RPG Review #111: MOTHER 3

NuMetalManiak Earthbound ZERO was my 88th review. Earthbound was my 99th review. It's weird how having samey digits was my pattern for reviewing the MOTHER series, but we end this series off with MOTHER 3, the game that gave us the playable character Lucas, also a Smash staple. This Game Boy Advance game is quite peculiar, as it has gone through development hell to get to where it is at release. Delays and console switches proved troublesome for Shigesato Itoi and his group, and it even got to be a Nintendo 64 game called Earthbound 64. But it never took off due to the development hell, and there ended up being a release for the Game Boy Advance instead. Unfortunately it never had an international release, BUT the cult following created an unofficial fan translation, and amazingly enough this fan translation not only is amazingly accurate but is considered by many to be the best fan-translated game ever released.

Gameplay: Standard Earthbound mechanics return for the most part in this game, limited inventories, enemies on the field, ambushes and other things present, free-world navigation, hot springs, technicolor battlefields, odometer HP and PP meters, all the stuff that was quite endearing about Earthbound. All done better here. The only real change I can find is a special way to do regular attacks in battle, where tapping to the beat of the music can produce additional strings of hits, up to 16. This piece of the gameplay is actually pretty difficult, and there's always different battle songs, but it makes battles go by faster with proper hits of the beat.

That's the only thing I can think of that's really new to MOTHER 3. That doesn't mean that the rest of the game is bad though, as I said, it's all done better in this game. Loads of NPC interactions, exchanging of money through save frogs, and different mechanics to areas you visit. I was quite endeared with this gameplay overall, and the length of the game is somewhat short, helping matters quite a bit. Grade: A

Lucas: Yep, you know him from Smash. Yet another character who's GENERALLY a silent protagonist, except when he isn't controlled (which isn't most of the game). He of course is good both physically and mentally, but usually the slowest in his group like Ness. He does have the healing abilities though.
Kumatora: Princess Kumatora of Osohe Castle, a tomboy with an attitude and a lot of PSI abilities.
Duster: A thief who apparently doesn't do anything, or so they say. Duster has no PSI abilities, but makes up for it for good strength as well as thief tools, which will cause statuses in battle. Also being a thief he may sometimes do something to take the initiative in battles.
Boney: Lucas's canine companion, which sticks with him the longest. Also has no PSI, and being a dog he has barely any equipment options available. But he is fast and can act as an item caddy.
Flint: Lucas's father, who is playable in only one chapter, but fights with big sticks. Again, no PSI, and generally a one-note father.
Salsa: A monkey that is generally weak, but comes with special monkey-related skills such as dancing, apologizing, and even mimicing the enemy. He and Flint are not permanent party members but are controllable in a couple of chapters.

There's quite a colorful cast of characters outside the playable ones, including a few that temporarily join but don't directly participate in battle (though the do have actions). If you're wondering about other characters, Lucas has a twin brother, Claus, and their parents are Flint and Hinawa, with Hinawa having a father named Alec. The townspeople in the game all have names, and there is the nefarious Pigmask army with people in pig masks, obviously, led by some guy named Fassad. Earthbound mainstays do show up, and by that I mean Dr. Andonuts and yep, Porky. Also there's a distinct group of drag queens called the Magypsies who help the party often. Grade: A+

Plot: There's a lot of things I love about this plot. A lot of themes were tackled, with courage being a leading mark as Lucas goes from being a general crybaby to a heroic superstar. The theme of greed rears its ugly head once money gets introduced, a nice allusion to the likes of rich societies we see in today's world. Even better, MOTHER 3 is segmented into chapters, making it a lot easier for me to describe.

