For those of you that don't already know what Mother 3 is, it's a JRPG that was released for the GBA in 2006. It has only ever been released in Japan, but if it is ever released on the 3DS eShop, that'd be the day that I (finally) buy Nintendo's latest handheld console. It wasn't released outside Japan for two main reasons: Earthbound (Mother 2)'s poor sales in the west, and that the game was released a year and a half after the Nintendo DS was released in the US (15 months in Europe), which meant sales would be fairly poor, as all the attention had been shifted to the DS.
For some odd reason, I have all 552 blank Mother 3 maps on my computer
One thing that intrigued me about Mother 3 are the mature themes that are present in the game. The main plot is about an army from a different time coming to the protagonists' innocent, simple, and colourful world and transforming it into a commercialist, mechanised world. The game presents themes of corruption, brainwashing, dysfunction, and destruction, as well as evoking emotions of rage, sorrow, guilt, and love through the brilliant writing of Shigesato Itoi. At one moment, the game will have you chuckling to yourself at its iconic tongue and cheek humour, and at others, will have you crying over the deep meaningful stories. Personally, I was astounded at the games' themes, given that it's a Nintendo game.
One particular scene that had me arrested, less than an hour into the game, was when Flint, a primary character, is consumed by rage, lashes out on innocent townfolk, and put in jail, all in front of his two young children. Their family is torn apart by a devastating loss, and this very-realistic reaction is something that affected me. It was all brilliantly written, and it wasn't just the writing that did it. It was the timing. After the horrifying news is told to Flint, the music (or rather, the sounds of the forest and the fire) cuts, a lightning strikes, and Flint's sorrow turns into rage, as he starts pounding the ground with his fist, lashing out, all in front of his two young boys, with the perfectly fitting "Gentle Rain" now playing in the background. This scene (spoiler) comes together in perfect harmony, delivering a touching start to the wonderful world of the Nowhere Islands.
The game itself is very quirky and surreal, as you'll find yourself fighting enemies such as a Candle, a Carpet Monster, a Balding Eagle, a Baked Yammonster, a Dung Beetle, a Naughty Mushroom, a Really Flying Mouse, and a variety of musical instruments. You get the idea. Although they may be flat on screen, the characters feel real and three-dimensional, with actual motives and feelings. That said, the sprite-work really is brilliant; the game has some of the most pleasing-to-look-at graphics, 2D or 3D, boasting wonderful watercolour-esque 16-bit graphics.
Mother 3 is laid out in several chapters, and these chapters are told from various characters' points of view. The multiple playable characters not only give different gameplay styles, but it gives a spin on events, creating a new found perspective on previous seemingly insignificant events. The multiple perspectives intertwine to create a richer, more dynamic narrative. You may be surprised at how a game with such simple sprite-based graphics can make a great story-telling experience. There's a 3 year leap between two of the chapters, and on the other side, a lot has changed to the world, including a new monetary system in place for the first time (creating a heavily consumerist society, from one where everything was free), a railway, a club (Club Titiboo) in the north, and the happy boxes being put into people's homes as an act to brainwash them. Above all, Lucas, Flint's son, is more grown up, and is now ready to take on the world.
The music plays a big part in the whole Mother 3 package, and I can (almost) guarantee you that anyone who has played the game would agree that the game would not be the same if not for the brilliantly masterful music, composed by Shogo Sakai, who is known for other games such as Virtua Fighter 2 and Super Smash Bros. Melee. It really is a magical experience, and the various meticulously crafted melodies reflect the various events and things in the strange world of Mother 3.
Since the game has a little more of a modern setting, instead of spells, swords, and bow and arrows, you'll be using thief tools, psychic powers, and baseball bats. And the combat isn't your typical JRPG affair, as there is a rhythm based element involved - there are several different battle themes, for various sets of enemies. If the player is able repeatedly tap A to the beat of the song playing after the initial attack selection, one would be able to rack up higher combos and deal additional damage, which really helps, as this game is considerably hard in some areas. Possibly my favourite boss-battle in the game is against Mr. Passion, a ghost classical composer, in Castle Osohe. The battle is accompanied by wonderful classical music, and this battle was the first time that I was able to keep with the beat and successfully rack up a great combo, which feels exhilarating the first time you pull it off.
You can enjoy the magical experience of Mother 3 (using an emulator) by downloading a ROM (or acquiring it through legal means) and applying the fan translation found here. The fans of this cult classic continue to amaze me; the dedication put forth is astounding. A fan-game, Mother 4, is in the works, and is shaping out to be quite excellent, as it retains the quirky humour that is iconic of the previous entries in this series.