I’m no good at dodging attacks in real-time, dealing with emo characters, or suspending disbelief. It’s unfortunate, because Parasite Eve requires a little bit of each. Still, the game is enjoyable on many levels, and there’s a very specific kind of gamer who will start up this game and feel like a kid in a candy shop.
Parasite Eve plays a lot like a mix between a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler, a turn-based JRPG, and a survival horror game. Outside of combat you’ll be looking for various keys and fuses and other such things to progress, and there’s a very real incentive to find these things without running back and forth since many locations have random battles. One of the issues with looking for them is that they’re often behind something or in something, and the area you have to interact with to search/open/move that thing can be so small that it feels a bit like a pixel hunt sometimes. It’s frustrating to run back and forth trying to figure out what to do next, only to realize that you had to go through a bunch of random battles because the first time you checked a particular drawer you weren’t perfectly positioned.
Once combat is initiated, an Active-Time Bar comes shows up on the screen and slowly begins to fill. You’re able to either attack or use one of your powers/items once it’s filled, and how many attacks you get per turn and how much damage those attacks do depend on your stats. Much of the game is stat-based; each weapon and armor in the game has stats that can be tweaked to create personalized equipment that suits your play style, and the number of things you can upgrade will likely be a pleasant surprise. Whether you want to increase weapon damage, weapon range, or even increase the speed of the Active-Time Bar or the number of items you’re capable of carrying, you have the ability to shape your character more than even most modern games allow.
Between your attacks, enemies will chase you around and you’ll have to avoid them much like in a hack-and-slash game. This is probably the most frustrating part of the game because your character is the slowest runner in the entire world. Even the leisurely walk of most characters in other games is faster than her run, which makes dodging opponents’ attacks rage-inducing. Adding to that is the fact that the graphics don’t always convey distance well, so you’ll occasionally walk right into an attack thinking that the danger was in a different direction.
To call the story strange would be an understatement. The gist of it is that mitochondria has evolved faster than we have and is now staging a coup d’etat… you know, in the bodies of living creatures. It’s basically an excuse to have a bunch of freakishly mutated animals running around, but that doesn’t mean that the story is bad. If anything, it’s underutilized since the game focuses more on its characters than the actual story. A little more explanation would have gone a long way rather than everyone just being like, “Oh, okay, mitochondria is taking over. Makes sense, I guess. Let’s shoot at it and stuff.”
I love games that focus strongly on the characters, but there really aren’t many interesting characters worth focusing on in this game. Maeda the Japanese scientist is fairly interesting, but everyone else is very generic and unmemorable, feeling more like placeholders than actual characters that you care about. The main character, Aya, is better in later Parasite Eve games, but she spends most of this particular game being helpless and emo about everything.
This game is recommended only to those who like survival horror (though make no mistake, this is not actually survival horror), unique science fiction, and oldschool, stat-based RPGs. If two of those three apply to you, this game is probably worth a try.
Here’s what you should do: