Parasite Eve II


   Time has been kind to the original Parasite Eve. Originally discounted as shallow and shoddy, the game has since come to be regarded as quirky, experimental, and widely misunderstood. Parasite Eve was wildly different in many respects; not everything worked, but the game did have its strong, original points.

 Parasite Eve II
Aya in battle

   None of these points are in the sequel. The first game was a flawed but refreshing combination of the then-nascent survival horror genre and a traditional active-time RPG. Parasite Eve II jettisons everything interesting about the first game - its pseudo-RPG battle and magic systems, its creative and customizable weapons system, its cheerfully overblown, blockbuster-movie feel and characters. In its place is a drab-and-dreary exercise in rote survival horror that fails to either scare or entertain.

   The story of Parasite Eve II is just one of its many weak links. After the events in New York City of the first Parasite Eve, mysteriously-younger heroine Aya Brea relocates to Los Angeles and joins the top-secret M.I.S.T. group. Aya and the Mitochondrial Instigation and Suppression Team keeps tabs on NMC (Neo Mitochondria Creatures) throughout the U.S.-and activity is rising.

Parasite Eve II
All games must scroll

   To describe more of the story would be a disservice-its inanity is almost unprecedented, even in the survival horror genre. Aya's "partner," Kyle Madigan, is an unabashed idiot; the way the game writes off the killing of human NMCs with unflinching Calvinistic morality is terrifying, and the two-disc game manages to only hold three locations-none of which are the city of Los Angeles promised in teaser and promotional material. The original Parasite Eve had the good sense to set its action in well-known, accurately represented New York City locales. Two of the sequel's three locations are in the middle of the desert.

   The gameplay mechanics are similarly muddled. The control has shifted from the first Parasite Eve's sensible, screen-relative movement to the unwieldly character-relative movement that plagues the survival horror genre. "Grocery shopping would be a horrifying experience," quips one industry reviewer, "if you moved like a Mack truck." And instead of lumbering zombies, Parasite Eve II features fast-moving, quick-leaping, mutated creatures. Parasite Eve II has also picked up the survival horror genre's propensity for inane puzzles. Gamers have learned by this point not to flinch when asked to push crates and reconnect power supplies. But revisiting every room in a desert motel to track down birth dates required to solve a math problem to open a cash register? Parasite Eve 2's leaps of intuition are several miles wide.

   Battles are also a step in the wrong direction. As previously mentioned, the first game's unique blend of survival horror and RPG battles has been jettisoned in favor of straight-up survival horror. The magic system has been similarly unbalanced. The entire game features all of eight spells, divided two each along four elemental lines. Spells are activated and upgraded with experience earned from battles; unfortunately, the game's inordinate difficulty means that you'll be spending most of those points on one or two offensive spells and Heal (always Heal). Enemies can take Aya out in just a handful of hits and can require an insane amount of ammunition to dispatch. For those keeping count, enemies in the final area took upwards of 200 high-powered bullets from a high-powered weapon to destroy. Horror, indeed.

   The game's one saving grace is its excellent presentation. The graphics, both in-game and CG, are up to Square's usual high standards. Making Aya "age in reverse" thanks to her mitochondria is a cheap and dirty trick, but with gratuitous nightshirt and shower sequences, most gamers won't blink twice. (In fact, most won't blink at all.) The music isn't nearly as good Yoko Shimomura's score for the first Parasite Eve, but succeeds in setting a tense mood. Of more note are the ambient background sound effects; Parasite Eve II thrives off its contrasting silence and soundscapes.

   In the end, Parasite Eve II is little more than yet another survival horror game that refuses to address the genre's fundamental flaws. Unrepentant fans of the first game, the genre, or Aya Brea may want to give it a try; all others beware. The first Parasite Eve was flawed, original, and interesting, but the sequel is flawed, trite, and boring, and a major step backwards for a series that once seemed to harbor such potential.

Review by Andrew Vestal, GIA.
Parasite Eve II
Developer Square
Publisher Square EA
Genre Adventure RPG
Medium CD (2)
Platform Sony PlayStation
Release Date  12.09.99
Parasite Eve II debuts in Top 10
17 screen shots / 2 movies
2 more character sketches
North American packaging