Prologue: In the prologue of the game, Hinawa takes her two kids, Lucas and Claus, to visit Alec, her father. The two boys play with the friendly dinosaur animals known as Dragos. For this short prologue the player controls Lucas.
Chapter 1: Night of the Funeral: In this chapter, you control Flint the entire time. In Tazmily village, people are rudely awakened by the Pigmask army burning up the nearby forests. Flint and another villager named Thomas help rescue Lighter and Fuel, their house having been set ablaze. Flint then gets a pigeon letter from his wife Hinawa about their stay (in the prologue), but it looks like she and the kids haven't come home yet. A search party is conducted, with Flint finding a piece of Hinawa's clothes and then fighting a weird animal-robot abomination, these are later known as Chimeras. The twins are thankfully found, but the bad news is delivered, in that Hinawa was killed by a Drago. This causes Flint to lose it, attacking his villagers out of sadness and rage. One of the twins, Claus, wishes to avenge his mother, and sets off alone. Flint then tries to find him to no avail, only to instead fight off the Mecha-Drago that killed Hinawa.
Chapter 2: Thief Adventure: In this chapter, Wess, Duster's father, gives Duster the mission to sneak into Osohe Castle and steal an artifact, one he doesn't name. So you control Duster in this chapter. He finds one treasure, but it's immediately marked as not the one Wess was looking for, and Wess has to escort the "moron" back to the castle. They run into Kumatora, who's also searching for the treasure, and unfortunately so is the Pigmask army. A trap is sprung upon finding the real treasure, the Hummingbird Egg, and the party is swept out of the castle. Wess and Kumatora find out Duster is missing as the chapter concludes with villagers arguing.
Chapter 3: The Suspicious Peddler: In the last chapter Duster ran into a guy and his monkey who look like peddlers. In this chapter you play as them, specificially the monkey Salsa. Salsa is a slave to Fassad, who often tortures the poor monkey on his love life as well as using the Punishizer, which repeatedly shocks Salsa. The two make their way to Tazmily where they introduce the concept of money. Fassad then uses his marketing techniques of having a "Happy Box" to ensure happiness for the citizens, continuing to torture Salsa. This gives him the attention of Kumatora and Wess, who free Salsa. When on the run, they are caught by the Pigmasks, but Lucas saves the day by intervening with Dragos.
Chapter 4: Club Titiboo: Years pass by and Lucas, from here on out, is the controllable character, this time much older. Tazmily has been industrialized and more modern, and people now have Happy Boxes in their homes, except for a few, which get struck by lightning, which seems to strike areas without Happy Boxes. Duster is still missing, but a clue is given in that he is somehow given a resemblance in the DCMC bassist Lucky. Lucas investigates, later on getting in touch with the Magypsy Ionia, who gives him PSI powers, particularly the PK Love ability. Lucas then gets a part-time job with the Pigmasks, then tries to enter Club Titiboo (with Boney trying to disguise as a human). Kumatora is in disguise as a waitress and helps the group reach Lucky, who really is an amnesiac Duster.
Chapter 5: Tower of Thunder: This chapter explains why lightning strikes specific places in the game right on the title. Duster remarks where he hid the Hummingbird Egg, except the one who hid it goes berserk and runs on the highway. They do retrieve the egg anyways, but not before Lucas is somehow mistaken as a commander and given special respect. They reach the Tower of Thunder where Fassad figures out that's Lucas, and while he does corner them at the top of the tower, he falls off, while Lucas and co. try to hold on to an airship, only to fall.
Chapter 6: Sunflower Fields: This isn't really much of a chapter. Here, Lucas finds an apparition of his mother Hinawa and runs for her, eventually returning to the real world.
Chapter 7: The Seven Needles: The biggest chapter, Lucas first finds Ionia tied up, then a surge of energy occurs. At the Magypsy Aeolia's house, it is revealed that someone pulled her needle, causing Aeolia to disappear from the world. It is said that only Lucas can pull the needles to awaken a Dark Dragon, who complies with the puller of the needles, although it appears someone else is beating him to it already. Furthermore, each Magypsy guards a needle. Journeying throughout the Nowhere Islands, Lucas finds the needles in odd places, like a volcano, a forest island full of shrooms, a snowcap mountain, and near a factory. He reunites with Kumatora, Duster, and even Salsa along the way, where each party member helps out in some form or fashion. Sometimes, Lucas gets to pull the needle, otherwise it is a strange Masked Man who does so, but in any case, Lucas and the Masked Man are at three even needles, with the six Magypsies disappearing from the world after each one. One needle remains.
Chapter 8: All Things: The last chapter has the group traveling to New Pork City (a well-known Smash Bros stage). By this time everyone from Tazmily has migrated there, leaving Tazmily derelict. New Pork City is a city completely glorified by the one and only King P, whom everyone knows is Porky. Down in the sewers, Leder, a very tall man, gives an actually interesting exposition dump, revealing everyone's insanity in destroying the world, and that the Nowhere Islands was a place where those who came there had their memories wiped. Fassad is defeated for good, and the DCMC reunite with Duster. Porky interrupts the concert instructing Lucas and company to reach the 100th floor. Through multiple shenanigans, Porky finally reveals himself, in a large capsule, then sending the party and Flint down to the bottom floor where the final needle is, wishing to completely destroy the world. The final fight with Porky has him retreating in an "Absolutely Safe Capsule", which makes him safe, but then again, means he can't do anything anymore. Then the final confrontation with the Masked Man, who is in fact Claus, occurs. The voice of Hinawa beckons Lucas and Claus to stop fighting, with Flint taking heavy damage due to a PK Love attack from Claus. Late in the fight, Claus takes off the mask, then launches a lightning attack at Lucas, which is reflected back and effectively kills him. It's an incredibly sad turn of events. Lucas then pulls the final needle, which causes cataclysms around the world and leaves the ending somewhat ambiguous, but it is implied that the people have survived.

Wow, what a plot. It goes all over the place in all the right ways, giving serious mood whiplash where appropriate, and gives us heartrending confrontations among other things. Grade: A+

Music: I don't suppose this can go any other way. The musical score is definitely memorable not just for including a sound test, but also for making music a part of the battle. So a lot of battle themes are a load of fun, and any other theme is generally nice to have as well. A few call-backs to previous games are here, as well as a few remixes of current themes as means of foreshadowing or such. It makes the soundtrack pretty darn neat. Grade: A

Overall Grade: A

MOTHER 3 definitely exceeded my expectations. Wacky characters, a plot that is funny at many moments but quite gut-wrenching in many others, highly memorable characters, decent gameplay, and a well-structured plot. And thanks to the fan translation, I was able to experience how great this was. One of my favorites for sure, and the best out of the MOTHER trilogy of games.