Paul Kuliniewicz » earthbound http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog After all, it could only cost you your life, and you got that for free. Mon, 28 Jan 2013 03:25:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.5 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ You cannot grasp the true form of Mother 3 spoilers http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/08/you-cannot-grasp-the-true-form-of-mother-3-spoilers/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/08/you-cannot-grasp-the-true-form-of-mother-3-spoilers/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2009 02:22:01 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1141 Seriously now, major Mother 3 spoilers ahead. I’m going to discuss major plot points in the game. I’m even putting everything behind a cut, to prevent you from reading anything accidentally. OK?

Porky

Last chance to turn back. I’m going to tell you things like how Pokey Porky is the primary antagonist, leader of the Pigmask Army, and the penultimate boss. What, you say you learned that from the background of New Pork City and the Ruined Zoo stage in Brawl? Well, what if I tell you that Hinawa dies in the first chapter? And that everyone in Tazmily Village had their minds erased so they wouldn’t remember fleeing the destruction of the rest of the world? And that Fassad is really the seventh Magypsy?

Like I said, spoilers.

One thing I wonder about after having played Mother 3 is Porky’s apparent nostalgia for the events in EarthBound. This is first hinted at by the Friend’s Yo-Yo item in the Playroom near the top of Thunder Tower — yo-yos were one of the types of weapon Ness used — and how Porky’s robotic maid flies into a rage if you try to take it. It becomes much more apparent, however, once you reach New Pork City. The movie playing in the theater is EarthBound, and apparently showing the heroes of that game positively. Then, of course, there’s the boat ride near the top of the Empire Porky building, which seems to be Porky’s museum of EarthBound artifacts:

So why in (what’s left of) the world would Porky have fond memories of how he was stopped from helping Giygas destroy the universe? It’s hardly as though he’s reformed or anything.

I propose that it’s because he sees the world as nothing but a toy for him to play with and, ultimately, smash into pieces. Throughout the assault on the Empire Porky building, Porky repeatedly alternates between inviting Lucas and friends up to the 100th floor and mocking them for being in the wrong place, when he’s the one controlling the elevators. To finally get to the 100th floor Lucas is forced to play a series of minigames against the Mini Porky robot — in particular, to play them and narrowly lose. He’s only interested in tormenting Lucas, and once he loses interest, goes ahead and tries to kill him. Otherwise, why bring Lucas to New Pork City in the first place? He had no way of getting there on his own, and without being able to reach the seventh needle hidden beneath it, there would be no way for him to stop Porky from waking the dragon and destroying the world.

Likewise, Porky’s probably convinced himself that he let Ness beat him in EarthBound, and even that he and Ness had been friends all along. In EarthBound, Porky does indeed make several insincere offers to be friends with Ness, only to turn against him seconds later. And in Mother 3, Porky’s plan seems to be to gather everyone who likes him into New Pork City (where “liking Porky” is pretty much synonymous with “being brainwashed”) and destroy everything else.

Of course, it’s probably dangerous to read too much into the mental stability of a thousands-year-old time traveling overgrown man-child whose little fantasy world includes a restaurant entirely staffed by robot copies of his mother.

I mentioned earlier that the storyline of Mother 3 is much more depressing than EarthBound. In EarthBound, Ness and friends journey across the world, fighting Giygas’s henchmen town by town until ultimately confronting him in the past and defeating him for good. With one exception (Onett falling under siege late in the game when you return for a meteorite piece), liberated towns stay liberated, until everyone is free of Giygas’s influence.

Mother 3 instead centers around everyone’s home town of Tazmily. The heroes are originally motivated to fight the Pigmask Army’s assault on the adjacent areas like Sunshine Forest and Osohe Castle and their influence on Tazmily itself. However, the Pigmask Army is successful against Tazmily. They win over most of the townsfolk’s hearts and minds by giving them Happy Boxes. The few who resist have their homes destroyed by lightning, but no one else even seems to care. The town is ultimately abandoned as people decide to leave for the (presumed) excitement of New Pork City.

