Imagine, if you will, a butt.
But this is no ordinary butt; no, this is a butt that is, somehow, completely divorced from a body. It is unmistakably a human butt, but there is no attached human to be found, so there is simply a large butt, hovering at roughly eyelevel. And, were this merely a disembodied, floating butt, perhaps you could live with that you are seeing. Perhaps it would be simply enough to know that there are now flying butts, and that’s that, may as well get out of here and go clock in at the hamburger factory. But, once again, this butt surprises you, for, you see, this butt, despite being attached to no figure or digestive tract, has a chronic, unmistakable case of diarrhea. Butt is pushing out a constant stream of liquid excrement, and that accompanies every sight, sound, and smell you can envision. As a result, it is difficult to look at the ass in question, because… Ugh… It just doesn’t stop. Why is this allowed to continue? Where is it all coming from? Where is all of this… substance going?
And then, slowly, you realize there is an answer to that question. You understand that your senses have failed you. The sensory overload of… everything involved in this situation caused you to miss something very obvious: There is a second butt.
And the second butt is much like the first. It is simply a butt, disconnected from anything that may actually support a butt. It is slightly lower than the first butt, but it still seems to be above the ground under its own, unknown power. If you look closely, you will notice this butt appears to have a mole of some kind, so it is not a carbon copy of Butt A, but you do not have the acumen of Sir Mix-a-Lot, so you cannot see much of a difference between butts otherwise. This is just a second, horrible butt, and… Oh God… it’s doing something… It’s doing something terrible.
Butt #2 is… it’s absorbing… eating?… It is consuming the unending stream of gooey crap pouring out of #1. And, in response to this everlasting torrent of ordure, Butt #2 is somehow puking back at #1. It’s a butt! That substance is not supposed to come out of a butt! But, no, it is unmistakably vomit, and it is shooting straight up and into the first offending ass. And, lack of intestines or not, it appears this is how these Gemini butts maintain their equilibrium. They are constant. They are eternal. And you cannot look away. Despite everything. Despite the awful sight before you, despite the smell that you are certain is going to follow you for months, despite the fact that you can almost feel flakes of dung and bile clinging to your hair, you cannot leave. You could no more turn your back on this sight than abandon a needy baby, because you know you are gazing upon something unique. It is impossible and horrible and possibly the single worst thing you have ever seen, but you know it is something that may never been seen again. It is the product of a heartless, capricious universe, but, even as the juices start to rise in your own throat, you know this image is going to stay with you for the rest of your days, and it would be folly to try to escape.
You are now in a realm not of sight and sound, but of atrocious butts. You are in the Butt Zone.
And only there, in the Butt Zone, will you understand what it’s like to play Beyond the Beyond.
Beyond the Beyond is an awful game. Let me count the ways.
• Beyond the Beyond was a JRPG released in late-1995/mid-1996 (depending on your region). This was the golden age of JRPGS! We already had glorious Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger had just been released, and even “lesser” JRPGs were still unique, amazing experiences. Ogre Battle? Breath of Fire? They may not have been perfect games, but they were powerful, epic tales on systems that also hosted Rocko’s Modern Life licensed products. Beyond the Beyond is not an epic tale. Beyond the Beyond appears to be Dragon Quest. One. That may have cut it back in 1986, but not just about a year shy of the release of Final Fantasy 7.
• It’s not just about the graphics, either. Mother 3 has “retro” graphics, but they’re some of the most expressive pixels you’ll ever see. Here, the graphics are woefully behind the storytelling, so a heartfelt scene wherein a family mourns their fatally wounded child accidentally features some manner of Mr. Potato Head.
• Beyond the Beyond apes Dragon Quest to a fault, complete with a limited, by-character inventory system, and a goddamn “TALK / SEARCH / ITEM” context menu. This could work in a 90s JRPG (it certainly worked for Earthbound), but it might have to be a JRPG where NPCs don’t continue walking while you bring up the menu, so you’re “TALK”ing to air after a villager hoofs it across town. Oh, there’s an “R” automatic check/talk button? Why not just make that the standard!?
• But that limited inventory might be the greatest sin in this title, as it pairs poorly with the other grand problem of Beyond the Beyond: the encounter rate is insane. There is a new random encounter every three to five steps. You will encounter as many battles walking from a town to the next dungeon as would normally be inside the final castle of most JRPGs. This means you are constantly depleting healing resources, and the idea of keeping anything else in your inventory is folly. Even one antidote for a poison status that never comes seems silly. But if you do wind up poisoned? Hoo boy, that’s gonna be a fun time.
