Parasite Eve - Review

Square's "cinematic RPG" holds decent gameplay and stunning visuals

By Brian Glick, RPGamer Writer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System9.5
   Replay Value9.0
   Time to Complete12 hours 

   Surprisingly not too long ago, there was only one predominant style of RPGs for gamers: medieval environments, usually with a story that, while interesting, was slow to develop and relied almost completely on the gamer's imagination -- quite comparable to a book. But lately, we've begun to see games that take a more active role in the telling of the story, aiding the plot with visual and auditory sensations that place the player in a vivid world just like an epic movie. Square's latest pushes this new branch of RPGs forward: the aptly-described "cinematic RPG," Parasite Eve.

   Parasite Eve is based on a Japanese novel of the same name, heavily modified in the jump to an interactive video game. The player takes the role of Aya Brea, a rookie detective for the New York Police Department. You follow Aya through six days of a self-described "nightmare," involving a biological horror-story closely rooted in science and scientific theories ("Mitochondrial Eve," for example, is a real-life theory).

   The presentation itself is flawless. The mechanics the game uses are what inspires the term "cinematic RPG." Manhattan and the events that transpire across the six days are painted with a mysterious brush where the previously normal world around you suddenly feels alien and grotesque. Although rarely suspenseful (more on this next), the music, background environments, sounds, and CG movies combine to create a darkly beautiful mood. Square's new-found skill in rendered movies allows them to interweave movie scenes and typical polygons on backdrops wonderfully, particularly during one of the final scenes where a short movie is played, followed by one line of dialog, followed again by a short movie, and so on, finally reaching a climax.

CG movies
Stunning CG scenes abound 

   Parasite Eve stumbles badly in the plot, however. The presentation of the story was wonderful, and in many respects, the mechanics of the game helped keep the plot afloat. Regarded on its own, though, the story is without depth and typical of a poor B-movie horror flick. Originality is sparse, and predictability is rampant. Characterization, as well, is shallow -- even though the game is short, most characters could have been expanded to be more than clichéd one-dimensional cutouts. The ending, in particular, seemed completely out of place and absurd in multiple respects. (Oh, how I wish I could rant on and on, but this simply isn't the forum for spoilers.)

   Moving on, the overall gameplay is fabulous. Parasite Eve sports a unique battle system where Aya is able to be moved around the battlefield (with perspectives that change in every area), dodging enemy attacks strategically. When your Active Time bar reaches its capacity, you are able to select from your items, Parasite Energy (essentially, magic), or open up what is best described as a "range bubble" that indicates which foes are close enough for you to target and hit with your firearm. Apart from the time taken to select your move, everything moves in real-time, meaning you can even be attacked while you return fire.

   Multiple weapons and armor can be customized and salvaged through the use of a "tool," a device that lets you mix and match special abilities and strengths between your items. You also gain Bonus Points after each level up, varying on the amount of damage you have taken overall. These points can be distributed towards strengthening your weapons and armor, or various character statistics. Battles seem to appear pseudo-randomly; there seem to be certain trigger areas where you may randomly encounter foes. Similarly, there are these same trigger areas (or "hotspots") where you must push the X button (curiously different from Square's standard O button) in order to proceed further. One minor gripe is that these hotspots seem difficult to find and activate at times.

   The music in the game is sparse, often substituting tunes with an oppressive silence meant to build suspense that never really feels like it is accomplished. The tunes that are in the game, however, are excellently done, although I must admit I am a little partial to techno/electronica-esque rhythms.

Parisite Eve boasts an extremely innovative battle system 

   Many other reviews for Parasite Eve have criticised its short length and lack of replay value, both of which seem hardly justified. The game is not intended to be a long one -- it tells a cinematic-like story that spans only a short six days, and is aided by extensive visuals and imagery. Parasite Eve also boasts a great deal of replay value, since the "EX" mode can only be accessed once finishing the game, similar to Chrono Trigger's "New Game +" mode. Once in the EX mode, players are able to use one weapon and one piece of armor from a previous game, and are able to enter a brand new location: the Chrysler Building. The 77-floor tower is quite comparable to Lufia 2's Ancient Cave, or the tower in Azure Dreams, and has level of challenge that will frighten the hardiest RPG professionals to the core. A different ending also awaits those that complete the arduous task. (No new movies, however.)

   When all is said and done, Parasite Eve is an excellent RPG that stands in a class all by itself, further advancing the "cinematic" genre of RPG, and offering fantastic gameplay. The plot can be tolerated thanks to the spectacular mechanics of the storytelling, and I hope to see the unique battle system included in future games. If you've got the money to give it a chance, Parasite Eve will most likely be a satisfying and enjoyable experience.

Reader Reviews
   Reviewer    TitleOverall Score
   Brad Cunningham    Long for a movie, short for a RPG, but fun anyway! 7.0
   Craig Hansen    "Parasite Eve" is part RPG, part interactive movie 8.0
   David Beoulve    Parasite Eve isn't worth your hard-earned money 6.0
   Ed McGlothlin    Definitely worth a play, but lacking in far too many fundamental areas to be great 7.0
   Jonathan Weng    Parasite Eve: Infectious Fun 9.0

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