Closer Look: November Eve (File A)

Xamboxumbadira is the powerhouse of the cell.

Authored By: Dr. Dos
Published: Nov 30, 2019
Part of Series: November Eve Closer Look
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This time, I wanted to go back to a game that had a bit of a false start for being covered as part of the Worlds of ZZT project. Tseng's November Eve had a livestream back in July which covered the first file, but I chose not to finish the game in future streams. I had hoped the game would make for a good stream and was incorrect. Lots and lots and lots of slow cutscenes did not make for a good viewing experience and I scrapped plans to stream the rest of the game, intending to try it again as a text based article instead.

In the the late 1990s, Tseng was a very big name. He definitely figured out how to make his games stand out, and one way of doing so was to make them all part of a shared universe. By creating a variety of planets, but sharing characters between them thanks to easy interstellar travel, Tseng managed to make memorable characters who appeared in lots of games. This was a pretty uncommon thing, and few ZZT games that aren't direct sequels/prequels ever had shared characters in the way Tseng's worlds did.

November Eve, meanwhile is a bit unique among Tseng's games for not being an original adventure, but instead being a parody of (then) Squaresoft's 1998 PlayStation 1 RPG, Parasite Eve. Parody, especially of RPGs is all over ZZT worlds. (We've already seen Knightt's Stupid RPG earlier this year.) But while most ZZT parodies try to make fun of the source material above all else, Tseng instead embraces it. November Eve is a shockingly faithful conversion of the original game, replacing the cast with established characters seen in his earlier games, and even managing to do a decent job of capturing the battle system.

It's honestly a really impressive game, and it holds up surprisingly well today!

Well, almost. While November Eve condenses an already short RPG into an even shorter ZZT experience, it makes the bulk of that experience watching cutscenes. The few battles the game does have, though impressive for their time, are very slow paced and visibly flawed today. Still, I can't help but love what Tseng managed to pull off here.

November Eve is a pretty huge game by ZZT standards, coming in at three files which I'm just now noticing are labeled numerically on the title screens but with letters in the file names. Given the strong impulse for ZZTers to bring in gaming culture from mainstream circles, it's surprising that they aren't called "discs" when the source material is split across two CDs.

The game starts with a menu with plenty of information, and nicely themed with Gem Hunter (the main protagonist of Tseng's games) and Kim (this game's protagonist) staring at a screen in Gem Hunter's space ship.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ OHH DEAR  โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
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[  n  o  v  e  m  b  e  r    e  v  e  ]
                   the semi-cinematic rpg
a tseng mcqueen production
i. introduction/notations
ii. plot
iii. gameplay
iv. november energy/weapons/items
v. credits/random information

as you probably know from a guy like tseng
mcqueen, the word "november" appears in
yet another one of his projects. november
eve was originally the subtitle for gem
hunter rpg, but that idea fell through
because the only parasite eve feature it
even had was the rpg engine. thus, i
dropped the subtitle. instead, i am using
the subtitle to power my parasite eve
parody... what you are playing, now. this,
november eve, is a gem hunter spin-off
which does not star gem hunter, at all.
more are on that in the plot.

so why "november eve"? november is the
month is question in my favorite song of
all time, wyclef jean's gone `till
november. ever since i started hearing the
song, i've treated november as a "month of
gods". why am i parodying parasite eve?
next to xenogears, it is my favorite rpg
of all time. so there.

november eve contains my best in every
field. graphics, programming, plot,
everything. and it contains the wonderous
composeries (is that a word?) of kev-san,
or cartera999, or, as we randomly call
him, wallet. still, jawatrader/vampy will
hate it, because he always hates my games.
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Starting with stuff is the first of many walls of text which provides quite a bit of info, "November" being a recurring word in Tseng's games and explains why the month has some personal significance to him thanks to the song Gone Till November.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ OHH DEAR  โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
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an organism which lives within all
hoodians, the xamboxumbadria is a more
powerful form of mitochondria, and it
helps hoodians live about forty-two months
longer than humans. it does not exist
within earth humans.

what if the xambozumbadria had minds of
their own?

what if they were to awaken and take over
the universe?

puerto del agua, da hood. the capital city
of the planet da hood. a fated opera house
in the center of town. "he" will awaken
here. there's just one brick wall in "his"

gem hunter took a bet with kim to see who
would win a game of five card stud. to
his amazement, kim beat him, and thus, kim
forced him into taking her to an opera.

while gem hunter has this thing about
always carrying his f42 big-assed gun, he
just didn't know what would happen on that
fated night.