• And that encounter rate also makes the mages of the party completely useless. If you must fight thirty random battles in the smallest dungeon, and your wizard blows through his fireball charges within the first seven fights, welcome to 1 HP Staff Damage Town. Your (one) healing mage isn’t much better, either, as keeping everyone topped off is nigh-impossible on her meager spell charges. Like every JRPG, MP gets more plentiful as the adventure continues, but the spells also escalate in pricing, so you’re pretty much always going to be lacking oomph from your mages.
• Look at this bullshit
• But speaking of healing, at a normal leveling pace, monsters pretty reliably cut off about a third of your HP per hit. To be clear on that math, your chosen hero will have zero HP after three hits during any given battle. But! Beyond the Beyond introduces the LP system, which means that after your HP hits zero, you will simply be temporarily stunned, and then a seemingly random amount of LP will restore about half of your HP. That’s a neat concept! Unfortunately, in execution, it just means that fighters with low HP are stun-locked forever, constantly being “healed” by LP, but then taking that next hit, and going right down again. And LP is impossible to restore (either impossible, or I found no way to do it through the entire game) while inside a dungeon. And dungeons don’t even have floor numbers, left alone an indicator on how long any given maze might be, so good luck with rationing your HP/LP/MP.
• The monster designs might be the best part of the game. Though that is sullied somewhat by the fact that there are approximately ten monsters reskinned and recolored roughly 10,000 times. And there’s no geography to the monsters! There are the exact same monsters half way across the planet from each other, simply because the plot dictates you’ll be visiting those two locations in quick succession. And why the hell are there monsters on the gigantic beanstalk you just grew!?
• And there are like seven bosses in the entire game. Three of them are in the final dungeon. But some dungeons do end with a boss, so you never have any clue if you need to save up your assets for that final push against a dark knight, or if you’ll just get to cast an exit spell and call it a day. And, lest we forget, bosses are HP sponges that demand your mages be in fighting shape. The final boss has 4,000 HP; the average monster in that dungeon has 80 HP.
• It’s not related to anything in particular, but there’s a sewer level, and the plot mandates that you trudge through it five separate times. That is a gross affront to God.
• While we’re on the subject of trudging, the dungeons seem to be designed around punishing the player into walking more, and thus suffering more encounters. Puzzles within dungeons are constantly wasting your time (“Oh, now I have to walk back to the first switch, flip that, and then switch the third switch”), and wasting your steps. Which means more battles, and more resource drains. So every time you don’t solve a puzzle immediately, it hurts. It really hurts. You’ll be begging for really easy puzzles so your poor party can survive to the next save point… but then what’s even the point of having a puzzle at all?
• Oh, and of course you can only save in towns. Your average dungeon can take an hour, and if you wipe on its (potential) boss, you’ll be wasting another hour to skulk back through. Death in this game at least lets you save your levels and treasure… though you do restart with a completely dead party, save the hero. Good luck wasting your treasure on reviving your buddies at the only church in town!
• But, through it all, Beyond the Beyond’s greatest sin is constantly chastising the player for having hope. Samson is an early recruit, and he has amazing stats, and strength enough to make random encounters a breeze. So, naturally, after three battles, he’s cursed to Level 1, and not only has dramatically weakened stats, but he will be randomly paralyzed and damaged by the curse affliction for half the game. A wise old sage gives each of your combatants an orb of light for switching party members… but it will still be another three hours or so before you get an extra party member. If you don’t recruit any of the hidden characters, you will never need this orb of light… but it still takes up a sport in everyone’s inventory anyway. Teleporting between towns is only unlocked after you’ve acquired extra party members, and is the most aggravating version of character juggling I’ve ever seen. Class changes don’t actually increase your stats, they’re simply an excuse to reset to Level 1 to hopefully gain more levels/level up bonuses. You acquire a freaking dragon as your first airship, but there is literally only one extra place that he can access. When you gain an enormous, flying monolith, you’re still only flying to one new location, and have to walk the rest of the way. And at no point in the game do you ever earn a “Knights of the Round” or “Ultimate” spell; you’re always stuck struggling upstream, and even hidden “ultimate items” seem to be all but required. There’s a revive spell! It’s nearly impossible to find without a FAQ! And the spell’s MP cost makes it useless! Beyond the Beyond hates the player.
Hm… Maybe comparing Beyond the Beyond to a ceaseless stream of shit was too kind…
FGC #406 Beyond the Beyond
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Knuckles Chaotix for the 32X! Yay! It’s finally Knuckles’ time to shine! Please look forward to it!