🗝️November Eve

Author
tseng
Genre
Adventure, RPG
Company
Size
173.3 KB
Boards
138 / 144
Rating
2.92 / 5.00

Closer Look: November Eve (Files B and C)

By: Dr. Dos
Published: Dec. 31, 2019

Hunting down giant slimes, hidden gems, and programming bugs to save Puerto del Agua

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Despite everything, we're still not actually done. November Eve has its DXGame mode, which means playing the entire game a second time and re-watching all the cutscenes again in order to access the third file and see the game's true ending.

Needless to say: Not a chance.

Even as a kid who played this game multiple times, I never did DXGame legit. I'd never remember it when I'd decide to play the game again, and after beating the game and being reminded I sure didn't want to play it immediately after a second time.

Not a whole lot changes. Using ?+DXGAME on the first file's menu sets the flag and activates the mode. The sole other change made in the entire first file with this flag set is that during the police station attack, that one chest behind a locked door can now be accessed. Inside is "Hanson Ammo" which can then be used on the mutant doberman to instantly win the fight.

This second file doesn't do much with it either. This one random dead body that blocks a chest disappears which again gives Kim Hanson ammo, though at least here the somewhat non-linear nature means it can be used on a few possible boss fights, er, in theory at least.

It will instantly kill Lemmer or Skullie (though you can't legitimately have Hanson ammo for them).

The fight with Dexter in the warehouse has a bug preventing it from being used.

It works properly on either of the two demons (though there is a typo and both of them are referred to as "Demon 1" on the menu).

The same bug with Dexter happens when trying to use it on Steve.

And the same bug also happens on Masamune!

So in reality you can instantly win half of a fight with it. This doesn't appear to be fixed in the Anthology updated release either.

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It's not all bad though. The museum has its own locked door which reveals a room full of even more ZZTer cameos!

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Newt begs for submissions for his Zem! 2 Level Pack which does in fact contain a tree level submitted by Tseng.

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Jujubee reminds us to perhaps not treat women like oddities for enjoying ZZT.

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Draco reminds us that perhaps there's a reason there were so few women in the ZZT community.

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WeP plugs his ZZT clone, ZZT++ which I know had at least preview release at some point, but I don't think it ever did much of anything. I'm not even sure if it was just meant to be "I'm remaking ZZT in C++ for Windows" or "This is ZZT but better".

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HM is a cheater.

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Oh hey, Viovis makes a reference to "Da Sto" that was in his ZZTV 3 channel I covered!

Needless to say, there are a lot of ZZTers with very little to say. If you want to see them all, just use this handy Zeta link that will start the game on the cameo board.

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By far the funniest moment in the entire game is the reminder that this is a room in the museum where Steve currently is, and as soon as Kim leaves they all burst into flames.

I'm also just now realizing the implication here is that every member of Interactive Fantasies as well as everyone in the cameo room is not a human since they have Hoodian xamboxumbadria for Steve to control.

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Buggy gem quests aside, the dx game means that you can skip everything and head straight to the third file as soon as the hospital is finished, as the entrance to "The Building" is immediately unlocked.

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The downside of this is that it's mutually exclusive with the museum cameo room since entering the museum locks the world map, and entering here ends the game.

The third file is thankfully extremely short and full of gameplay. I suspect Tseng wanted it to be included entirely in this file, but the file-sizes of the second and third files run just a little bit too high to have combined the two, especially in an era where everyone had to rely on the default ZZT editor.

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I refuse to believe this is anything other than a mountain.

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The last file is where Tseng keeps all the gameplay. You don't actually have to play any of the minigames, but you gain items and experience for November Energy when you win at them.

In reality, you automatically have the Quad C Launcher regardless of these minigames and nothing you get from them is all that useful, but the games are short and it would be silly to play this much of the game and then turn down something new to do.

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Each passage leads to a new minigame, and the hallway to the north leads to the last fights.

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The first minigame is a Parappa The Rapper knockoff, but that's being pretty generous to Tseng. The actual game consists of hitting a single button per line of text, so it's more like a shoddy Simon instead.

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Hey, the art's pretty good here. You don't usually see a front-on view of somebody sitting in a chair. The other of the duo seems to be missing an arm however.

DR. ERD: Here's how this works...

