in a post 9/11 world, and you’ve got a revamped Pigmask Army that rules our minds with techy boxes and our lives with lightning. It’s not so farfetched to see Mother 3 revised under this social milieu. Why would a fascist regime do in 10 years what they could do overnight?

(Okay, okay… let’s bring this back to reality. I apologize for a quick bout into off-the-cuff, shoddy critical theory. I’m just a frog!)

So I’m not saying what we have in Mother 3 is bad, nor am I suggesting that it would have been better in a Nintendo 64 game that none of us have played. I’m just saying that, for my narrative tastes, some of the decisions here do ultimately lack flavor–lack narrative texture. A lot of the time I invested in meeting these NPCs seems to have gone out the window. And who knows? Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing Frog by Frog, which has turned these NPCs into a significant part of my life. I’ve reflected on them a lot, and spend a lot of time with them. It’s not fun to see them so easily ripped away. At times, they felt like people I knew.

And to be fair, maybe that was the point all along: not for Chapter 4 to feel lazy, but for Chapter 4 to feel defeating, shocking, and hopeless. We end on a triumphant note in Chapter 3, only to see, three years later, that nothing mattered at all. And if that really was the point, then fine, but I think that goa comes with the abandonment of some decent sub-plots.

I’m tempted to write more here about The Notebook, the novel that inspired Mother 3, as well as totalitarian regimes around and after World War II… but I’ve gotta get going here! There’s still a while to go before the next frog! Grab a snack and a bev! We still have more to talk about!

Okay, to close up this section, I’ll mention just a few more details. For one, my favorite Stray Dog (who I previously thought was imprisoned, but that must have been another stray) has been struck by lightning for pissing on a Happy Box. I always knew he was a member of the Tazmilian A-Team. Resistance can be shown in many ways!

I also noticed that, if you have a Dolphin Ossicle in your inventory, Lisa will have different dialogue. She mentions that there’s a ghost up in Osohe Castle who knows all about such items, but that she doesn’t think it’s worth it to go ask. I thought this line was kind of sweet and sad. For a moment, someone is actually being nice to Lucas and not just talking about some bullshit, but she also doesn’t think a ghost is interesting enough to break away from Fassad. A ghost! Who knows about Ossicles!

What will it take to wake these people up! Would you rather look at a dumb Happy Box, or talk to a ghost? Although, this does confirm one of my questions of whether or not the normal Tazmilians even knew that Osohe had ghosts at all.

And hey, what is a Dolphin Ossicle anyway? Well, you may be surprised, but Itoi was asked about this very phenomenon in the Nintendo Dream interview. What’s up with that dolphin ear bone you can pick up all over the beach? asks the interviewer, to which Itoi says: “I actually have a dolphin ear bone pendant of my own. When a dolphin dies, it floats among the waves for a long time, and while all kinds of its bones start to gradually melt away, only the bone in the inside of its ear comes to the surface of the shore without melting. There’s this thing called beachcombing, and something you can pick up from that is a dolphin’s ear bone. It’s a sort of protective charm for fisherman, surfers, and people who wish to return to the area. When I heard about that, I thought it was really nice and I bought one for myself. It made me happy, and there was a time when it hung around my neck, so I decided to put it in the game.”

I’ll always love details like this. I don’t know why it’s so important for me to feel human intent when I play video games, but it just makes them feel more special for me. While it’s not quite on the same level, I always loved the weird easter eggs that Bungie would put into the Halo games, because sometimes they were so off the wall and intricate that it felt refreshing to see something put into a game just because. An arbitrary easter egg, in a way, signals creativity for creativity’s sake, and that’s not often something we get in contemporary game design outside of the indie sphere. On that note, it’s just sweet to me that Itoi himself wore an ossicle charm, and so added this detail to his game. Why not?

And the last, last thing I’ll mention in this section is that Butch’s farm land has become a Pigmask Army training ground. We heard this mentioned by a solider at the Yado Hotel, but seeing it up close is… really something.

