Is It Just Me Or Does The Drago On The Far Right Look Like He’s Got A Smartass Grin Going On?
How many people know now that Mother 3 (Also known as Earthbound 2) has an English translation patch out for it as of last week? Well for those who don’t it’s out there, meaning that for the first time non-Japanese speakers are able to enjoy the latest sequel to one of the most popular cult-hit RPGs of all time, Nintendo’s Mother series.
I’ve been playing Mother 3 and having just finished the first chapter I can say it doesn’t miss a beat in capturing the blend of quirky humour mixed with depressing storylines that made Mother 2 (Earthbound) so popular back in the days of the SNES. While it carries over the pretty much outdated turn based battle system from it’s predecessor that was so prominent back in the day before Tales Of…. really took off, it escapes feeling like a Generic Quest Dragon Quest clone by featuring a more modernish world and the really REALLY odd people that populate it. Rarely does anything a character says to the player fail to contain a tinge of humour or a pun, even when it ends up being rather black humour, and non sequitir’s are the norm for dialogue trees, not the exception. The art style also still delibereately makes use of minimal shades of colour to give the whole experience an even more laid back and whimsical feel. As you can see above for example, there’s only maybe ten or so shades of colour used in making up that whole seen and you can even make out the pixels on each characters simplistic design. This essentially makes Mother 3 pretty much the opposite of your modern RPG with brooding storylines that focus a lot of time and energy on making almost unreasonably long cutscenes with insanely detailed graphics while seemingly forgetting the most important thing when it comes to making a game. If you think I’m going to say it’s gameplay then you would be dead wrong unfortunately. It’s the fun factor. The ability to make a person enjoy playing the game.
And Mother 3 delivers this in spades. Be it with it’s new addition to the series that features a combat system where the player is rewarded extra hits on an enemy by tapping the A button along to the beat of the music track playing in the background, or the music itself which ranges from entirely silly to relaxing and atmospheric. It’s a game that is really easy to pick up and get into right away, that seems to have been designed with the intention of putting the enjoyment level of the player first before anything else such as story (it’s not complicated or convoluted, but rather simplistic and straight to the point with the themes it brings to the table like family and environmentalism, but it does tie in to the events of Mother 2 eventually) or gimmicks (see Valkyrie Profile 2’s combat system for what I would describe as gimmicky. Hell just see every tri-ace games battle system from the past 5 years). And there are some parts where you can tell the production staff had fun making the game too, which is always great to see.
Despite this, Mother 3 might not be the type of RPG everybody would be interested in. It’s simplicity and lack of even a vague attempt to take itself seriously could be seen as conflicting with some of it’s darker moments and some people might be immediately turned off by it’s refusal to make full use of the graphical capabilities of the GBA (which is roughly on par with the SNES if not slightly above it) after all the advances that have been made in sprite design and technology over the years. For people who don’t need an RPG to be like a bleeding age tech demo for all the latest graphical innovations and real-time event scripting engines and are just interested in having fun before all of that, Mother 3 might just be your game to get away from the hype factory that is the modern gaming industry for a quiet taste of yesteryear.