Category Archives: Even Worse Streams

Chrono Cross 03: The Planet

Get 'em!You can’t say Chrono Cross doesn’t have its heart in the right place.

Sometimes things get complicated. Not to spoil a twenty-year-old game for anybody, but the main plot of Chrono Cross is a tale of time travel, an intergalactic parasite, and two warring realities that are either inadvertently or deliberately feeding that previously mentioned parasite until it can destroy not only the world, but all of space and time. If Serge fails in his duty as the silent protagonist, not only will 1999 AD face destruction, but also everything that has ever existed backwards and forwards in eternity. But no pressure, dude, not like you also have to deal with the fact that your dad is a mutant cat that wants you for your body, or that the most reliable friend you have is continually being poisoned and/or brainwashed. Not like you have a lot going on in the midst of this cross-dimensional crisis!

But there is a consistent throughline in Chrono Cross: the environment is getting wrecked by humans. The first thing you have to do in this game? Murder some local lizards so your girlfriend can have a nice necklace. The last thing you do in the game? Repel a gigantic flying tower that is somehow powered by an alternate universe where dinosaurs lived in perfect harmony with nature, and it is only here because the planet felt so threatened by humanity, it needed a “super dinosaur” to battle a nation founded by a super computer. … Okay, yeah, things get complicated quickly here, but the message is the same: humanity is a threat to the planet. Over and over again, Serge is presented with a world where people are surviving and living their best lives, but the world is suffering for it. You will kill the local lizards (and their mama!). You will destroy the Dragon Tower and its attendant super dinosaur. You will save the world. But the world might not be 100% on board with these outcomes.

Steal awayAnd this is all perfectly encapsulated at the Hydra Marsh. Kid is poisoned, and the only way to cure her affliction is by killing the last remaining hydra. You can see the difference in Hydra Marshes thanks to dimensional travel (and there’s even a friendly dwarf near Kid’s hospital if you need it spelled out immediately). In the world with the hydra, the swamp is a vibrant location home to many kinds of creatures (albeit most of them are actively trying to kill you). In the world where the hydra has already been hunted to extinction, only true monsters remain, and the swamp has become lethally poisonous. You know what is going to happen if you hunt the hydra on Kid’s behalf. Your world will become worse, and a great many other species are going to die. And, to be more than clear on this sad fact, Chrono Cross does not make this a simple “background” possibility: when you inevitably kill the hydra, the dwarves of Home Swamp will be displaced, and you will then be tugged into a war between homeless gnomes and besieged fairies. With the hydra dead, the viable world is shrinking, and more problems arise immediately. Kid may be saved by hydra humour, but an entire society is going to collapse without it. As the planet cries out in pain, more and more people suffer in ways they never, ever expected…

And, as I played this section a couple weeks before I was in France during a heatwave that escalated over the Summer of 2022 to watching Europe practically melt off the face of the Earth… Well… I can’t fault for Chrono Cross for having at least one clear message.

Maybe we should do something about this whole “humans threatening the world” thing…

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 3

Original Stream Night: April 26, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Korcha
  • Greco
  • Razzly

Random Notes on the Stream

  • We all hate Korcha.
  • “There are ranks of -cha”… but Mel does not rank.
  • First dimension hop! Get used to seeing this FMV!
  • It's nice hereFinal Fantasy 13 borrowed some ideas from Lost… Bad ideas. Like fake funerals.
  • Beeba are racist. Just realized that tonight.
  • So many bosses in this stupid swamp. Basically wall-to-wall boss fights of no plot importance.
  • A discussion about Ogre Battle naturally segues into a discussion on how great Queen is
  • There is a discussion of Keenspot and Keenspace and the sheer level of insanity contained therein.
  • We have a boat! Yay! But waves are “moving like a fat guy’s back”.
  • A pirate ship of deadbeat dads is where we close for the day.

Next time on Chrono Cross: Skeletons of all sorts of varieties.

