2D: Mother’s day, pt. 2

Yes, yes, Mother’s Day was yesterday. Whatever.

I sure haven’t had much time to play Mother 3 lately! But that’s OK, because it means I can take it slowly and savor the experience. The game reminds me of a good book in that it’s the sort of thing you could easily skim, but taking the time to soak it up is far more rewarding.

At the moment I’m well into the second chapter of the game, wherein I’ve taken control of a gimpy slacker with a knack for theft in the wake of a tragic turn of events. (Chapter one’s parallels with EarthBound — dealing with strange happenings in the dead of night — are not lost on me, but there’s much less “quirk” and a lot more “this is heartbreaking” in Mother 3.) The end of the first chapter is what’s sticking with me, though. Not just because of the events, but also because of the care that went into depicting the aftermath as Flint beats the crap out of the ground, the citizens of Tamzily, and most of the scenery in a fit of raw rage.

Illustrating sprites is something of a lost art these days, which is a real shame. It demands a certain level of artistry… which isn’t to say that 3D animation doesn’t require artistry as well, but it’s a different kind of artistry. There’s something really satisfying about unique sprite animations that appear once in a game never to be seen again; they’re opulent, indulgent, almost wasteful. The one-off animations were something that really made me fall in love with Final Fantasy Tactics, and already I’ve seen more of them (or so I assume) in Mother 3 than in just about any other game that comes to mind. Seeing a grieving Flint smash up a fire and take wild swings at his friends would have been powerful in any medium, but knowing that each frame was meticulously animated, that so much thought was put into the way the debris flew from the impact and the townswoman scurried to shield Lucas and Claus from the sight of their father flipping out, really added an extra layer of meaning to the whole scene. Even little things, like the careful palette choices on the ground around the fire to simulate what would normally be handled by self-illuminating light sources, catch the eye.

But then again, maybe I’m just a polygon-hating luddite! You just can’t trust my technology-hating ways.

11 thoughts on “2D: Mother’s day, pt. 2

  1. Yea, you technology hating luddite that hates everything new than the PS1. Or you’re being paid by Nintendo, or.. have you been accused of being an xbot lately? I heard you mention Halo: Reach on a podcast, you must be being paid by Mdollar as well.

    It’s a shame about the all but lost art of sprite animation, it can be so touching in ways that 3D stuff can’t do.

  2. I just started Chapter 5 of Mother 3, and I’m constantly struck by how much more dark and mature the plot is compared to Earthbound. Granted, Earthbound is only really “childish” on the surface, but Mother 3 wastes no time in letting bad things happen to good people. And, er, monkeys. More importantly, it’s all handled with grace and understated character development. It helps that the fan translation is superb, and easily the best non-official one I’ve encountered.

  3. Unique animations are great, but reused animation also has a charm that is lost in most 3D games. Final Fantasy VI conveys an amazing range of action by sequencing a fairly limited number of poses, and when you see a character doing something you didn’t know they could do using animation you’ve already seen, it adds a layer of richness to the rest of the game. It also takes an amazing amount of talent to make simple sprites that can act out anything the writers come up with, and it’s a pleasure to watch such versatile and economical sprites in action.

  4. No question that the events of Mother 3 have much more of an air of melancholy hanging over them. The circumstances characters find themselves in are almost depressing. There is a subtle humor woven through the game, but there’s no question that it’s darker in tone than Earthbound.

  5. When Mother 3 came out in Japan, Tomm imported it, played through the first chapter, and then said he would wait until he could play it in English. He also said that he was more moved by what he saw in that first chapter than any other game – sprite based or no – despite not understanding the text. It was a long, long wait to figure out what he meant by that, but it was worth it.

  6. A real polygon hater would rather have Disgaea 3 instead of Final Fantasy XIII or Valkyria Chronicles. :)

  7. I love Final Fantasy 6, but it has always bugged me that the victory celebrations for the characters is the generic “both hands above head” pose, after a spin I think. FF4 had much more personalized celebrating, with grinning, fist pumping, and mugging. This is one of the few areas where FF4 beat FF6 graphically.

  8. @Suto: They’re purely cosmetic, but the FFIV cast’s individual victory poses were definitely a nice touch. FFVI’s characters do have their own individual ways of appearing on the screen at a battle’s start, though.

    As for Mother 3, those unique sprite animations, especially the ones used during that scene in Chapter 1, are really moving. A lesser RPG would’ve settled with just bumping sprites together.

  9. I’m still in chapter 1, but I want to say that so far, the save points are incredibly well spaced out. Every time my half hour train ride is over, it seems I’m able to wrap up my progress and go to work.

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