Do you remember way back in Chapter 1, when I thought Pigmasks were creepy? When the plot shrouds them in mystery, their menacing oinks and weird, fleshy costumes can actually be pretty threatening, given the right circumstances. However, most of that mystique is gone, as you can chat with Pigmasks slinging riddles, and others burping as they claim to have sunstroke.

The way Itoi writes Pigmasks reminds me of how he writes police officers, except the Pigmasks have more humor about them. They are just as blunt, rude, and tempermental as Itoi’s cops, but they have a softer side to them as well; not all Pigmasks seem evil, and not all of them even seem mean. They’re just people. Maybe they were drafted. Maybe they don’t want to be here just as much as we don’t want them here. Who knows!

As you can probably guess, my favorite Pigmask of the bunch is the one who tells the “In flew Enza” joke, which I admit I told to all of my classmates in 8th grade after seeing the joke in Mother 3. Though I also adore how the Pigmasks blare their own theme song out of a cassette player, and I like how one of the commanders tells Lucas that if he wants to be a Pigmask, he’s going to have to eat “lots and lots” until he’s “nice and big.”

Oh, Pigmasks. Never change!

Or, wait. Change! Change! Put down your weapons!

I don’t have much else to say about this Pigmask training ground, other than that I feel bad for Butch. I don’t think the poor guy knew what he was getting into, all those years ago. Don’t get me wrong: I love interfacing with bumbling, wisecracking Pigmasks; they are a joy in Mother 3, and I’m glad to have them along for the ride. But you know what I miss? I miss the bumbling, wisecracking pigs. I miss the chill horses! I miss the secrets about Mother 3! I don’t care how much Itoi humanizes the enemies of this game; they still ruined Butch’s farmland, which means they ruined the lives of some perfectly nice pigs.

I mean, I guess one of them is still hanging out in Tazmily at the Cerulean Beach, but that’s besides the point!

And while I’m sure Fassad wanted this land simply because it’s one of the biggest areas of wide open space in all of Tazmily, I can’t help but feel a certain thematic resonance in the Pigmask’s training ground being located here. This is where it all began, after all. Back when a Peddler gave praise to some pigs. If we want to get literary with it, it makes perfect sense that the source of greed and change in Tazmily would eventually give way to an entire Pigmask Training Facility.

Anyway, this post is really starting to get up there in length, so let’s move on to our next and final section for the day. At this point, it’ll be a miracle if I ever finish this blog!

If there’s anything I’d add before moving on from this section, it’s that writing about Happy Boxes has made me consider some Bigger Ideas related to this blog… In a way, playing a game like this is almost like the inverse of binge watching something, so maybe Frog by Frog draws some energy from that… Hmmm… Could a deliberately slow approach to consuming media have a place in our modern lives?

I don’t have anymore thoughts on this for now! Here, have a picture of Lucas examining a tank!

An Old Man’s Paradise

After long last and some pushes from Pusher (maybe that’s how he got that name) Lucas finally arrives at the Old Folks’ Home, which you may recognize as having once been Wess and Duster’s house. The building is slip-shod, run down, and utterly unremarkable. In other words, it’s definitely the work of Fassad.

It’s still interesting to me that one of the major movements toward modernization in Tazmily involves the creation of a place like this. While caretaking of the elderly is a complex issue in real life, and so too are retirement homes in general, I think Itoi is tapping into something important about labor and society by positioning the old folks’ home as one of the defining traits of New Tazmily. When you are no longer a “working body,” you are relegated out of the community, in one way or another. In Tazmily’s case, one wonders if Fassad wants to sever the elderly’s knowledge and insight away from everyone else. I mean, I’m not trying to go all Foucault up in this post, but when a society values labor, and when that labor is often subject to exploitation, your quality of life changes drastically when you leave the work force. In many cases, you are forgotten, dehumanized, desexualized, etc.

You are not a “person” anymore.