DR. ERD: Cubed will sing some rap lyrics
with a signal. U means up, D means down,
L means left, R means right. Watch it, you
have a limited time on each lyric. And as
this game progresses, Cubed will rap
faster. To win this game, you must rap at
"Woo-Hah" level or higher. Understood?
Good. Cubed, go for it.
Welcome to the main event! (U)

where Cubed be runnin' tha main tent. (D)

Ain't a muthafucka who can outrap me! (L)

I'll run them up a god damn tree! (R)

Turn the heat up. (R)

You're fresh outta luck. (U)

IRC Wars are just bullshit. (R)

You need a new trick! (D)

Fuck this! (R)

Fuck that! (D)

Fuck you! (U)

Fuck everybody! (L)

This rap is saved by having a line about "IRC wars". Completing the rap results in Kim receiving fifty experience. Failing has no penalty other than Dr. Erd admonishing the player before Cubed starts again.

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The rap was an okay start. These are just minigames and Tseng isn't trying to create anything too amazing here. "Hot Spot" isn't nearly as interesting.

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You just press one of six squares and hope it's not the one square randomly selected by the AI. The odds are naturally in the player's favor. This game should just be repeatedly rolling a standard six-sided die. You'll win by just mashing random colors, get your 100 experience plus some Continuous Ammo, and then never think of it again.

Checker
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
#cycle 1
#end
:stevie
#if blocked rndp rndne one
#if not blocked rndp rndne two
#if blocked rndp rndne three
#if not blocked rndp rndne four
#if blocked rndp rndne five
#if not blocked rndp rndne six
/i#stevie
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Except actually rolling a six sided die in ZZT that's not biased is a pretty big challenge.

Tseng manages to do it in such a bad way that I have to share just how awful it is here. The checker object is blocked in two directions making these checks all 50/50 splits, but as soon as a split returns true, it just uses that number. So really it's just flipping a coin until it gets heads, meaning there's a 50% chance of picking blue, 25% chance of green, 12.5% chance of cyan... all the way down to a ~1.5% chance of picking yellow.

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"Hide And Seek" is at least harder to screw up.

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There's very little to say though. You get a room with around twenty objects and hope you touch the correct one which is actually robovine in disguise. Robovine's location is randomized upon entering the board... using the same randomization code as "Hot Spot".

This means a 50% chance they're the oven and a ~1.5% chance of being the chair.

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They were in the oven for me unsurprisingly. One hundred points of experience for this wonderful experience.

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Finally, something with a little bit more meat on it, despite what Tseng may say.

"I've had too many coffees."
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
The light dimmed as the man, clad in his
green armor and wielding a rather large
sword walked into the cathedral outside
of Cape Ritardo.

MAN: Ohhhhh SHIT. Is this one of those
narrated games where you just guide me
through it all.

Yep.

MAN: God DAMMIT! I knew I should've called
in sick this morning.

Er... anyway, the man, known to the world
as Voice Stupidass, has been called into
order to obliterate Sri Lanka. If
successful, Voice would have become ten
thousand dollars richer.

VOICE: You damn right.

He will meet resistance, though...

VOICE: GOD DAMMIT! Will you shut the fuck

Oh, fine fine. I'll be quiet...

VOICE: That's better.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

Sri Lanka offers things to actually do for a change. This could almost be a backdoor pilot for a game actually starring Voice Stupidass.

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Not that it's exactly offering a whole lot. Voice can talk to passengers and sometimes get in random encounters.

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Frequently, even if you talk to the passengers instead of opting to kill them immediately, Voice will still decide to kill them on his own.

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So yeah. The first two boards seem to just be talking and/or killing random people.

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Eventually the game finally rolls a random encounter. The time between random checks is long enough that it's not impossible to get through this entire minigame without a single random encounter.

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This is the sort of RPG battle contained in a single object that you see in several ZZT games, including Tseng's earlier game Da Hood.

Like most ZZT RPG combat systems, they do little but add a lot of tedium. These kinds don't even have the benefit of having special effects using invisible walls that you see in most RPGs that use an entire board for a single fight.

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The miss message made me laugh at least.

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It goes on like this for way too long. I genuinely get a kick out of the insulting narration at least.

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It's made worse by not having the usual technique of storing enemy HP in an unused counter. Tseng tracks health by #zapping labels (and properly providing extras to ensure that HP doesn't drop below 0 and make the enemy invincible. I had no idea if I was making any progress.