Final battle

And then there’s the final battle against Lucas’s reanimated twin brother Claus. Lucas can’t bring himself to attack even if you try, so all you can do is defend and heal. Meanwhile, Claus attacks relentlessly, while the spirit of their dead mother Hinawa pleads with them to stop fighting. All this while a distorted heartbeat plays as the background music. Eventually, Claus starts to come to his senses, but instead of surrendering, he removes his armor and fires lightning at Lucas, knowing full well that Lucas’s Franklin Badge will reflect it back at him. Claus dies in Lucas’s arms.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, then there’s the ending. Lucas pulls the final needle, awakening the dragon and beginning the process of remaking the world. But instead of seeing a new world reflecting Lucas’s heart, the player is only shown the destruction of the Nowhere Islands, culminating with a black screen with nothing but the word “END?” on it. Trying to walk around will result in you bumping into various characters from the game, who thank you the player for what you’ve done and insist that everything is better now.

Granted, after how the final battle plays out, I’m not sure how a happy ending could possibly play out, aside from pushing the reset button and making a world where Porky and the Pigmask Army never existed, and thus one where Tazmily is once again peaceful and where Hinawa and Claus are still alive. But the fact that the player just has to take the characters’ word for it that everything is OK now is somewhat unsettling — one could read in to it that they’re happier with nonexistence than with how the world wound up once Porky took over.

It’s a surprisingly bleak and ambiguous ending for a Mother game.

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Aahh, doorknob! I mean, Mother 3! http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/07/aahh-doorknob-i-mean-mother-3/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2009/02/07/aahh-doorknob-i-mean-mother-3/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2009 03:35:01 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=1124 Mother 3 title screen

Mother 3 is better than EarthBound (a.k.a. Mother 2).

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Mother 3 is the game where Lucas and the New Pork City stage in Brawl come from. (Tip: if you want to avoid Mother 3 spoilers, don’t play Brawl.)

Mother 3 delivers the same style of humor as its predecessor, despite having a more serious, even depressing, storyline. And manages to pull it off, no less. To avoid spoilers, I’ll save further discussion and speculation on that for a separate post, but suffice it to say I’m still trying to figure out whether or not I liked the ending. (And EarthBound’s cast list at the end blows Mother 3′s out of the water, but never mind that.)

Graphically, it has the same cartoony 16-bit sprite style of EarthBound, but larger and with much more detail. Whereas EarthBound gave you a two-frame walk animation, Mother 3 has sprite animation like this:

The battle system is much the same as in EarthBound, including the rolling HP meter. Fighting in Mother 3 relies on more exploitation on that mechanic, however; there are plenty of enemies that do lots of damage, but beating them quickly lets you exit battle before most of the HP drop occurs. Likewise, which characters you rely on to heal makes a difference, since the longer you wait, the closer everyone else could come to death. There’s also a new combo mechanic, where tapping the button in time with the rhythm of the background music deals more damage. Together, they keep battles fast-paced, despite being rooted in an archaic choose-everyone’s-action-at-the-start-of-the-turn system.

Even better, the final battle doesn’t depend on spamming a command that is either only available in the final battle (Sing in the original Mother) or is largely useless until the final battle (Pray in EarthBound). Instead, the final battle in Mother 3 is… something else entirely. But enough about that, without getting into spoilers.

Hippo Launcher

Like EarthBound, the enemies you fight skew strongly towards the goofy. In particular, the villains in Mother 3 spend a lot of time making chimeras, so when you aren’t fighting the Pigmask army you’ll be facing off against kangasharks (kangaroo + shark, complete with a joey + shark in its pouch), cattlesnakes (not a cat + rattlesnake, but cattle + snake), and hippo launchers (which do not launch hippos, but rather are a hippopotamus + rocket launcher, and are just as dangerous as you’d expect).

I’d say that the Pigmask army’s geneticists have too much free time, but their orders come from the top. Normal animals are boring, after all.

The music in Mother 3 is very good, and there’s plenty of it. The sound player accessible from the title screen has no fewer than 250 songs in it. In particular, there’s a lot of variety in the music that plays during battle, which prevents the tap-in-time-to-the-rhythm mechanic from being too easy, especially since some songs don’t have a steady beat to them. My only complaint musically is that the villain’s leitmotif is very heavily represented throughout the soundtrack, so if you don’t like it, that’s going to pose a bit of a problem.

Restrooms

While the “dungeon”-type areas you fight through are generally good, a few in particular stand out. Tanetane Island is wonderfully creepy and disturbing, and the boss at the end was indeed magnificent. The tower in Chapter 8, whose name I won’t mention due to it being a spoiler, is quite possibly the greatest final dungeon I have ever seen in an RPG. At the very least, it has the best use of toilets in a video game, period.