"he" would awaken. and only "she" can stop
him. and why the hell are we saying these
words in "this" way?

yes, november eve is one of the few tseng
games with a decent plot. ...actually, i'm
led to believe that this is the only tseng
game with a decent plot.
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Xamboxumbadria is the powerhouse of the cell for the advanced Hoodian species. This game had enough impact on me that I could have told you how to spell the term at any given moment for the past nearly-twenty years.

In Parasite Eve, the protagonist's immunity to the mitochondria uprising is a major plot point and source of intrigue. Here, it's revealed upfront that Kim is immune to manipulating xamboxumbadria because she's a human from Earth and thus doesn't have any in the first place. This reveal wouldn't take much to deduce for anybody familiar with Tseng's games, and it's kind of strange just how long it takes the characters within November Eve to explicitly acknowledge it.

This scene discussed of Kim winning a game of poker against Gem Hunter and deciding they have to have an opera date is also animated as the game's intro.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ OHH DEAR  โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
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remember parasite eve? that little mature-
rated game involve explicit full motion
videos of rats and dogs randomly mutating?
well, november eve is completely based off
of that.

โ–“โ–“โ–“kimโ–“โ–“โ–“                      โ–“โ–“enemyโ–“โ–“โ–“
โ–“โ– โ– โ– โ– โ– โ–  โ–“                      โ–“โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–“โ–“
โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“         Y            โ–’โ–’enemyโ–’โ–’โ–’
โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“                      โ–’โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–€โ–’โ–’
โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“                      โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’
โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“                E     โ–’โ– โ– โ– โ–    โ–’โ–’
โ–“โ”Œโ”€ยปโ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“โ–“                      โ–’โ– โ– โ– โ– โ–   โ–’โ–’
โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’      E               โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’
โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’                      โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’โ–’

okay... the y, obviously, is you. you run
around and dodge the attacks of the bad
guys... signified by the e. your health is
indicated by the general "health" in the
normal zzt sidebar. yes, i know this makes
it very easy to stay alive, considering
the general zzt cheat, ?+health. so, if
you cheat... well, all i can say is "fuck

on the side bar, the solids mean your
november energy. november energy is, for
all purposes aside, the magic of november
eve. it slowly regenerates over time.
kimmy's ne moves are different than gem
hunter's (that is, if you've played last
november 2), just so you know.

the boulders on both sides of the screen
indicate the at(attack turn) meter. when
it's your turn, press space to actiavte
your menu. here, you can attack, use ne,
whatever. when the enemy's at meter is
full, obviously, it'll attack.

the โ”Œโ”€ยป means what weapon you have. you
can equip a new one thanks to the at
meter of doom.

actually, that's pretty much the whole
engine. the format of the engine is
different in this game, but it's still the
same, dammit.
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The game's most notable feature is its battle system, which puts forth a good effort into the already pretty unique RPG mechanics seen in Parasite Eve. The most obvious being that the protagonist moves around the environment in real time, actively dodging enemy attacks. In the source material, accuracy and damage can increase based on how close to an enemy you are, but here Kim will just be shooting her weapon and hit automatically for fixed damage. Tseng points out that it's easy to cheat, and I'm glad that it's not really necessary to do so. However, props to him for unintentionally making the game more accessible.

There's also "November" energy, which lets Kim use special attacks which are essentially this game's (and in PE, "Parasite Energy"'s) magic.

The rest of the combat system will be covered as it comes up, including weapon switching and item usage because yikes this scroll is over seven kilobytes in size and I'd like to get to the game eventually.

