Considering my taste in video games, Parasite Eve is right up my alley. I love horror-themed games, and I enjoy playing JRPGs a lot. I actually played a lot of Playstation 1 JRPGs back in the day. But for some reason, I never really considered trying Square’s attempt at incorporating survival horror elements into a JRPG. I made sure I addressed that by playing this game in time for Halloween season.
So let’s talk about what I’ve been missing out on for so many years.
Game Basics and General Plot
Parasite Eve is an action JRPG that was developed and published by Square (before they became Square Enix). The game takes place in modern day New York City. You take on the role of Aya Brea, a New York City police officer. The trouble begins when Aya goes on a date and attends an opera. As soon as the lead opera singer started singing, members of the audience started bursting into flames.
Aya quickly realizes that the opera singer, Melissa Pearce, was responsible for setting the audience aflame. She also realizes that she is immune to Melissa’s powers. Because of this, she takes on the responsibility of stopping this seemingly supernatural threat. Later on, Aya starts developing powers of her own, which she uses in addition to standard police weaponry in dealing with her enemies.
The game has a save system, and you’re only limited to how much space you have on your memory cards. You can’t save at any time though. Throughout the game’s locations, there are save points in the form of telephones. The game is also divided into different chapters, which represent each day that passes. The game will also allow you to save your progress at the start of each new day.
In terms of length, this game is a little on the short side. According to HowLongtoBeat.Com, the main story lasts an average of 9.5 hours. However, there is a New Game Plus mode (called EX mode) which unlocks a special dungeon called the Chrysler Building. Beating that dungeon will unlock an alternate ending.
I classified Parasite Eve as an action JRPG because the game uses a turn-based system for combat. Similar with most of Square’s titles at the time, this game makes use of an active time battle system, wherein there is a meter that fills up constantly for characters in battle (you don’t see the enemy meters). Once filled, combatants can take an action.
These actions involve attacking, using an item, changing equipment, or using P.E. powers. However, moving around is done in real time and can be done all throughout the combat. So despite having to wait for your turn, the game feels very action oriented. Your position during battle is important, so you’ll need to move around constantly.
Range and proximity applies to combat in this game. You get a few melee weapons that will require you to be right beside the enemy to work. Most of your weapons are guns with different ranges. You’ll see your effective range as a green wireframe globe whenever you’re attempting to attack. It’s best to attack from a position that allows some room for error, because enemies move constantly too. If you attack at an enemy whose right at the edge of your maximum range, they might move outside of it.
The same applies on defense. The more distance you put between you and an enemy, the easier it will be to dodge their melee attacks. Staying still can get you surrounded by enemies. And some ranged attacks are telegraphed, allowing you to react and dodge them too.
Like most of Square’s RPGs, Parasite Eve also has a traditional inventory system. You can get weapons and armor that you can equip. You’ll receive consumable items that can refill your health or heal status ailments. There are also event related items such as keys and access cards that will grant access to restricted areas.
One thing that’s notably different about this game is that there aren’t any shops where you can buy items or equipment. Everything is either gained as drops from defeated monsters, given to you by NPCs, or things that you pick up by inspecting different boxes and similar objects. Since there aren’t any shops, there isn’t any in-game currency. I did get worried about running out of items, especially healing items. But the game is pretty generous when it comes to end of battle rewards. I was only in danger of running out of them early in the game.
One last thing to note is that Aya has a limited inventory capacity. As you level up, you get the chance to expand this. There’s an NPC that you can talk to who can store your items for you. I did spend a bit of time going back to this NPC several times because I needed to clear up inventory space.
Weapons and Armor
In Parasite Eve, you can equip one weapon and one armor at a time. Most weapons are guns, which require ammunition. If you run out of bullets in combat, you’ll have to spend some time to reload, slowing down your attacking. It’s best to reload your gun after each battle to minimize the need to reload.
Weapons and armors both have three stats each, and each stat has a base value and a plus value. For weapons, the stats are Attack, Range, and Bullet capacity. Meanwhile, armors have Defense, P.E. rating, and Critical Defense.
Weapons and armors also have traits and a number of slots. These traits can give special abilities which will make you really powerful. One example of an armor trait uses your most powerful healing item whenever your health drops below 20%. Others give you more resistance to status ailments like Poisoned or Stiffness.