I’ll expound more on my labor theories, and the Modern Retirement Home, at a later time. For now, let’s talk a bit about what’s inside.

In this Old Folks’ Home, which is called An Old Man’s Paradise on the sign outside, almost every imaginable problem a building could have is present. The ceiling leaks, the floor creaks, and the place reeks; there is an absurd level of neglect here, and I’m not blaming Nan or Linda, who account for much of the caretaking duties. In fact, Nan and Linda seem to be two of the Tazmilians who haven’t totally degraded into Happy Box zombies. Nana actually greets both Lucas and Boney politely, and Linda asks Lucas where Flint is, as she hasn’t seen him in years.

Maybe the act of caretaking is what keeps these Tazmilians kind, even though the building they have to operate in is practically blowing away in the wind. Or who knows: maybe I’m forgetting something, and these two ladies end up being assholes later in this very same chapter. For now, though, my theory goes back to that classic Tazmilian haiku: Helping others out/ Being helped out by others/ Helping others out. If you keep these words close to your heart, you can remain a decent person, no matter what.

It also makes sense, I think, for Nan and Linda to be here. Nan has always wanted to help out in whatever way she could, and we know that she helped take care of Scamp for years. Maybe Scamp finally passed away in this very building, or maybe Nan was inspired to help out after his passing in the home. As for Linda, we at least know that she has expressed concerned for Isaac, which is enough evidence for me to assume she’s a generally good person. I don’t know what’s going on with her and Paul right now, but I think Paul needs to get outside and help over at the Old Folks’ Home! Don’t sit around and sulk all day, Paul! Go help out! Relationship experts say that doing acts of service together can strengthen a romantic bond!

Anyway, it’s good to see these two ladies, but I do feel sorry for everyone else. There’s a girl we’ve never met who visits her grandma here, which is nice, but the residents who we’ll actually recognize live upstairs. Just brace yourself before we go up there. It’s not going to be pretty.

(Also, I adore the sprite design for the sweet little grandma sitting on the couch! Look at her!!!)

Maybe it’s because I was lucky enough to have an amazing relationship with two of my grandparents, but it’s just hard for me to see an environment like this, even though it is cartoonishly dirty. Just knowing how much neglect people like Wess and Alec are living through, having seen it multiple times in real life, strikes a bit of a chord with me. And again, I know it’s a Mother-style retirement home, so it shouldn’t be taken super seriously, but the hyperbolic neglect of the space is not totally untrue to real life. It’s just sad to see.

I do, however, enjoy spaces like this for what they tell us about our villains. We learn so much about Fassad and his plans, his perceptions, his aims, when we see things like this. I’m sure this building was built into disrepair; I’m sure Fassad wanted an environment that absolutely no one could thrive in. And while I’ve never actually thought it through before, I’m sure that Wess’s house was demolished by lightning, which then allowed Pusher the perfect opportunity to instigate his Tazmilian Retirement Home. I am sure that Wess hemmed, hawed, and huffed trying to save his property, but it wasn’t enough. Pusher and Fassad were probably able to convince the townsfolk that repurposing Wess’s property was necessary–was good, even, for the old man. Don’t forget that even in “utopian” Tazmilian, most of the villagers underestimated Wess and his capabilities. He’s always been just an old man to them.

Oh, how society undervalues our elderly!!!

Speaking of undervalued elderly people, you’ll find Mike, Wess, and Alec upstairs, each outfitted with a sad little apartment complete with a Happy Box, a stain on the floor, and a couple of mouse houses. In a few of the rooms, there appear to be chains (???) on the wall, but I’m not entirely sure what I’m looking at, so I can’t say so with certainty. What matters is that these rooms are awful. This is no Tazmily for old men.

Mike seems to be hanging in okay, but there’s a depressing undercurrent to the entire conversation. Mike says outright that he has been feeling lonely, and that his grandkids never come to visit him. But I can’t remember: does Mike have grandkids? What I remember about Mike most vividly is his cookie-baking expertise (albeit, not the most hygienic cookies).

