Parasite Eve is a very unfair game. Its unfair because it was never released in the UK. Instead we were given Parasite Eve 2 and pretty much told to deal with it. Its also unfair because sometimes you can be stuck in a tunnel with no means to dodge attacks and suddenly a group of bloody bats will spawn right in front of you. Save points can be an issue too, I haven’t called for more save points since Dead Rising.
It’s Parasite Eve’s unfairness that makes it such an intriguing game. Its like the girl that you fancy who is incredibly rude to you. You put up with her and persist because you never know, something amazing might happen.
And with Parasite Eve something amazing does happen. Parasite Eve is almost a combination of Resident Evil, Final Fantasy and the X Files. The story follows a young police detective called Aya Brea. The first level sees her attending the Opera at Carnegie Hall on a date when the majority of the audience spontaneously combusts when a female opera singer by the name of Melissa Pearce starts to perform. We later discover that Melissa Pearce has been overwhelmed by the Mitochondria cells in her body and tries to impregnate herself with ‘super sperm,’ to gestate the ultimate being.
Now the plot on the face of it does seem a little bit wacky, and also completely implausible, especially if you are a geneticist. However, there are enough twists to keep everything interesting and the main characters, whilst complete cliches, are very likeable. There is Daniel Dollis, Aya’s Partner who is a divorcee who’s main motivation is to protect his son. Then there is the geeky scientist Kunihko Maeda who is very shy and completely unable to talk to women but a crucial member in the team to bring a stop to all this genetic mutating nonsense.
The story and the games environments really do help to bring an edge of fear to the game which, at the time that Parasite Eve was released, had been reserved mainly for survival horror games. So it was interesting to see the horror element put into the RPG mould. The lack of save points that I complained about earlier also helped to spread this air of fear. Because if you did die, you would find yourself all the way back at the beginning of the level. You couldn’t just go to the nearest inn and save, or go on the world map and use a tent. This was hard core modern day New York that you were in not Midgar where men looked like women.
With Parasite Eve it was almost like Squaresoft looked at the RPG genre that they were dominating at with their various franchises and completely bent it to fit the new audience that the Playstation was marketing itself towards. The combat system was an RPG affair where enemies would suddenly appear on the screen and you would have to wait for certain bars to fill before you could attack. You didn’t get taken to a new screen though, battles all took place in the normal game world. You could also move your character around to avoid the enemies attacks in real time. The weapons used were also a variety of realistic guns which could be upgraded using tools and add-ons. When playing Parasite Eve I got the feeling that I was playing the game designed to appeal to those who thought they were too cool to play Final Fantasy 7.
I remember when Final Fantasy 7 first came out, I remember trying to talk passionately with my friends at school about it, but more than half of them didn’t like RPG’s as the combat system was boring and unrealistic, and they went on forever, and they were ultimately for geeks. The hype surrounding the re-birth of the survival horror thanks to Resident Evil, Sony’s success in targeting a more mature audience, and the success of science fiction shows of the time like The X-Files meant that Squarsoft were brave enough to concoct Parasite Eve using this formula.
Unfortunately they were not brave enough to give it a european release. Which is frustrating, and I’m not entirely sure as to why they deemed the US audience would be able to appreciate the game but the European audience wouldn’t understand their Japanese concept.
Well, now that time has moved on and eBay has arrived, it’s a fairly cheap game to import, or with the improvement of technology you could also just get a PS1 emulator for your PC and download a ROM (I must add that this is illegal, but I’m not going to stop you from trying to get your hands on this masterpiece, everyone deserves to play it and it’s not like they are making it anymore, oh no wait, square did re-release it on the PSN recently, BUT NOT IN EUROPE!!!).
The third title in the trilogy was released recently on the PSP, and if you are a fan of the series its worth picking up. However, be warned, the game has lost some of the horror factor, the story is no longer as involving and whilst the first Parasite Eve game marked a Maturing of a genre, the third titles marks a degenerative immaturing. Once again players control Aya, who has now been sexualised, and can wear different costumes with different levels of protection. The more damage she receives, the more damage her clothes receive and they become torn and shredded until her jeans and top resemble nothing more than a large denim bikini.
So, Squaresoft (or Square Enix as they are known now) continue to hurl insults at us gamers through Parasite Eve, first they say it’s being re-released on the PSN and then they deny us Europeans it all over again. Then they invalidate the series’ ability to harness mature subjects by turning the main character into a cos play geeks wet dream. But if you are willing to put up with all of this try the original, and you will end up experiencing one of the finest titles that was available on the Playstation 1.