When you think of the RPG greats that Square Soft (now Square Enix) was putting out in the great days of the original PlayStation, quite a few come to mind. Final Fantasy VII, VIII, IX, Xenogears, and Front Mission are always the first named. But Parasite Eve was quite an underrated game, being a sequel to the book Parasite Eve. The game was to continue the story into a video game format. Unfortunately, while great, the game never took off, and the series slowly faded away.
However, we are talking about the first game! and that is why I am writing this little note here. This game has a "True" ending if you play through the game a second time and scale the Chrysler Building. This ending is never hinted towards, however, so to explain to first-time players, I will be covering the "Normal Ending."
The game wastes no time and throws you right in. Our heroine, Aya Brea, a New York Police Officer, is dragged on a date with a random guy or fellow officer (never specifies) who is quite ego-driven and annoying, to the opera on Christmas Eve. Shortly after you both take your seats and the show begins, the actress Melissa Pearce goes into her singing segment of the show; as she does so, she suddenly changes as the opera house is absorbed in flames.
Everyone around you is catching fire besides you and Melissa. Once you push your way to the stage, she introduces herself as "Eve" and repeats many times that "Soon, your mitochondria will awaken." And to stop further spoilers, that is where we will cut the story segment.
However, it is easy to say that this is probably one of the most unique stories you will experience on the system.
Visually, Parasite Eve was crafted very deliberately, the elegant opera house, the beat-up streets in SoHo, and the odd surreal look of Chinatown. Everything in the game looks great, and the developers really went in the style of Resident Evil by using pre-rendered backgrounds to be able to up the quality of the environments, and to also take that load off the console, so they could focus all of it into the game's models.
One small detail I noticed and enjoyed was that while the game has the camera pulled back and you wouldn't really pay attention to it, the guns all have slightly different models. Detail, and the attention to, seemed very important.
The cutscenes are sadly where the visual quality degrades; some scenes look great! using tight angles and close-ups in an attempt to hide artifacts and other errors from video compression. But when the game needs to show a large landscape, that is when you start to see quite a bit of issues with compression problems.
But, I excuse that for a PlayStation game, because of the media limitations it had, cutscenes had to be compressed to fit on a small CD.
The sound is sadly quite limited in this game; you don't get unique sounds for each gun like you would usually think, they feel rather flat, and the battle music is really only one track repeated over and over. But, the music in the cutscenes is fantastic, a mix of opera, metal, and orchestral that all just meshes together in a really unique and odd soundtrack, that I wouldn't hesitate to buy on a CD if it were available.
No voice acting in this one, but that was quite the standard for games in this era, especially RPG games. I can let that one pass.
This game was released when I was five years old, and with the exception of science terms and hard-to-understand language at times, the game is easy to learn and grasp. The game's combat system plays much like Chrono Trigger. You have to let your Active Time charge, and once it does, you can choose between Attack or Magic (in this case it would be firing your gun or use your EVE powers). By abandoning the take-turn battle system of Final Fantasy, you can also move along the field while you wait, and dodge enemy attacks.
Weapons, armor, upgrading, and using EVE (in a fight or not) will all be done in the menu. As you play, you earn EXP and will automatically unlock skills as you go. However, you also use BP (Battle Points) to upgrade the abilities of your weapons or armor. Aya can level up all the way to LV.99, but, you can breeze past the game around level 33-35 as you will unlock Liberate, and can easily take down bosses with the ability.
The most enjoyable feature of the game is customization. Weapons all have their own stats and weapons effects, and by use of tools, you can remove them and put them on a weapon you would rather use. This also applies to armor, and can allow you to make Aya an absolute tank for future playthroughs.
BP (Battle Points) can be sunk straight into your weapon stats or into Aya herself, making your Active Battle or EVE gauge charge faster. But once you start leveling up your gear, it really doesn't matter, and you can brute force even the toughest foes.
I was able to play this when I was five. The game is extremely well made and makes sure you know what you are doing before the going gets tough. With that said, however, it never holds your hand, and most things are taught through believable dialogue, which is nice. It never feels unfair and mixes challenge and reward in a very satisfying way.
With the ability to max Aya's stats out, completely overpower your guns and armor, a second secret ending, and hidden weapons. Parasite Eve will have you come back way more than once to see what you missed.
Since it was one of the lesser-known games out of the Square Soft vault, I wasn't expecting very much when I decided to pop this in. However, the beautiful game design, easy to understand game mechanics, and a story that feels cinematic. Aya and Melissa's fight to see who the superior being is will always bring me back for another play, and probably very soon.
The Chrysler Building bonus is quite boring
Easy to Learn
Extremely short for an RPG
Fun weapon modding system