The weapon traits are ones that really change up the gameplay. My end game weapon allows me to do several things. One trait gives me a full AT Bar 80% of the time, allowing me to attack immediately at the start of combat. Another allows me to take two actions per turn, and another lets me fire five shots per action. The last trait that I put on my end game weapon is a burst ability that lets me hit enemies that are close to each other.
Upgrades and Leveling Up
Parasite Eve also has interesting mechanics for character progression. Aya gets stronger by gaining experience points and at certain thresholds, she levels up. When this happens, her basic stats increase by one and she also gets a bunch of Bonus Points. You can spend these bonus points to increase two of these stats: Active Time, which makes her AT Bar charge faster; and Item Capacity, which increases her inventory slots.
You can use your Bonus Points to improve one of your weapons or armors too. You can spend these Bonus Points to increase the Plus value of any of the three stats available. If you’re planning to take on the special Chrysler Building dungeon, it’s best to save up your Bonus Points on your planned end game weapon and/or armor, because of the second method of character progression.
You can actually transfer traits or plus values from one weapon/armor to another. Doing so will require a consumable item called Tools. When you do this, you can only choose either all three Plus values or one trait. The weapon that you’re upgrading needs to have an empty slot if you want to transfer a trait. And performing this upgrade will destroy the weapon you transferred a trait or stats from.
At the end of the game, you’ll get to choose one weapon and armor to carry over to a new EX Mode game. Weapons and armor stats and traits are fixed, so it isn’t difficult to plan ahead. You can do multiple playthroughs and keep building a strong weapon and armor pair that will allow you to take on the Chrysler Building.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
I hate to say this, but I’m not impressed by one aspect of Parasite Eve’s graphics. Everything aside from this one aspect is amazing though. Stages and areas are quite detailed, which is insane because they’re trying to represent modern day New York. And despite this game’s age, this game’s locations still look great. And the camera angles that the developers use in some scenes are quite beautiful.
But the 3D models of this era just didn’t hold up well. This is a major reason why I prefer revisiting 16-bit games and skip over Playstation and N64 games today. Blocky 3D models may have been a wonder to behold back then, but they’re as ugly as Atari 2600 graphics to my present-day eyes.
Going back to more positive aspects, this game’s music is excellent. Square really knew how to take advantage of the Playstation’s disc format, crafting tracks that are good enough to listen to even when you’re not playing the game. And they all fit the game’s scary and mysterious theme all throughout.
Presentation is also top notch here. Cutscenes are well-crafted and really help tell this game’s amazing story. Menus are clear and the color choices are apt to the game’s horror theme. This game truly lives up to Square’s reputation.
Story and Plot
Parasite Eve is an RPG so it’s story is a vital part. And boy, this game has a really good story. Good enough that it can be the script of a Hollywood film, actually. I’m not going to reveal specific details to avoid spoilers, but I will talk about why I loved this aspect of the game.
First of all, the game does a good job at establishing a believable threat. It explains what the enemy is. Why are normal animals like rats, snakes, and crows mutating into monsters? Why are dinosaur bones turning into actual dinosaurs? The game will justify all that. And when you understand why things are happening the way that they are, you get more immersed into the game.
The game also does a good job at keeping it’s mystery, only revealing information at the right time. Why is Aya immune to Melissa’s powers? There’s some suspension of disbelief needed, but as long as you don’t look up mitochondria in Google, it’s easy to accept this game’s science.
Lastly, this game’s story is quite focused. There aren’t any distractions like side quests, and the cast of characters is limited to a manageable number. That helps each character stand out. At the end of the game, I actually cared about Aya’s supporting cast even if they weren’t playable characters at all.
I am so glad that I decided to give Parasite Eve a try. Yes, I hated this game’s 3D graphics but I understand the technical limitations of that era. Even if I hated them, they didn’t detract from the game experience at all. Square did a commendable job at blending turn-based RPG elements with action and survival horror. Why didn’t Parasite Eve become a major franchise? Maybe I should give Parasite Eve 2 a look soon.
This game is definitely worth revisiting today. In fact, Square Enix should consider remastering this game. The game’s short duration made it quite manageable for me to play. It’s story and game mechanics kept me engaged and made me keep wanting to play more of it. If I weren’t managing a blog and didn’t have to write about other games, I’d stick with this game and try my hand at that Chrysler Building dungeon. Parasite Eve is a Playstation classic. Play it the next time you get a chance!