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Tseng knows how to make a memorable moment.

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It's not obvious, but it looks like that passage was some stairs upwards as you can see the previous board below in gray. I manage to make it to the exit without getting into another fight.

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Three whole boards!

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The message fades in a few letters at a time. It's good. Kim received another 100 experience and some Ice Ammo. The true reward though is that each board gives the player 200 health to deal with the random encounters which is more than enough to get through the rest of the game without needing to heal.

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With every minigame finished, November Eve can resume with gimmicky fights.

Crankgod
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
KIM: Hmm? What's going on?

CRANKGOD: Well... I'm a boss, but Tseng
had different plans about how I fight. So,
instead of the normal kind of battle, I
arranged for a battle where you shoot
targets to the west and east.

KIM: Sounds easy enough.

CRANKGOD: Except for the fact that I'll be
knocking you down the hall repeatedly.

KIM: Agh.

CRANKGOD: Bitch! You ain't no ninja!
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •

I wonder if Tseng lost faith in his Parasite Eve style battles. Crankgod doesn't actually attack Kim. He just pushes her back. He does a good job of it too, as it's very annoying to make any progress forward, though when you finally do, you can just hold up and run all the way to the top. It's far easier to let Crankgod knock you back and shoot the targets on the way down rather than stopping on the way up.

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Once they've all been shot, Crankgod gets crushed.

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I hope you didn't think the third file would be devoid of corner cutscenes.

STEVE: Oh dear god, no.

KIM: Hmm? What are you doing here?

STEVE: I should ask the same question.

KIM: It's the third file. The player went
through hell to get here.

STEVE: Oh yeah. The whole DX Game
bullshit. Okay. Fine. I'll tell you.

KIM: Well? Tell us.

STEVE: To be perfectly honest, I wanted to
get back at Masamune. So I devised a plan
to destroy IOU. But you got in my way so
many times...

I was hoping that Lemmer and Scissorman
would deal with you, but those morons just
COULDN'T FUCKING DEAL WITH YOU. So I was
going to wait here and create the Banana
of the Heavens. And I was hoping CrankGod
would deal with you. Obviously... heh heh,
he did as well as Lemmer and Scissor did.

Which means...

Steve actually has some motivation! Turns out he didn't want to be some assassin for Masamune and that's why he decided to just kind of kill everyone.

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Steve changes forms again just for the true final showdown.

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By this point I was both very burnt out on this game and also curious how broken this fight would be after the awful regular Steve and Masamune fights from the previous file.

So I decided to just not move.

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In theory, Steve can be pretty dangerous. He moves fast, randomly, and fires long strings of bullets. This is entirely luck dependent though, so although Kim wasn't actually "safe" by not moving, it would be easy to generally stay still and just dodge when needed rather than actively run around the room.

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This is the only fight you can use special ammo in, which means for the first time I was able to actually use every type of ammo successfully.

Kim enters this fight with the Quad C launcher no matter what though, and all the special ammo (and the "electro bullet" attack) did either one or three damage. The Quad C launcher also does three damage, but without consuming a limited resource. I hate this game's balance.

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I did in fact not get hit a single time, but it was just luck. I tried the fight a second time without playing any of the minigames to check if the items were being handed out by minigames (since it never says as much) or if Kim just gets to enter the fight with them. In that second try Steve's aim was a lot better and "do nothing" wasn't going to cut it.

Interaction
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
STEVE: Myeah.

KIM: So, now what?

STEVE: Well... er... that is... uh...
god dammit... I don't know. But thanks to
you, you've delayed me in creating the
Banana... and now, it's too late.

KIM: That's the way the cookie crumbles.

STEVE: No. That's not how the cookie
crumbles. It'll crumble when I destroy
THIS FUCKING BUILDING!!!!

KIM: Uh-oh. Better leave.
  •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •    •
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REPORTER: Our top story today is that
Puerto del Agua's largest building, The
Building (dun dun dun) exploded. The cause
of the explosion is unknown.

GEM HUNTER: You're lucky to be alive, Kim.

KIM: Yeah. I didn't think he'd do that.

GEM HUNTER: The report I got said that the
remnants of Bobbery Smithson were found in
what was left of that building...