Squawk

Chrono Cross 02: The Raid

Party with a rockstar!The raid on Viper Manor is the totality of the plot of Radical Dreamers (and for more information on Radical Dreamers, tune in next article/Friday – Giggling Goggle Bob). Kid, Serge, and some magical boy venture into the lair of Lynx the Probably Cat Man, and, by the end of the adventure, they are all fighting over a magical artifact in the ruins of a lost civilization. They are in the basement. It was a long night. Regardless of how this all happened, with Chrono Cross being a sort of remake/expansion of Radical Dreamers, it seems only natural that a good portion of the game would be given over to what was the entirety of the previous game. And does it work? Well…

This series of essays is meant to say positive things about Chrono Cross, so we are not going to address the issues involved here. Like, it would be unsporting to point out that, divorced from the context of Radical Dreamers being so important (which would have been accurate for at least the entire American audience), Vipor Manor fails to justify its inclusion. The ultimate finale of this raid is discovering that there never was a legitimate treasure to steal, and Kid is fatally poisoned for her mistake. That is a huge plot beat… but one that could have happened practically anywhere. And if you are not stealing treasure from this creepy old manor, you are just… what? Annoying some soldiers in their home? Chatting with a weird librarian? Fighting a strangely high number of sentient doors?

But there is a lot to like here. The dragon feeding minigame, for instance, is one of the few minigames in Chrono Cross that isn’t a complete waste of time, and it does an excellent job of breaking up the “intro” dungeon from the “real” raid. The costume change into soldier garb is handled oddly (everybody has to redress every time a battle starts?), but it does afford an interesting espionage vibe for the general proceedings (and stealing door codes). And speaking of vibing, the fact that Vipor Manor is such a perilous place during your night-based raid, but is practically little more than an overgrown town during the day illustrates just how perfectly this section of the game sets the mood.

This isn't too badAnd, while it can take up a lot of time (watch that stream), the encounters are location appropriate. There are trapped chests, doors, and some manner of evil lamp that descends from the ceiling. The presence of a literal army of NPCs negates the solitary tension that permeated Radical Dreamers, but there is never a point during this adventure in Chrono Cross where you feel safe at the manor. Even when solving some of the stranger puzzles in the basement, there is the feeling that you could be forced into a battle with a slightly-larger-than-regular robot at any time.

Character introductions are also a huge part of the raid. Lynx is seen for the first time after some small amount of buildup; but we also have initial encounters with General Viper, Luccia, Pip, Marcy the Final Dragoon, and the venerable Harle. We even include one helpful old man that can be easily recognized by fans of Chrono Trigger, Balthasar the “prophet”. There is a lot to take in at Viper Manor, and someone had the good sense to space these luminaries out across the adventure.

And couple this all with the fact that there are three different characters/routes into Viper Manor (thus becoming the main reason you would ever try a New Game +), and you can see why Viper Manor is the centerpiece of Chrono Cross. So much of this game feels half finished, but Viper Manor is the one place that feels complete.

Could there ever be a version of Chrono Cross that matches the incredible breadth of this mansion raid? The world will never know…

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 2

Original Stream Night: April 12, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Kid (temporary)
  • Nikki

Random Notes on the Stream

  • Now we are 100% in the HD version, featuring Lucky Dan.
  • Ample Vigour stops by for the first time during our Chrono Cross phase.
  • Solt and Pepper appear as BEAT utters the phrase, “built to fail, motherfucker.”
  • A complete discussion of GameFan and its amazing management style occurs.
  • Italian Elon Musk will save us all.
  • Art Wars! Character portraits vs random background upscales. Why do things look the way they do?
  • YummyWe vote “rock star”, so Nikki once again becomes part of the party.
  • Fanboymaster says Chrono Cross’ original design called for 60 characters… let’s not imagine that world.
  • Nikki should be Slash should be David (Bowie).
  • Caliscrub stops by
  • Legend of Mana vs. Chrono Cross is likened to a videogame “toy” vs. prestige production.
  • Skullduggery frame is acquired. We will use this forever.
  • Radiata Story elves may or may not buy you a sandwich.
  • An in-depth discussion on the meta nature of Star Ocean and its 70 sequels is mentioned.
  • “Good graphics do what they are supposed to do.”
  • As a point of fact, I will not accept insulting Darkwing Duck.
  • To elaborate on what I would not remember during the stream, I was talking about early Newgrounds hit, Pico’s School.

Next time on Chrono Cross: Get up on the hydra’s back.

Alas, I knew him

Chrono Cross 01: Introductions

Looks niceIf you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

… Which is not how we normally handle our opinions on Even Worse Streams. But I can attempt to parlay some kind of understanding with Chrono Cross through brief essays related to a night’s stream.

It’s… kind of like apologizing! To a 20-year-old video game! That maybe doesn’t deserve it!

