Lol, weekend ended and I have not finished the game. Splatoon kind of took over my life <_<
So I'll just go ahead and post closing thoughts on the game, respond to some stuff as well. Spoilers everywhere of course, be warned.
! The big thing to keep in mind is that while comparisons to Earthbound are a fantastic thing to do, given it helps you appreciate what each game is all about and how they function as members of the same series, it is unfair to qualitatively compare them. I think in every respect they are both fantastic games, with their minor flaws and unique attributes, and in the end the question of which one is "best" is more of a question of what each individual likes more.
! Earthbound is indeed about the journey and the experience. Going everywhere braving everything and living everything while knowing mom and dad are supporting you from where they are and you can always just go back and eat some Steak. So it's like being a kid, really, having that safety net from your parents to feel comfortable in going out and living the world which is full of weird shit, a lot of scary, terrifying stuff, but that you just pull through because you can.
In that sense, the Earthbound immersion is almost fully about you, and what you experience. Even particular bits of genius, like the Dalaam moment with Poo and the end fight, are all about how you react to things and how YOU, the player, did it in the end. And that makes the game awesome.
! Mother 3 is an entirely different monster. Its immersion is completely different, and its themes, while having some similarities, are also much more extensive and far-reaching. This one isn't about you, but about the world. Yes, your experiences and your reactions matter, but not as much as how the world changes around you. And for that purpose, the story is much more elaborate, and a lot of the situations are less about the fun of the adventure and more about the experience the developers want you to have to shape your thoughts about the situations presented by the story.
I've seen a number of people complain about the multiple characters making the game disjointed, but that's the thing. Not being Lucas all the time hammers the point that it's not about you entirely, it's about Tazmily and those around you. And Tazmily, we come to learn, is a metaphor for what's left of humanity.
It also completely moves away from the idea of home is safe, go have fun outside exploring. Not this game, in this one the darkness hits home. The changes being made in the world by others directly damage the safety of your home. Hinawa dies as a result of change. Claus's situation is a result of that change. Tazmily changes for the worst because of that, relationships eroding and corruption being born. And that's because, I believe, the point in this game brings everything back a lot more to Mother not being just mom at home, but the world around you. You are a product of the world you are in. And what goes on in it will affect you.
And that's a really obvious theme. Nature is completely corrupted everywhere in the game. The game functions more as a sci-fi satire of modern life than anything else really. Happy boxes mocking our materialist emptyness, chimeras mocking the idea that us humans need to be meddling in nature with our technology to make it better … it's all so dark. Also notice how fantastic the animals are in this game. There's so many of them and they shine stupendously, from save frogs to advice sparrows to ants to mole crickets and even giant Dragos. This game is placing you in a stature of equality with nature, and Porky corrupting that becomes a glaring issue.
! Now I'm getting to the character situation. First of all, what I want to mention is that looking at something in the game that didn't seem right to you shouldn't lead to the conclusion of "software limitations?" particularly because this is a game where they are likely to shape things in order to tunnel your experience in certain ways. The thing about game design sometimes, at least with RPGs like this one, is that it's not about giving the player all the options they could possibly have because they'll want them, but to give just as much as you think, as a developer, will be necessary for the point to be precisely across.
So, for example, Salsa and Flint not participating in the majority is clearly, obviously, deliberate. Salsa is not a main character for you to make uber and rock into a bunch of dangerous situations while in your party. Salsa's story is strictly and mainly about the monkey and how much he goes through for his love monkey. There is no reason to expect salsa to give a shit about thunder tower, or new pork city, or needles. Why? It's a fucking monkey. The character was designed to be weak, and to be helpless, because not only does it pit you into a contest of whether you hate fassad more than anything else in the world, but it also brings home the point of how helpless this poor little animal is, and how EVEN THEN, it is capable of demonstrating tremendous spirit and courage and turning the tables even on the ultimate chimera.
Same goes for Flint. Hinawa's death is seen by a lot of people as "oh man, this game just really wants to punch you in the gut with all the unnecessary fridging and drama" but ... MAYBE, just ... MAYBE, there's a point to it? And what I've come to notice in this playthrough more than others is that this game is one of the greatest discussions on mortality and even immortality and how we as humans respond to it. I've spoken before how there's a lot to say about Claus's perceived strength and how he responds to Hinawa's death, compared to Lucas, who was always seen as the weak one. Flint is another special case, in that he responded to the death pretty pretty badly. Everyone in Tazmily even tells Lucas about it ... tell your dad to just give it up, to stop, to go home. Flint was a pillar of Tazmily, made obvious by his involvement in saving Lighter and Fuel, and after Hinawa's death and failing to find Claus he becomes a ghost. That's something that's necessary for the storytelling, and it's necessary for Lucas's journey as a character. And I find it unfair to detract points from the game because it didn't let you walk around with all these characters so you could level them up and bond with them. This isn't a pokemon or band of misfits journey.
Before I get to other things I want to talk about, let me talk about why I like Kumatora. Kumatora and Osohe are some of the more glossed over aspects of this world, and for good reason: they're the leftovers of a culture and history that no longer exists. As a result, there was no reason for Kumatora's past to have much of a role in the story or in her character growth as it just had no role in the story, since Osohe's past just has no more presence. So yes, perhaps she does get the short end when it comes to development. However, there's still plenty of things about the character all over the place throughout the story that make her shine tremendously, such as her relationship with Salsa and her dedication to the Duster situation in Tittiboo. She is also interesting to me as a character who was raised by the Magypsies, who while being genderless are still super feminine, and meanwhile Kumatora went the opposite way and became rather boyish. And it's kind of awesome to have a character with that history be so awesome, strong, and capable, much in the same way it's awesome Duster has a leg disability that hardly gets mentioned and is never treated like a handicap. In that sense Boney for me is always a weird fourth and I'm not sure what was the thinking behind him being so much more prevalent than, say, king. However, Boney's moments in the story are HILARIOUS and I like how there's a meta awareness to how straight a character he is and how smart as a whole. Again, keeping nature on equal footing with humans.
