Parasite Eve 2 comes from a time when Square Enix was merely Squaresoft, FMVs were the height of graphical sophistication, and a memory card was a necessity, just in case you ever wanted to turn your console off. The original Parasite Eve was a success, both critically and commercially, and thus it received a much overdue re-release on the Playstation store earlier this year under the PSOne Classics label. Parasite Eve 2 quickly followed suit, released in its original 4:3 aspect ‘glory’, with some decidedly aged graphics. As any dedicated gamer knows, however, graphics aren’t the only deciding factor in a game’s worth, but do 10-year old visuals irrevocably mar what lies underneath?
Genretic Splicing - If you haven’t played a Parasite Eve game before, you’re in for a surprise. By merging the survival horror and RPG genres, Squaresoft took two of the 1990’s more popular console-based genres and made a successful attempt at forcing them to breed. Playing more like Resident Evil than anything else, Parasite Eve 2 adds a healthy dose of magic, levelling up, experience and equipment management to its repertoire, creating one of the deepest survival horror games I’ve had the chance to play.
The Weirdest Zoo in the World - Imagine the cutest animal that you can think of, and add a human face. Creepy, huh? That’s the basis for the majority of Parasite Eve 2’s enemies, monsters who have evolved from their original human forms into weird mutations such as horses, bugs, lizards and giant-baby-type-things. Add to this a selection of epic boss battles against such enemies as a Psycho Mantis-inspired mutant hunter and a giant with a flamethrower for a mouth, and you have one of the more varied enemy selections in any game of its type. It’s certainly better than endless waves of shuffling zombies.
Mitochondria? Didn’t They Already Ruin One Franchise? - Yes, Parasite Eve 2 bases its narrative around the use of mitochondria, but unlike the Star Wars franchise, it handles the matter with a certain deftness and subtlety that George Lucas could do well to learn from. Initially set in LA in the year 2000, Parasite Eve 2 sees you battling mutants downtown throughout a skyscraper, in the Mojave desert, a scientific lab, and plenty of other interesting and well-realised locations. Although the game does exhibit a fairly weird sense of humour (likely due to its Japanese origins), the story holds up well, discussing the dangers of chemical warfare and tampering too much with genetics.
ALL HALLOWS EVE
Can I Get A Shrink Ray? - Back in 2000, putting the letters H+D together would have given about the same reaction as putting F+I together today. High Definition was merely a twinkle in someone’s eye, and screens above 30 inches were rarely seen. In today’s market, where screens of 80 inches or more are advertised, stretching a standard definition image to that extent can lead to extreme eye strain, and a definite lack of focus. When added to ten-year old visuals, which can be described as “pixelly” at best, it can make Parasite Eve 2 incredibly difficult to play at times, especially when attempting to solve puzzles or navigate effectively.
Remember Kids, This Isn’t Resident Evil - Although there is a definite lack of zombies in the Parasite Eve series, the one similarity that does remain is awful controls. The problem is worsened here though, as instead of slowly shuffling zombies, you have animals that are capable to attacking at a fair pace, making the inability to dodge effectively or even find your way around smoothly, infuriating. This leads to frustrating combat, tedious navigation, and plenty of asking yourself whether the game itself is worth suffering through the archaic designs within.
Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can make you remember the worst of games, films or music as something world-beating, for the sole reason of it coming from your childhood, or from better times. Those who played Parasite Eve 2 in its original form will surely fondly remember the intriguing narrative, the clever mix of genres, and the eclectic mix of enemies and bosses. Whilst their minds will have likely blanked out on the dodgy graphics and terrible controls, in 2011, these issues are problems that cannot be ignored. Whilst they do not entirely obstruct what is otherwise a great game, they cause enough frustration to become genuine considerations when debating the purchase of this game. If you can see past the surface issues, then there is a good deal of enjoyment to be had here from the story and atmosphere, but if you’re a graphics whore or demand instant and accurate response from your avatar, then I suggest that you consider something more current.