I’ve read a lot about how Parasite Eve II stayed away from the formula that made the first game in the series successful. It became a Resident Evil clone, which some blamed for the game’s lack of commercial success. I almost didn’t play this game, but I was itching to play a horror-themed game last month so I still gave it a shot.
I’m glad I did because I ended up loving the experience. Let’s talk about it!
Game Basics and General Plot
Unlike the first game, Parasite Eve II is an action game with JRPG elements that was developed and published by Square (before they became Square Enix). It follows a new adventure of Aya Brea, who is now an agent of M.I.S.T., a special organization that deals with mutants created by rogue mitocondria. After a major attack on one of the hotels in Los Angeles, Aya follows a lead which brings her to a bigger conspiracy.
Similar to the first game, Parasite Eve II spans across two discs and uses the Playstation save system via memory cards. Like most Playstation games of that era, you can save via save points represented by telephones scattered across the game’s different locations. Rather than simply letting you save, using telephones will let you have short conversations with other M.I.S.T. members.
Sometimes, calling back to headquarters is important to getting the game’s best ending so make sure you save often. Once you’ve beaten the game, you can unlock several new replay modes, such as Replay Mode and Bounty Mode. Completing certain objectives will unlock more, like the more difficult Deadly and Nightmare Modes.
Tank Controls and Targeting System
The main reason why Parasite Eve II is seen as a Resident Evil clone is because it adapted the tank controls movement system that Capcom’s franchise popularized. Pressing Left rotated Aya to her left, and Right to her right. Pressing Up moved her forward, and Down moved her backward. Over time, I got used to this system but never to the point that it felt great. By default, Aya walks and holding Square while you moved forward made her run instead (you can reverse this in the game’s options).
This is manageable when exploring, but it remains very clunky during battle. Thankfully, the developers added a targeting mechanic which allowed you to immediately aim at enemies (and even specific enemy spots). I understand why tank controls were used – the game relied on changing camera angles to show each area from what they think is the best vantage point. But it’s still very clunky, especially when dealing with fast moving enemies that have the tendency to charge at you.
I will say that the targeting system made the game more enjoyable for me, compared to how I feel about playing the classic Resident Evil games. But I can see why a lot of Parasite Eve fans hated this transition.
In Parasite Eve II there is an assortment of weapons, armor, and items that you can use. However, there is a limit on how many you can carry with you. You can buy items from some “shops”, but you’re not able to sell items. There are several item deposit boxes that you can utilize in case there are items that you want to reserve for future use.
You also can’t just use your items or change weapons during battle. For any items that you want to use or weapons that you want to switch to, you’ll need to “attach” them to your armor. Each armor has a number of attachment slots that can be increased to a limited capacity via a special item. Even ammunition needs to be attached to your armor. If you have a gun equipped but forgot to attach specific ammo for it, you won’t be able to attack with it when your clip runs out. My end game armor only had eight slots so you’ll really need to think about which ones to attach.
Compared to Square’s JRPGs, there aren’t a lot of items, weapons, and armor in this game. You can get a handful of melee and ranged weapons, as well as some offensive and defensive items. Some weapons, like the M4A1, can have special attachments (like a grenade launcher or a stun gun) that will give it different secondary attacks. Lastly, some items will grant you special enhancements if you simply attach them to your armor and never use them. These enhancements include reducing damage taken, increasing your Parasite Energy damage output, and so on.
The Parasite Energy mechanic really differentiates Parasite Eve II from Resident Evil games. Aya forced her special abilities from the first game dormant so that she could be a normal person. Now, she’ll need to reawaken them so that she can deal with the enemies effectively. When you defeat enemies, you gain EXP. But this game doesn’t have a traditional level up system. Instead, you spend EXP to reawaken a Parasite Energy ability or to upgrade it.
When you start the game, you can unlock eight different abilities. These fall into one of four groups that are based on the elements, although I never felt this to make a relevant impact in the game aside from grouping them separately. A third ability gets unlocked when you fully upgrade the abilities in a group. In total, there are twelve abilities that Aya Brea can have.
Enemies in the game don’t normally respawn, but some areas get repopulated with enemies at certain points. It’s possible to grind and kill as many enemies as possible to gain EXP. But I don’t think you can fully awaken and upgrade all the Parasite Energy abilities in a single new playthrough. So players can totally end up with different sets of abilities by the end of the game.
Some of these abilities are quite essential. Pyrokinesis deals fire damage to enemies in a single path. Healing replenishes your health, saving you healing items. Metabolism cleanses status effects. And Energy Shot increases the amount of damage dealt by your guns. Make sure you read up on these abilities to know which ones to upgrade.
