Review: Parasite Eve II

It took longer than expected, but my review for Parasite Eve II is finally here! Two years after the release of the original game, Square followed up with the second entry in the series.  I really enjoyed the first Parasite Eve game and I was very excited to experience the next chapter.

This game picks up three years after the events of the original. After what is now known as the “New York Incident”, Aya was recruited into a secret unit of the FBI called M.I.S.T. Her job is to hunt down and eliminate any remaining Neo-Mitochondria Creatures (NMCs).  The game begins when she is deployed to Los Angeles to help put down a sudden burst of NMC activity. While completing her mission she has an encounter with what appears to be a humanoid NMC. The creature escapes but Aya is persistent in learning more about this unusual being.

Her next assignment brings her to a rural town in the middle of the Mojave desert. The area is infested with NMCs and Aya investigates a lead hinting at their point of origin. It is during this investigation that she unravels a shocking conspiracy. One in which she has unknowingly been a participant in.

While the storyline builds off of the original game, the actual gameplay is considerably different. The first Parasite Eve was an interesting mix of RPG and survival horror action. This time around, nearly all RPG elements have been stripped away. This leaves the game as strictly an action-based survival horror title. In fact, it looks and feels very much like a Resident Evil game. Parasite Eve II has even adapted the familiar and irritating “tank-style” playcontrol scheme, as well as other aspects that have become synonymous with the Resident Evil franchise.

To be honest, the changes from the original game are a mixed bag. The combat no longer relies on meters and timers and it’s not locked into a specified battle area. This allows for much more freedom during combat. Aya is able to run around unfettered and even change zones while engaging an enemy. This is a good thing. Sadly, the movement controls really make navigating problematic during combat, especially early on in the game. Thankfully, Parasite Eve II has a targeting system that does a lot to help with the pain-point caused the crummy playcontrol.

Aya also does not level up in the traditional sense. Combat still yields EXP. However, EXP in this game is reserved for strengthening and unlocking her Parasite Abilities. Aide from experience, Aya also earns Bounty Points with each monster she eliminates. These points can be exchanged for weapons and items. So it’s beneficial to take out any NMCs that you encounter, even if fleeing is an option.

Despite taking a step back in the areas of playcontrol and originality, Parasite Eve II offers some very stunning visuals. The backgrounds are prerendered, yes. But the sprites in the game itself and the cinematic sequences are very well done. This game provides the best of the what original Playstation could offer.

So, praise and gripes aside – how does it play? Parasite Eve II is solid and has hours of content. I personally found the middle section of the game to be a bit repetitive and at times, boring. But, the action picks up again towards the end. As a survival horror, the game excels. The atmosphere is there, and it is very well done. I just wish it would have kept more of the unique elements from the first game, instead of of settling in to what has now become a cookie-cutter format.

The game does feature multiple endings depending on certain choices made during your playthrough. Getting the best ending on your first time through is unlikely unless you have a guide. Thankfully, you can replay the game over upon completion. So it’s very possible to enjoy everything the game has offer even if you missed it the first time around.

 

Difficulty: Variable –  Parasite Eve II offers a single difficulty level for first time players. The biggest challenges here are not found in tough boss mechanics or random encounters. But rather, I found the toughest aspect of the game to be the mastery of the game controls (ie: working through the stiff and stubborn playcontrol). After an hour of two of playtime, you tend to get the feel for things and the game gets a lot easier. Once you’ve completed the game the first time, you do unlock two additional modes of play. Replay Mode (an easier, New Game + style experience) and Bounty Mode (this is essentially Hard Mode). Finally, after reaching a certain rank in either Replay or Bounty mode, you can unlock Scavenger Mode. This ratchets up the difficulty by another notch. But wait… there’s more! Completing the game on Scavenger Mode presents you with a final option: Nightmare Mode. This is mode of play is similar to Bounty Mode, but much more brutal.

Story: This game takes the fundamental story provided by Parasite Eve and gives it an X-Files/Conspiracy twist. This is not necessarily a bad thing, per se. But, I feel like by doing so it really takes some of the more unique lore elements away from the game. All that aside, the in-game story is well done and captivating even if it loses some of itself.

