Posted on September 11, 2018
Parasite Eve is a game that probably every single Squaresoft fan heard about when it was released back towards the end of the 90s. Touted by gaming magazines as the RPG-equivalent of Resident Evil, I believe Parasite Eve was a bit mis-genred, which might have had a bad influence on its popularity when it was released.
Parasite Eve is not much of a Survival Horror game, or even really a Horror game for that matter. The game plays out like a sort of Suspense/Detective Drama. Since the game itself is subtitled as “The Cinematic RPG”, Parasite Eve definitely delivers a cinematic story experience.
Parasite Eve holds a cult-like status amongst PS1 RPG players, but does it really deserve all of the praise that it receives? Let’s find out!
Score – 36/40
Story – 8.5/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 9/10
Music – 9.5/10
Style: Japanese Role-playing Game (Action, Real-time ATB)
Platform: PlayStation 1/PS1
Release Date: JP: March 29th, 1998 / US: September 9th, 1998
Publisher: JP: Square, US: Square Electronic Arts
Length: 7～15 Hours
Table of Contents
Parasite Eve PS1 Review
Parasite Eve is a very interesting RPG, using systems that aren’t usually seen in other RPGs. At its core, it’s a Real-time (ATB)-based Action RPG, with a focus of using guns to attack your enemies. You can run around freely inside of each battle area, which allows you to strategically position yourself to dodge incoming enemy attacks as well as get within range to prevent your own attacks from missing.
This is a kind of RPG system that you don’t really find very often. While it is sometimes common within standard fantasy RPGs, you almost never come across RPGs that using this system with guns/magic, and especially not a Sci-Fi/Horror-themed RPG!
Parasite Eve’s gameplay and premise was very fresh when it was released back in 1998, and was a pioneer for a genre that became severely under-used, the Sci-Fi/Horror RPG. Is there any reason to go back and play it today? I definitely believe there is, so let’s see why!
The story is going to be one of Parasite Eve’s biggest points of interest for many people. The story is actually very complex, but i’ll try to explain it without spoiling any major parts or ideas in the game.
You begin the game as a New York police officer named Aya Brea. Aya was asked out on a date to go see an Opera show at Carnegie Hall. Upon arriving at the concert hall, Aya and her date enter the building and being watching the Opera.
In the middle of the performance, the lead Actress begins singing her solo. While she’s singing, the audience members all suddenly burst into flames and the concert hall begins to crumble. Aya is the only person in the entire concert hall that didn’t catch on fire, so Aya runs up to the stage to confront the lead Actress.
During the confrontation, Aya learns that the lead Actress seems to be possessed/controlled by something named “Eve”. Eve tells Aya that her Mitochondria must be different from everyone else in the theater because she was able to resist catching on fire.
From here on, the story continues with Aya trying to figure out who or what “Eve” is, and why she seems to be the only person that is able to get near Eve without getting burned alive. Why does Eve seem to keep singling Aya out, why does Eve keep giving subtle hints about Aya’s past, and why does Eve know about Aya’s biological make-up?
The story in Parasite Eve is pretty intriguing. I’m not a scientist, but I have a feeling that the entire premise is completely impossible, biologically, but in terms of a fictional story, it’s pretty cool. The story involves the usage of tons of scientific terms, so for some people it might be really difficult to understand some of the conversations in the game (even moreso if you play in Japanese, unless you’ve studied lots of scientific/medical vocabulary).
I found the story pacing to be just right! The overall length of the game is fairly short, anywhere between 7 hours to about 15 hours for your first playthrough. The game itself is split into 6 different days, so you basically get 1 chapter of story per hour or so of gameplay. Each chapter is focused on pretty much one concept of the story, so things move along quite nicely and organized.
Another thing I liked about Parasite Eve is that there aren’t very many characters that you need to keep up with. There’s basically only about 4 or 5 main characters that you’ll need to worry about, and they’re mostly always involved in the story sequences so you’ll never be forgetting about anyone due to lack of participation.
