Game Description: Aya Brea is back to defend the world from the mitochondrial menace in Parasite Eve II. This story takes place three years after the New York incident of the first game, when the horrible mutations are supposedly a thing of the past. Now working for the FBI in Los Angeles, Aya is called on to join the Mitochondrian Investigation and Suppression Team (MIST) to hunt down dangerous monsters and keep the disease from spreading. To do that, she must unravel the conspiracy that seeks the destruction of all mankind. Parasite Eve II features an enhanced, real-time battle system that will allow players to use a large array of modern weaponry. These guns, built into the game with realistic fire rates, can even be upgraded with parts that you buy or find. Also on your side is Aya's Parasite Energy, which enables her to harness elemental power, such as a searing column of fire, to fight the monsters.
The difference between Parasite Eve II and any of the games in the Resident Evil series can be summed up like an unhip microbiology major's bad joke: "What's the difference between a neo-mitochondrial mutagenic airborne virus and a fluid-transmitted virus which reanimates and increases aggressive tendencies in mutated expired organisms?"
The answer? Not much.
While initially it seems that these two diverse vectors for socio-political unrest in isolated small townships would be different enough to be instantly discernable by any masticated bystander, this is actually not the case. When you get right down to it, being mauled by a cybernetically-enhanced mitochondrial monster is every bit as bad as being chewed to shreds by an undead zombie attack dog. It plays pretty much the same, too. Go figure.
Parasite Eve II is game developer Square's second attempt to break into the survival horror genre, while trying to maintain the uniqueness of their franchise by keeping a minor RPG slant. The game is played in third-person perspective with 3-D characters moving across 2-D backdrops. Also present are the standard "spooky, off-kilter" camera angles and a menu system extremely similar to other staples in the same category. The most obvious divergence from the genre is the magic system present in the form of "Parasite Energy," which the main hero, Aya Brea, can employ to produce various effects such as healing, defensive and offensive spells. Its a nice feature and adds a bit of reserve firepower in the odd event a player is without ammunition, but it doesn't play a major role.
In general, the title succeeds in every area a game of this sort needs to, and anyone familiar to the genre will feel immediately at home, magic aside. It goes without saying that most of the usual elements are here—such as item boxes and switches to push—though one thing that really struck me about Parasite Eve II is that all of the puzzles were about as reasonable and logical as any game of this sort could hope to have. While the placement and quality of the hints and clues needed a bit of work, in general they were logical and very reasonable in the context of the game as well as real life. Keys were found hanging from hooks on walls, you needed a wrench to remove bolts, and the code to open the cash register was located in a nearby memo to new employees.
I've always felt that the thing the genre needed most was a foothold in reality, more so than is found in other similar titles available. Granted, there needs to be a certain suspension of disbelief to even entertain the notion of living corpses and gooey monsters escaping from a lab, but most games of this sort tend to go overboard and throw logic completely out the window, especially when it comes to puzzles. It's nice to see a game with a slightly firmer grip on how things work in the real world, and I'd like to see the concept taken further.
Another thing which differentiates it from the rest of the pack are the subtle twists in the roles creatures play. Rather than each encounter being one of potential life or death, very few encounters will have a high chance of ending Aya's investigations into the paranormal. Rather, most of the battles you'll get into come off like the minor melees that come with playing RPGs. They might be annoying at times with their high frequency and respawning, but the main point of them is to help the player build abilities and options for bigger encounters later on in the game. Experience and money are awarded after every battle in order to activate Parasite Energies or to buy weapons and items in a structure extremely similar to Dino Crisis 2. The more you kill, the more resources you have to kill with. Instead of trying to avoid encounters in a game of health-pack entropy, you'll be actively hunting the buggers down so you can save up enough credits for the grenade launcher in the shop. It's an interesting change of pace, and one which was notably appreciated.
While these elements help Parasite Eve II from falling completely into the "cookie cutter" trap, it ends up being too similar in presentation and content to Resident Evil. While copying a series with such staying power isn't necessarily a bad thing, it brings along so much of RE's old baggage that you might expect Jill Valentine or Barry Burton to pop out from around a corner during gameplay to lend some S.T.A.R.S. support.