Whatever. Let’s talk about Chrono Cross’s excellent opening.

And, no, we’re not discussing the in medias res “final battle with Lynx” that kicks off from the moment you start a new game. The true opening of Chrono Cross features Serge, Leena, and a healthy amount of lizard genocide.

Serge awakens in pastoral Arni. It is a fishing village populated with friendly folks, a giant dog, and a patient chief that is willing to teach anyone about synthesized magic. The goal for the player is evident (meet girlfriend, find way to bribe girlfriend into happiness), but the scale of what can be done within the confines of a scant few houses and two open areas is daunting. You can learn about a man’s dreams of being the best fisherman around, and how that has influenced his standing in his family. You can listen to an aspiring poet recite her works while waiting tables. You can steal from one yappy puppy to give to a two-tailed dog with a speech impediment (who, it should be noted, is the first talking dog in this universe). The only combat available here is the previously mentioned magic tutorial, but there is so much to do that doesn’t involve Serge drawing his swallow, you would be forgiven for assuming Chrono Cross is not your traditional battle-based JRPG.

Slash and tearBut fighting is available soon enough. Leena tasks Serge with a mission to hunt down lizard scales, and hunting is literally involved. Lizards and Nu-like Beach Bums haunt the place, and you are welcome to hone your physical skills on a respawning army of ineffectual “monsters”. Poshul the Pink Doggy can come along, too, if you want some practice involving a partner in your ecological assaults. And there is treasure to find! It is everything you could ever want from a JRPG… but with one important difference: it doesn’t matter.

At the start of Chrono Cross, Serge is not saving the world, his town, or even that all-important girlfriend. He’s just… doing some junk. Running errands. Talking to townsfolk. He is performing the exact same actions as many JRPG heroes, but he is doing it for the most miniscule of purposes. He’s just “doing stuff”. He is being human.

And in a game where eventually Serge is going to conquer every monster across two different dimensions and potentially all of time, that is pretty impressive.

This is JRPG 101, of course. There are any number of games, from Breath of Fire 2 to Final Fantasy 15, that initially establish a polite, safe world before everything goes to absolute hell (sometimes literally!). But Chrono Cross does go out of its way to create the potential for a “pacifist” JRPG. There can still be combat. There can still be treasure. But it is in pursuit of… simple goals. No world saving. No big bad. Just your peaceful little village, someone to care about, and doing what you can to make her happy.

And then everything does go to hell… But at least your hometown survives! In two dimensions! That’s not bad!

Even Worse Streams presents Chrono Cross
Night 1

Original Stream Night: April 5, 2022

Recruited this week:

  • Poshul
  • Leena
  • Lucky Dan

Random Notes on the Stream

  • This starts as the absolute original Chrono Cross, played on a Playstation 1 disc in a Playstation 2.
  • It will be seen again, but the intro for Chrono Cross is aces.
  • … And then the PS1 game fails when it has to “load” dialogue. Oh well!
  • Enjoy seeing a quick sorting of my PS1/PS2 digital memory cards as we load up PSN Chrono Cross.
  • This is not a jokeAgainst all odds (well, 6%), we have the exact same party as the first PS1 playthrough.
  • BEAT notes Spec Ops: The Line has the best in medias res intro.
  • I apologize for not naming Poshul “Snoop Dog”… but it would not have fit.
  • Wouldn’t save points in real life be fun? Or we would never get past Sunday…
  • Our first “discussion” of the battle system notes that percentage odds are lies.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog 06 Final Boss Victory Music is mentioned. Let’s call this foreshadowing for a future stream.
  • BEAT notes that Time Spinner is something that might be worth looking into.
  • Here is the shake slide:
    Shakes

    Yes, I am responsible for those shake pictures, too (well, technically just one shake picture).
  • Lucky Dan causes a brief discussion about palpable faith.
  • Thanks to a Save/Load issue, we are going to spend the last twenty minutes of this stream in the Bend of Time screwing with Triple Techs that will never again be seen on the stream.
  • And before this night’s finale, please enjoy seeing what I named all my Chrono Crossers back in 2000.

Next time on Chrono Cross: Let’s steal from the richest guy on the island! In HD!

If only

FGC #626 Kirby and the Forgotten Land

Good day and welcomeAll I want is a hungry lil’ dude.

