Chapter 7: The Seven Needles (Part 3)
Returning to Saturn Valley, Lucas and his friends are surprised to see that the clan of Mr. Saturns have put together a would-be hot air balloon that is powered by…birds. Instead of a balloon, a cage of birds is full to the brim, and Lucas only needs to find one more to make it complete. This final winged adventurer allows Lucas and his friends to hold onto Rope Snake and achieve liftoff.
Poor Rope Snake has failed to strengthen his jaw for this journey, and eventually drops the group onto Cerulean Beach, near Tazmily Village. He quickly disappears, most likely to wallow in embarrassment. Luckily for the group, however, this is a prime spot to begin the long trek to Tanetane Island.
Lucas and his friends can walk along the bottom of the ocean. This is never explicitly explained in the game, but fits perfectly with Shigesato Itoi’s fondness for bizarre methods of travel that break out of societal norms. As far-fetched as it may seem to actually walk across the ocean floor, an element of reality is thrown in: Lucas and his friends only have a limited amount of oxygen, and must find air before they run out and end up washing up on the beach. The method of finding this oxygen is where chimerism blends with blatant fun.
As the group walks along the ocean floor, they encounter oxygen machines built to look like mermen. These dashing gents have thick, flowing black hair, enormous fuchsia lips, and glistening green fish tails. The only way to obtain their life-sustaining oxygen is to ask them for it, at which point the oxygen machines extend their enormous lips out and plant a huge wet kiss on each member of the party, filling their lungs with air. After each of the four has been replenished, their faces erupt in a great pink blush.
We do not know exactly who built the oxygen machines, or for what purpose, but someone obviously felt that mermen deserved a little bit of attention in a world dominated by mermaids. The most likely explanation is that these oxygen machines were creations of the Magypsies, who are fans of defying societal gender norms, and who possess a fondness for risqué humor. As embarrassing as their methods are, the oxygen machines allow Lucas and his friends to battle Pigmask soldiers and make it all the way south, to the boss guarding the entrance to Tanetane Island.
Master Eddy is a nasty foe; he is basically a great whirlpool with a face. He unleashes incredibly powerful waves of water at the group, absolutely hell-bent on keeping them from getting to the island. While it is possible that Master Eddy is a creation of the Pigmask Army, he is not mechanical in the least bit, nor is he a reconstructed creature formed from the amputated limbs of animals. The more likely explanation of how Master Eddy came to be is to look again to the Magypsies, who possess immense power in the world. It is not certain, but it would not be out of the ordinary to assume that Master Eddy is simply a whirlpool who was granted the task of guarding the island, and given the gift of consciousness to carry out his task by the Magypsies.
It is impossible to defeat Master Eddy in battle, which provides more evidence to the argument that he is a creation of the Magypsies. After dealing a certain amount of damage to him in the brawl, Lucas and his friends are hit by an enormous whirlpool, which causes them to be swept away. They awaken, exhausted and on the brink of collapse, on a strange swampy beach. Their belongings have been swept away in the current, and they are in desperate need of food and medical treatment.
Lo and behold, a miracle! A large pile of mushrooms sits near the beach where they have landed, but Boney is apprehensive about digging in. A nearby sign even reads “Energizing Mushrooms,” so what harm could they do? With no other options, they fill their stomachs with the mushrooms.
Instantly, everything changes. Colors swirl and shift, jumping from natural green to psychedelic pink, and the ambient music becomes nightmarish and delirious. But Lucas and his friends feel just dandy, and so they trek on. Soon, though, we can see that the mushrooms were certainly bad news. As they walk through the bright fuchsia swamp, they encounter their neighbors from Tazmily Village. Flint, Claus, and even Wess approach and say awful things before instigating a battle. Fighting these impostors reveals that they are actually chimeras like the Monkalrus and the Ancient Dragonfly.
Shigesato Itoi’s choice of words from the neighbors is brave in that they are quite risky for a game catering toward younger players. At one point, “Flint” approaches Lucas and tells him, “I’m gonna beat you, boy. Daddy’s gonna beat you.” Later on, “Claus” tells Lucas, “Everyone’s waiting for you. They’re waiting to spit on you, throw rocks at you, and make your life hell. Who’s ‘everyone?’ Everyone you love.” Duster is not left out, either; at one point, “Wess” says to him, “Duster, I’m sorry. It’s my fault you lost full use of your leg.” The swamp is also littered with red mailboxes, and you have the option of peeking inside them. One mailbox is full of nothing but screams. Another mailbox contains the sound of Lucas weeping.
The hallucinations which the characters experience on Tanetane Island reflect the inner suffering that they are keeping inside. While most of them are meant for Lucas, the few appearances of Wess and even Violet, Kumatora’s alter-ego, make it clear that each member of the group is nursing their own guilt in some way. Lucas is certainly the worst off, and he has convinced himself that he must save the world because he is responsible for every terrible thing that has happened. The tremendous suffering that this young boy experiences is very raw for a video game which is geared toward younger players, but Shigesato Itoi doesn’t shy away from such harsh realities. Fans of EarthBound remember the disturbing battle against Giygas, and have debated for fifteen years about whether or not Giygas was created as some sort of commentary on abortion. Delirious hallucinations are another way for Itoi to reach into players’ subconscious minds and make them squirm.
