Parasite Eve (Video Game Review)
Horror Survival + Action RPG= Liquid Hot Awesome
Parasite Eve is a 1998 horror survival, action role-playing game released by Squaresoft(Now known as Square Enix) for the OG Playstation. This game, even to this day, is so wholly unique that the sequels don’t even hold a candle to it. Everything from the visual style to the gameplay and music immediately set this game apart from the other horror survival classics.
Parasite Eve, the video game, is actually a sequel to Parasite Eve, the novel. Written by Hideaki Sena, the novel is a bit of a modern J-Horror classic and even got a film treatment (You can find it on Youtube). I knew of neither until I did my research for this article. I’m reading the book so stay tuned to hear my thoughts on that at a later date.
Fear The Mitochondria
Players take control of sexy NYPD rookie, Aya Brea, as she goes on a date with some schmuck to the opera on Christmas Eve. Midway through the show, the beautiful actress on stage begins to stare at Aya. The two have this weird, brief moment of connection in this auditorium full of people and a certain sense of dread starts to creep in.
As the actress continues to belt her solo, the male actors around her begin to spontaneously combust. They fling themselves around in agony, one connecting with the stage’s curtains, setting the theater ablaze. Panic breaks out amongst the audience, as more and more of their number begin to spontaneously combust. All of this chaos is set to the actress’s haunting operatic melody and she never breaks her tune.
Aya is the kind of woman to rock a sexy black dress while remaining strapped to the opera and gives chase to the actress, known as Eve. The NYPD officer chases Eve through the theater, stepping over the charred remains of her victims. Aya is then attacked by animals who have been mutated by Eve(presumably). The cop catches up to Eve who mutates herself and the two face off.
I don’t want to give too much away about the science fiction plot of the game as it’s one of the best aspects of it. Essentially, the game is about a mitochondrial revolution, the cells that make up all complex organisms rebelling against its own creations to make superior organisms. The game’s antagonist gets her name from the theory of genetic Eve, in which the mitochondrial DNA found in all humans can be traced back to a singular common female ancestor that lived in Africa some 200,000 years ago. Hideaki Sena’s background in microbiology has a clear influence here, as well as a John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The story takes place over the course of six days and the main campaign can be completed in about 15 hours. Part of what separates it from most role playing games, at least story wise, is its unique setting: modern Manhattan. The theatre in the opening scene is the famous Carnegie Hall. There are no sweeping mountain ranges or sparkly castles, only the grit of the New York streets and the shadows of its towering skyscrapers.
Guns, Magic, and Horror! Oh, My!
Gameplay is an amalgamation of action and role-playing game titles. If you’ve ever played RPG classics, Vagrant Story or Chrono Trigger, the game’s combat will feel familiar. As players traverse any given map, there is a chance of triggering a random encounter, much like Final Fantasy. Instead of combat being turn based, all combat occurs in real time. The game utilizes something called an Active Time Bar.
When the bar is full, Aya may use an action, such as shooting or healing herself. Using an action drops the bar to zero and players must wait until the bar refills in order to take another action. Timing attacks and paying attention to an enemy’s attack patterns are key to survival. As you wait for your action bar to refill, players can move Aya in an attempt to dodge attacks. This can be harder than it sounds, as some maps are more closed in than others and it is not unusual to face multiple enemies at once.
In true RPG fashion, players collect loot such as new weapons, armor, and experience. Weapons and armor can be modified and upgraded with special properties such as elemental effects. Aya even has access to a kind of magic system called Parasite Energy, which stems from the game’s sci-fi premise.
Once the game is completed, players gain access to a new game mode called EX game. Its essentially restarting the campaign with a few differences. Players will have access to every item in the police station, the weapon and armor the player last used in the previous game, and enemies get harder, but upgrades get more powerful.
Players also gain access to the Chrysler Building. It’s essentially a horde mode mixed with Bruce Lee’s Tower of Death. There are 77 floors to beat, all leading up to a final boss fight. It’s the ultimate challenge for players who seek it.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil
If you’re into retro gaming or you have some kind of nostalgic connection to this title, the graphics probably won’t bother you. However, modern gamers may not be so forgiving as the game has clearly aged. Personally, I think the game still looks fantastic. Parasite Eve was released after Squaresoft had earned truck loads of cash with its release of Final Fantasy VII. They threw quite a bit of money into the making of this game and it shows.
Environments are prerendered assets; essentially paintings that Aya and NPCs can walk around in, much like FF VII. There’s something about this kind of art style that really connects with me and I kind of wish we could see a resurgence of it in modern gaming.
The CG cutscenes have not aged well either. They look primitive by today’s standards, but I assure you they were cutting edge at the time. Though they don’t look as great as they once did, they still have some emotional resonance and many still hold some genuine creepy visuals.
Where this game excels though, is the sound design. As Aya roams the abandoned theater, her footsteps echo eerily in the other wise silent auditorium. The sound design really shines in this game and elevates the tension for those dramatic climaxes. This game is more about atmosphere than jump scares and the sound design really reflects this.
Paradise Eve OST Arise Within You:https://youtu.be/keICAHd3PfU
Square has always knocked it out of the park in terms of their soundtracks. I still listen to many of them when I write. Parasite Eve combines a mix of classical, electronic, and piano into a special musical experience, at times even mixing all three on the same track. The dialogue in this game is all text based as well so you don’t have to worry about corny voice acting, which was popular in the 90’s for some reason.
OMG, Why Haven’t You Played This?
This game really rubs the horror itch in all the right ways. If you are a horror fan looking to get into retro gaming, a bit more into RPGs, or just looking for something different, Parasite Eve is a great title to pick up. Now there are two sequels as well, Parasite Eve II and The 3rd Day. I would only worry about picking up the first game, but if the original really ropes you in, why not give them a try?
If you have a PS1 or PSX laying around, grab yourself a copy of Parasite Eve. The game can also be picked up from the Playstation Network store for $6. If emulation is more your style, you can find the ROM files on many a website and would recommend running the game on the epsxe emulator.