At the time of its release, Parasite Eve was relatively obscure as far as Japanese Role Playing games were concerned. Its 1998 release window coincided with the success of the Final Fantasy series. 13 years later, the game has developed a cult following of sorts. Square-Enix, in an attempt to make its rarer RPGs more available to a wider audience, has been re-releasing some of those titles through the Playstation Store. Titles like Final Fantasy VII, Xenogears, and now Parasite Eve are now available to gamers that missed them the first time around. Even though it has been over a decade, the game has aged well and still holds up to the today’s Role Playing Game standards.
AS AGELESS AS EVER
An Atypical Science Fiction Plot - Even in today’s industry, you don’t often find a female protagonist who is not only strong, but identifiable as well. Aya Brea, the main character of Parasite Eve, fits such a mold. The game quickly picks up in the beginning as Aya attends an opera which results in the sudden combustion of several different people. As Aya, you must track down the actress seemingly responsible for the incident and try to uncover what her ultimate plot entails. While on the surface this might sounds like the typical hero defeats villain en route to saving the world formula, it is very different. The game can best be thought of an RPGs meet Metal Gear Solid as many of the same science fiction and medical disease elements you find in that series are also found in Parasite Eve. In fact, the core plot itself involves around gene mutation and disease and provides a fresh take to the JRPG formula.
Solid Gameplay - Although Vagrant Story was released two years later, Parasite Eve utilizes a gameplay system that is eerily similar to Ashley Riot’s excursion. Essentially, you control Aya as she freely moves about the environment; however, Aya cannot shoot any of her firearms until a gauge fills. The gameplay combines both real time elements with turn-based elements in a way that prevents it from becoming stale. In fact, the bosses will require precise maneuvering as many of their attacks can be dodged by moving Aya about the environment.
Stellar Musical Score - Over the past several years, Yoko Shimomura has made a name for herself by being the composer of the successful Kingdom Hearts series. Before then, she had composed soundtracks for a few well-received RPGs like Legend of Mana and Parasite Eve. Unlike the Legend of Mana, Parasite Eve’s score adequately captures the foreboding atmosphere that pervades the entire game. Many different tracks have a science fiction feel to them as conveyed by the instrumentals and you will find yourself humming the music long after you beat the game much like I did.
Graphics That Still Hold Up - After completing the first of the six days the game encompasses, all I could think about was the fact that it was perhaps the best looking Playstation 1 game I had ever played in terms of AMV sequences and in-game graphics. The graphics have an eerie similarity to Final Fantasy VIII with an emphasis on the background environments and Aya’s character model.
TOO, TOO SHORT
You Don’t Want It To End - After playing through the game over the course of two days; I could not believe when I was already at the end. The game boasts a pitiful 10-12 hours of length, including all the extras. For an RPG, I felt cheated and wished that game had been at least another 10 hours longer.
Hot Spots Are Not Your Friend - The biggest complaint of all is the use of hot spots in the game. The basic premise is that Aya will enter one of these zones and maybe, or maybe not enter a random battle. With games overusing random battle frequency, it appears to be a well-crafted idea on paper. However, the problems begin when, as the player, you become unable to find a battle because the chances decrease every time you enter one of these hot spots. In hindsight, I appreciated the attempt to approach battle from a different angle, but felt a straightforward random battle approach would have fared far better.
Parasite Eve is one of those games that slipped under the radar and managed to be near excellent. Despite a few flaws, the gameplay, story, and soundtrack are strong enough to create a very satisfying gaming experience. With a cheap price tag to boot, Parasite Eve is a must buy for Playstation 3 owners looking for something a little different to play.