Parasite Eve is an action role-playing game with survival horror elements that was released by Square Co., creators of the acclaimed Final Fantasy series, to the original Sony Playstation game console on March 28th, 1998. The game hit US shores later that year on September 9th. The game may be considered a sequel to Hideaki Sena’s novel of the same name, which was released in Japan in 1995. The novel was also adapted into a film in Japan in 1997. A manga adaptation of the game, entitled Parasite Eve DIVA, was released in 1998.
However, let’s just forget about the novel and the film for a little while. We really aren’t here to talk about them anyway.
In Square’s Parasite Eve, an aspiring actress becomes an angel of death when the mitochondria (structures within the cells of organisms that converts oxygen to energy) in her body decide to take control, replicate, grant her superhuman powers, and determine that it’s time to take over the world! Set during the Christmas season of 1997, the player takes the role of young New York City detective Aya Brea, who must stop the woman from succeeding in her sinister plans, while also discovering that she’s more connected to the case and the assailant than she could have ever imagined.
As the story opens, Aya is being escorted to the opera on Christmas Eve by her nameless date. Even before entering the opera house, things just feel “off” to Aya. Why did she even ask to come here? She’s not a fan of the opera!
The evening’s performance is about a young prince’s forbidden romance with a woman accused of witchcraft. As the the lead actress, a young woman named Melissa, sings her “aria of sorrow”, cast and audience members alike begin to spontaneously combust! The theater quickly becomes a flood of panicked citizens attempting to flee the inferno, many still bursting into flames as they run! And yes… that was a Castlevania reference back there.
Aya confronts Melissa, now referring to herself as “Eve”. Not only does Eve seem surprised that Aya was not affected, but she also makes the cryptic comment that Aya’s “cells are trying to communicate” with her own. At this point, Aya begins to feel a surge of heat coursing through her body, which leads to “superpowers” of her own, which will be used and developed on her forthcoming quest.
After a short battle (the first of many between Aya and “Eve”), Eve warns Aya that the more she uses her newfound powers, the more alike the two women will become. Unfortunately, Aya has no clue what this mutated psychopath is talking about. Eve exits through the back of the stage, and Aya gives chase only to be stopped in her tracks when a rat mutates into a dog-sized, malformed monstrosity right in front of her! This is only the first of many mutated animals that the player will encounter within the game.
Aya survives the incident at the opera house, but not before Eve has escaped. Aya is driven back to the police station by her partner, Detective Daniel Dollis. After a briefing with the chief, the detectives are informed of a scientist at the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan deemed to be an expert in the field of mitochondrial development. The doctor, Hans Klamp, has indeed been researching and experimenting with mitochondria for some time, but provides little insight into just what actually happened at the opera. While notably stand-offish and arrogant towards the detectives, even Klamp seems surprised by what he learns about “Eve” from them. Aya, however, gets the strong impression that she has met the doctor previously, but can not place where or when.
It’s soon remembered that Melissa is scheduled to perform at a concert in Central Park on Christmas Day. Daniel panics as his young son, Ben, is to attend the concert with his mother, Daniel’s ex-wife! The detectives rush to the park (which is shown to be absurdly devoid of human life, especially considering that a concert is to begin momentarily), but Daniel is unable to enter thanks to Eve’s presence, which causes his body to rapidly overheat as he approaches the entrance. Aya is forced to go it alone.
Aya’s journey through the park also includes a trip through the Central Park Zoo, where she discovers that not only have the animals there began mutation, but are also now freed from their cages and pens! Aya finally reaches the concert, but it is too late. Eve kills the entire audience in an eye-popping, flesh melting scene that sees the crowd turned into a large, writhing blob of cellular matter. Ben survives the incident as he left the audience once he started feeling sick. However, his mother, Lorraine, is among the casualties. (How Ben was able to stay within the park without setting ablaze while Daniel couldn’t even enter remains unsolved.)
Aya eventually catches up to Eve, leading to an insane battle atop a flaming horse-drawn carriage! Well, the horse is in flames! Not so much the carriage. Eve soon flees from the battle, but not before Aya has been knocked unconscious. She later awakens to find herself in a dingy apartment in Soho, having been rescued and taken to safety by a Japanese scientist named Maeda. Daniel, who was presumably contacted by the scientist, is also present.
While Daniel informs Aya that Manhattan has been evacuated, Maeda fills in both detectives on a similar incident that occurred in Japan just a few years prior. In that incident, Eve attempted to give birth to an “Ultimate Being” through a melding of mitochondria and human sperm. Maeda believes that she is now attempting to create this “Ultimate Being” in New York City!
The trio return to the museum, which is now vacant after the evacuation, and break into Klamp’s lab. Using the doctor’s lab equipment, Maeda is able to prove his theory, but they are soon interrupted by none other than Klamp himself. Clearly, he could not be bothered by such nonsense as “mandatory evacuations”. Klamp makes a few threats to the detectives, which earns him a fist to the face from Detective Dollis.
Aya, Maeda, and Daniel next travel to St. Francis Hospital, home of a sperm bank ripe for Eve’s use. (I probably shouldn’t have used “sperm bank” and “ripe” in the same sentence.) Their suspicions prove to be valid, but they arrive too late to stop Eve from impregnating herself.