Enemies and Bosses
It is important for any horror themed game to have fearsome looking monsters, and Parasite Eve II didn’t disappoint me in that regard. This game continues the idea of existing creatures but mutated in a grotesque way. The most basic mutations that you’ll face are larger versions of every day animals, like caterpillars and worms. The really unsettling ones though are very creepy, like the donkey-like creatures with human faces. There’s a good variety of enemies too, relative to the game’s length.
The bosses of this game are especially gruesome. Boss fights for me are the highlights of video games and this game’s boss fights did not disappoint. In my opinion, the bosses look great and were really designed well when it comes to their mechanics. You really had to figure out the best way to beat each boss by identifying their patterns and looking for weaknesses.
Combined with the item restrictions of the game, these boss fights always felt epic to me. Some notable ones include the rooftop battle against Golem No. 9, the battle with the Glutton inside the trash compactor area, and the final boss fight.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
I hated the graphics of the first game so I was surprised to see how good Parasite Eve II looked. I played this game via emulation using Duckstation which has visual enhancements like resolution upscaling and polygon smoothing, but it only enhances how great looking a game already is. All the monsters look menacing, and the few human characters were very detailed and looked great.
All the locations were very detailed and drawn well. I hated the shifting camera angles from a gameplay perspective, but they really made the game immersive and easy to look at. My only gripe is that the game only featured a limited number of locations, and you stayed in those locations for quite some time.
In terms of sound design, my only problem with the game is the absence of background tracks while exploring the areas. Most of the time, all you had to listen to were Aya’s footsteps and other ambient noise from the location. This made the moments when you needed to do backtracking a bit boring. Whenever the game played a track though, it was great. I’m not sure if they reused the same exact music from the first game or if it was remixed, but these were all welcome to my ears.
In terms of presentation, Square did an excellent job with this game. Menus look great and easy to navigate, with clear fonts that can easily be understood. Game text is also very clear and easy to read. The cutscenes were all animated well, but I wish they added a bit more of them.
One sore point of Parasite Eve II for me are the puzzles that it used. Some of these are real stumpers. I can imagine a lot of people getting stuck in some of this game’s puzzles if they don’t use FAQs or guides. There’s one puzzle where you have to enter the ages of some old outlaws. You’d have to have been paying attention to what Aya says when you check out several paintings in different rooms and floors of the location you’re in. If you didn’t, you’ll have to go back and check all those paintings before you can move forward.
There’s this slide puzzle that was a moderately challenging for me. Heck, even the guide I was using as a reference got the solution for this puzzle wrong! And there’s a puzzle where you have to step on colored tiles in a specific sequence. The clue is in the game, but it can be easily missed.
Story and Plot
Since Parasite Eve II is still considered an RPG, I have to talk about it’s plot. It was a little bit lacking for me, to be honest. I think the first game really set a high bar, requiring Aya to travel to different locations in New York. In this game, there are only four major locations featured: the hotel, the desert town, mines, and a secret facility. The events of the game happen in a span of only a few days, so it doesn’t feel as epic as most of Square’s other games.
The story is decent. It was a logical continuation of Aya’s story from the previous game, and it managed to add more supporting characters to her world. I just wasn’t satisfied with a few plot threads that remained unsolved at the end of the game. Like, who was that S.W.A.T. member that set the bomb in the first mission? And who was No.9 (a recurring antagonist) answering to? Not being able to face the “main bad guy” made me a little unsatisfied. It might be that Square was hoping to continue this storyline in a third game so they purposely left these unresolved.
But the game did great in making the story immersive. Aya talks about a lot of stuff in the background when you check them, so you get to know her inner voice a lot. She also converses a lot with the game’s supporting characters. The dialogue was written well, so these conversations are really entertaining to read.
The biggest problem of Parasite Eve II is that it was very different from the first game. The original Parasite Eve attracted JRPG fans, and JRPG fans won’t necessarily enjoy a game with Resident Evil mechanics. Had this game been given a different title and a different leading character instead of Aya, it might have sold well.
But I enjoyed this game a lot when I played it and I can’t really point out any major issues. Despite using tank controls, adding a targeting feature helped the game’s controls age well. And the graphics of this game were so good, I loved them despite not being a fan of the 3D graphics of this generation. It’s a shame that Square squandered this IP. The Parasite Eve franchise could have been as big as Final Fantasy for them. If you like Resident Evil style games, definitely give this one a shot.
If you want to check out the other Playstation 1 video games that I’ve played, click here!