Gaming History 101

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Parasite Eve Review


Parasite Eve was born from the JRPG rush that flooded onto the original Playstation in the West after the success of Final Fantasy VII.  During this time we see many new franchises that never left Japan coming over to the West as well as several franchises from the days of the 16-bit era coming over as enhanced ports on the PS1.  Square Enix, one of the top developers and publishers of JRPGs, decided to create a Western-focused action RPG that was developed by Americans working closely with some of Japan’s top talent.  The result is the survival horror and RPG hybrid Parasite Eve, that doesn’t quite capture the hearts of either fan, but is an undeniably unique title.

Fred’s Take

I remember when Parasite Eve first came out.  At the time I was deeply embedded in the survival horror genre and had just completed Resident Evil 2 while giving Final Fantasy VII a go.  Back then, there was still a lot of judging games by the boxes, only for the first time the boxes showed off actual gameplay footage.  If you get an opportunity to go into a retro store where they have a wall of Playstation, Saturn, or Nintendo 64 games you will notice that all of the game look impressive with initial presentation.  In addition, rental stores were common (Blockbuster Video was dominating in my Chicago suburb) but the selection was random.  It was an awesome, but risky, time.  Thankfully I was able to rent and give Parasite Eve a go.

Parasite_Eve_2Right off the bat I was running around, dodging enemies and bullets, but I couldn’t shoot with the precision I was used to – and by “precision” I’m talking Resident Evil controls!  The ATB system was foreign to me and made me struggle for seemingly arbitrary reasons.  I didn’t like that.  In addition I was getting new weapons and armor left and right, not to mention abilities and items, but it was more complicated than stat tracking with bonus perks, stat modifying, and special effect slots.  Couple that with the super quick first and second day of this game and I just assumed, like many of us did in the world of 80s and 90s gaming, that I just didn’t “get” the game.  Parasite Eve looked awesome, had fantastic cutscenes, and bloody melty creatures, but I wasn’t going to see any of it because it wasn’t the right fit for me.  I’m betting I’m not alone, especially given the response from some of the people writing into the game club, but those that did play and enjoy it back then seem to have a long lasting positive impression of the game.

Tackling it now, I’m much more equipped for the type of title Parasite Eve is and I must admit, I get the appeal and love.  The world is absolutely crazy, transforming New York City into a cesspool of other worldly creatures and modified forms of actual beings like dogs and even dinosaurs.  While deep and not properly explained in-game, the weapons and leveling system is just custom enough to make for some very personal builds in both statistics and weaponry.  I also like the action-based battle system that has you navigating the space, dodging enemies and projectiles, and having to pay attention to range and clip size before acting.  Frankly the turn-based JRPGs I used to love spark me as quite rote these days, the battles being nothing more than a going through the motions in search of more great plot, but with Parasite Eve every random encounter is the moment your heartbeat increases and you have to be on point.  There is a trade off, however, because learning an enemy’s patters or figuring out the trick to dodging and fighting them far surpasses the turn-based stat tracking and dying on a boss is quite commonplace in this title.  Almost every time you die, you will inevitably be brought back a ways, sometimes even having to restart an entire in-game day, with unskippable cutscenes that make it hard to continue on for that session.  Still, the story and physical challenge of the encounter ensures you will be back to fight again soon.

parasite_eve_3I guess that’s the basic dynamic of Parasite Eve as well: a story pushes you along while the challenge keeps you coming back.  Although somewhat complicated, this rebellious mitochondria story doesn’t hold a candle to even some of Square’s earliest titles, so it’s easy enough to follow and retell as our game club podcast suggests.  Unfortunately the biggest setback for this title is the pacing and difficulty spike, which comes at the worst time.  Out of the game’s six days of events, Day 5 is about the halfway point and drags on almost as long as the days before it.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing – day 5 easily has some of my favorite moments – but you almost wonder if the entire game in early production was day 5 and everything else was built around elongating the title.  This would make sense because Parasite Eve clocks in somewhere in the 8-10 hour range, which is super short when compared to the other RPGs coming out in the PS1 for the time.  With that slowed pacing also comes a difficulty spike that transforms that title from cakewalk to aggressive, controller throwing frustration as you traverse through day 5.  Hell, the end of Day 5 is a battle that very well could and probably originally was the final encounter for the game, which comes with it a brutal battle that kept my co-host Jam from completing this game (and he replayed the game with a guide back up to that point in an attempt to finally beat it).  This is somewhat tragic because the events that follow Day 5 wrap up a large portion of the story and give the game some closure, much more than Day 6’s boss rush and “epilogue” feel that really adds nothing to the overarching story.  In the end there’s just a lot of negative vibe surrounding putting 90 percent into a game and being stifled on the home stretch, but such is the nature of many video games.