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ OHH DEAR  โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
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โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ+ graphic(s, violence) +โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
tseng mcqueen

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ+ programming +โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
tseng mcqueen

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ+ music +โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
kev carter (kev-san, wallet999)

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ+ november eve engine +โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘
tseng mcqueen

โ–‘โ–‘โ–’โ–’โ–“โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ+ beta-testing +โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–“โ–’โ–’โ–‘โ–‘

-โ–  โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘ special thanks โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆโ–ˆ โ– -
โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ lemmer โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
because he'd kill me if i didn't have him
in the special thanks section.

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ squaresoft โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
for parasite eve, the second best rpg i
have ever played. (the first being, of
course, xenogears.)

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ chuck โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
for being a complete bastard.

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ knightt โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
he's a cool guy to talk to. no. really.

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ draco โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
where it's at! i got two turn-tables and
a microphone.

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ hydra โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
he's the offical white rapper of zzt. no,

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ tucan โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
<strike>bastard</strike> asshole!

โ–‘โ–’โ–“โ–ˆโ–ˆ wyclef jean โ–ˆโ–ˆโ–“โ–’โ–‘
without gone `till november, i would have
never found the insperation to make this

a round of "bastards" go out to... uh...
tucan, lemmer, knightt, draco, dexter,
madguy, hydra, hercules, koopo, newt,
bluemagus, jeff conroy, viper, ethan hunt
hm, viovis, jon voigh(d)t, atom, chuck,
evilmario, yllek, zenith, zamros, lab,
dust, and a bunch of other people that
probably remember about five minutes
after i release this game.
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Finally, a whole lot of credits. This game has a huge list of names here thanks in part to the game including cameos of every single member of the ZZT company Interactive Fantasies at the time. Also every single member of Interactive Fantasies dies in this game. It was an advertised feature in previews for the game. Any Tseng game of this era had significant hype both by people excited for whatever he'd come up with next as well as Tseng himself doing a lot of promotion.


The cast section is a modest three entries. This doesn't even begin to cover the sheer number of characters in this game.

The player is immediately told that Kim's got no xamboxumbadria and gets to be the hero. I don't think she worries about her hair in this game. I do know that I praised the positive portrayal she has in Gem Hunter: Special Edition, being a woman in a ZZT game who gets to be competent and capable of dealing with difficult situations. She is absolutely going to kick a lot of ass in this one as well. Of all the characters, she's probably the most likable.


Tyrone is also rather prominent, being de facto in charge of the police department that serves as the base of operations. Tseng's worlds have all this history to them which almost never really matters, but expect "Boys In Blue" and "IBI" to be mentioned on occasion.


And the villain, not Eve, but Steve! It's a parody so the name rhymes. Steve has some really big arms and Tseng actually reflects that in the game which would let Steve do quite a bit of emoting, but in practice it mostly amounts to doing a pose or spreading them wide and talking about how it's time for the Xamboxumbadria uprising.


I'm always curious what to expect when games include options to quit on their main menu. This one... is a passage to the current board and doesn't end the game or say a snarky message or anything. It is very absolutely.


The introduction is pretty barebones, and has no parallel to Parasite Eve which begins directly with the opera date. Most of the game's cutscenes at the very least feature character movement, but this one is totally static.

In cyan we have Kim, and in white, Gem Hunter.

KIM: Umm... are Four Kings good?

GEM HUNTER: .......You're shitting me!

KIM: ...I'll take that as a yes.

GEM HUNTER: What did you want to do if I
lost, again?

KIM: ...Erm... I spotted an ad in Puerto
Del Agua's newspaper for an opera...

GEM HUNTER: Jesus Christ. You're an opera

KIM: Not really. But it was either that or
the Hanson concert... and we both hate

GEM HUNTER: ...Oh god. I'll settle for the
opera, then.

KIM: Hee hee. Oh, come on! After this, I
won't bug you about a date any more!

GEM HUNTER: Technically, your entire trip
with me has been a date. But, oh well.

KIM: Ha ha. You're blushing, Gemmy.

GEM HUNTER: I thought I told you to quit
calling me that.

The plot is a tad forced. None of these characters actually want to go see an opera, but they have to see an opera. PE meanwhile doesn't make its protagonist Aya an opera fan either, but is able to put her on an awkward date with some dork who wants to look cultured. It's honestly a great intro.


The game itself is split across several several days like PE. Each one gets one of these little intro screens with a subtitle.


