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Parasite Eve (PlayStation) artwork

Parasite Eve (PlayStation) review

"Particularly nice in the opening scene is a pan across the Statue of Liberty rendered so beautifully, yet bearing a disturbingly sad look upon its face... the setting is so quiet and calm that you just know something horrible is going to happen."

Most of the time when a Square game earns a rating below 60%, the review is accompanied by a lamentation of Square's "downfall" or rantings (often in very harsh language) describing how "over-rated" Square is. Say what you will, but Square has produced some very, very good games.

Parasite Eve is not one of them.

When you first begin, a beautiful CG (that's "computer graphics" for the technospeak-impaired) introduction establishes a frantic, race-against-time mood, showing a lot of exciting scenes running from explosions and the like punctuated by a very nice musical number. Following that, the actual game begins, and you are treated to another, darker and more foreboding, CG cutscene. Particularly nice in this scene is a pan across the Statue of Liberty rendered so beautifully, yet bearing a disturbingly sad look upon its face... the setting is so quiet and calm that you just know something horrible is going to happen.

That something horrible would consist of rats mutating into flesh-eating beasts, throngs of people spontaneously combusting, and general chaos sweeping across New York City. All of this sounds really fun which underscores the remarkable achievement that somehow, the game manages to still be incredibly boring!

"Hey, the team that made Final Fantasy 7 couldn't go wrong!"

I could argue about whether this is actually the team that made FF7 (it's not, despite what the original release's box implied) but even if it were, that still wouldn't make this game good. After that series of introductory graphics, I expected some action. I got something else entirely: a scene unbearably slow, much like the rest of the game.

The tedium begins outside an opera house. You take the role of Aya Brea, NYPD detective. Basically she's a hot chick, which is a major selling point for this title. You doubt me? Simply look at the pre-release artwork, with pictures such as Aya wearing nothing but an unbuttoned jacket (letting plenty of bare-skinned "mmmhmmmmmm baby!" show), Of course, none of this appears in the game itself.

When you're done ogling the strategy guide and magazine previews, you can return to the tedium of the game. Aya Brea waits outside the opera house, on a date with Weenie Man (Aya I am so glad you agreed to go on a date with me! Aya you are so wonderful! Aya this, Aya that gah, this schmuck gives men a bad name). The first thing you do, assuming the role of Aya, is talk to your date while gesticulating wildly in the process. I understand the desire to mimic human behavior, but normal humans occasionally speak without waving their arms in the air at each and every syllable, and normal humans don't take ten minutes to finish waving their arms in the air.

Once that conversation ends, you then enter the opera house. This is a good time to learn the "walk" button. Square calls it the "run" button in the instruction manual, a misnomer indeed. If you try to move without holding the button down, Aya does her best imitation of a three-toed sloth (which, until Square published this game, was the slowest mammal in the world). Considering the limited amount of time she has to save the human race, you'd think Aya would pick up the pace a bit. Maybe (like me) she's bored too!

Eventually, you reach the halfway point between the car and the doors to the opera house.

Well after that, you reach the doors to the opera house and slowly open them, at which point you are treated to a real-time bit of theatre. While the characters on stage speak slowly, move slowly, and gesticulate wildly (like everyone else in the game), this scene is actually convincing, as such behavior is normal for an opera. I would be impressed with the attention to detail in creating such a realistic mimicry of operatic overacting, but for the fact that every single character for the rest of the game waves their arms like crazed madmen (or madwomen), even when saying something completely normal like "would you like me to treat your wounds?" or "the paper is on the table".

After the real-time cutscene, a CG cutscene follows. Be prepared for a lot of cutscenes in this game. To describe more would be a spoiler, but it's pretty cool. After the extensive drama comes to a pause, Aya once again gets to "walk-but-Square-calls-it-run" around the theatre until she engages in her first battle.

And now this is the good part of the game!

Yes, the battle system is actually fun! Aya must dart around her foes, dodging vicious attacks, while waiting for her energy gauge to fill. Once enough power gathers in the little onscreen meter, a tap of the attack button lets you select her target. Tap again to launch an attack: a sharp blow with a police billyclub, a shot from a pistol, or even a LAW rocket (that's gotta hurt!). Aya can also use "parasite energy" (most people would call it magic, but we all know magic isn't real) to do things such as heal herself or hurl fireballs oops, I mean, throw Parasite Energy Shots.

"HAHAHA, I laugh at your puny, mortal weapons!"