Mike adds that at least he has a Happy Box and “nice-bodied girls” like Nan and Linda around to keep him company, to which Linda, appearing as if on cue, tells Mike that his comments are considered sexual harassment these days. I have always loved the goofiness and comic timing of this scene–yet another instance of Mother 3 refusing to commit wholly to a scene being happy or sad. Yes, we are in an incredibly dour building, and it’s sad that Mike lives such a lonely life… but Itoi always swoops at just the right time with a touch of humor.

Of course, the scene could have been played straight, but what would that add? We’ve always known Mike to be a funny, helpful character (don’t forget, Mike was significantly deeper in the forest than most Tazmilians during the initial blaze–he was handing out cookies while breathing in smoke!), so I like that Itoi adds some comic relief here. If anything, I feel like Itoi channels himself through the old men of this game. I mean, look, I admire Itoi’s work as much as the next guy, but I’d never position Itoi more than a couple feet away from a dirty joke. I just can’t help but imagine Itoi speaking out loud to write Mother 3 (as he reportedly did, with someone transcribing everything for him), and one of his younger assistants having to say, “Whoa whoa whoa–that’s sexual harassment these days!”

By the way, after a quick Google search, I’ve learned that Mike is Thomas’s father, making Nichol and Richie his grandchildren. I mean, it makes sense. Thomas and Mike both have goofy moustaches, as well as kooky senses of humor, but this does undermine Nana’s theory that no family members in Tazmily quite look alike. Hmm…

When I think about it, though, Nichol and Richie are saddled with running their Dad’s shop during the day, so it’s not really (maybe) for lack of wanting that Mike’s grandkids don’t visit him. Like many other villagers, they have become a family divided by their labor. In fact, maybe I should’ve gone easier on Paul earlier; I guess I assumed that Linda chose to work here, but it would make just as much sense for Fassad to have chosen her, making Paul and Linda not estranged for any spouse’s particular fault, but for having jobs to be at all day. As Paul works in the factory all day, it’s probably hard for him to be away from Linda, but when Linda gets home, she doesn’t have much caretaking left in her, due to being at The Old Man’s Paradise all day. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Next up in the hallway is Wess. I have to say: I was a bit let down by Lucas’s meeting with Wess. I feel like Wess says barely anything of meaning to Lucas, which once again undermines Chapter 3’s ending. I can accept that the rest of the villagers changed so starkly (and, I assume, so quickly), but for someone who was a major player in the story just a chapter ago, Wess says so little here that it just throws me off. Why should he have so little to say? Just three years ago, Wess and Lucas were part of a team, an alliance, the last bits of Tazmilian resistance… and yet here, Wess talks to Lucas as if he barely knows him. Wess seems utterly clueless about Fassad’s plan when it doesn’t really seem like he should be. I mean… why is he, like, confounded about what’s going on in the town? He had a pretty clear idea at the end of the last chapter.

See, I get that three years have passed, so a lot has changed. Part of the reason for any timeskip, after all, is to take us directly to the next point of relevancy in the plot, with changes being discovered along the way as a method of shaking up exposition and reintroducing some dynamism into a story. In this regard, I can accept that Wess is now cooped up in the retirement home, and that we don’t see exactly how he got here. It makes sense for the story, and we can fill in the blanks. I don’t really take issue with Wess’s circumstances, but I do take issue with the fact that they are explored so shallowly. Wess mentions later that Fassad’s guys keep him under tight surveillance, and Bronson suggests that Wess is distraught because Duster is still missing, but these small bits of exposition don’t sell it for me. Wess was a rough, tough, resilient thief last time we saw him. I want to know more about what changed and why, instead of these kind of convincing explanations.

