Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Biweekly Music Wednesday! No. 23 ~Butch and the Villagers~ (Mother 3)

Origin: Mother 3 (GBA)
Plays In: The end of Chapter 2
Status: Original Composition
Composer: Shogo Sakai

Shogo Sakai's work on Mother 3 possesses the most heart-wrenching music ever inputted into video games. That the title deliberately stands in stark contrast with its predecessor (Earthbound) is one of its biggest strengths, and one needs only to compare their individual soundtracks to see why. Earthbound is composed of rich, multi-fledged nostalgia -- be it the familiar old scent of Twoson, the music box-esque tunes that rest at the sanctuaries, or the mellow choir of Ness's home, such songs serve to celebrate childhood innocence and adventure.

Mother 3 borrows this template only to highlight the exact opposite: the crippling reality of adulthood. In the context of Butch and the Villagers, Tazmily Village's awkward reception to the deaths and disappearance of certain characters was disconcerting enough, but the town's moral fabric begins to truly unravel through the staged theft of a new, foreign concept: money. Bear in mind only a day or two had passed since the aforementioned tragedies, yet the destruction of a family and a missing person report is quickly forgotten in the face of greed. At this point, Mother 3's exact setting and timeframe relative to the two previous games are unknown, but the former's fragility is already hard at work in providing one of the game's most powerful statements.

Butch and the Villagers is perhaps one of the game's more underrated tracks, yet the way it complements the above scene can't be lauded enough. Mother 3's script already functions as something of a play, and I can't imagine that the way the song channels the basic beats of a closing act is no coincidence. But what's even more powerful is the defeated plucks of a guitar, the one that signals the song's other, more heartbreaking message: "there's no going back."

From now on, the peace-celebrating utopia of Tazmily begins to be no more. One family's tragedy in a formally close-knit village is quickly forgotten in the advent of capitalism and modernism. A grandfather can only cope through his special brand of fart jokes as the world changes around him, the townsfolk roll their eyes as a father spends three years in a hopeless routine of prayer and searching, and a lone boy can only clutch tighter to his dog in the depths of the night.

I listened to this song one night on Mother 3's sound player maybe a month or two after Michael's death, and that one message repeated firmly in my skull. I couldn't go back -- not to the private forum I left after I'd grown disillusioned with its gradual insensitivity, or to the safe childhood I'd taken for granted, or the warmth of my brother's embrace as he went goodbye.

There's no going the only place to go is forward. But you don't know that in despair.

Final Thoughts: Even now I'm choking back tears. Damn you, Itoi!


What a downer! Hopefully Kirby can make it up to us...been making some real progress on that, so expect that and a Nintendojo article soon!

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