The 'Shroom:Issue XXV/Non-Mario Review
I’m going to give you a lesson on MOTHER3’s history before we start this review. Now, don’t worry, it shouldn’t take long! ...Or maybe it will, because I have a tendency to talk a lot. OK, I’m just adding to it now, so I’ll shut up.
A long-awaited sequel, a game spent over a decade in the making: MOTHER3. It is the third and, possibly, final installment in the MOTHER series, released in 2006 for the GameBoy Advance. The MOTHER series is often recognized as one of the most abused gaming franchises in history. The reason? Well, after so much petitioning, begging and pleading, Nintendo didn’t listen. It’s a shame that something that had gained quite a fanbase was forced to learn how to deal with getting its hopes up on a regular basis.
MOTHER3 was first announced for the Nintendo 64 back in 1996/1997 or so. Fans were excited to see the MOTHER series take a step into the third-dimension. Unfortunately, the game kept getting pushed back and delayed over a course of years; and, eventually, it was cancelled. Well, maybe not cancelled, but rather, it was shelved. Itoi, the series creator, still had the game’s concept, story and characters in mind, but didn’t bother putting it to work. When a game has no fans, it doesn’t do well, but when it does, it’s the opposite effect. It just didn’t seem like now was the time.
Years later, in 2003, the game turned up again, but not with a big announcement or anything major. They had announced a compilation cartridge for the GameBoy Advance, titled MOTHER 1+2, that combined the two games onto one game. Many commercials were made for it, although one in particular had a strange message, as said by Mr. Saturn, on it: "We’re making MOTHER3 for GameBoy Advance, too!"
I can imagine the viewers jaw-dropping. Was it a prank? A joke? A lie? It was true! Around that time, Itoi and popular RPG-developer Brownie Brown picked up the game and began developing it for the GBA. And three years later, it released.
People still ask Nintendo of America regularly for an English version of it, but no word on an official translation as of now. However, thanks to Tomato and his team at STARMEN.NET, an English fan translation patch has been released.
The gameplay of MOTHER3 is nothing too new for MOTHER fans, but it has a lot to it that makes it unique. Probably the most heavily-mentioned change in the game’s format (and one of my favorite parts of it) is the Sound-Battle system. Basically, each enemy has its own distinct battle theme, and you can combo by pressing the A button to the beat. While it seems simple, it gives battles a lot more depth and strategy then just pressing the button after you hear a sound effect like in the previous two. It makes things less luck-based. Although, people with a bad sense of rhythm probably won’t get the advantage, but oh well. There are also some tools in the game that make this easier. Reprises of the same songs appear on some occasions, but often the tempo is messed around with; slowing down and speeding up.
My only complaint with the gameplay is that it’s a somewhat linear game. Not that many sidequests to complete, or extras to add to the replayability. But because the game is kind of like an entire "world" on its own, you can still explore every corner of it. You won’t be disappointed---there are so many things in it, signs to read and characters to talk to. The dialogue and humor, like the previous two games, is still very well written and can be either quite humorous, adding to the mood, or sad.
If you read a review for MOTHER3’s prequel, EarthBound (aka MOTHER2 in Japan), most often the complaints will be that the game lacked graphical intensity. In fact, GamePro even said Dragon Quest on the NES had better graphics, and the enemies looked poorly drawn. While I disagree with them, I do agree that MOTHER3 has greatly improved upon that---look at the characters and their framerates. There are many, many sprites used simply for the different poses in the game, be them walking, running, talking, or poking a Hummingbird Egg (which, by the way, was a one-use animation). The graphical style of the game is pixelated, just like other GBA games, and it may even be unimpressive to the casual gamer who is spoiled by the DS’s advancements, which was released a little over a year from MOTHER3. The colors are vibrant and happy, similar to EarthBound, and all the settings look pleasant. While not graphically astounding at a quick glance, they are astounding in action.
The sounds in MOTHER3 are another one of my favorite parts. Everything just takes you in, into the game, into the scene. Hip-hop, jazz, el mariachi, and much, much more that I'm forgetting at the moment. It has everything. Better yet, the tunes all perfectly convey the emotion or theme they’re supposed to, like happiness, sadness, loss, grief, power, torment, and everything else. Many songs are just beautifully composed pieces, true amazement. And to think, there were only really two composers doing the sounds in this game. Many can even become contagiously catchy; it’s pretty sad when people who have never even played the game start humming the Pigmask Theme. And people were complaining about the GBA's sound quality... well, they've been righted!
The story of the first MOTHER game was spectacular, EarthBound also has a pretty nice storyline, though nothing incredible. They both had something to do with saving the world, and the friends you’ve met in it. In fact, you start both game out naming you and your friends. What about MOTHER3? Well, things have been changed around a little. It’s focused more on Lucas and his family, and the mysterious group of soldiers called "The Pigmask Army" that have come to the island. They wreak havoc while Hinawa (the mother) and the kids are vacationing at Grandpa Alec’s, leaving their father, Flint, alone at the house. He receives a letter sent by Hinawa that they’ll meet up at the house around noon, but it’s already dark out. After some investigation, the kids have been found, but Hinawa was found dead. It was the cause of the Mecha-Drago; a mechanized creature that was once friendly, created by Pigmasks.
After several events, it becomes apparent Lucas and his team must pull the Seven Needles, glowing sticks that have been plugged into the earth. If he lifts all seven, the Dark Dragon, which is in control of everything on the earth, will destroy the world. The world must be renewed in a less evil image. A few RPG cliches, but otherwise, MOTHER3 has quite an excellent plot, one that reads out more like a story.
While it is still a welcome edition to the series, it is very unique, and it breaks a lot of traditions set by the last games. But isn’t change a good thing? It mixes seriousness with humour quite well and evenly, which is just how the MOTHER series should handle the two subjects. It’s a well-rounded game that I strongly recommend for its great gameplay and music especially.