Although having experienced EarthBound isn’t strictly necessary to understand Mother 3, I’d recommend it. Not just because I’d recommend playing EarthBound in general, mind you, even though I would. There are connections to be found between the two games, which I’ll probably ramble on about at great length in the spoilery companion to this post. Maybe someday EarthBound will finally be released on Virtual Console.

Finally, I must say that the Mother 3 translation is very well done. The project’s blog goes into great detail about all the challenges involved in making it, and the end result shows a lot of polish and attention to detail. It wasn’t just a matter of replacing Japanese text with English text; there were lots of technical problems that had to be hacked through along the way, all without anything to go off of except the binary code of the game.

So stop reading this and go play Mother 3.

[Image credit: starmen.net]

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Calibration http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/10/22/calibration/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/10/22/calibration/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2008 04:10:26 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=925 NaNoWriMo is all about writing a 50,000-word novel, or at least a (very) rough draft of one, entirely in the month of November. Assuming that workload is spread evenly across all 30 days, that works out to be 1,666 and 2/3 words per day, every day. Call it 1,667 words, unless you’re planning on having a character die at the end of each day’s allotment, each time with his last word being cut off 2/3 of the way through.

OK, there might be some humor value in doing that, but I’m guessing it would wear a little thin by Week 2, to say nothing of having to teach your word count tool of choice how to interpret fractional words.

Last time I did NaNoWriMo, way back in 2002, I was just making things up as I went along, with little thought to how each day’s work would fit in with the overall structure of the story. As a result, I’d throw in chapter breaks wherever the plot seemed to call for them, and besides that just wrote in 1,667 word chunks. (In practice, more like 2,000 to 2,200, since I had to make up the day lost trying to come up with a story, and after that I didn’t want to ease up on myself until the blasted thing was finished.)

This time around, I’m going to take the approach that most others seem to take, and have each day’s writing be a chapter unto itself, with the goal being 30 chapters that total 50,000 words. This will undoubtedly work better for me this time around, since I do have a general idea of the storyline already figured out more or less, modulo an inconsistency here or deus ex machina there, but I’ve still got about 10 days to work those things out. I can go ahead and outline what basic events happen in each chapter, helping to keep things more or less on track, and avoiding the possibility of having the big epic showdown happen on Day 15.

Unless I wanted to come up with a sequel real quick, of course.

So now, during the planning stages, the trick is to get an idea of how much story can be reasonably fit into each chapter, again to keep things balanced and flowing smoothly. It’s hard to visualize how much text there is in 1,667 words, thanks to the human brain’s inability to have a good intuition of numbers larger than you can count on your hands.

Thus, this post is intended to serve as a calibration device. This post shall be precisely 1,667 words long, according to the word count that WordPress periodically displays off to the side while I type this. When all is said and done, I’ll at least have a visual reference for how much writing I’m getting myself into each day next month.

Of course, if I wanted to be really ambitious, I ought to leave open the possibility of writing more than one chapter per day, queuing up the extras so that you the reader still get them in daily installments. This isn’t entirely unreasonable, especially since November 1 is a Saturday, which in principle leaves more time available for typing furiously than does your average day.

Discipline is the key to winning NaNoWriMo. Blind stubbornness and a willingness to follow through with something that no longer seems like such a good idea also help, but mostly it’s discipline. To enforce that discipline upon myself to ensure that I don’t fall behind the minimum 1,667 words per day goal, I shall hereby set upon myself this constraint:

No web surfing until the day’s writing has been achieved.

No checking the online copy of the newspaper. (And seriously, does Firefox’s spell checker recognize neither “online” nor “Firefox” as properly spelled words?) No reading any of the blogs getting pulled into my RSS feed reader. (“Blog” isn’t in there either?) No following webcomics. And absolutely no, under any conditions, visiting TV Tropes. That server runs entirely on wasted time.

Distractions are the enemy. All distractions must be eliminated to assure that this year’s NaNoWriMo effort is a success. Or at least, not a failure. Victory is decided by the word count, but true success is in the eyes of the reader.

In other words, in case this wasn’t clear already, each chapter is going to be posted here, one per day, all throughout November.

But to really kill off any possible distractions, I ought to also forbid any video games until the day’s writing is in the can. That one could be rough, though. I’m almost through Super Paper Mario, and I’m pretty sure I can finish it before the end of the month, but NaNoWriMo’s going to be taking away time that could’ve been spent playing Mother 3. It’s going to be sitting there, the sequel to one of my favorite video games, taunting me while I type and/or bang my head against the keyboard repeatedly. And from what I’ve heard about the game so far, it’s right about up there with EarthBound.