As you progress in the game, you can upgrade your weapons and armor. There are simple powerups (things like +1 attack, that surprise! lets your gun deal 1 additional damage) and there are more complex powerups. For example, you can add such realistic attributes as "cyanide" and "freezing" to your bullets. The only problem is that many monsters are resistant to these damage types often, standard bullets are better.

Unfortunately, it is difficult to remove these abilities from your gun once you have added them (to do so requires a special item). And for foul beasts that are vulnerable to these attacks, the increase in damage is not significant. The entire weapon upgrade system is actually pretty useless, since you're better off by just getting a bigger gun.

Now back to your regularly-scheduled tedium.

Really, there is nothing wrong with applying new names and a fresh outlook on the basic idea of magic. The problem here is that, to anyone who has studied biology, the storyline behind her "powers" (and in fact the storyline to the entire game!) is outrageous. I'd say ludicrous, but it's really not interesting enough to be funny. It's just... wrong. Unfortunately, Square has presented it in such a deadpan manner that I spent most of the gesticulation-filled real-time cutscenes tapping the button, trying desperately to skip to the next bit of dialogue. Unfortunately, the overabundant gesticulating must come to an end before the next sentence of stilted dialogue may begin.

There certainly are some interesting sequences to the game. Although the story is stupid, the CG graphics are very nice. Also, not content to only include random gesticulation, Square also included random gestation. That certainly qualifies as "interesting". Some of the battles are quite fun, in particular the bosses. Unfortunately, the difficulty soars in the latter half of the game (unless you are fortunate enough to discover the secret weapons). Combined with the dull pacing and the painful exploration and excruciatingly slow real-time cutscenes, the difficulty of the bosses makes for a game that can easily be set aside "to be finished later" (although we all know what that really means...)

But if you waste enough of your youth, the game will end.

I actually went to the trouble to finish this game, and it never picks up. After you win, there's even an extra game, where you scale 100 floors of randomly-generated maze. Yay, more slooooow "running" and more insane boss encounters. I can't honestly say I enjoy going up 10 flights only to be killed in three hits (or worse, going up 40 flights so that the game can lock up during the boss battle) And no, the ending is not worth the effort.

Really, this is just a total pile. The opera scene describes the entire game just insert random settings and random marionettes/characters. Parasite Eve stole precious hours from my life that I can never regain. Please don't let it suck your soul as well!


I don't think I said "gesticulation" enough in this review, so I'll say it one more time: gesticulation!

zigfried's avatar
Staff review by Zigfried (Date unavailable)

Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.

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zippdementia posted December 16, 2008:

I get what you mean about the pacing, but I don't think your description of the game is really accurate. The dialouge scenes happen about twice a chapter... once at the beginning, and once at the end. The rest is all exploration and battle. I won't argue with your score, since from your point of view it is definitely justified, and because (outside of the tedium) everything you've said COULD be accurate... but if you tilt your head a bit, it's possible to see this game in a whole other light.
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psychopenguin posted December 18, 2008:

Yeah, I don't really get this review. The game wasn't that poorly paced, and it's a RPG. There's the typical amount of RPG storyline but I wouldn't call it excessive. It relies on several cinematic scenes (the game is called THE CINEMATIC RPG! on the box) but I don't think it was story-driven at all, especially compared to a lot of RPGs on the console. And there's a lot of gameplay to be had.
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zigfried posted December 24, 2008:

Atmosphere and story were the things that would/could -- and to an extent did -- make Parasite Eve notable. By my mind, those are the most important parts of this specific game to look at... and ultimately, aside from some occasional stylishness, it fails. That being said, this review is kind of old (before dates were logged!) so if I wrote it today, I'd probably do a better job of getting that point across.

The gameplay itself was poorly paced. Mainly the character's walking speed and animations were too slow, which made the exploration aspect tedious tedious tedious. The Chrysler Building was a nightmare to complete, but... I felt it was my duty to finish (especially after discovering that the experience meter looped, which allowed me to rocket Aya to insanely high levels of power. Poor design by Square, although I don't think I mentioned that in the review)

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zippdementia posted December 24, 2008:

Ah, that DOES explain it a lot better. You are right, getting from one area to the next takes a long time.
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overdrive posted December 24, 2008:

I'm trying to remember exactly when I gave up on the Chrysler Building and never played this game again. I'm thinking it was one of the boss fights. Was one of them a two-part insect where you had to get it to split up and had to kill one of the two parts and if it joined back together, your progress was wasted and you had to start over? Because it seems like it was something like that which finally broke my will to try playing this game any more.
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zigfried posted December 24, 2008:

I don't remember that one, because my Aya was crazily overpowered by then and didn't fall prey to its devious tricks, but I have heard that there is such a boss.


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