Stellar Squad Series – Mother 3

They say you can’t choose your family. But sometimes – say, when your mom’s brutally murdered by a reconstructed cyber-animal, your brother goes missing in an attempt to avenge her, and your dad just can’t deal – you may have to cobble a new one together on your own.

And even if they en’t perfect, they’re your homies through the best and worst of it – whether that be chasing down a clayman to retrieve a memory egg, or accidentally ingesting hallucinatory mushrooms while marooned on a tropical island.

(It’s all about context; just go with it.)

Mother 3’s team may be my favorite team ever. I grant you, there’s a sea of games I have yet to play, and many characters and parties I have yet to meet through the experiences those games lend – but I’m telling you: these quirky little nuggets will never be dethroned.

Want to get to know them? I kneeeeeeeeew you’d enthusiastically say yes!

Lucas

Once notorious as a coddled crybaby, he’s determined to reinvent himself as strong and capable after his family fell apart. Gotta love that cowlick in his hair.

 

Boney

A dog. But more than that, he’s Lucas’s constant companion and even gives sensible advice – if you can interpret his barks, at any rate.

Kumatora

Your resident tomboy princess (or IS she?). A bit crass, and she’s got a mouth, but she’d go to any lengths for her friends. If she requests you take a shower, be careful declining her wishes…

 

Duster

Looks like a bum, walks with a limp, sleeps all day – also plays a mean upright bass (LITERALLY). Past the bad breath and slightly unkempt look, Duster harbors a helping heart. My favorite of the team, I’m not even gonna hide it. He even has his own post.

 


So, why is this team so great? Well, attempting to set aside my fangirl ravings and approach this from a level-headed, storytelling perspective *calming breath* – each of these characters is a misfit in some fashion (maybe discounting Boney; a dog can only carry so much of a stigma). They come out of hurts, imperfections, and unconventionality to form a bond and stand against a power you wouldn’t think four oddballs had a chance to beat.

Remember how we talked about the relatability of a character in our last video game post? We linked it to personal experience and to quirks/struggles the audience might share with each character. Well, Mother 3 takes that idea and adds the strongest sense of kinship this trilogy has to offer. You get to know each character individually; you get to walk in their shoes for a period of time and understand their life. Maybe you empathize with them. You see their need for love and friendship, so that when they become a team you KNOW the bonds are important to them.

This is relatability cubed. Think of your own idiosyncrasies – what makes you weird and out there . Now think of the people who came into your life with their own oddities and chose to walk your road with you. How deep do those bonds go? How strong is your trust? Would you face a totalitarian pigmask army together with these friends?

That’s what Mother 3‘s team evokes. The theme throughout the series, after all, is love, so what better way to close the trilogy than with camaraderie between unconventional friends? Gets me all warm and fuzzy for my own crazy troupe of amigos. Group hug, y’all!

 

Mother 3 is the property of Nintendo & Shigesato Itoi and has no English language release. You can, however, emulate the game in Japanese and use this translation patch by Tomato. If you choose this route, please support the developers by investing in their other games and merchandise.

Stellar Squad Series – Dragon Quest IV

[Currently listening to: coffee shop music. Nothing like sipping a cold brew on a mild autumn evening…]

You might remember, back in July, I started a series concerning memorable openings in video games. (You might not remember because you didn’t care to read it, but I’m going to try to suppress my disappointment.) Since I’m fresh outta inspiration again this month, you know what that means…

…TIME TO INTRODUCE ANOTHER BLOG SERIES!

(There’s very little you can do to create a Thanksgiving-themed video game post. I’m just sayin’.)

In this series, we’re going to address a crucial ingredient to any story: the cast. And not just any members of the cast, but your main squad. You know – your Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Your Luke, Leia, and Han. Your Star Trek deck team.

You can have any number of characters in your lead team, but one thing you must be sure to do: make them each important. Distinguish them from each other. Give them personality and purpose. Think about how they would interact. Your audience is going to spend a lot of time with these people; don’t just craft cardboard cutouts.

And since listening to all that Dragon Quest music has got me in the mood, I’m going to use the party members of Dragon Quest IV as my example.

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The final tally: Frowns win over smiles, 5 to 4.

Let’s break down the roster, shall we? In order from left to right:

Ragnar McRyan

A stout soldier who’s made it his life’s calling to seek the destined hero. Seems rough around the edges and looks gruff, but he’s got a gentle soul.

Tsarevna Alena

Pint-sized, tomboy royalty who would rather test her physical mettle than learn how to be a proper ruler. She thinks more with her fists than her brain. Oblivious to a certain priest’s feelings for her.

Kiryl

A priest-in-training and retainer to Alena. Has a desperate crush on her and is definitely a lovesick goober. Serious, devoted…terrified of heights and ghosts.

Borya

Alena’s other retainer, an old and crotchety wizard. Constantly scolds her and Kiryl both. Complains about nearly everything, but it’s only his way of showing concern.

Solo/Sofia (Main Character)

Suffers from “main character muteness”, so there’s not much to say (literally). You can make them either a boy or a girl at the start of the game. Whoop whoop.

Torneko Taloon

Portly merchant who’s skills lie in item appraisal. Bit of a jokester and brings levity to the most dire situations. Hey, look, he’s got his own blog post!

Meena

Maya’s younger and more sensible sister. A seer of the future who makes her money telling fortunes. Typically a realist in most situations.

Maya

Meena’s older sister. She makes her fortune dancing, but is quick to squander it all in casinos. Dreams of marrying into rich society.


I know I keep saying this, but…with party chat these character qualities become all the more clear. So…GO WITH PARTY CHAT! DO I HAVE TO SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU?

*hem* Anyway, already you can see the disparate personalities that have had to join forces. Dragon Quest IV further emphasizes the diversity by giving its characters different “nationalities”. Torneko speaks with an Irish lilt; Ragnar is barely understandable with his Scottish; Meena and Maya use stereotypical Indian idiosyncrasies; and Alena, Kiryl, and Borya are politically incorrect but adorable with their thick Russian grammar.

stellar-squads5
Is fantasy world, so such playful dialogue is acceptable, da?

Add to this their many social positions and trades, and you have quite the mix of characters. Imagine the interactions between a young priest and a night-life dancer. Or a Russian Zamoksvan princess and a merchant. They would view certain scenarios in very different ways – and possibly also find a peculiar few traits in common.

For many Dragon Quest games there’s a party “gimmick” that contributes to the overarching story. For V it was the experience of controlling three generations of one family as your main party. For VI it was learning about each character’s real self and dream self.

IV focuses on gathering heroes from all over the world to defeat a great evil, and for that reason it’s key to identify the characters’ disparities within their common goal. Imagine the differences these eight people would need to overcome in order to cooperate – and how strong their bond would be because of it. Now, if that doesn’t give you team feels, I don’t know what will.

The Dragon Quests also give plenty of room to further develop characters beyond what we see in-game. I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I absolutely love it. It gives me the opportunity to create more of the story and interactions in my mind as I play; it gives me a chance to contribute to this epic tale and understand the characters in my own fashion.

Which brings me to this ending announcement: expect to see a special second Dragon Quest-related post later this week!

 

Dragon Quest IV belongs to Square-Enix. You can purchase it to play via Nintendo DS or as an app on your phone. (Go with the phone for party chat.)