A personal retrospective opens with tragedy.
Mother 3 occupies a warm, precedential place in both my gaming and personal lives. We found each other under circumstances that, peculiar as they seemed at the time, could not have been better in retrospect, and it was an igniting force for new experiences and discoveries during what was kind of a turning point in my life.
It was also—and still is—a game I could feel comfortable in. I find more authenticity and genuine resonance in Mother 3 than in any other role-playing game I’ve ever delved into. Part of this, I’ll posit, comes from the interplay between the dichotomous tones of the Mother series: On one hand, it presents a figuratively colorful world, full of vibrant characters and inviting eccentricities. Charming, easy on the eyes, and memorably playful. However, it also addresses the various issues contained within its narrative with a maturity I’ve yet to see matched by its peers. When something bracingly saddening happens, it isn’t glossed over by a veneer of banal RPG expository dialogue, and, just as importantly, it isn’t overly dramatized.
Chapter 1 presents a series of events that exemplify this sentiment. Tragedy strikes—several times, in fact, each one eclipsing the last—and, lo and behold, the characters don’t address one another as if they’re preset cogs in a machine of template emotions. What’s said among them amounts to a retraction from the overblown hysterics of typical game conversations—self-aware, for sure, but constantly insightful and poignant, and often accompanied by scenes of contemplative silence.
The two tones work not in spite of each other, but because of. The heavier content is meaningful because of the lighter side the game displays, and vice versa—a trend which holds fast through the entirety of the game.
Chapter 1, though straightforward and introductory, sets the game’s tonal groundwork in a quiet, minimalist manner I inherently appreciate. Two contributing qualities in this regard: the soundtrack—which may be my favorite of any game—and the magnificent fan translation. The former is an eclectic array of tracks crafted to complement every mood presented, and the latter…well, I wouldn’t be here without the latter.
Subsequently, the events of Chapter 1 are among the heaviest of the game. Love, fear, death, anger, and sorrow—in that order—come into play in measured succession. Each emotion is given room to linger and breath in its respective scene, to be taken in with the intended intensity and thought, and to do more than just exist to move the story forward. Flint, the chapter’s main character and a respected father figure, is thoroughly and visibly broken down over the course of the game’s first hour. Watching this strong, stoic man—someone I found myself relating to on some personal levels—fall to his knees, beat the ground in a black, mournful fury and lash out at others upon learning his wife is dead tore me up inside, and injected a new perspective into my still-forming opinion…