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Parasite Eve II (PlayStation) artwork

Parasite Eve II (PlayStation) review


"People take Parasite Eve’s story too seriously. I remember my scientist friend getting all worked up because the game was perpetuating what she called a “biased view of the medical certainties of Mitochondria.” On the other extreme, my dorky high school friend became convinced, after playing the first game, that if he could get his metabolism high enough he would gain super powers. The conversations that ensued from such passionate beliefs were often, to say the least, baffling. To sa..."



People take Parasite Eve’s story too seriously. I remember my scientist friend getting all worked up because the game was perpetuating what she called a “biased view of the medical certainties of Mitochondria.” On the other extreme, my dorky high school friend became convinced, after playing the first game, that if he could get his metabolism high enough he would gain super powers. The conversations that ensued from such passionate beliefs were often, to say the least, baffling. To say the most, they were idiotic.

So before we start this review, I just want to remind readers that this is a game where one of the reoccurring enemies wields a gunblade and taunts main female Aya Brea with such creative gold as:

“You gonna kill me? Our Mitochondria will have the last laugh!”

No they won’t. Long after you’ve decimated my poor frail female body I will still be laughing at the ridiculousness of what you’ve just said. Thankfully, Parasite Eve 2’s group-of-mad-scientists plot is largely inconsequential and rarely gets in the way of the actual game. So forget that nonsense. Let’s get down to the fun stuff.

Place yourself in the role of a hunter. Your prey is a freakish four-legged beast with a disturbingly human face and equally human intellect. You’ve tracked it to a small parking area outside of a dusty desert motel and can see it sleeping in the shade, conserving its energy. The creature is nocturnal, so you have the drop on it. You check your clip of rifle ammo: running low, but enough to take out the target. However, you also know that these creatures always travel in packs. Now you’ve got to ask yourself... should you run close and try to get a killing hit on the exposed creature before it wakes up? Or should you hold back and fire off a few shots to see if it’s got any buddies around, waiting in ambush? There’s other options, too: you could get a few shots off and then use your Mitochondrion powers to boost your stats, setting up for a longer, but probably safer combat. Or you could take no chances, equip your biggest guns, and go in blasting. You won’t save any ammo, but you won’t be taking any damage, either.

This is what Parasite Eve 2 is like at its best. The player is planning out their every encounter using information they’ve learned over the course of the game; trying to account for all the possibilities; trying to find the perfect fit for each situation.

At its worst Parasite Eve 2 plays more like its opening. The whole time you’re running through the tutorial target range, you’ll be careening into walls, getting stuck on corners, and struggling to get Aya to use her auto-targeting system to fire at the most pressing threat. “God, I’m glad these things aren’t attacking me,” will be the foremost thought in your mind. Confidence is further boosted when the range operator helpfully reminds you, “if this was for real, you’d be dead...”

Thankfully, with a little practice Parasite Eve 2 will more often resemble the first scenario. Yes, dodging is hell in Parasite Eve 2. So is trying to quick change your target. There’s no denying these things. But there is the possibility of working around them. Indeed, doing so is a key component of what makes the game fun. The successful gamer will quickly learn that Parasite Eve 2 rewards good planning. Running half-cocked into a situation expecting to improvise or finesse your way out of it will usually result in nothing more than a quick death, or at least a major waste of resources as you try to fight toe-to-toe with enemies that are more versatile and more numerous than you. But lead your opponents into tight spaces and you’ll be able to take them on one at a time, bypassing any targeting issues. Strike them from behind or with the right Mitochondrion power and you’ll knock them off their feet with a critical blow, a much more effective tactic then dodging. The developers couldn’t fix the poor control scheme that was standard for the time that Parasite Eve 2 came out, but they didn’t ignore the issue either, instead making it an integral part of the tactical challenge. The best moments in the game come from cleverly finding ways around your character’s limitations.

Unfortunately, there are some factors you can’t plan around, at least not without extensive help from gamefaqs. Upgrading your Mitochondrion powers, for instance. The ability Necrosis doesn’t seem particularly useful as per its description: “Discharges electricity. Decent range.” What that description doesn’t tell you is that Necrosis is one of the only powers that can hit multiple enemies in a line. There’s absolutely no way you would know this until after you’d spent the experience to unlock the power and then tried it out blindly in combat. Even then, it might be a while before you realize that it can poison enemies, making it undeniably one of the better powers in the game.

Similarly, shooter and survival horror fans alike may find themselves drawn to the shotgun as a standard weapon of choice. After all, in the history of survival horror, there has rarely been a better way to remove the entrails from an attacking monster than with a couple of rounds of buckshot. However, those who purchase one will have been unknowingly scammed... the assault rifle costs only a little more and is infinitely more useful, doing more damage and being capable of equipping upgrades such as a bayonet, an electric discharger, and (wait for it) a laser gun. In fact, the shotgun becomes a major deficit if purchased. It’s incredibly slow and does about the same damage as a handgun but costs much more to keep stocked on ammo. Its only real benefit is that it can hit a large number of enemies if they are packed close together, something Necrosis can do more effectively. While it’s disappointing on a personal level that the shotgun sucks, the real problem is that none of this is apparent from weapon descriptions or the given statistics. It’s something you simply have to waste hard-earned cash on in order to discover.