And actually, this whole character thing is something I WILL fault Earthbound for. Paula is likable as a character, but it bothers me how the extent of her role is praying for help and knowing that things are just this way because they are and jeff and poo will help because they will. I know I know, it has its purpose in Earthbound, but when you have this and then you play Mother 3, where the girl character rocks and the support characters rock and everyone just rocks so hard and has so much personality ... yea, it's not hard to fall in love with them. All of them.
! OK, now the main thing I want to address, the thing that was most glaring to me in this playthrough, was something I mentioned above, regarding this game being a fantastic discussion on mortality. Namely because we're shown completely different takes on responses to immortality.
On one hand you have six of the magypsies. Now, I know there's some people who look at the magypsies and don't take them seriously or deem them a tasteless joke or caricatures. I have no idea why, seeing how in this entire world of Mother 3 they're the creatures that are depicted pretty much the best. Mannerism and all, they're extremely light beings. They've lived for so long that they're completely unfazed by nearly everything, even death. And there's a lot of beauty to that. There's a lot of beauty to the fact that beings so perfect and free and light are depicted as a cross of male and female. Like Itoi says, like many things in this game they're a cross of two things, and in this case it's a cross of two genders. And we can even look at them individually as demonstrations of what's good in the world. Phrygia is terrible at the beginning, but when it's her turn its her attention to detail that helps you proceed with the journey. Lydia's generosity to ANYONE leads to a reformed pig mask, which is huge considering THEY'RE CHEMICALLY BRAINWASHED by Porky. In the end though, my favorite is still Doria because she's just soo great, such an awesome person, and her lines when reacting to the different chimeras are just awesome.
Anyway, then on the other hand we have Fassad and Porky. These two saw immortality in the face. Fassad and Porky both share the fact that upon seeing the greater context of everything, their only conclusion was to just lose sight of everything entirely and treat the mortal, doomed world as a playground and ... fuck, might as well destroy it. And the creepy thing is, they're not wrong. There's a line by Leder that I find very deep, where he says that "everyone knew in the back of their minds that it would happen someday, until it actually did happen" in regards to the destruction of the world. And then between that and the whole situation with the needles, it leads to this beautiful analysis of how humanity can respond to imminent finality and mortality. Even then claymen can be linked to this ... isn't it uncomfortable to see these creatures "live" as tools and then just ... melt into nothingness when deemed useless? I visited the factory after it was closer and ... it felt disturbing but ... were they really alive?
But back to responses to mortality, we already have an idea of how the main cast responds to the situation given Hinawa. Now, these immortal beings ... the Magypsies respond to death with acceptance of the beauty they lived in and the beauty and romance of how they leave. Fassad and Porky took finality to absurdist means. If everything is ending, then what really is the meaning of it all? Why not treat the world like a playground, make it yours, and when you're bored just end it because might as well, there's NO OTHER POSSIBLE CONCLUSION. And what's creepier even still is that while Fassad was, in the end, able to accept his death with the knowledge it would end for everyone else and it was all futile ... Porky just could not deal with that shit. And it ties back to Earthbound on how much of a coward he was, how much fear that poor creature has in that wretched little heart that it constantly feigns strength and calls for attention and wants to be noticed and admired and loved, but is SO FUCKING AFRAID of anything ending that ... it led to placing himself in the situation where the only thing he has is himself as he sees literally everything else but himself end. It's tough stuff, and I cannot stress enough how fascinating of a presentation it is to me. I think it's the villains that keep me loving the Mother series, because I don't think many other games have such layered villains where you can clearly see their breaking point and the moment where that one weakness completely fucked them over and sent them spiraling into darkness.
Lastly, regarding Claus, I want to bring up how accepting Lucas and Flint are of his death. There's no rage from Flint. No anger, and seemingly only a sense of calm and relief that flows over him. There is also the line from Hinawa that always makes me bawl like a mofo ... "you must be tired." That is such a strong line to me, because it frames just how much Claus was destroyed by Hinawa's death and the ensuing situation. Psychologically it's jarring to even think or imagine what Claus had to go through and what that brave, confident little boy from the beginning was left as, essentially a shell. Even when the needles he pulled were noticed, the magypsies commented on how there was no feeling of goodwill or evil, just, nothing. And him being so broken, and Hinawa acknowledging how tired he must be, it makes the final fight such an emotional ordeal. Could he have lived? I think so. But as it is, with him choosing to die and rest, I think the story works just as well and I cannot feel towards his death the anger and frustration caused by Hinawa's.
! Ok, I guess I wound up talking a lot about the themes that this game tickles in my brain, and that's not even going over all the little details and nuggets of awesome. The music, the writing, the absurd things like oxygen tanks and bird fishing, the awesome things like the Porky bots fight concluding with DCMC crashing (and presumably mambo'ing) the scene, the bit at the end where people say it's fine and go out and enjoy the world ("world, be nice to [name]!") and they thank you, Osohe sinking into the ground demonstating a clean slate away from past history and culture … There is just so much joy and fun and grief and love and depth to find all over this game. It's a taxing game, and it takes a while, obviously since I'm still not fully done with my playthrough, but every bit of it is so layered and deep and fun that I can't help but want to play this game on a constant loop. And it is my wish, my genuine hope, that one day this game is something we can all grab, take a look at, and analyze intellectually because there is just so much going on. Awesome, awesome, awesome game.