Kenley Kristofferson


Tag: nintendo

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 – “Mushroom Kingdom” from Super Mario RPG

“Mushroom Kingdom” from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, composed by Yoko Shimamura and released in 1996

Why isn’t there more bassoon in VGM? Seriously, its bouncy woodsiness sells me immediate in “Mushroom Kingdom.”

I love what Yoko Shimamura (or Parasite Eve and Kingdom Hearts fame) does here.  Instead of adapting a theme from Mario for the iconic Mushroom Kingdom, she puts pencil to paper and creates something new.

Because, let’s face it, we’ve been in the Mushroom Kingdom through most Mario games, but when have we ever been inside the Mushroom Kingdom? Maybe we have, but when we actually get to walk around and explore it feels like a new experience and I think it should have new music.  Thankfully, so does Shimamura 🙂

But it’s not only the bassoon in the beginning that make it shine, there is also tambourine and triangle which sits juuuuuuuust beneath the bassoon colour and adds some sparkle to the colour.  There’s also a click in there somewhere, maybe a cross stick, temple block or wood block.  I’m not sure what it is, but I like it.

Then we have English Horn on a small melody in the A section – a double reed duet.  YES!

Some low reed and low brass colours take over the melody in the B section (0:13) and catapult the listener back into A section, which now has a flute on top.

Until about 0:48, the piece is carried by the winds.  Now, why is that important? It’s really because we depend on strings for just-about-everything and the winds and percussion usually colour that sound.  This time, in the absence of strings, we have only colour and it’s beautiful 🙂

Thoughts? Write them below, send me a tweet or comment on the facebook post!