Kenley Kristofferson


Tag: earthbound

VGM Wednesday – “Battle with the Masked Man” from Mother 3

“Battle with the Masked Man” from Mother 3, by Shogo Sakai and released in 2006.

I had a great chat with my friend Joey, at a social* this past Saturday, about this very sequence in Mother 3 for GameBoy Advance.

(there appears to be too many commas in that sentence, but if I wrote “I had a great chat with my friend Joey about this event at a social, it makes it seem like the final battle of the game took place at the social… which, in fact, it didn’t).

Without giving anything away, the fight with the Masked Man is the climax of the entire game, both because it’s the final battle, but the identity of the primary antagonist is revealed (at last!).

The brilliance of the battle is in the timing.  Joey recounted that he barely succeeded, he was down to his last HP before the events of the fight really transpire.  His brother also played the game and said the same thing.  This was a common thread among those who fought and one realizes that those conditions are part of the programming – you’re supposed to just scrape by.  The battle wears you down to absolutely nothing, exhausting all of your PP (magic and ability points) and all of your healing items before finally, there’s nothing left to do but die.

Now, the genius of designer Shigesato Itoi is that he also considers how the player feels during each scene and how they experience the game.  Here’s how he describes it (spoiler-free)

During the final battle, ______’s ghost appears, scolding [them] and telling them to stop fighting, though she is harder on Lucas, because he is still alive. Itoi stated that the player feels very sorry for _____, and that even more so than the good, the bad need to be rescued. He further states that “there’s a deep meaning behind it, but they had to keep it simple because the game was written in Hiragana”. He had to beg the developer Brownie Brown to “add in the program the operations in the game perfectly enough to add the super subtle timing between lines.”

The writer and producer stews about every second of dialogue, every single word and how it’s all delivered.  Sure, big studios do this all the time with voice actors. motion capture and directors, but this is a game that looks like it should have been released for Super Nintendo, not PS3.

I posted about this battle because I have particular memories about this scene – the stress of almost dying, the emotional depth in the fight itself, the inner struggle that comes with revealing the Masked  Man… it really made a mark on me and that’s what I look for in art that I keep around 🙂

I know that this isn’t the first time that I’ve hit Mother 3 in VGM Wednesday, but it’s just a game that’s so much deeper than it looks, which I just love.  Don’t judge this book by its cover, you’ll be glad you didn’t!


* In the event that any readers here aren’t from Manitoba, a “social” is an event thrown by friends of the bride and groom (usually, but not always) to help the couple raise funds for the wedding.  There are silent auction prizes, lots of dancing and usually the consumption of abhorrent amounts of libations… (we won a fire pit!)

Quote comes from wiki:

VGM Wednesdays – “Snowman” from Mother 1-3

“Snowman,” from Mother 1-3,  released in 1989, 1994 and 2006, respectively.

I wish that this series was bigger in North America.  One of my oldest friends picked up Earthbound (or Mother 2) around 1996-97 and he was really into it, but I didn’t get it.  It was an RPG, but had no swords or shields, goblins, wizards and the graphics had… well… “much to be desired of.”  I wasn’t the only one who thought that and, sadly, the game never caught on here.

Little did I realize that all of the things that I didn’t like were what really made Earthbound great.  The game defied the mould so deeply, I just wasn’t old enough to see it.  The game is really about ordinary people doing extraordinary things and that’s what I really love about it.

For the last few years, I’ve really felt a funk about the games I’d played in the recent past.  I had started-and-never-finished so many games because I just didn’t care… until Joey Perry lent me Mother 3.  For the first time in years, a game had pulled me up the ladder of excitement and crushed me into despair (I welled up a few times, it’s okay, I can admit that).  I don’t think I will ever forget that first playthrough of that game…

One theme that musically returns throughout the series is “Snowman,” in the snow-covered town that has become a staple of the series.  Seeing as the holiday time is around the corner and our Canadian sidewalks are speckled with snow, I thought that this would be appropriate.

The recording goes through all three arrangements (and consequently, all three consoles too).

Nothing too wild to say about it, I just really like it.