Originality: This game really took a huge step backwards when it comes to being unique and original. It seems that Square panicked at some of the minor criticism they received from PE1 battle system and just decided to scrap it and follow the Resident Evil formula in hopes that no-one noticed. Everything that made the first game unique has been watered down. This is true for both the storyline and the gameplay itself.

Soundtrack: The game scores high here. The music is atmospherics and catchy. The game soundtrack is an excellent companion to the adventure. It is comprised of everything from lo-fi jazz to industrial. It helps build tension and excitement. It is everything you’d want from a survival horror score.

Fun: Despite a number of complaints, this actually a very entertaining game. Fans of the survival horror genre will find a lot to like. The replayability of the title means there are many potential long nights filled spooky fun. The storyline, even if it is not original, hooks you. The characters are soulful and engaging. I had a great time exploring the depths of this game.

Graphics: Like many PS1 titles, this game shows it’s age. However, it stands up better than most Playstation titles from the same era. The prerendered backgrounds are well done and the character sprites were top of the line for their day. The cinematics are as good as they get and are a pleasure to watch.

Playcontrol: No no no. This is the my biggest issue with the game. The playcontrol in this title is several steps down from the original Parasite Eve. It follows the familiar but frustrating scheme found in other survival horror games of the day. Turn-and-walk style controls are the bane of my existence when it comes to action games. Thankfully, we do have a targeting system that helps ease the pain. Without it, this game would be a nightmare to control.

Downloadable Content: No.

Mature Content: YES. Graphic violence, gore. Some minor language.

Value:  Despite a number of complaints, this game can still be very much worth your time. It is available digitally on the Playstation Network for $5.99. Physical copies can be found on eBay for $10 or less usually. Considering the vast amount of content and replayability, it is well worth that price even with all of its faults.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This is a tough one, because despite its flaws, Parasite Eve II is still a really good game. I enjoyed it immensely. But, when stacked up against its own prequel and other games of a similar nature, it just doesn’t have what it takes to stand out. If you are fan of the original Parasite Eve or if you’re a hardcore survival horror nut, then this game is definitely worth your time. If not, it might be a little hard to recommend this one. To give this game a score of 2 seems a bit unfair. But, it’s not quite where it needs to be to get a solid 3.

Available on: PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

Parasite Eve (Novel) –  Parasite Eve  –  Parasite Eve II   –  The 3rd Birthday

Review: Parasite Eve

One of the more popular arguments at my house around Christmas time: is Die Hard a Christmas movie? I’m a firm believer that it is. It takes place at Christmastime, various scenes in the film are decorated for the season, and there’s even a few utterances of “Merry Christmas”. Following that same logic, one could make an argument that Parasite Eve is a Christmas game. So, it’s very fitting that I post this review today, Christmas 2017.

This review has a been a long time coming. Parasite Eve is a classic Playstation title, but one that I’ve never had the chance to enjoy until now. Originally released in 1998, this game is actually the follow-up to a Japanese horror novel. (One I reviewed on this site, just a few months ago). The game was huge success for Squaresoft at the time of it’s release, and maintains a strong cult following. This is one that I’ve always wanted to play, but never got around to. I’m happy to declare that this has finally changed.

The premise of the game is this: Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the human cell are not all that they seem. In fact, they are actually parasites that have laid dormant in the body of each human since the early days of civilization. The consciousness that lives in every mitochondria calls itself “Eve”. Eve has been patiently waiting for human civilization to reach a point of advancement so that it can take over and become the ruling sentient species. That time is now. Eve is able to make humans spontaneously combust and can evolve people and other animals into horrifying mutant creatures. Thankfully, the hero of this game, an NYPD officer named Aya Brea – is actually immune to the effects of her rebellious mitochondria. Aya catches wind of this mysterious plot and sets out to put an end to Eve’s plans before it is too late. Pretty weird, huh?

Having never played this game before, I was a little unsure what to expect. Visually, the game looks a lot Final Fantasy VIII. Which makes sense as it was developed by the same company and around the same time. Both the in-game graphics and cinematic cutscenes are similar. For it’s day and age, the game looked pretty impressive. Parasite Eve also has some of the RPG aspects that one would expect to find in a Squaresoft title. The main character can equip various weapons and armor, she earns EXP through battle and can level up, she also has the ability to use magic (called Parasitic Energy in this game). Your progress can be saved at various locations in the game (at telephones), so players used to “save points” will feel right at home. However, unlike most RPGs, battles are a mixture of both turn-based combat and live action.