And how the heck am I still nowhere close to 1,667 words on this post? I’m still mired in the triple digits. The high triple digits, to be sure, but triple digits nonetheless. This is taking longer than I thought, and I’m doing little more than spewing stream of consciousness at this point.

This could be a bad sign for the story. I really don’t want to wind up with a bunch of 900-word chapters padded out to nearly twice that just to hit my daily quota. I guess I won’t know for sure until I actually draw up an outline of the story and see what will be happening in each chapter, but I’m starting to wonder whether I truly have 50,000 words worth of material right now.

And just think, in the original concept of the story, the finale was going to be what I’m guessing will take place somewhere between chapters 10 and 15. A lot more stuff has accreted onto the core story since then, and much for the better, but I would’ve been doomed had I been going with the original concept. Well, I guess I would’ve had to start making up the better/extended version as I went along, without the benefit of having been able to set some things up before the big reveal that would’ve been at the climax.

It’s kind of annoying talking about the story in vague generalities like this, but there’s not really any getting around it without dropping spoilers about key plot points, or committing myself to things that may well change over the course of the coming month. Given that most of the changes I’ve thrown in to the mix so far have improved things overall, I don’t want to cut that off just yet.

Which leaves me wondering just how exactly I’m going to squeeze another 500 words or so out of this post. And here just four paragraphs prior I was complaining about how low the word count was. I’m clearly running out of ideas, so I think I’m going to resort to a complete change of topic to pad things out some more.

In fact, since I mentioned Mother 3 up there not too long ago, I’m going to ramble on about EarthBound until I can finally kill this experiment and weep at how much work this sort of thing is going to be come November.

EarthBound is, at some level, a deconstruction of the Japanese Role Playing Game (JRPG) genre. A lot of the humor in it is playing the standard tropes to the point of absurdity.

For example, in JRPGs the silent main character‘s only “dialog”, per se, is answering a “yes or no” prompt, and usually re-answering it until you answer the correct way. EarthBound also has you answer yes or no to questions like “Pop quiz: a Beatles song, ___terday”. Another area has an NPC rattle off pages and pages of types of nuts, asking “Which one do you like?”, with a yes/no prompt for your answer.

EarthBound also likes to make the reasons you can’t go to the next area until doing something else as absurd as possible. For example, the Onett police close roads whenever anything happens. Later, an inexplicable statue of a pencil blocks your path, requiring you to fund the development of the Pencil Eraser. Much later still, an inexplicable statue of an eraser blocks your path, requiring the development of, yes, the Eraser Eraser.

Then, of course, there is Dungeon Man, the ultimate fusion of man and dungeon. Besides doubling as both dungeon and NPC party member, he is full of signs pointing out the standard tropes in JRPG dungeon design, noting how monsters inevitably move in once you build a dungeon, and how he forgot to put a treasure at the end of a particularly long dead end path.

Speaking of treasure, most “treasures” aren’t found in standard treasure chests. Gift boxes are commonly found lying around dungeons, and let’s face it, those are just as explicable as treasure chests would be. But you can also find items in trash cans, such as finding a hamburger in the trash can outside the Onett fast food place. (Yum!) And when you first get control of Jeff, you have the option of loading your inventory up with cookies, if you don’t mind unwrapping all the presents Jeff’s friend stayed up all night wrapping for a birthday party. (And yes, the friend gets upset if you take any.)

Other things you’ll find in EarthBound: A cave full of five giant moles who each boast that they are the third strongest. A monkey that comes free with a pack of bubble gum. Beating up New Age Retro Hippies. Fighting the kid who lives next door as the part of the final boss.

Bonus tip before I hit 1,667: you can damage Giygas’s first form by Brainshocking him, which oddly doesn’t get reflected back at you like everything else does. If he attacks himself, his attack will bounce off him and hit… him.

And that’s 1,667.

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Mother! Mother! Mother! http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/10/18/mother-mother-mother/ http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/archives/2008/10/18/mother-mother-mother/#comments Sun, 19 Oct 2008 03:15:17 +0000 http://www.kuliniewicz.org/blog/?p=922 For all you Brawl players out there wondering where Lucas came from, you may be interested to know that the unofficial English translation of Mother 3 (i.e., the GBA sequel to EarthBound) is now out.

I’d be playing it right now, but I’m currently working through Super Paper Mario, and I don’t like playing more than one game at once. (Though I am willing to make an exception if the game is sufficiently awesome.)

This has been a public service announcement.

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