Where I feel like Mother 3 drops the ball, though, is how Wess interacts with Lucas. It just doesn’t make sense to me, given how Chapter 3 ended. You’d think that, at least for the player’s sake, Wess might say something like, “I would help you out, but if I’m electrocuted one more time, it might kill me” or something like that. I don’t know. Maybe he would blame Pusher, and tells us about the Mayor’s methods for entrapping the old men in their paltry paradise. Maybe he would give any little bit of exposition, seeing as, at least in my opinion, he should or would have a rapport with Lucas. Don’t forget: of the main characters so far, Wess has just as much screentime as anyone. He has more screentime than Lucas and Boney combined. For this reason, he feels oddly like a sitcom character who’s written out of a show between seasons. Given that Duster disappears at the end of Chapter 2, there are times during Chapters 2 and 3 where Wess is the protagonist with whom we are most familiar, as Kumatora is the newcomer, and Flint is already fading out of the plot.

Look, I’m not saying I’m the world’s biggest Wess fan, but at this point he may as well have never been in the story at all. Or am I over-exaggerating? Am I the only one who feels this way? I have always been disappointed in the time-skip’s handling of Wess and, to an extent, Alec. Why wouldn’t Alec have moved in with Lucas? Is there a reason? Is there a law? You’d think Lucas and Flint could pretty easily welcome two more people in their home, given that there used to be two extra people anyway. I know that’s kind of mean to say, but it’s true! The way it stands now, it seems that the hopeful Tazmilian alliance we saw at the end of the previous chapter collapsed because of laziness.

I guess I just feel like when I’m looking for more from the characters or the story, or when I ask a question like, “Why is this character this way? What decisions or circumstances led them to this spot during the last three years?” it usually comes back to lightning. Which I want to empahsize again, I’m not saying the lightning (and, as we’ll learn, the Thunder Tower) are bad plot elements for our villains–for what it’s worth, I love Fassad’s schemes, and I love the indefatigable grip that the Pigmask Army has on Tazmily. But when it comes to Alec, who’s cabin was struck “one million times,” or Wess, who’s wasting away in the retirement home complaining about Fassad… What happened to the man who kept his son-in-law sane, as they trekked into the mountains looking for a lost boy? What happened to the master thief who would never be so confined by these weak walls? Why doesn’t Wess just ninja his way out of here?

Again, I love that we pick up the story with the Bad Guys winning, but that doesn’t change how I feel about some of the post-timeskip characterization and plot decisions. It makes me feel like great character writing, set-ups, and plot points were basically dropped in favor of getting us where we need to be in the plot. I’m not going to point toward EarthBound 64 as having potentially handled this better, because there’s truly no way of knowing, and I like the idea that Fassad uses social institutions (like retirement homes and exhausting work conditions) to keep our protagonists as separated from one another as possible.

I just think there are also sometimes where it feels a little cheap. And if Wess is so demoralized, so down and out, so defeated that he doesn’t even have anything to say to Lucas anymore other than half-hearted encouragement, then that’s fine too, but for such a previously important character to have such a change, I feel a bit slighted by not having seen more of it. The Wess we knew three years ago would be trying to escape from this retirement home 24/7, and the Wess we knew three years ago, as far as I can tell, would be capable of doing it. And if Wess really is remaining cooped up because Fassad’s guys are always surveying him, then why not escape with Lucas and never look back? Three years ago, Wess was the critical thinker of the group, knowing secrets about Tazmily that other characters didn’t know. Now, he’s an old man in a room.

Oh well!!

I feel like Itoi needed to isolate Lucas as a character, needed his protagonist to truly be on his own. The problem with that, however, is that Flint wasn’t Lucas’s only family, and even Alec wasn’t Lucas’s only elderly ally. But the way it stands now, it feels like Alec and Wess needed to be written out of the story, so here they sit, day after day. Alec makes a bit more sense to me, to be fair, though I still understand why he wouldn’t have just moved in with Lucas and Flint. Their house was already being struck by lightning anyway…

However, here’s the part of the post where I challenge my own opinion. Talking with Alec reminded me that I can’t impose my understanding of the plot as the characters’ understanding of the plot. And while I still don’t believe Wess would ever allow himself to waste away in a building like this, I do believe that the Tazmilians, specifically Alec, would become so worn down by the constant lightning barrages. It’s easy for me to see that Fassad is behind everything, but I’ve played the game before. It’s easy for me to see targeted lightning strikes as the work of some wicked technology, but Tazmilians have only known what a TV is for a couple years, so I can’t assume they have my 21st century critical eye.