When fighting enemies in Parasite Eve, you need to wait for your “Attack Meter” to fill up before you can execute an attack, cast a spell, or use an item. During the downtime between actions, you can run around the battlefield openly. This allows you to chase enemies, dodge attacks, etc. When attacking, you can direct your attack at multiple enemies. So, if you are firing a pistol, for example, you can aim a few shots at Monster A and a few at Monster B – all in one turn.  I found this blend of turned-based/action combat to be both refreshing and engaging. Being a longtime fan of RPGs, it was a new twist that I wasn’t expecting. I really enjoyed this model of combat. High marks to battle designer on this title.

Parasite Eve is a very story-driven game. The game is broken up into several chapters (or Days). Most of these days are focused on a single task and introduce the player to new locations or characters. After a certain point, the gameworld opens up and the player is able to visit various locations in New York City at will. Later in the game, players can use this freedom to their advantage. It allows them to grind monsters for experience, collect loot to customize weapons and armor, etc. The main scenario itself is rather short for an RPG. I believe I cleared it in about 8 hours.

Upon completing the game the players will receive a rather ambiguous ending. But, this unlocks “Ex Mode” – essentially a New Game Plus option that allows players to play through the entire game again, with their current level and items. This can be done as many times as the player likes. During these subsequent playthroughs, a new area is available. This new level features 77 randomly generated floors. On the last floor is an ultimate boss. Completing this hidden dungeon in Ex Mode will allow you to view the real ending for the game.

All of this makes Parasite Eve a very interesting game. Despite being a classic title, in many ways it was very ahead of it’s time. The “New Game Plus” is an option found in most modern RPG titles. So are multiple endings. But it’s not something you saw very often in 1998. – I enjoyed this game tremendously. It felt both familiar and new at the same time. I was pleased to see many new and risky concepts unseen in previous popular RPGs. I’m curious to see what the next entries in series bring to the table.

If you like Square’s RPGs and you’re looking for something different, this is certainly a game worthy of your attention.

Difficulty: Medium –  Parasite Eve does not feature multiple levels of difficulty. The game is very different from other RPGs and as a result can seem a little complex at first. New players are advised to review the Tutorial option from the main menu before playing to make things a bit easier. The game starts off fairly easy, but the difficulty does ramp up in later chapters. It is possible to grind your way to higher levels, thus making the game a piece of cake. However, regardless of your level, completing the optional dungeon and defeating the hidden boss will require a bit of effort.

Story: This title is very story driven – and is actually probably the best part of the game. The plot unfolds through both in-game narratives and video cutscenes. The storyline is riveting and very well told. Players wanting even more can seek out a copy of the Parasite Eve novel, which actually serves as a prequel to the game itself.

Originality: Despite being labelled as an RPG, Parasite Eve is a refreshing take on the genre. First, it takes place in the real world – in New York City to be exact. Instead of knights and dragons, we have cops and monsters. The combat is a mixture of turn-based and live-action – very unique for a game of it’s time. In many ways, it also incorporates some survival horror elements.

Soundtrack: The game soundtrack is catchy and groovy. There’s not really a wide variety of music in the game, but despite being a bit repetitive at times, it’s well done and pleasant.

Fun: If you enjoy games with a heavy plot and unique RPG elements, Parasite Eve is worth a look. I enjoyed this title very much – and for different reasons than I expected to.

Graphics: The pixelated graphics and FMV movies are very dated by today’s standards. But at the time of the release, they were considered very well done. To be fair, many of the creature transformation scenes are so shocking and grotesque that even with their aged looked, they still retain a blood-curdling effect on the watcher. (At least they did with me.)

Playcontrol:  The game controls are a bit antiquated by today’s standards, but overall are well implemented and intuitive. The combat takes a bit to get used to at first and sometimes feels a bit boxed in – but after a few hours it becomes second nature.

