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Zulu avatar 10:10 AM on 08.03.2011
Mother 3, improvement on perfection



With the exception of Chrono Trigger, I can't think of another JRPG I have played as well rounded, creative, and just plain as well designed as Mother 3. What is it about the world of Mother that just charms us as players? I'd like to think it's the variety and the overall unbridled imagination of the entire series. Back in 94, Earthbound was praised as being a departure from the usual premises and settings normally established by it's JRPG brethren. Now I love Earthbound, but when I played Mother 3, I felt as if the series had taken another departure from expectation, and moved the world of Mother into a much more hybrid premise, by infusing classic RPG fantasy with the previously established spirit of Earthbound. Mother 3, to me, took everything Earthbound did and refined it into a beautiful new experience.

What is good game design? Well I think the definition can change depending on each individual. Good game design to me can come in many forms with the variety of mechanics and styles of translation developers can use to speak with their audience. Overall, when it comes to RPG's, if the game can engage me, rip me into it's world, and really make me care about the experience for the entirety of the time I'm playing it, then I constitute that as a damn well designed game. With that said. what exactly did Mother 3 refine from what many believe was an already be perfect game to begin with?

First of all, in my experience, there was far less grinding. When I played Earthbound, I felt as if I needed to stop between every town and level up for a few hours because some of the enemies in the next town or path always seemed to beat the ever loving bejesus out of me. Like Chrono Trigger, Mother 3 felt like I was always at a good level when I encountered enemies. I most always felt confident that the battlefield was fair and level. There were only a few times I felt the need to grind, and one of those times was when I was fighting the first boss of the game. JRPG design, to me, should feel like a seamless experience inviting new and different change ups and rewards to give fresh content to the player, to further develop engagement. It should not expect a player to push a dead car up a hill only to reward when the battle is over, or when gravity inevitably takes the reigns on the other way down.

Mother 3, not only balanced out the grind and kept the game from stagnating due specifically to grinding, but it also kept the player and the game moving into fresh new areas with crisp ideas. It felt as if the developers inherently knew just when one portion of the game would start to become a chore for the player and decided to stay 10 steps away at all times from becoming dry and motionless. I Loved every section of Mother 3 because of this.

The developers used different game mechanics to preserve the game's initial charm. One being to play as a different character in a different scenario, to help tell an overall arching story while further defining each character on their own through their specific sections of the game. Another would be by giving the player something different to do such as giving them simply a different task not seen prior or even later in the game, like getting a job fixing claymen at a factory, facing the threat of a chimera running loose in a lab, and testing your skills as a thief. Lastly, seeing what impact certain events of the story had on the characters and the world I was currently immersed in kept me extremely interested. It was like the seeing how Hyrule completely changed when you traveled through time, but only this time you could see the smaller changes in each NPC and location that effectively lead up to the bigger changes. There were many more game mechanics and ideas used, but I just wanted to point out the ones that effected me most.

Earthbound still holds a special place in my heart, and it really is no surprise to me that a franchise would refine itself with a new release. The thing that really blew me away though overall was how well the series improved with this installment. Mother 3 has become my favorite JRPG of all time because of what the developers have done. They took perfection and improved upon it, marginally. It's rare to see a developer pull that off. Kudos!


 
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