Much like Shadow Hearts, Parasite Eve is another game that I never played but have a tremendous fondness for. I watched the first game on YouTube, and later read a far more convenient screenshot Let’s Play of it. All credit for screenshots used in this post goes to the latter.
[EDIT: Another LP has since been done with higher quality screenshots and videos.]
With the threequel – The 3rd Birthday on the way, now seemed like a good time to talk about the game.
NYPD officer Aya Brea is enjoying an evening out at an opera around the Christmas holidays. Suddenly, performers around one singer begin to spontaneously combust, then the audience begin to burn too.
The survivors retreat, but Aya, mysteriously unaffected, confronts the singer on the stage, who mutates and refers to herself as Eve.
Aya gives chase but eventually loses her in the sewers, while fighting mutating animals in the wake of Eve. This chaos soon spreads around Manhattan.
Aya – who is developing strange abilities akin to Eve – and her partner Daniel (think Glover) run around the city chasing any leads they have on the seemingly supernatural occurrences and how Aya is connected to it all.
Shadow Hearts had an interesting use of real world settings in a pre-World War 1 setting, Parasite Eve gives similarly you a real sense of place in modern day (well, 1997) New York. You explore Manhattan via a basic map screen, occasionally getting to choose where to go next or first.
But the use of real world locations and occasional hints of non-linearity really help ground the science-fiction storyline as one extraordinary element in the very world we know.
The science aspect of the story is about mitochondria essentially evolving. The game is complete with biological infodumps about how mitochondria provide energy for the entire human body and how the heat they can generate could cause spontaneous combustion.
A lot of the ideas are based on real science, even if there is a considerable dose of Plot Magic involved. It makes for a pretty compelling storyline either way.
Its actually a sequel to a Japanese novel of the same name, that used interesting premise of sentient mitochondrial evolution. Fortunately, the game gives you all the requisite background information relating to the book.
The game has an nice little supporting cast, between Aya’s partner Daniel, his family, the duo at the Police station who deal in weaponry for Aya, the scientist with the hilariously evil name (Dr. Hans Klamp) and so on.
The game doesn’t provide rich character development or deep characterisation, but it does present you with a likeable and fairly memorable bunch.
It gives us some nice little moments such as the following lines from Aya and the foreign scientist Maeda when Daniel decides to shoot the door of a gun store open, after the city had been evacuated:
Maeda (to Daniel): “Are… are you really a cop?”
Aya: “We think so. But we don’t have scientific proof, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Another similarity to Shadow Hearts, the game has a classic survival horror atmosphere, essentially being Squaresoft’s take on Resident Evil. It has action set pieces (like the museum dinosaur display animated by mitochondrial ooze), some grotesque imagery and it also has quiet moments of loneliness and claustrophobia in abandoned environments.
You even read files to fill in the story. Not to mention the good ol’ pre-rendered backgrounds that add atmosphere and keep the Playstation 1 graphics from looking too dire.
Parasite Eve would actually be an ideal candidate for the Top 5 games that COULD make great movies. The characters, the plot, the setpieces, it’s all very adaptable. Maybe just cut the ending a little earlier.
Mainly, I just want to see the epic part where the character jumps out of a helicopter, bursts into flames, throws an ammo magazine to Aya and then crashes into the river – in live action.
As for Parasite Eve 2: that was not so impressive. Most of the game took place in one location and the plot ended up involving a lot of cliché comic book nonsense with clones, robots, a love interest and a conspiracy that went all the way to the preside-ZZZzzzzzzzzzzz
The newest game: The 3rd Birthday is to involve time travel and combining tentacle monsters with clothes-shredding technology.
A long way to fall for a refreshingly modest protagonist who spent most of her début in jeans, a t-shirt and a leather jacket. Evidently Square-Enix is bringing their usual quality.
The first Parasite Eve had a lot going for it and may be worth checking out, even just in LP form as I can’t comment on the gameplay quality. It’s just a shame nothing else lived up to its legacy.