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_hojo:Mother[3] of Mankind

July 7, 2010

_Let’s get it out of the way in case you forgot or don’t know: I wasn’t a huge fan of Earthbound. Not really. Not much. Not quite. So why did I bother giving Mother 3 a chance? Because while I didn’t care much for Earthbound, Mother 3 was supposed to be a much tighter affair, and Earthbound was not without redeeming qualities. Just…the gameplay wasn’t one of those qualities. So I figured…since that was really the only thing that needed improving and Mother 3 was supposed to be an improvement…hey! I put 2 and 2 together. And thankfully…2 and 2 did indeed equal 4, and all was right in the world.

_So…I’m just gonna spoil stuff right off the bat, just so you know. Not TOO much, but some stuff. I figure Super Smash Bros. Brawl spoiled enough plot points of the game already, so why the fuck not, right? “Oh, Porky’s in a tube? There’s a giant, horrible place called New Pork City?” Anyways…Mother 3 isn’t a direct plot sequel to Mother 2/Earthbound, but the main lackey from Earthbound, Porky, returns and is the main villain of this game (this isn’t revealed for a large part of the game…but thanks to Brawl, if you didn’t know before, you knew after. And if you somehow managed to avoid SSBB and therefore didn’t know and then decided to read a review on Mother 3 and didn’t heed the spoiler warning…sorry). So as to not go into too much detail on the main plot…basically, Porky came to a peaceful little village and done fucked shit up and made it un-peace. Shit ain’t cash, son. While it might not be apparent from my description, Mother 3 is a bit more serious than its predecessor. If you’ve played Earthbound, the change in the tone is apparent pretty early on. If you don’t notice it during the forest fire when you’re playing as Flint, frantically searching for your family, you’ll notice it when sprites get punched in the face. And if you don’t notice it when people’s houses get struck by lightning when they don’t obey the new totalitarian task force hanging around in town, then you’re just dense [That’s not EXACTLY how it goes, but you get the idea].

_Besides the overall change in tone of the main plot, another big change is the character dialog. Now, not to say that the character dialog is bad in Mother 3, but it’s not as clever or unique as it was in Earthbound. At first, I thought that there might have been something lost in (fan) translation, but as I played on, it became apparent that they just wrote less blatantly silly dialog to match the tone of the game. Now, I much preferred the plot of M3 to EB…but in regards to character dialog, EB has this one beat. It seemed that everywhere I went in EB, someone was saying something laugh-out-loud hilarious, whether it was irreverent or reverent. Not that M3 didn’t have any of that, but it wasn’t as often as it was in EB. Other than that, the writing in M3, thanks to excellent direction, felt much tighter this time around. It’s actually hard to believe how much of a leap in presentation there is in the two games when you consider that in the 12 years between EB and M3, HAL Laboratory didn’t make a single other RPG.

_So what were some of the problems I had with Earthbound that are no longer present in Mother 3? How about basic RPG design? The difficulty level in Mother 3 doesn’t jump all over the place. From area to area, believe it or not, the difficulty tends to gradually go up, as opposed to spiking up and down and side to side at random. Early bosses aren’t too hard, but some of the later bosses can be pretty difficult…you know, like a well designed RPG? Also, now when you go to a store, not only can you see what each item actually does, you can specifically see how much better or worse equipment is before you buy it. PSI abilities and skills? Descriptions of all of them are displayed in battle. Statuses like possession and fucking homesickness that aren’t curable in dungeon? Nonexistent. Even the menu navigation has been sped up! It’s like all of the dipshitted design that never should have been in Earthbound in the first place were *SHOX and awwwwww* actually addressed! It’s like a downloadable patch in the form of a completely different game on a handheld system instead of a homeconsole and 12 years after the fact. God…it’s fantastic. I mean…it sounds like I’m gushing here, but…there’s really nothing else I could think of that I really had a problem with regarding Earthbound that wasn’t improved dramatically in Mother 3.

_So…what else is there? There was a new addition to the battle system, that being the ability to do additional damage with your physical attacks by tapping to the rhythm of the various battle music. It’s reminiscent of the timed hits in Super Mario RPG…only…to music. It’s a very neat way to hold one’s attention during random battles [random meaning “various battles against generic cronies” since there aren’t RPG style “i’m walking arou-OMG random battle!” fights]. The rhythms range from a simple holding of the beat, while some have more complex 7/8 time signatures [Well, complex if you don’t know jack shit about music and time signatures], and some boss fights have  irregular time signatures and swung beats and then suddenly change rhythm. I can easily see people being annoyed by the complex rhythms, but for a music dork like me, trying to time your attacks with the rhythm can be addicting and rewarding.

_Graphically, the game is very similar in look to EB, which had a very simplistic and charming style to it. But Mother 3 does have moments where it shows off the power of the…Game Boy Advance…oh yeah, how many times do you get to use that phrase? Anyways, it goes back to the improvement in the overall direction of the game, that the sprite styles could be near identical, but the improvement in the graphics can’t help but be noticed. A prime example is the sunflower field…

Why, hello Lucas. Did you plant all of those yourself?

_Now, could they have put a backdrop that good looking on the SNES? No. But was there anything comparatively speaking in EB that stood out the way that this area did [and not just for plot reasons] in Mother 3? Again, no. Like I said, direction. This scene and the chapter in which you return to your hometown from the beginning of the game are executed superbly, even if the latter isn’t about graphics and is all atmosphere.

_It’s hard to judge the soundtrack on its own merit. I mean, EB had a great soundtrack, and this one does too…but M3 was more memorable…but that was because I had to focus on the music so much during the battles to combo fuckers. I mean, that’s not fair, is it? Hmmmmmm…perhaps…I’ll say that Mother 3 had a better original score, since EB borrowed from so many songs. Oh wait. Silly guyz.

_What can I say to sum it up? While there were aspects of Earthbound that I enjoyed, I really couldn’t get over the fact that, from a GAME design standpoint, calling EB mediocre would be kind. Mother 3 cleaned all of that up. Take the charm of Earthbound and wrap a good game around it. That’s Mother 3. My final verdict: Mother 3 gets the “Most Improved Player” award.

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