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Parasite Eve II (PlayStation) artwork

Parasite Eve II (PlayStation) review

"I still remember the day I heard about this game called Parasite Eve II. A friend of mine was selling it for five bucks, and seeing as I had just purchased a Playstation and had only one game for it, I thought, why not. I think I got a pretty good deal right there, that day. "

I still remember the day I heard about this game called Parasite Eve II. A friend of mine was selling it for five bucks, and seeing as I had just purchased a Playstation and had only one game for it, I thought, why not. I think I got a pretty good deal right there, that day.

The game drew my attention because it sounded unique. It was described to me ''as an Action Adventure game, combining the best of the RPG (like, Final Fantasy) and survival horror (like, Silent Hill) genres.'' Once I had all those terms explained to me, I was intrigued, and took a look.

In Parasite Eve II, you continue the role of Aya Brea. If you've played the previous game in the series, you will know all about Aya and her unique features - namely, her mitochondria. Science buffs will love the idea of these neo-mitochondria that Aya possesses, and the storyline in general, as it's all grounded in (stretched) biological fact. Picking up where PE1 left off, Aya has joined a special new department of the FBI, known as MIST. MIST are dedicated to the detection and elimination of NMCs, or neo-mitochondrian creatures... oh, Aya isn't the only thing with these freakish mitochondria, but she seems to be the only one that uses them for good.

One night, MIST recieves a call from the Akropolis Tower, reporting an outbreak of NMCs. They send in Aya, everyone's favorite bounty hunter, and Rupert, an Barret-wannabe with a chip on his shoulder. All hell has broken loose, and it's just the start of things to come - follow Aya as she solves the mystery behind the outbreak, and sets off on a subsequent adventure into a seemingly-empty desert town.

Sounds interesting, right? For the most part, it is, but at times it can become tedious and slightly confusing, as so much goes assumed or unexplained. It starts off strong, but gradually loses track of its intended direction... and at the end, when everything wraps up into a tight little package, the first thing that will pop into most player's heads is 'what the...?' Aya is the only playable character in the game, therefore the most developed (in terms of temperament and background, not physique!), but NPCs such as Pierce, Kyle, and Rupert are sadly lacking in the personality and purpose department. The storyline itself is intriguing, and a quality storyline in it's own right (it will keep you hooked to determine just who is the driving force behind everything), but it pales in comparison to the original game. Nothing can quite compare to the spellbinding storyline of Aya learning of and controlling her own neo-mitochondria, while also saving the world in her spare time. It tries, and it's still good, but not quite up to scratch.

The graphics in PE2 are top-notch for their age, and rival any 3D game created for the PSX, even FF9 (which came out some time after.) Sticking to the tradition at the time, the pre-rendered backgrounds are beautiful and lifelike (better than FF8, and the graphics for that game are much applauded!), and one will appreciate the effort that has been put in to create effects such as an old decrepit town, or a rooftop museum. For the characters, graphic glitches are unfortunately abound (try making Aya carry the Hypervelocity gun around, for instance, that thing's bigger than she is), and jagged edges are painfully visible in cut-scenes. However, the FMVs are beautiful, but too few and far between. They do contain something for everyone though - giant beasts stomping things, evil men shooting at people, wars between races, or, most males' personal favorite, Aya taking a shower. *gasp!*

Actual character movements in cut-scenes and FMVs are often overexaggerated, however, as these characters wave their arms about as if they were constantly transmitting semaphore. It's funny the first time, but after the tenth time Aya gestures wildly for no apparent reason, it gets irritating. (She has Japanese heritage, not Italian, therefore she isn't supposed to talk with her hands!) Once you can get past that comedic point, most things are simply fantastic in terms of graphics.

Such good things can not be said about the sound, unfortunately. No voice acting is included, except for the odd ''Freeze!'' or scream, which makes you wonder why those precious few were included in the first place. Granted, I've never seen full voice acting in a PSX game, but in a game with this little dialogue, spanning two discs, couldn't Square have made an exception? Sound effects are spot-on, and hearing things like Aya's footsteps echoing throughout the Square is just eerie. I also love the effects each of the NMC enemies uses, a smart person/semi-veteran of the game could tell exactly what enemies they were fighting without even seeing them. The high-pitched squeal of a Stalker, the almost-meowing of a Scavenger, or the snort of a Chaser, it's all brilliantly executed.

