Your Mother’s biggest secret

Having finished the first chapter, I can safely say the biggest secret about Mother 3 is that the sprite work and animation is actually the most impressive thing about it. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve found the battle system to be fun (rare for an RPG these days) and the story both emotional and hilarious, so consider just how good this game has to look to trump both of those things. Somehow, Brownie Brown managed to make the game simultaneously look like its predecessor and completely surpass just about every other 2D game ever. (Considering EarthBound was originally panned for looking too simplistic, this is quite a feat.)

I remember when Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2 came out the same holiday season that it really highlighted how important animation, rather than raw graphics, were to making something look good. The idea is apt here, too. Mother 3 is a GBA game, meaning it’s SNES-quality graphics at best. That’s fine; I’m inclined to like those anyway. The reason it’s such a treat to look at, even in a modern world of HD remakes, is the same (and apparently only) reason Wario Land: Shake It! was so exciting: the gorgeous animation.

[[image: ar_102708_mother3_01.jpg:You really need to see this scene unfold. Seriously.:center:0]]
Each character, whether they’re an NPC or a member of your party, animate in a way that makes each one a unique entity. It’s almost as if, somehow, against all odds, the designers noticed that you don’t need dialogue to give something personality. Sometimes the littlest visual “tells” — Flint’s tendency to tip his hat, for example — immediately communicate the same depth of character, with no readin’ necessary. This, more than anything else, indicates it’s a Nintendo game, since Nintendo has always understood how the tiniest of details can produce an immeasurable amount of personality.

So yes, it’s a shame this never officially came here, but miraculously, it’s the graphics in this two-and-a-half-year-old GBA game that I most regret more people can’t see. Static images don’t do it justice; it really, truly must be played. Unfortunately, I’m roughly in the same boat as Parish when it comes to emulation, so I can’t force myself to play any more Mother 3 until my flash cart arrives; with any luck, I’ll get it this week, but until then, I hope I can find something to play. It’s been kind of a slow month for games, so we’ll see.

10 thoughts on “Your Mother’s biggest secret

  1. I haven’t finished it yet, but I own the cartridge and managed to get very far through thanks to, as you mentioned, the details in the animation. I’ve understood a great deal of the story despite not being able to read the text. I’ve also been able to comprehend what to do next, for the most part. I think there are only a couple times I looked at an FAQ for a hint. The game flows in such a way that you just know what to do next, even without reading it. I need to bring this one out of retirment and finish it. Even though it’s been a year or so since I last played it, most of the experience still feels fresh in my mind, so I think I can pick up where I left off without too much trouble. Such a gem, this game!

  2. If you wouldn’t mind sharing your wisdom, what’s the cheapest way to play the translated ROM on your GBA? I despise playing ROMS on my PC so know almost nothing about emulation. I don’t really have a desire to play any other GBA ROMS so I don’t want to spend a bunch of money on something I’ll only use once.

  3. One of the things I really liked about some of the later SNES square titles (FF6 and Chrono Trigger, for example) were that some characters had things like this.. Edgar’s and Lucca’s incessant posing for the camera to show how much appeal/genius they have, for instance.

  4. Uh, [vudu]? Playing the rom on your PC is the cheapest solution. Buying a piece of specialty hardware so you can play roms on an actual device is costly. If you’re lucky, maybe you have a PSP and could install a GBA emulator and play it there.

  5. This is what I’ve been saying, although I don’t think the animation trumps the story. Maybe you should reserve that judgment until you’ve played more than one Chapter. But, when a poignant scene comes along, the perfection with which everything is rendered just magnifies everything so much. What a wonderful game.

  6. So glad you wrote this post. I’m playing the translation on my DS, and I’m blown away by the sprites. It’s like 50 hours of lovingly crafted pixel art (the kind you find on trendy websites). The best part is the way mundane objects — Mother more or less reflects contemporary Earthly reality — are made whimsical. It’s like once there was a Katamari, it exploded, and then there was Mother 3.

  7. actually buying a flash cart or the like for GBA isn’t that expensive… it basically costs the same as buying an actual GBA cart. if you can’t find one at that price, you are looking in the wrong spots.

  8. Here’s a thought: How about playing the ROM with a PS2 controller or such on your computer?

    I like the animation too, though it reminds me of how little spritework was done in Earthbound. All the characters had those creepy, unmoving smiles…

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