Parasite Eve successfully presents science fiction in a concise but rewarding RPG experience and, as such, is a classic game that should not only be remembered by fans but explored by newcomers as well.
I first mentioned Parasite Eve in my Top 5 NYC Games article a few weeks ago. Released in 1998 by Square, Parasite Eve successfully stole my attention for a while from Resident Evil 2. Set in New York City, Parasite Eve follows the ordeal of Aya Brea, a 25 year-old rookie police officer who can only watch as people around her succumb to spontaneous combustion and other horrible deaths seemingly caused by a woman who identifies herself as Mitochondrial Eve. Aya must stop this mysterious entity and figure out why she is immune to Eve’s onslaught.
What type of game is Parasite Eve? As it is a 1998 Square title, it shouldn’t be surprising that Parasite Eve is an RPG. For an RPG, however, it is rather unorthodox. Firstly, Parasite Eve’s modern setting is somewhat atypical for a role playing game. I have usually come across games that feature a fantasy setting, although it must be said that some other games such as Earthbound also take place in modern times. In my opinion, I think a modern-day setting is something that needs to be featured in more RPGs.
Intriguingly Parasite Eve is not an intimidating RPG title. The concepts of weapon upgrades and modifications as well as the use of Aya’s special Parasite Energy abilities are straightforward. I have mentioned in previous articles that I am not much of an RPG fan. Though I am intrigued by some of the mechanics presented in typical RPG titles, at times I am a bit put off by the demands imposed by some of their side quests. Thus, Parasite Eve could serve as an introduction to RPG elements for gamers unfamiliar with them. In addition, Parasite Eve is rather short, which, in my opinion, also allows the game to be accessible to non-RPG players. Here I must state that RPG fans have criticized the game for its brevity. Nevertheless, the 77-floor gauntlet included in the EX game feels like a more typical RPG element.
It is important to state that some of the imagery in the game was appropriately disturbing and grotesque. As I said in my NYC article, it was particularly unsettling to see New York ultimately evacuated thanks to Eve. Also, seeing the transformations that some of the creatures underwent was at times disturbing and even heartbreaking.
In addition, though this title is ultimately steeped in science fiction, this game instilled in me an interest in biology. Having since read the novel which serves as a prequel to the game, I had become fascinated with those tiny energy-producing mitochondria and was curious to learn more about their origins. Who said video games couldn’t be educational or stimulating?
Parasite Eve was the first in a trilogy of games. Are the sequels just as good as the original? To put it lightly, I am not a fan of the game’s sequels. There was a particular spirit to the first game that was largely ignored in the second game in favor of a more Resident Evil-like feel. Though this might seem ironic coming from a diehard Resident Evil fan, it truly isn’t. The bottom line is: if I want to play a Resident Evil-like game, I will play Resident Evil. I don’t need Parasite Eve for that. Though some gamers enjoyed the second game, it is safe to say that the third installment in the series alienated most fans. The third game completely threw me for a loop as well. Featuring a rather convoluted story dealing with time travel, any elements of the original game that were at least somewhat preserved in the second game were completely lost in the third entry. Perhaps it is appropriate that the third game in the trilogy is merely called The Third Birthday and does not feature Parasite Eve in the title. Sadly, Parasite Eve 2 and The Third Birthday remind me that the amazing quality presented by the first game was never properly expanded upon.
From science fiction to weapon customization to an amazing soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura, Parasite Eve is a game that has it all. Intrigue, suspense, drama, heartbreak and even fear are all interweaved in Aya’s six-day saga. Thus, if you haven’t had a chance to experience Parasite Eve, I would strongly recommend you do so as soon as you can.