The biggest grievance, though, the thing that makes me think this was all a sick joke, is the fact that some items cannot be identified until after you have used them. Some of the best recovery items in the game come in the form of these unidentified medicines and concoctions. You may very well end up drinking one, thinking that it restores Mitochondrion powers, only to discover that it is Ringer’s Solution and you just used it to heal 2 points of damage. Oh, you mean you didn’t want to waste the best healing item in the game healing 2 points of damage? Sorry, guess you should’ve saved before drinking that.

Then there’s the game endings. Parasite Eve 2 has three endings, two of which can be described as decent and a third that can only be described as “the shitty ending.” The problem is, getting these endings is reliant on things that, at best, can be described as “unclear.” For instance, not beating one of the first boss fights within a certain amount of time will result inevitably in the shitty ending. To beat the fight within the time limit, you’ll need to have bought a grenade launcher and a sufficient amount of ammo at some point. It’s not clear that you’ll need to do this or that beating the boss within a certain time is even a goal, at least not until you’ve messed up once and played an entire game just to receive a terrible ending. My first time through the game, I missed a good thirty percent of the story by simply not solving a certain puzzle at the right moment in the game. While some might consider that a blessing in disguise, it wasn’t intentional on my part. Solving the puzzle when I was first presented with it seemed impossible and also very much like a side-quest. It wasn’t clear that it was supposed to be a key part of the plot. If I’m going to skip a third of my B-rate horror film, I want it to be my choice, dammit.

That’s the main problem with Parasite Eve 2. Without a game guide, the kind of experience a player has their first time through seems based on luck. Those lucky enough to make the right choices will find themselves playing an enjoyable game. Those who make the wrong choices will find their playthrough to be laden with frustration. In combat, the games finds a nice balance between these emotions, as you learn to make right choices and become a more effective hunter. The good news is that most of the game consists of combat. The bad news is that the rest of the game consists of everything else.

Rating: 6/10

zippdementia's avatar
Community review by zippdementia (April 04, 2010)

Zipp has spent most of his life standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door. There is a small mailbox there. Sometimes he writes reviews and puts them in the mailbox.

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randxian posted April 12, 2010:

In terms of content, this is as good as any review submitted this week. There are certainly enough details and examples to give me a clear idea of exactly how this game works.

While the intro is certainly amusing, it doesn't provide any sense of direction. As a result, I had no idea what to expect from the main body.

Also, I feel that while it is certainly informative, at times it felt presented in a haphazard, jumbled manner. The review never really established a good, consistent flow.

Just my two cents. It's still a darn good review, and I certainly appreciate how you explain how the game can screw you over by making you inadvertently waste the best items in the game.
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zippdementia posted April 12, 2010:

Thanks for the feedback! I think you hit upon the same areas that I was dissatisfied with, but that I was too close to the review to really put into words.

That's great! I'm glad someone came along and clarified it because now I can see that, yes, indeed it is the flow which is missing from this piece. Hmmm... I'll have to ponder how best to approach that in a subsequent review. Probably would help to go back to a more structured approach, with a clear thesis.

Your advice here was much appreciated.
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WilltheGreat posted April 19, 2010:

Decimated?

Decimated!?

DECIMATED!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Anyway that last line is comedy gold.
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zippdementia posted April 19, 2010:

In this case, decimate actually works, considering the opponent has a sword ^_^
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fleinn posted April 20, 2010:

It's strange. I played Parasite Eve and had the exact same experience. It didn't really make sense, it annoyed me, the combat wasn't perfect. But it had these tense moments that just made up for everything.

..I don't think this was an easy review to write, even if it looks that way.
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zippdementia posted April 20, 2010:

That's a huge compliment right there. Thank you, it wasn't easy to write!
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overdrive posted April 22, 2010:

As per thy request on the "I BEAT YOU AND OTHER PEOPLE" thread:

I really liked this review for the most part. My one main qualm would be the "place yourself in the role of a hunter" paragraph. It kinda comes off as a FAQ-y kind of thing due to how many "or this could happen" examples in it.

But you did a great job of bringing up the many problems my best friend and I had the one day we were trying to play through it. And, as I'm trying to finish off Star Ocean: Till the End of Time right now, I definitely can feel your pain with not knowing what skills are useful. I broke down and looked at a FAQ to find which ones were best for my three main characters today. The game's much more fun now.
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zippdementia posted April 22, 2010:

I hope you review that game. I'll be sure to check it out, if you do.

Thanks for the feedback! I don't love that line, either. I'm working on my subtlety.
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fleinn posted April 22, 2010:

..oh, that's easy. You simply lie, just not about important things :p
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zippdementia posted April 22, 2010:

I love this man with the Sephiroth avatar. He speaks truth.

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