Parasite Eve - Review

Mitochondrial Madness

By: Jake Alley

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 4
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 7
   Plot 6
   Localization 5
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

12-15 Hours


Parasite Eve

   It is rare for an RPG to be set in the real world. It is rare for an RPG to be under twenty hours long. It is rarer still for an RPG to incorporate the themes of horror. Square's Parasite Eve, based loosely on the novel of the same name, is therefore a highly unique experience.

   Set in New York City, the very month the game itself was released (December of 1997), the story of Parasite Eve revolves around mitochondria, the microbes present in every cell which produce energy, rising up to destroy humanity. In practical terms of course, this means that there's a large amount of people bursting into flames or melting, and a number of cute cuddly animals transforming into grotesque monsters. Although the game can be completed in twelve hours, and spans a period of only six days, the fast paced plot does spare the time for some interesting philosophical and scientific discussion.

   The visuals of Parasite Eve convey its disturbing themes more than any other aspect of the game. The city of New York is faithfully recreated in the games prerendered backgrounds, and the frequent FMV cutscenes are disturbing both in their attention to detail, and their gory content. For example, near the beginning of the game, it is possible to make out each individual hair on the body of a rat as it grows into a horrific monstrosity.

Kind of cute here.  

   Unfortunately, the sound track of the game does not match the graphics in horrific impact. Boss battles, which should be the most disturbing moments of the game, are accompanied by a very upbeat techno rock track which completely destroys the mood. Regular battles are accompanied a similarly inappropriate score, although the degree is much less severe. Outside of combat, music is virtually nonexistent. There are moments of total silence, and at best, the music in each area of the game is simplistic and subdued. While such silence can be used by a game to create a disturbing atmosphere, here such silence falls during the most mundane and peaceful scenes. The only aspect of the game's sound which really fits with the horror theme are the sounds made by the main character's footsteps as she moves from smooth tiling to the sticky puddles of goo left from people melting. To be fair, the soundtrack as a whole is excellent. It simply doesn't belong in the game.

   If there is anything horrific about Parasite Eve, it's the speed at which you walk. Even when running, you move slower than walking in most games. Small rooms take up to half a minute to cross. When actually walking, it is at a rate of a little under one in-game foot every second. Such agonizing slowness can become very frustrating, particularly in the larger areas of the game.

Rotating map screen  

   Compared to the sluggishness of exploration, combat is rather fast paced. For the most part, Parasite Eve uses the same ATB system as most Square games. A small on screen meter slowly fills over time. When it's full, you can attack, cast a spell, or use an item. The thing that makes PE different however is the fact that while this meter is filling, it's possible to move around, dodging enemy attacks. The overall effect is somewhat odd however, as you tend to dodge around in circles waiting for your turn to fire your gun. Magic is similar to any other RPG, with spells costing PE, which regenerates over time.

   Although Parasite Eve only has one controllable character, it maintains a bit of strategy and customization with it's unique equipment system. Each gun in the game has a number of unique features such as rapid fire, the ability to damage nearby enemies, and so on which can be moved from weapon to weapon using consumable tools. The same system applies to armor. Going up a level also grants bonus points which may be spent to increase the effectiveness of equipment, add to the size of your inventory, or increase your speed in combat.

   After completing the game, it is possible to start a plus game, similar to Chrono Trigger. In addition to bonus points and equipment carrying over, this offers up a new and extremely challenging side quest which leads to a second ending. However, the prospect of exploring a single building several times as large as the rest of the game combined may not appeal to all players, lowering the effect this has on the game's replay value.

Tight jeans
Maybe with looser clothing she could walk...  

All in all, Parasite Eve is a fairly solid title with some elements that only appeal to a select few people. If you're in the mood for a horror themed game that's more disgusting than frightening, or just an RPG that can be completed in one sitting, Parasite Eve is an excellent choice. If however you want more substance, you may want to skip this one.

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