Carnegie Hall? MORE LIKE MIGRANE HALL. Plenty of the game's 1:1 parodies are on the same footing as a cheap Mad Magazine knockoff, but don't let a low-effort gag at the start sour the mood.

Kim and Gem Hunter arrive at that opera and Gem Hunter will lament about he'd rather not be here, hoping maybe he'll sleep through it.


Our first of many many in-game cutscenes. The stat limit means that most ZZT crowds like this have to have white text for their chairs. I do like Tseng's choice to keep a mixture of bright and dark colored smileys for the audience. It's done in such a way that you might not immediately find the pair in their seats, but once you do they stand out plenty.

Things escalate almost immediately, and a dull night at the opera turns into chaotic room of people bursting into flames. I'm very amused by the lack of panic as two people on stage and then several audience members burst into flames.

I also enjoy Gem Hunter calling a room of people suddenly being killed without warning or reason "this shit".

Gem Hunter confronts the unnamed actor with Kim close behind. The brief flicker of flame on Gem Hunter is done really well, but leads to a rather annoying issue I had with the game where it's never questioned or explained why Gem Hunter doesn't get burned up like everyone else. He just gets plot armor and is allowed to live. He'll be the only Hoodian in the entire game to go up against Steve (that name will be revealed soon enough anyway) and not be killed.

There's supposed to be a blossoming relationship between Kim and Gem Hunter so I get why it couldn't be some random guy that does burn up like in Parasite Eve, but finding a way to get him to not be there would have been simple enough. Just have him get up to go to the bathroom beforehand! It'd be funny. I swear.

With Gem Hunter out of commission, Kim decides to take the lead and shoot Steve to no avail, but it's a stalemate and Steve leaves, leaving Kim to make the call to hunt him down herself.

November Eve isn't all cinematics. Sometimes you run through empty hallways with locked doors!

Continuing backstage, a random rat wanders for a few steps before it too dies. ZZT can't really do the creepiness of the source material, which is full of Aya running into folks who die after she interacts with them, or in this case watching the rat mutate before having to fight it.


It's still gonna happen here. It'll just be a lot sillier.

Four doors this time, but they're not all locked, giving Kim a chance to explore.


Tseng does this nice board that combines all the rooms onto a single screen. It's an easy way to give the player something to look forward to, and since these rooms don't have anything happen if Kim's not there, there's no visual distraction compared to if the rooms were full of ZZT lions to shoot or something.

Look! There's somebody in the lower right room!


The only thing in this first room is a key. The... green in the back there is left unexplained and I kind of like that it's just "stuff". You probably couldn't quite make out everything in Parasite Eve on your 20 inch CRT either. It fills the room without adding a bunch of decoration that the player will feel compelled to check only to receive nothing.


Door number two leads to the survivor room.


Why, it's Flatcoat Lab! Famed ZZTer of Interactive Fantasies.


He bursts into flame and quickly becomes nothing but charred remains.

I again admire Tseng's commitment to the charring. That kind of thing requires some setup to pull off due to the use of special colors. Specifically, Tseng had to have invisible gray objects carefully slide into place and appear as the charred remains once the burning animation finished.

Alas, the only thing in here is a locked closet.


In our top left room, there's a big carpet, a locked closet, this mirror, and most importantly the actor who just killed everyone's diary.


I love how nobody wants this opera. Everybody hates it.

The fourth wall breaks and Kim gets a new key.


I'm not sure what the M shaped thing is supposed to be. It's possibly a large desk, but it may just be more vague abstract decoration.

There's very clearly a secret passage in here, and simply touching the wall is enough to reveal it, with Kim commenting how obvious it was.


Inside is some special ammunition. These are one time use items that can be used during boss fights to deal some extra damage. In practice, they are nearly always useless as bosses are frequently immune to random special types of ammo, and you waste a turn (and the ammo) if you choose poorly.

Steve's key allows access further back where the player gets more cutscenes.

Due to the loss in graphical fidelity between the PlayStation and ZZT, it might not be clear that Steve is just sitting in here playing a piano.

Steve reveals his true form which has some giant arms and some honestly clean animation. He yet again can't figure out why he's unable to set her on fire, and I don't think he ever actually does learn why.