Basically, Tazmilians are kind of dumb sometimes, and I can’t forget that. If my house had been struck by lightning a million times, or if Fassad’s cronies really did ruin my life as soon as I stepped outside… I would have given up to. I can’t fault the old men for this, at the end of the day.

Switching topics, however, to Alec and Lucas, I’ve gotta say that I’ve always been a bit sad seeing Alec in this room. These rooms are just so depressing, so horrible. Alec used to lived in a log cabin, having the entire two floors to himself, and now he’s here, living out his final days in a dirty, creaky hell. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I was very close with my own grandpa, and I was also lucky enough to never have to see him live in a rough retirement home. For that reason, I feel a sadness for Lucas and Alec. I wish none of these people had to live in this godforsaken building.

But to Itoi’s credit, he does not allow Alec (who I suspect Itoi feels an affinity toward) to be portrayed as a sad sap. Lucas’s interaction with Alec, like most other interactions with Alec, is pretty funny, with Alec wondering how and why his house was struck by lightning so many times. For a first-time player, this is the third piece of evidence you’d receive about the lightning strikes: Lucas’s house, Reggie’s house, and now Alec’s as well. If a first-timer had any suspicions about the lightning around town, now is the time where it all really comes together: something is going on here, and it smells like bananas.

On this playthrough, the only thing that really makes me sad is knowing that Alec’s beautiful log cabin has been destroyed. My time spent frolciking on Alec’s land in the Prlogue has actually stuck with me quite a bit this time around, so it doesn’t sit right with me knowing that the once beautiful property has been burned to a crisp. Of course, not much sits right with me these days. This post started off fun and has ended somewhere dour. I don’t like anything I’m seeing. It all feels wrong, wrong, wrong.

As always, I’l have more to say about Alec and the old folks later, but for now I really need to wrap this post up. This has been such a long one. I’ve been preparing for Chapter 4 for a while; I knew the posts would grow in length as the game becomes less linear, but, still, I apologize to anyone who was accustomed to having a new frog post (sometimes two!) every week. I’m trying my best to write these as fast as I can, but the more I delve into Chapter 4, the more I have to say about it. Mother 3 is the gift that keeps on giving!

And speaking of gifts, I encountered one of my favorite frogs today: the elderly frog in the retirement home. I thought it was interesting that this frog doesn’t ask you about money at all; as far as I can tell, you can only save your game with this frog, which is a cool touch. If he truly is an old frog, then he only knows what frogs used to do, and frogs used to only save. None of that junk about money, and nothing too funny just a good old, “Sh-sh-shave your game, sonny?”

(If I’m remembering incorrectly and you actually can do DP stuff with this frog, then I apologize–but I just loved the idea that this frog wouldn’t have those functions! What a fun detail!)

If you ask me, I think it’s possible that this frog experienced something different that day. He’d been looking across this derelict hallway for months, maybe years, wondering if he’d ever save for someone again, or if he could even save himself. And maybe it was the clattering of Boney’s nails he recognized–a dog with an intelligent, confident gait. Or maybe it was the blonde boy’s eyes he recognized, having seen them, also, turn once to a fury in the face of a cowboy.

Or maybe it was only the sense of adventure he remembered, the way a party on a mission struts up to a frog. The way the travelers sit for a while and share their memories, supplanting the empty spaces in the frog’s mind with something to hang on to. Or maybe not supplanting but planting, memory as a flower, a gift to the geriatric saver–a reassurance that even in places like these, there are still things worth remembering.

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