Published on May 5th, 2012 | by Arlin0
Arlin Plays Mother, Episode 21 – Finale and Final Rantings
Well, this was unexpected. I had no idea just how close I was to the end of the game, but I ended up making it there in a mere 30 minutes. Sadly, because the end sequence was all done in a single take and I still am having that issue with FRAPS, the sound gets pretty off by the end of it, but I hope it doesn’t bother you all too much.
Overall, I thought that this was a very rough game. Its game mechanics were solid in concept, but were clearly not balanced very well, and more importantly seemed very grind heavy for my taste. While I understand that this tendency to have the player fight lots and lots of battles was common for RPGs of the era, it still is something I find I am ill-suited for. Fortunately, in this run I had the Easy Ring thanks to Tomato’s patch, so I could avoid having to cut copious amounts of gameplay to keep it interesting for the viewers, but I have played through the game once before on the original translation, and it is rather tedious. Visually, it leaves much to the imagination, though to some extent this can be blamed on the hardware. That said, there were more impressive uses of the graphics that late in the lifetime of the NES, but overall I think this is a minor thing to consider. I think the story was interesting, but could have been given much earlier. I really didn’t have any idea why I was going to a lot of these places beyond simple urge to explore until close to a third of the way through the game, and even then a lot of it was only by sheer dumb luck of having talked to just the right pedestrian. The latter part, however, was kind of necessary when you think about it. After all, there was no main antagonist for you to get information from over the course of the game; literally all you had was random tidbits from townsfolk. That aspect, while infuriating, also highlights what for me is the single biggest draw to the series. Because the game encourages you to seek out and talk to everybody you meet, sometimes more than once, it allows you to find all the little entertaining side bits of dialogue, no matter how frivolous or unimportant they may be. This is the sort of thing that got me carted off to jail earlier in the LP, or discovering the Ocarina in Magicant. The sheer randomness and variety is what pulls me and so many others in, and leads them to try the other installments. While for me this began with Earthbound, this translation very much keeps that flavor alive and well and really makes the first installment that much better. Heck, there are even some things in this one that are better than Earthbound. The individual party members seemed far more fleshed out and real than some of the Earthbound ones, particularly Loid. While just as in the sequel, a lot is left to the imagination, these characters seemed particularly interesting, especially in an era of gaming where characters tended to be blank slates for the player to project anything they liked.
Even though a lot of these things may be outdated these days, at the time they certainly did wonders. It took the standard formula of the Dragon Quest series and reversed many of the common elements. Instead of a medieval European based setting, it was rural America. Instead of the patriarchal figure of the King saving your game, it was a call to your always absent father. Your mother was the major figure in your main character’s home, rather than simply being nonexistent. And while yes it can be said that many of the other odd choices are merely supporting the strange choice of setting- replacing healing potions with assorted foods, etc- there are things that were made different that can’t simply be attributed to following the setting to its natural conclusion. The entire game focuses not on entertainment through gameplay, but entertainment through playing the game. They sound similar, but the big entertainment [i]was[/i] the quirky setting and the bizarre, strange, and wonderful people in it, not how powerful you got and how strong of monsters you could kill. It was an incredible paradigm shift from previous games, and it has sparked an enormous amount of creativity over the years because of it.
So as much as I would love to simply tell people it was a terribly designed game that manages to be highly entertaining despite that, I think its impact was such that it deserves more than that. It deserves to be held up as an example of the great things that can come of simply having the courage to try something new and run with it as far as you can.