One thing i’d like to mention, but is probably kind of obvious for anyone who followed the franchise – the game ends with a cliff-hanger! While the default ending mostly ties things up (or the most important things, at least), the very last scene before the credits just screams “SEQUEL”. Of course, later on Parasite Eve II was released (which I haven’t played yet), so just be aware that you’ll probably have to play both games to fully get what’s going on in the Parasite Eve universe.
In the above paragraph I said “default ending”. Yes, Parasite Eve followed the Playstation 1 RPG wave of “New Game+” and “True Endings”. What this means is, in order to get what is considered the actual “True” ending, you’ll have to restart the game in EX Mode (New Game+) and complete a bonus dungeon and kill the “True” Last Boss. I didn’t play the game a second time after beating it so I didn’t see the True Ending, but i’ll get around to it someday and eventually edit this review and add in a section for the True Ending.
アヤ・ブレア (Aya Burea, Aya Brea) – Aya is a NYPD Office from Division 17. Aya lost her mother to an accident when Aya she was still just a child. Aya seems to have had a sister named Maya.
メリッサ・ピアス (Merissa Piasu, Melissa Pearce) – The main Actress in the Opera that Aya attends at the start of the game. Melissa becomes the host of Eve.
ダニエル・ボ・ドリス (Danieru Bo Dorisu, Daniel Bo Dollis) – Daniel is Aya’s partner in the NYPD Police Force. Recently separated from his wife, Daniel has sole custody of his 8 year old son Ben.
前田邦彦 (Maeda Kunihiko) – Maeda is a researcher from Japan who was able to sneak into New York after it had been evacuated. Maeda has previously studied a similar case that happened in Japan, so he has some valuable insight for the rest of the group.
Gotta come right out and say it – i’m playing on an HDTV and not on a CRT TV, so while my SFC/SNES gameplay screenshots weren’t affected very much, PS1 and PS2 games get absolutely destroyed by HDTV resolutions. While Parasite Eve is originally a beautiful game, my screenshots are going to look super pixelated or at least like Anti-Aliasing hasn’t been invented yet. Keep in mind when looking at the pictures that basically the real game has 2 or 3 less blocky pixels around everything.
Now, onto how the game actually looks. The absolute closest thing I can compare Parasite Eve to is Final Fantasy VIII. I’m serious, the game is basically Final Fantasy VIII with different game mechanics. Parasite Eve has everything in common with FF8 – Tall, human-like character models, pre-rendered hand-drawn backgrounds, wanna-be Resident Evil randomly positioned camera angles (FF8 also had these), and the same FMV quality. I’d even be willing to bet that the game might even be using the same exact engine as Final Fantasy VIII, or at least a modded version of it.
Now if I had to explain the game in a few short words, those words would be “Black”, “Grey”, and “White”. The majority of Parasite Eve takes place at night time, and the time period that the game takes place in is from Christmas Eve until right up to New Year’s, so there’s lots of snow outside. Since the game revolves around Aya being the only person that is able to go into the dangerous areas, you’ll have a lot of abandoned buildings, parks, and sewers that you’ll be heading to.
Environments look very nice, considering the use of pre-rendered backgrounds. Usable or interact-able objects in the game sort of “float” above the pre-rendered backgrounds, so you can easily spot parts of the environment that aren’t pre-rendered. While they don’t look bad, the objects do stick out quite a bit. That’s just an unavoidable part of using pre-rendered backgrounds, so I can’t really complain about it.
Character models look okay. From far away characters look decent enough, but when you hit a camera angle that shows a close up of a few characters, things can look a bit blocky sometimes. That’s mainly just an issue with how polygons have aged vs. how pixels have aged. If you look at everything with 1998 eyes (as you absolutely should if you’re interested in playing retro games and actually enjoying them), the game looks ridiculously good.
Looking much better than human models, the enemy models had a lot of work put into them. Each enemy type has different movement animations, “breathing” animations, and just an overall unique look. Since the theme of the game is sort of Sci-Fi/Horror mixed together, you’ll get to see some pretty insane enemies throughout the game.