Oddly, despite the quality work in animating Steve, there's nothing on the board indicating a hole in the floor other than Kim saying there's one.

Also "You're a walking public hazard, y'know that?" is a good line.


Sewer level!


Sewer. Level.


S e w e r   L e v e l

The lack of random encounters in this game do a lot to make its environments feel a lot longer than they need to be. In Parasite Eve, you're fighting monsters and gaining experience, plus finding items either through combat or scattered throughout the sewers. Here the inventory is by necessity limited and there's no experience system, so a lot of "dungeons" are just walking to the next cinematic.


Eventually Kim catches up with Steve and after more dialog, things can proceed to the first RPG battle.

KIM: Why are you doing this?

STEVE: Why should I bother answering your
pointless questions?

KIM: Because I'm the main character of
this game! That's why!

STEVE: Enh... you annoy me, girl.

KIM: Wait!

STEVE: Here... have a Xamboxumbadria
enhanced alligator!

KIM: Uh-oh...

There's a lot of references to this game being a game.


That's an alligator all right. Tseng drops you in with no refresher on the main menu's instructions for how to fight, but it's mostly just typical ZZT RPG from Kim's side other than being able to move around.

Both parties have meters that fill up and allow them to attack when full.


Kim can attack, use a magic power that is never explained, or use an item.

Her powers unlock (without any indication) as the player's score increases. This mechanic means well, and unlike most ZZT RPGs the energy consumed to do a magic attack replenishes during the fight. This could be good as it avoids having to worry about saving your spells, but the spells in this game are pretty mediocre, with only healing really being worth spending a turn.


Not that I knew as much at the time, so I figured by starting the battle with haste, I'd speed up my own meter and be able to get more attacks in. Instead, haste speeds up your next turn and nothing else which makes it entirely pointless since you had to waste a turn to get a single faster one. Admittedly, this seems to be a programming error caused by multiple objects sharing the name "Timer" making a #send command cause multiple objects to jump back to the label that fills the attack meter at a slower speed.

Meanwhile, the alligator's own meter fills and they get to attack. The strategy for November Eve is to use the arrows to maneuver Kim and dodge enemy attacks. Again, it's a good concept with sub-par execution. Most fights make it very easy to stand in one spot and be safe from nearly (or sometimes every) possible attack the enemy can use.

The meters fill a little too slowly as well so there's way too much time spent where there's nothing for Kim to do but wait.


Some fights can really be cheesed by wedging Kim somewhere and preventing an object controlled by the enemy from doing what it wants to do. I did my best to not do this since just standing still and waiting to attack makes these fights really boring. Contrast if I was still down below. Suddenly, Kim would have to actually dodge a bunch of bullets!


Adding to the tedium is the lack of damage Kim deals. Each basic attack deals a single point of damage. Later on, she'll get better weapons, but since this first fight is also supposed to be easy, it drags on far too long.

Kim leaves through the front door which seems like a bit of a jump, but Parasite Eve fades to black shortly after its own fight and cuts to Aya walking out of Carnegie Hall as well.

A single squad car and a reporter show up to deal with an auditorium full of charred corpses. Kim doesn't want the media hounding her, and before getting a chance to deal with the reporter herself, Tyrone shows up and hits the reporter.

This being a ZZT game made by a teenager, the good guys can do no wrong and punching a reporter is really minor in terms of things the protagonists can get away with without consequence. Okay so in Parasite Eve a cop also decks the reporter that is explicitly stated as broadcasting live so maybe this is a criticism that applies to games in general.

It is pretty funny to me that these people all have no idea what xamboxumbadria is, since mitochondria is like, high school biology. Admittedly, I think the majority of Parasite Eve's cast is equally clueless about their cells.

In what at first glance seems like a wise move, Tseng is able to write out a few of his ten thousand characters from the story, giving the existing cast a chance to get some development. Alas, Tseng can't help himself and Absentminded, the Stooges, and Reno will join the roster eventually.

For now though, the incident at Migrane Hall is just a freak occurrence, and Kim can relax for a bit, while Gem Hunter is taken to a hospital to be treated for his injuries.

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