Downloadable Content: N/A

Mature Content: YES – Graphic violence and gore, adult themes (medical reproduction). 

Value:  This game is available as a PS One Classic on the Playstation Network for $5.99. At this price, the game is a steal. Parasite Eve also features a decent level of replayability due to it’s “EX Mode” and randomly generated optional dungeon.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – I found this title to be a delightful change of pace from other 64-bit era role playing games. The real-world setting and strange pseudo-scientific flare made for a really unique experience. I’m ashamed to admit that it took me almost twenty years to experience this title. I recommend it to anyone who enjoy both role playing games and survival horror titles from the late 90s.

Available on: PSN

Other Reviews In This Series:

Parasite Eve (Novel) –  Parasite Eve  –  Parasite Eve II   –  The 3rd Birthday

Parasite Eve (Novel) – Hideaki Sena

Happy Halloween! Since we’ve already discussed a few creepy games, I thought I’d end October this year with a couple of scary book reviews. I’ve often talked about my plans to include more non-Star Wars book reviews to the site so what better way to start than with a Halloween theme? Plus, this book actually dove-tails into the next game that I’m going to review. I’m talking about Parasite Eve, a very popular Playstation game from 1998. Many gamers will be familiar with the title. But did you know that the game is actually the sequel to a Japanese horror novel? Well, once I learned this I decided to pick up an English language version of the book so I would have the full backstory going into the game.

Up front, I’m going to tell you that this review is going to be very spoiler-filled. There’s not really a way I can find to discuss this book without ruining the story. So, if you’d prefer to read the novel completely blind, this is your warning….

Parasite Eve is a strange book. In a nutshell, the whole concept of the novel is that the mitochondria in our cells are actually intelligent parasites that have been using humanity for a symbiotic relationship while they wait for mankind to become powerful enough to be worthy of a takeover. The book follows a scientist who loses his wife in a car accident. The mitochondria in his body influence him subconsciously to donate her kidneys for research. At the same time, the mitochondria in the body of a young girl who recently received another kidney transplant, influence her to stop taking her medication, causing her new donor kidney to be rejected.  The idea here is that she will ultimately receive the dead wife’s kidney… because you see, the body chemistry of the two women is perfect for breeding a new human/mitochondria hybrid that will take over humanity and rule the world. It’s actually quite a bit more complicated than that, but that’s close enough. Weird, huh?

The premise is actually pretty interesting and for the most part the book is very well done. However, it does tend to get very dry and technical at times. I feel like the author actually has a real background in the field and decided to share his knowledge in the form of a horror novel. In doing so, he tends to over-explain and use a tad too much technical jargon for my taste. In many places, it tends to drag the story down. Then again, being a translated a novel, a good portion of this might have a lot to do with localization. It’s always difficult to translate a novel from one language to another and keep the same flow and momentum as the original author. With that in mind, I find the pacing of the book to be easy to forgive.

Even so, the book has a weird feel to it. It starts off odd, but very believable. The theory of a self-aware mitochondria is certainly fantastic and science fiction, but it’s presented in a way that’s believable. Then, literally in the turn of a page, we drive right off the cliff into complete Japanese weirdness. The story goes from science-based fiction to a total acid trip of monstrous proportions. There are literally giant vaginas made of rebellious mitochondria trying to eat people – completely out of nowhere. It was not at all what I was expecting.  It is the sum of every weird alien anime you’ve ever seen put to paper.

That being said, it was quite an interesting read. I found it to be oddly appropriate for the season, albeit a bit more disgusting that actually frightening.  I’ve certainly never come across anything like it.

All in all, this is not a book that I can recommend for the general public. But perhaps fans of the video game series would be take interest in the novel. The games were tremendously popular, so I’m very curious now to see how the story presented in this book can continue in game form.

Story: Very unique and interesting concept. A bit laggy at times, but considering it is a translated novel, very well done. Certainly a refreshing concept, but ultimately a gross and horrific story. Not for everyone.

Recommended:  For fans of the Parasite Eve series and folks who like Japanese alien manga. But general readers might have a hard time digesting this one.

 

Other Reviews In This Series:

Parasite Eve (Novel) –  Parasite Eve  –  Parasite Eve II   –  The 3rd Birthday