One thing i’d like to point out about the graphics in the game is that they really fit the “feel” of the game. The desolate atmosphere of the game is really complemented by the dark, cold feeling you get from walking through Central Park, or the spooky abandoned Hospital. The “Black”, “Grey” and “White” style of the game wasn’t chosen as a lazy development route, it was specifically designed to enhance the overall experience of the game!
Last, i’ll talk about the FMVs (newer gamers will know understand these as “cutscenes”). Anybody who was around back in the PS1 days will all agree on one thing – nobody could top Square when it came to FMV graphics and animation. Well, Square didn’t disappoint with its “Cinematic RPG”!
While I will admit that each FMV is rather short, and since Parasite Eve isn’t an over-the-top fantasy game, the FMVs don’t contain crazy magical effects and high-paced action. Most FMVs in Parasite Eve are either boss introductions or Eve dickin’ with Aya a little bit before disappearing again. The overall graphical quality is similar to FF8, though I think FF8’s FMVs’ animation is a bit smoother. Watching the FMVs really help to bring the characters to life and give you a better sense of just how crazy everything that’s happening around town really is.
Here’s what makes Parasite Eve so unique. The main gameplay elements in Parasite Eve involve fighting, leveling up, and customizing equipment. Fighting is done while running around the various areas in the game.
The encounter system in Parasite Eve is a bit mysterious. Encounter points are already decided on each map. If you run over the encounter spot, a battle will begin. Each encounter spot can only be activated one time each time you enter an area. To fight again, you’ll have to re-enter the zone and run over the same spot again.
One sort of weird thing is that the encounter rate for that spot actually drops each time you fight! I don’t know the actual rate, but it seems to be something like this -> 1st time: 100%, 2nd time: 70%, 3rd: 25%, 4th and on: 10%. So the game actually actively discourages any type of grinding.
Once you’ve entered a battle, you’ll appear infront of your enemies and will be able to start moving around. Once your blue ATB guage fills, you’ll be able to either attack or open your menu to use items, change equipment, or cast spells. Casting spells uses up Parasite Energy, which is another guage that you’ll see in the corner of your screen. Parasite Energy recharges naturally on its own, but each time you cast a spell the recharge rate lowers, eventually getting to the point where it stops recharging altogether.
The main bread and butter of the battle system is shooting your enemies. This is done by pressing the attack button when your ATB guage is full, which then displays a green sphere around Aya. Depending on your gun’s “Range” stat, the size of the sphere can be really small or really large. Enemies within the sphere will be target-able with a bright red circle and will take full damage when hit. Enemies outside of the sphere will be targeted with a dark black-ish/red circle, and will most likely dodge your attacks or take very low damage if they actually manage to get hit.
The flow of battles consists of running around and waiting for your ATB guage to fill up while dodging enemy attacks inbetween. The majority of enemies will either have a ranged attack or a jump attack, but some enemies only have a melee attack, which makes some encounters significantly easier than others. Bosses in particular almost always have a way of hitting you from far away.
Upon killing all of your enemies, you’ll most likely be awarded with ammo (yes, ammo is finite!) and some healing items, along with EXP. When you level up, you automatically gain points in various skills, such as a faster ATB guage, more inventory space, more Parasite Energy, things like that. You also gain “Bonus Points” which can be converted at a rate of 100 points per 1 skill point that you can assign to any skill of your choice. This allows for a slight level of customization and can really change how easy or hard the game becomes.
The last main mechanic of the game is weapon customization. Old equipment can be salvaged by using a “Tool”, which allows you to either directly transfer stats such as Attack, Range, and Bullet Capacity, or you can choose to instead transfer a weapon trait, such as Fire Bullets, 2x Command, or Triple Shot. I personally don’t think it would be possible to complete the game without upgrading your gear, so while it an optional element in the game, I do believe that weapon customization is essential to actually progressing in the game.