Noted friend of Gogglebob.com and professional Digimon enthusiast Abby Denton recently posed a simple question: “So pitch Kirby to me. What’s that guy’s deal?” And, while my response was pretty straightforward (see the opening sentence up there), the question itself did cause some inner turmoil. What is Kirby’s deal? A Kirby game is unmistakably a Kirby game, but what makes it unique from everything else out there? Mario runs and jumps over unique environments. Link explores a world while stabbing at skeletons. Sonic must move at a speed of significant intensity. Kirby? Is his source of individuality his copy ability? No, Mega Man has been doing that since before Kirby ever squeaked a squad. Beyond that, Kirby’s identifying distinction is…. What? That he can fly at will? An unmistakable love of food? His ability to “right back ‘atcha” any and all opponents? Wait. Does that last one mean he is responsible for “counter based” gameplay? Is Kirby the Dark Souls of Nintendo characters?

Today’s game is the Dark Souls of the Kirby franchise Kirby’s official foray into the world of 3-D. Or maybe that already happened? No… any recollections of multiple dimensions of Kirby racing around on stars is clearly a false memory. This is the first time Kirby has explored huge, open environments in a 3-D space. This ain’t Kirby: Breath of the Wild, but it is an excellent opportunity for Kirby to exist on a planet that allows for our favorite puffball to truly experience the life of a sphere. Little dude has to run, jump, and suck through a series of 3-D “challenge levels” that may also contain secret collectibles, hidden paths, and a whole host of rivals. All your old friends (like the petulant penguin and the crying tree) are here in this world, and Kirby even has a few new copy abilities to exploit in this brand-new world. And mouthful mode! Kirby has wanted to be a car ever since he swallowed a tire so long ago, and now there is a legitimate reason to race a bomb block to the nearest prize! Technology finally caught up to Kirb!

It's dark hereAnd, in a lot of ways, that is the crux of Kirby and the Forgotten Land: technology can finally support a 3-D Kirby adventure. This is not the same “3-D Kirby Experience” that would have been Kirby’s jump to the third dimension 20, 10, or even 5 years ago. This is not the Mario 64 of Kirby games, this is a game that looked to the likes of Super Mario 3D Land after Mario himself spent 15 years working out the kinks of what does and does not work in a 3-D space. This is a game that very deliberately pioneered “well that counts” style gameplay where if it looks like Kirby should have made that jump or hit that enemy, well, that counts. In short, Kirby and The Land After Time is a good game not just because it successfully ported the puff into a new environment, but also because it is the end result of two decades’ worth of designers learning from the games that came before. Kirby is exploring the far-future of a human-dominated world through the immediate future of game development!

But that brings us back to the central point: Kirby and the Forgotten is not simply a good videogame, it is a good Kirby game. And why does this never-to-be forgotten land nail Kirby so perfectly despite shedding his native dimension?

This looks painfulKirby has obviously been nerfed for this adventure. His floaty jump no longer allows completely unfettered altitude accumulation, and all that flapping around seems to tire Kirby out a lot faster than in any previous title. Additionally, while Kirby’s signature spit is as powerful as ever (and seems like the obvious win button for the first time since Plasma made the scene), his various copy skills all feel like shells of their former selves. Where Kirby Super Star would offer as many options as there are directional buttons back in 1996, 2022 offers a “fire attack” that barely includes the fireball dash. The upgraded abilities are a neat bit of potential permanency in a franchise that rarely sees the need to “level up” as Kirby progresses, but, let’s be real here: about half of these upgrades are “exactly the same thing, but now a tiny projectile pops off”. And while we’re on the subject of “exactly the same thing”, barely enough sub bosses to fill out a string quartet made the jump to this dimension, and the big bosses are more plentiful, but extremely similar. The same franchise that initially gave us a battle against a tree, Lolo, a shoot ‘em up blimp, and an extremely pissed cloud is now offering a big animal person with strong attacks, a big animal person with fast attacks, a big animal person with weird attacks, and, finally, a big animal person with big, fast, and weird attacks. And that tree from the first game is back, because I guess thematic consistency is nothing before tradition. In short (ha!), even when Kirby and the Overlooked Earth is following Kirby tradition, you can see where it falls short.

