Parasite Eve - Retroview  

Evolution is the Mother of Destruction
by Cortney Stone

6-15 HOURS


Rating definitions 

   In 1998, Squaresoft ran a television commercial for a PlayStation title named Parasite Eve. This commercial was filled with stunning FMV sequences, cinematic drama, and the promises of a thrilling game experience. Parasite Eve delivers all this and more, including heaps of frustration and an increase in one's pulse.

   Parasite Eve is an intriguing science fiction tale with many latent themes of femininity - conception, nurturing, and protecting. The central figure is Aya Brea, a New York police officer. One night during an opera at Carnegie Hall, the audience spontaneously combusts, with only Aya emerging unscathed. The female lead of the opera is possessed by malignant mitochondria - known as Parasite Eve - living within her cells, and she is responsible for igniting the audience. Eve turns the opera singer into a monster, and sets out to destroy humanity. Aya also has special highly evolved mitochondria, except that hers are not evil. In this game, men play the supportive roles, while the women shape the story and drive it forward.

   As it is set in modern-day New York, Parasite Eve takes the player to several notable locations, including Carnegie Hall, Central Park, and the Statue of Liberty. Visually, the game is dark and disturbing; everything is dirty metal, faintly glowing lights, and red ooze. The static environments are excellent, while the characters are grainy in appearance and stiff in mannerisms. Frequent FMV sequences highlight key events, such as fiery explosions and animals morphing into frightening creatures with splitting skin, gleaming mucus, and an abundance of sharp teeth. Yoko Shimomura's musical compositions also help set the mood. Much of the music is eerie and quiet, and a few tunes, particularly Eve's opera theme, are haunting. Sound effects are always on cue. When Aya steps on broken glass, it actually crunches under her feet. When she runs on concrete steps covered in packed snow, it sounds exactly like stepping on packed snow.

A show-stopping performance! A show-stopping performance!

   While cautiously stepping though dangerous areas, Aya encounters hordes of frightening creatures twisted by malignant mitochondrial activity. Battles are semi-random; there are certain spots will they will occur, but they will not occur every time. Once Aya is drawn into a battle, she has a limited range of movement. She and the enemies can move around freely, although Aya moves much more slowly than her foes. While her ATB gauge charges, she must move around to dodge the attacks of enemies. Success depends heavily on knowing the patterns of attacks and, to a lesser degree, sheer luck. Once the gauge is full, she can either shoot the enemies that are within the range of her gun, or use an item or Parasite Energy, the game's form of magic. Parasite Energy includes familiar-named spells such as Haste, Slow, and Confuse, and various healing and attack spells.

   Parasite Eve is not for the casual gamer. It is quite difficult, especially near the end. The interface is generally user-friendly, but one aspect of the gameplay is not: Aya's ridiculously slow movement. While moving around the field, Aya's slowness is not much of a problem; in combat during the later parts of the game, it becomes infuriating at times. This greatly contributes to the difficulty of the game and only slightly detracts from its "fun factor." The game includes a tutorial that is mostly helpful, except for the section on upgrading weapons and body armor. The vague explanation may lead some players to make costly mistakes in altering equipment, unless they happen to figure out the process through another means of information.

Aya aims for the cleavage. Aya aims for the cleavage.

   Fortunately, the game has an excellent localization. Some plot points could have been clarified, but for the most part, the story is easy to take in. Even the explanation of mitochondria is easy to digest, as it is as no more complex than a junior high science textbook.

   Despite spanning two discs, Parasite Eve is not a lengthy game. Much of the disc space is devoted to the numerous FMV sequences. It can take approximately six to eight hours to complete the game. EX mode - a chance to replay the game with one's best weapon and armor - offers an extra dungeon for patient and determined players to tackle.

   With stunning imagery, an intriguing storyline, and challenging gameplay, Parasite Eve is a title that no serious RPGamer should pass up. It is not a traditional RPG; its modern settting, horror style, and sci-fi story distinguish it from the many fantasy titles that populate the genre. Prospective players should beware the frustrating end-game challenges and the gory scenes, but they should also expect rising action and a heart-pounding climax.

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