KIM: Hmm...

GEM HUNTER: This has been the freakiest
week of my life. Thank god that we're
finally getting the hell off of Da Hood.

KIM: You're not the only one. I'm really
starting to hate that place.

GEM HUNTER: Heh heh. If you thought Da
Hood was bad, we're heading for Leirbag.

KIM: The ice planet?

GEM HUNTER: Yes.

KIM: Okay. It'll probably beat Da Hood.

GEM HUNTER: What're we waiting for, then?

And finally the nightmare is over. Steve is confirmed dead, Kim is okay, and it's time to get off this planet.

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VOICE: You're leaving?

TYRONE: Now that this crisis has subsided,
it's very likely that the Evil Weasel will
know that Francine's here. Besides, I'm
going to follow Jer to Leirbag. Something
is going on over there.

VOICE: Ah. I'm going to Austin Powers.
God knows how many jobs are over there.

TYRONE: Heh heh. You're going to be a
pimp.

VOICE: Oh, shut up.

NACUT: He's too stupid to be a pimp.

VOICE: You too.

TYRONE: Well, we're outta here.

VOICE: Have fun in the Frozen Hell.

TYRONE: Heh...
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And with that one final cutscene, November Eve is done.

Well, there is a sequel, Cherry Pie which wasn't as well-received (just like Parasite Eve 2), but that's a story for another time.

Final Thoughts

Well that was a long game.

This is definitely the sort of game that's a lot more fun to play than to take 2000 screenshots of and write about. November Eve was a game with considerable anticipation in the community and for the standards of the time, it was really impressive. Most of its issues in terms of pacing and fights that are way too trivial aren't particularly uncommon for games of that vintage.

It's clear today that there are a lot of things that need improvement. As somebody who always swore by the use of flashing messages over popups for dialog, it's time for me to admit that Nadir was right and the latter is the superior option. Despite the scenes having plenty of animation, it's very rare that action and dialog need to be happening at once, and breaking things into text windows would speed things up considerably. Watching a police car drive down a road while the occupants talk about what to do next looks cool, but it's not worth the huge increase in time spent waiting for text.

The Parasite Eve style RPG engine also wears out its welcome. I do think it's genuinely impressive. It manages to take a 3D game's biggest innovation and convert it to ASCII with surprisingly little compromise. ZZT always asks the player to play along despite obvious limitations for a better experience, and I think that's easy enough to do here at first. Sure you always land your shots and it doesn't matter whether you're up close to the target or not, but that's an easy leap to make. The engine's flaws don't come from ZZT's limitations, but from Tseng's own struggle to create memorable encounters with the engine. Early fights drag on with Kim's lack of firepower and enemies also having to wait for a meter to fill before they attack. Later fights quietly drop the enemy needing to wait which makes the second file's fights work a lot better. However, they still suffer from half of Kim's abilities and items not working either from programming errors or just rotten luck with special ammo and electro bullet attacks.

The story is fun, poking fun at the events of Parasite Eve while still being an homage to it. I really don't expect ZZT games that are supposed to be funny to actually be funny. A lot of humor in ZZT worlds is often quite dated and/or in very poor taste. Tseng does a pretty good job overall, (aside from two slips into transphobia,) with there being several moments and lines that are actually kind of funny. If only things didn't move so slowly, I think this one would be pretty easy to recommend.

Perhaps the strangest thing about this game is just how buggy it manages to be. On its own, there's nothing unusual about a ZZT world having bugs, but this is a very big release by a very big name ZZTer. There are twelve testers listed in the credits, and yet there's an event flag not set? If Tseng didn't hand out a list of where to find all the gems I can at least get the issues there going unnoticed, but this is just following the story. How did that bug not get caught? Neither the game's community reviews nor its Game of the Month review mention any bugs.

And that's not even getting into the issues with "haste" or menu options for Hanson ammo just not appearing.

Still, most of these bugs are on the level of broken weapons/magic in Final Fantasy or early Pokémon games. A lot of them you won't even notice until they've been pointed out. You can very much play November Eve, zap past that museum door (or play the Anthology release), and have a good time throughout.

November Eve is a very ambitious game, and while there are moments that it falls flat, overall it is a classic title that can be a lot of fun to spend a little time on.

====== A Worlds of ZZT Production ======

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