What was the point?But even if you slice a few choice cuts off a steak, you still have a steak (and one would have to assume Kirby enjoys steak as much as tomatoes). The basic gameplay of Kirby is still untouched here, and it sure seems like that is how you define a “true” Kirby game. Yes, other videogame stars run, jump, and/or copy abilities. But Kirby? That little dude has a weight about him that has been consistent for decades. He has a health meter that (give or take nightmare mode) means you can survive if you decide your strategy is going to be “stand there like an idiot and keep slashing”. He might not always have “jet” or “ghost”, but “ice” and “hammer” are pretty reliable. And, right from the first time Kirby bit down on an invincible lollipop, every Kirby game even seems to include a new and exciting way to completely wreck the place… even if that means you have to become a vending machine.

So you want to know the pitch for Kirby? Here it is: it feels good to be Kirby. No matter where he goes or who he has to fight, Kirby is Kirby, and it is a blast to explore a world with the pink guy. You can run, jump, attack like the other guys, but Kirby always does it like Kirby, and he does it well.

Kirby is just a hungry lil’ dude. And it’s good to be a hungry lil’ dude.

FGC #626 Kirby and the Forgotten Land

  • System: Nintendo Switch exclusive. The Playstation 5 just can’t handle this much sucking.
  • Number of players: Two player cooperative! I asked my wife to play, but she was afraid it would lead to a fight when I just ran off and she was left behind to fester. She was probably right.
  • Favorite Copy Ability: Hammer, but specifically with the Bonkers upgrade. I like ‘em slow and strong.
  • WeeeeeeeStory Time: So I was expecting there to be an explanation for what happened to this now-ruined “Earthy” culture. I, however, was not expecting a possible canon explanation for a super boss that previously only appeared as a random “color swap” in a previous Kirby game’s optional boss rush. There is now no doubt in my mind that there’s someone on the Kirby staff obsessed with justifying all the wannabe Kirby conquerors throughout the franchise.
  • Boss Rush: Speaking of bosses, I generally enjoy a good boss rush. However, KatFL finds a number of reasons to include a boss gauntlet through the final levels, and then revisits all the bosses in super forms for the nightmare mode. This makes the traditional “Kirby Arena” seem entirely perfunctory, as there are already reasons to beat down that gorilla repeatedly well before there is a timer available for your troubles.
  • Platinum Trophies: I enjoy the “waddle dee achievement” system in the main levels. I distinctly appreciate “dumb” achievements in videogames, and have vaguely been begging for “I stood on that thing” or “I found that secret passage” recognition from the game itself since I was a kid. It feels like a weird kind of acknowledgement from the developer, and I feel a deeper connection to games that recognize… that I have OCD. And half the fun of those things is that you are not given a checklist, you just find something, and then you see that there is recognition for it. Half of these Kirby “achievements” could just be another waddle dee cage in the secret cave listed in the achievement, or a cage that disappears when you fall in lava and “miss” the challenge of not doing so… but I’m fine with it just being a message and +1 on the stage score card. And I also appreciate that, if you clear a stage without accomplishing “the cool thing”, you will receive a hint to what you are supposed to do. I remember Kirby’s Dream Land 3. I remember looking at a FAQ over and over again with the question of “what the hell was I supposed to do to make this flower happy?” I appreciate the hint, even if it does come off as a checklist for revisiting a stage, as it saves me having to be completely stuck and consulting an outside source. In the end, I’m as happy with this system as a waddle dee being freed from their cage.
  • Watch it, Buddy: We played Kirby and the Forgotten Land as part of a stream, because absolutely everything else on my Nintendo Switch is garbage.

    I apologize for the frame rate. It was a rough night for OBS.

  • Did you know? Absolutely everything about Kirby “mouthful mode”ing a car, and then successfully driving said car, raises more questions than can ever be answered.
  • Would I play again: I really like this game/world, but it does feel a bit short. It needs a little more… even if “a little more” is just “an alternative to seeing Mr. Frosty again”. I am hoping for DLC. If we never see such, I am hoping a future Kirby game builds off this very sturdy foundation. So, yeah, I’ll probably play it again, but I am more hoping for Kirby and the Forgotten Land 1.5 than anything.

What’s next? Random ROB is taking some time off as we transition over to the Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play. I only have so much time to do videogame stuff! And Let’s Plays are complicated! I do plan on randomly posting FGC articles as the mood strikes me during this time, but the usual “Monday update” will be Wild Arms 3 Let’s Play chapters. At least that is the plan! We’ll see what happens! So please look forward to it!

Big ol' tree