Parasite Eve is truly a title like no other and whether that is for better or worse will remain unanswered.  While the slowed pacing and difficulty spike do make for some frustrations, even getting to Day 5 comes with it examples of what most of this game has to offer and a decent chunk of the story, so don’t be discouraged even if you don’t beat it.  Not only that, but the re-release on PSN allows you to play and own this game for less than I paid to rent it back in 1998 so your risk:reward ratio is definitely on your side.  You can even take it on the go with both of Sony’s portable consoles, which can make any grinds or setbacks much easier to handle.  It’s worth playing and it’s worth seeing, but it gets brutal near the end.

Final Score: 3 out of 5 (review policy)

Jam’s Take

Parasite Eve was a game that I genuinely wanted to like but unfortunately this was a game that didn’t ultimately agree with me. Before I get to that though I wanted to spend some time discussing what I actually did like about the game.

parasite_eve_4Parasite Eve attempts to loosely blend survival horror gameplay with JRPG elements. When you enter a battle you are fixed in a particular area and you can basically move around and avoid enemy attacks while waiting for your Active Time bar to fill up. After which, you can unleash unholy hell on the enemies. Its just a shame you will mostly be using a pistol to do this. The system works and at times grinding your level up can actually be kinda fun as you figure out the best way to take out specific enemies. As well as pistols you can find other weapons like rifles and rocket launchers. Each have specific statistics in attack power and range and will be better suited to certain battles. You can also upgrade weapons and armour in the game using tools or bonus points which you obtain when you level up.

The graphics have that pixelated Playstation feel, similar to that of Final Fantasy VIII. Since this game was also by Squaresoft (now SquareEnix) that makes a lot of sense. I personally have a lot of nostalgia for these pixelated 3D models stuck in over the top great pre rendered backgrounds. The CGI are more polished but look kinda creepy but since this is a game about monsters mutating maybe that’s the point.

parasite_eve_5So generally Parasite Eve is a pretty cool romp. Then the ending to day 5 happened and my tolerance for this game just up and left. Parasite Eve suffers from a common problem like most games from this era, which I like to call “the point of no return.” What I mean by this is I was playing through Parasite Eve happily to a certain point then the difficulty spiked but it was tolerable. Then I get to the boss at the end of Day 5 and get my ass totally handed to me. No big deal I thought just try again, maybe grind a little, review my strategy. No luck, in fact with each passing attempt I seemed to do worse. So I gave in used a guide to the extent where I restarted the entire game, my mental thinking by this point was that I’m clearly playing the game wrong and the game wants me to play a certain way. I prepare, I tweak my guns, get to the same point which I should mention at this point is obstructed by an outrageously long cutscene and, I do worst than I did on any previous attempts. So for the first time in a GH 101 gameclub I said, “I was done.” It was one of those moments where you reflect and think about all the time you wasted only to still fail. Now I’ll admit I will probably receive comments that I just suck at the game and that’s fine. I just personally felt the design of this game just didn’t throw me a bone and I had no choice but to throw the controller down and turn off the system. Maybe someday I’ll return to the game when I have some spare time. This is the first game in a while I’ve played where I felt the time you invest in the game makes no difference in improvement, which is odd considering it has a level up system. The tutorials are just text boxes that occasionally pop up early on in the game and they did little to direct you. Clearly I was just playing the game wrong but the game does very little to correct you on this.

Overall, I really wanted to like this game but I guess it wasn’t meant to be for this game club. I’m glad I got to finally try this game since it was never released in Europe. The game has unique design with its sorta survival horror mash up with a JRPG, the story is interesting. The game has unforgiving difficulty spikes which will really test your patience as a gamer. Dare I suggest this but if this game had a more casual difficulty setting I may have found it easier to get to grips with how I was supposed to play. I’ve no problem with games being difficult so long I know how to improve but Parasite Eve was just in that level of “what the hell!” for me. Great concept for a game just not executed to appeal to everyone, approach with caution.

Final Score: 2 out of 5

Want more information on how much the game is worth, when it came out, or if it’s available now?  Check out the profile page.

Written by Fred Rojas

July 1, 2015 at 8:00 pm

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