In time, Eve assaults the police precinct, killing a couple of secondary NPC’s (background characters) in the process. A police dog named “Sheeva” also fairs poorly in the ordeal. A final visit to Klamp’s office the next day reveals that the deranged doctor was indeed behind the whole scheme. He discloses that not only has he created his own special blend of sperm (Ewww!) for Eve to use in the creation of the Ultimate Being, but also that this strain of the mitochondria dubbed “Eve” originated in the kidney cells of Aya’a sister, Maya. Maya, along with Aya’s mother, was killed in a car accident many years prior. However, Klamp was an intern at the hospital in which they were taken after the accident, and had Maya’s kidney transplanted into another young girl .That young girl was named “Melissa”.
You’ll fight a few re-animated dinosaurs soon after this, which feels very out of place, even for a plot as bizarre as this. Aya’s efforts to stop Eve will lead to the sewers of Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge, and finally to the Statue of Liberty! Despite a valiant battle, Eve finally perishes, but not before the Ultimate Being is born! Did you think Eve would be the final boss?
GAMEPLAY: While somewhat considered an RPG (“Role Playing Game”), most likely due to its being released by the same company behind the Final Fantasy franchise, it’s probably more accurate to call Parasite Eve an action game with RPG-elements. While the plot is very much horror driven, it’s not exactly fair to label Parasite Eve as a “survival horror” game as most of those releases (or at least the ones of that era) tend to draw the majority of their challenge from making the player deal with limited supplies. Namely bullets. This is not the case with Parasite Eve as, unless you really suck at the game, running out of ammo probably isn’t going to happen outside of the first hour of gameplay.
Unlike many other RPG games (especially those of the era), which generally feature a large open “world” for the player to traverse, Parasite Eve is divided into various sections of Manhattan which “open” to the player upon story progression. While players really only need to visit most of these locations once (during that specific part of the story line), they are welcome to return to these locations later on in order to earn experience points, which are used to level up their character (Aya), making them more powerful.
While most RPGs of the era tend to feature randomly occurring battles with enemy creatures, Parasite Eve‘s enemy encounters are generally assigned to specific locations on the various portions of the game world. When Aya steps into certain areas of the game’s various maps (the park, the hospital, etc.), a battle with an enemy may occur. Players may return to these spots in the hopes of triggering another battle, but this is not always the case. Generally, the game requires you to leave the screen that you are currently on and then re-entering in order to “reset” the chance of encounter. While dated, this approach still arguably works within the parameters of this game.
The battles themselves tend to take place in small “arenas”, or sections of the game’s various environments. The player is given the ability to freely roam around these small areas, although the main reason for doing so would be to dodge incoming attacks, as well as to better position yourself for your own forthcoming attacks. Aya is granted the ability to attack with her firearm or to use one of her special “parasite energy” abilities once a timed meter refills. These special abilities include healing yourself, slowing down enemies (or increasing your own speed), and a powerful attack called the “Energy Shot”, among others.
If there is one slight against Parasite Eve that tends to be mentioned frequently, it’s that there is a brief load screen, or “pause” in gameplay, when moving from one section of the game map to another. While not a long wait, this still happens enough to notably slow down gameplay. This transition would presumably be seamless today, and the story would surely now be conveyed by means of voice-overs and highly detailed cinematics. I can’t say I’d really have much issue with that.
Those who finished the game were treated with an “extended version” that is unlocked upon your initial completion. This mode, called the “EX Game”, does feature increased difficulty and tougher enemies, but also allows the player to restart with all of the weapons and armor used to defeat the first playthrough. The “Ex Game” also features an additional map, The Chrysler Building, which allows the player to do some further “grinding”, leveling up Aya even more than before. This mode also features a different final boss and story ending.
Parasite Eve is easily one of my all-time favorite games, possibly within my Top 10. I first played the game after it received a “Greatest Hits” re-issue in early 1999. This was not a great time in my life, so, quite shamefully, this game may have been one of the highlights of that era.
I purchased the game at a Sears. While this may seem humorous to some given what has become of that company, it is quite worth mentioning that, at the time, Sears was only one of a few places that you could purchase new video games in my then-home of Key West, FL.
I still love the story told by this game, although graphics and some gameplay elements are quite dated by today’s standards. That said, the controls are still effectively decent and don’t feel quite as stiff and wonky as one might expect from a 20+ year old game. Some may argue that Parasite Eve was one of the first games to truly benefit from the then-recently-released Dual Analog Playstation controller, allowing more freedom of movement (or at least the illusion of more freedom of movement) than previous survival horror and role-playing games.
As with most successful games, Parasite Eve received a sequel. Parasite Eve II was released to the Playstation console in Japan in December of 1999, with a US version hitting shelves in Sept of 2000. While also receiving generally favorable reviews, the sequel was not nearly as successful as the original, selling half as many copies worldwide. Personally, while I didn’t exactly dislike Parasite Eve II, I did find it lacking compared to the original, partially due to a convoluted story line and a rather uninspiring supporting cast.
A third game in the series, entitled The 3rd Birthday, was released to the Playstation Portable gaming system in December of 2010, with the US and Europe seeing releases later in 2011. I never played The 3rd Birthday, but as I’ve met only one person that actually owned a PSP, I’m not certain that many others experienced the game either. While The 3rd Birthday received generally favorable reviews, some have labelled the plot “confusing”. More concerning are the complaints in regards to changes made to returning characters, in particular, Aya herself, who many felt had become just another sexualized female character stereotype.
Quality condition copies of Parasite Eve can still be found averaging around $20 – $25, with lesser condition copies presumably available for much less. While the game may undoubtedly seem dated to many modern-era gamers, I consider the story to be just as unsettling and eerie today as it was over 20 years ago. If you’ve played your share of Resident Evils and Silent Hills, Parasite Eve may be one trip down memory lane that you’ll want to consider taking. Just know that it comes VERY HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from this particular reviewer.
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