However, we must stop to wonder about why exactly a pile of mushrooms was so conveniently placed near the beach with a sign declaring “Energizing Mushrooms.” Someone knew that these fungi were hallucinogenic, and wanted to prevent any newcomers from reaching the inner treasures hidden on the island. And despite facing chimeras in the swamp, Lucas and his friends do not come across any Pigmask soldiers. Could it be that the Pigmask Army could not reach Tanetane Island, or have they already reached the next Needle and used the mushrooms as a way to divert Lucas and his friends from catching up? An element of sabotage is very clearly present, but it seems rather crude for the Magypsies to drug strangers with mushrooms, when they have ancient power at their fingertips. This, like many questions present in Mother 3, is for the player to decide.
After a long walk through the swamp, Lucas and his friends finally make it to the home of Mixolydia, who goes by “Missy.” They walk in and are greeted by a beautiful blonde woman who takes one look at them and says, “Oh dear, you four are tripping badly on those mushrooms.” She lines them up shoulder-to-shoulder and hits each one of them over the head with a board. Now that they have had their sense knocked back into them, Lucas and his friends turn and see that Missy is a fuchsia-haired Magypsy like her counterparts, and that her handsome butler Ocho is actually a gigantic octopus wearing a chauffeur’s hat. Kindly Ocho has gathered the group’s belongings from the ocean, and he happily returns them when they speak to him.
The cave north of Missy’s house leads to a mountainous stretch of bridges and grassy plateaus, and the group does battle with several enemies who are native to Tanetane Island. Still, no Pigmask soldiers are in sight. Eventually, they reach the Needle, which is guarded by one of the most difficult bosses in the game.
The Barrier Trio were created by Missy to guard the Needle, and defeating them requires a great deal of strategy. They are made up of Barrier Dude, Barrier Gal, and Barrier Man, and they appear as purple, blocky, gender-neutral bodybuilders. Throughout the battle, one of the three will call out and they will strike a Barrier Pose, at which point their strengths and weaknesses shift. They may be vulnerable to thunder, ice, or fire, depending on who calls out to strike a pose.
We can learn a few things about the Magypsies from the Barrier Trio. Once again, we see the rejection of gender roles in the way that the members of the Barrier Trio all resemble one another despite there being two males and one female. It is also clear that the Magypsies are fiercely intelligent in the ways of PSI battles, and they know that the way to achieve victory is to create well-rounded offensive and defensive strategies. Unlike the chimeras engineered by the Pigmask Army, there is no clear-cut way to defeat the Barrier Trio. They constantly change their strategies, forcing Lucas and his friends to change right along with them or risk defeat. The Magypsies are no fools, and the Barrier Trio is the most well-qualified guardian to keep watch over the Needle.
With enough planning and perseverance, including weathering some extremely brutal assaults from PSI Starstorm, Lucas and his friends wear down the Barrier Trio to the point where they are no longer able to carry out psychic attacks, rendering the battle over. The end of the fight is signaled when the Trio strikes one final pose: The Barrier Formation. In typical Shigesato Itoi fashion, the dialogue on the screen reads: “It was spectacular.”
The defeated Barrier Trio vanishes. It looks like victory for Lucas and his friends, but alas, celebration is short-lived. Pigmask soldiers suddenly rush into the area, roll out a red carpet, and salute their leader as he approaches the Needle. With a single wave of his sword, the Masked Man calls down a great bolt of lightning which knocks Lucas and his friends aside. He pulls the Needle with no difficulty.
Later, the group awakens to see that the Needle and the Pigmask soldiers have vanished. Mixolydia stands before them, on the verge of disappearing herself. She instructs them to find Ocho, who will take them back to Tazmily Village, and to bring a Jar of Yummy Pickles to Ionia. Missy disappears, and Lucas and his friends have no choice but to dismally ride upon Ocho’s head back to the village.
Lucas’ neighbors have left Tazmily Village and migrated to New Pork City, leaving the town quiet and lonely. However, there is still a Needle nearby which must be pulled at any cost. The group heads north toward the mountain, seeking out Ionia and the Needle so that there still may be a chance to save the universe. They fight their way through a cave full of enemies and emerge to finally reach Ionia’s pink shell home. She graciously accepts the Jar of Yummy Pickles and tells the group that the needle she guards is hidden in Chupichupoyoi Temple. However, the door to the temple is hidden behind vines that are frozen in time. To proceed, she gives them a valuable tool: the Waters of Time.
Several Pigmask soldiers are in the middle of attempting to break into the temple when Lucas and his friends approach, and a battle ensues. Defeating them allows Lucas to use the Waters of Time to restore the flow of time on the vines, and they shrivel up and allow access into Chupichupoyoi Temple. The Needle is still here!
Ionia appears before it is pulled, and repeats the great importance in Lucas being the one to pull the two remaining Needles. There is already substantial danger because of the Masked Man having pulled so many Needles as it is, and so there cannot be any further mistakes. Lucas steps up onto the pedestal holding the Needle, and pulls it. As he passes his heart to the Dark Dragon, his mind is expanded and he learns a stronger tier of PK Love, his special offensive psychic ability.
Before Ionia disappears, she bids the group a fond farewell and tells them that Locria, the Magypsy who has gone missing, is actually getting near to the final Needle. Time is very quickly running out for the group. They must locate Locria and find the Needle she guards.
Itoi, Shigesato. Mother 3. Nintendo: Japan. 20 April 2006. Game Boy Advance.