But in terms of music, a focal point of most RPGs (or in this case, Action Adventure, PE2 IS NOT A RPG I TELL YOU), PE2 falls flat on its face. There basically is none. I'm really disappointed with Square in this area, because I'm the type of fangirl that collects official soundtracks of games and the like. Let me tell you, on the PE2 soundtrack, there are only one or two decent tracks, most notably the Chase theme. All music in the game is in the background, ambient, designed not to be noticed. Some of it doesn't differ far from elevator music, and most people I know hate elevator music. The tracks do fit the game, such as a slow sleepy western-ish tune for Dryfield, but it's simply not memorable. A good game will have me humming or singing its songs long after I turn the game off. PE2 does not fit in this category.

While the storyline and other parts may not be the most interesting thing ever, the gameplay IS. The gameplay in PE2 is outstanding, and will be the reason you come back to play this game, again and again and again. It's the reason I have beaten this game no less than 16 times (yes, I have no life whatsoever). It's exactly the right mix of RPG and survival horror, something I would very much like to see carried over to another game, be it a sequel or a new game entirely.

Random battles, levelling up, and treasure chests (all RPG stalwarts) are not included. PE2 keeps the idea of set battles, and every time you enter a new room, there is either a battle to be fought there or there isn't. (I've already documented the time and place of all 330-so battles in the game, fear me.) In some extent copying from Chrono Trigger, in most cases you can see your enemies before you get into battle, therefore can simply avoid some of them. Battles themselves, once in them, are survival horror style - no ATB (thank GOD), and Aya can roam wherever she wishes while pumping lead into her hapless enemies. However, she can't just walk away from battles unless she wants to escape, like an RPG, by exiting the room she is battling in.

Because there's no levelling, there's a lot more strategy involved in battles than most RPGs. While the curse of being underlevelled for battles has been removed, it also makes it a lot harder to know what to do if you can't manage to defeat a certain boss (the idea of ''Just level up for 6 hours! That's what I always do!'' no longer applies.) It's also relatively hard, for a new gamer, to be totally overpowered, no matter how hard they practice, as the only customizations to be made to Aya's persona are things like weapons, armour, attachments to her armour, and Parasite Energies.

Parasite Energy also makes a welcome return from PE1. Storyline says that Aya's freakish mitochondria have given her the power to harness great amounts of energy for various purposes, named PE. Basically, to any RPG fan, PE is your magic, and uses up MP accordingly. PE is the only activity in the game that does use an ATB, to charge the spell, but it's nothing like the charge time for a turn in a normal RPG. Different PEs can be revived and levelled up (whoops, I lied, there IS some levelling up, excuse me) using EXP, and like most RPGs, EXP is gained from winning battles. PEs are divided according to four classes - fire, water, wind and earth - and one could argue that there's something in there for everyone :)

So one could argue that fighting battles does give you the ability to overpower, by levelling up PE. BP, the currency from the game, are also won from battles, and allow you to get better weaponry and armour. In theory, this works, but because there is only a set number of battles, it doesn't, sorry :-P

One sticking point is the controls though. In my opinion, Square did a masterful job of squishing the buttons for two different game genres onto one controller, coming up with a result very similar to Resident Evil controls. I don't have a problem with them, as they come quite naturally to me, but I know that a lot of 'cross-over' RPG players do find the idea that up moves you forward (for example, it seems to be the main problem), instead of up on the map, a bit daunting and hard to get used to. Just something that maybe deserves to get a mention.

Like most survival horror games, Parasite Eve II suffers in being quite short, even though it does span two discs. (I'm not sure what all the extra space was used for either.) A first time gamer could make it quite comfortably through the game in seven or eight hours, a whiz-bang expert like myself can make it through, killing everything and basically completing a perfect game, in a little over four. Luckily, it redeems itself when it comes to replayability - something RPGs and survival horror games usually deflate a little on. You can repeat the game however many number of times on the same save, and unlock bonus weapons (some unimaginably overpowered, like the Gunblade) and extra modes of play. This is where the challenge factor comes in - each new mode is significantly harder, from Normal (first playthrough), to Replay, to Bounty, to Scavenger, cultimating in the horrendous Nightmare mode that is not for the faint hearted. (I love it!)

If you liked the original game in the series, you will love the new gameplay twist that has come with the sequel. If you're a RPG or SH fan, it will appeal to you, and is greatly underrated as it's another strong title in Square's impressive line-up. Buy it, and do yourself a favour.


karpah's avatar
Community review by karpah (June 20, 2004)

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