Overall, the gameplay was really fun in Parasite Eve. Towards the beginning of the game I was bummed that the encounter rate was as low as it was, but towards the end of the game the encounter rate really picks up. The monsters also give less bullets than they take to kill (they turn into god-damn tanks at the end of the game), so while the system is fun, it did slightly start to wear-off on me at the end of the game. I truly do wish more games took this kind of approach though, I feel a system like this could be used in some pretty fascinating ways if done correctly.
Maybe i’m becoming a Yoko Shimomura fanboy more and more day by day, or she’s just really good at making OSTs. I loved Parasite Eve’s OST, bar the Overworld Map theme (how did that even come about???) and Eve’s constant Opera intro! Again, just like the environments, the OST in Parasite Eve truly enhances the atmosphere. “Atmosphere” is a word that I saw quite a bit when looking up what people thought about the game. I can honestly say, Parasite Eve is absolutely full of atmosphere. Let me give you a few examples to prove my point…
First up, i’ll start with the song that plays during the game’s intro cinematic. While this song doesn’t really sound like the rest of the OST (besides the piano, of course), it’s a really cool song to get you pumped up for the rest of the game!
Next up we’ll head into the more atmospheric songs in the game. Here we have the theme of none other than Aya herself!
Just filled with haunting, depressive melodies…it never stops either, and i’m glad it never does.
Just atmosphere for DAYS. The OST fits the game so well, even on a per-scene basis. The creepy parts are creepy, the sad parts are sad, it all just fits so well.
This last song is without a doubt not only one of the best video game songs i’ve ever heard, it’s one of the best songs i’ve ever heard in my entire life. Words won’t be able to describe it, so you’ll just have to listen to it and experience it for yourself…
I have nothing but praise for Parasite Eve’s OST. I was mistakenly expecting something closer to a Resident Evil soundtrack, sounding more like Funeral Doom metal, but instead I got a much more appreciated melancholic piano-filled OST! No complaints, other than “erase that dumbass Overworld Map theme from existence” and “way too much of Eve’s opera voice at the beginning of songs”!
East vs. West
For the most part, the two versions are practically the same. The main difference is that the intro to the game is slightly different, and the Club’s stats are slightly different. You won’t be missing out on anything in particular by not playing a certain version of the game.
Should you play it?
Absolutely! The only real complaint I could find about Parasite Eve is that Aya runs like a god damn refrigerator in quicksand. I understand the slow movement speed probably adds to the overall “creepy” and “suspenseful” atmosphere of the game, and that it was probably meant to help pad out the 10 hours of gameplay, but getting from point A to point B can take an awful lot of unnecessary time.
Other than that, I see no reason at all not to play Parasite Eve. The gameplay is fun, the graphics are really good, the OST is god-like, and the length of the game is short enough so that even if you don’t particular love the game, you can still bang it out in 3 or 4 sessions. The game also isn’t scary like it was marketed to be – no jump scares, no monsters or anything roaming around the map, nothing of the sort. While it gives off the feeling that maybe eventually there will be some jump scare stuff, it never happens. There’s only 1 thing in the whole game that will probably scare you, and that’s a “Panic” scare, rather than an “oh shit” scare.
Anyone looking for a fun, simple RPG that’s set in a really cool and criminally underused setting should look no further than Parasite Eve!
Which version should you play?
As far as I know, there’s only the original PlayStation version of the game. While I do believe it has been ported to the PlayStation Store, I think it only includes an HD resolution overhaul so everything doesn’t look as pixelated as it did for me.
Anyone who enjoys playing the original versions of games will surely enjoy the physical copy of Parasite Eve and having to switch disks halfway through the game (that brings back memories!). Plus, if you get the North American version you’ll have a close-up of Aya on the front cover if that’s your thing! If you get a Japanese version, well, you just get black text on a white background that says Parasite Eve. Shitty deal.
Final Score – 36/40
Story – 8.5/10
Gameplay – 9/10
Graphics – 9/10
Music – 9.5/10
Did this review make you interested in trying out the game? Let me know what you think about Parasite Eve!