To begin with, it addresses none of the complaints that people have had against the typical game engine and controls since the creation of the genre. In a play environment featuring constant combat against bloodthirsty monsters, Aya doesnt have a "quick turn," "dodge" or any other escape feature to get her out of trouble in a hurry. While the good news is that the majority of the games monsters are quite sluggish, there are still more than a few times where youll be ambushed by a swarm of exploding slugs or double-teamed by some human-headed horses. It never gets frustrating to the point of quitting, but it's not nearly as smooth or fluid as combat should be.
Another minor annoyance was that the static camera angles sometimes prevented a clear view of the slobbering mass you can hear creeping around in the room with you. It's clear that dramatic tension was what they were going for, but when you cant see a beast that's coming at you from four feet away, there's a problem.
Interestingly enough, with all the complaints regarding poor and cheesy voices were in Resident Evil, after playing Parasite Eve II Id definitely say that cheesy voices are better than no voices at all. While you'll occasionally get a short audio clip consisting of "Hey!", "Freeze!!", or assorted monster squeals, for the most part the characters are silent throughout the game with dialogue being relayed through text. I definitely support having text during story scenes (it should ALWAYS be a selectable option, in my opinion) but it really hurts the game's presentation by taking away the speech aspect, which has become an expected staple in the genre.
Couple the lack of voices with Aya's milquetoast by-the-numbers persona in addition to the predictable, unimaginative story and you'll find that its fairly tough to really get into the game and start rooting for the characters. Sure, Aya is blonde, female and uses firearms like a combat vet, but a good protagonist needs more than these token qualities to become someone memorable. Throughout the game, Aya barely exhibits any personality, and the supporting characters are pretty minimal. Just as important as the hero, the plot needs to have enough twists, turns and unique aspects to make the player get sucked in and ignore the fact that the gameplay is basically the same thing we've been playing since 1996.
While Parasite Eve II meets most of the criteria for a fairly good horror shoot-em-up, the biggest problem with it is that it doesn't really add anything that hasn't been done before several times. The underlying, flawed control framework of the game has already been revised and improved upon by other games. The story isn't anything to write home about since most of the plot points are telegraphed from a mile away, and the main character is written vanilla. While it doesn't commit any serious offenses, neither does it strive to present anything truly unique and inviting. If you're a fan of survival horror and you need a fix, or if you just need to play them all, Parasite Eve II will fit the bill. However, Parasite Eve II reminds me of those prefab paint-by-numbers kits you can get at a toyshop—the finished picture might look pretty neat and you might have fun doing it, but there isn't a whole lot of originality or creativity put into it.
I was a little surprised to see the turn Parasite Eve II takes in regard to the original, which was more of a traditional role-playing game. This sequel is just what Brad says it is—a Resident Evil clone that tries to keep its feet in both genres. I must admit that Squaresoft has the formula nailed—the still photographic scenery; the awkward control-scheme; the zombie-like bad guys—and let's not forget the beautiful heroine who does all her fighting in a leather mini-skirt! The lead character, Aya Brea, is also a member of a special police force that has a "cool" acronym—MIST. And just like the STARS team in Resident Evil, MIST not only sends one person at a time into the monster fray, but they also expect her to do it all by herself! Pretty demanding job if you ask me. Of course all the locations where the monsters like to hide are desolate and spooky, and even though Aya makes several gun-toting friends on location, she ends up doing most of the monster blasting on her own.
That's only one of the things about these horror games that I've never understood. If you have a heavily-armed police force that's trained specifically for reducing monsters to kibbles and bits, why only send the frail-looking chick? Why not send them all? It seems like your chances of success would be much higher, right? I guess if we attempt to answer such a question we wouldn't have a game though, so that point is moot. However, I have to question why Squaresoft didn't try to do something else with this game beyond sticking to the standard horror formula. All the stuff with the magic and mitochondria is all well and good, but the game still looks and plays just like all the other survival horror games. After so many attempts by various developers at this kind of game—without any of the basic design changing—it gets a little tiresome.
I have to disagree with Brad concerning the puzzles that must be solved in Parasite Eve II. To me, they didn't seem very reasonable at all. There's one part in which Aya can't open a locked door to a deserted and wrecked general store out in the desert, but of course she has to get in there. Instead of breaking the already cracked and ancient front window, or simply taking out her assault rifle and blowing the lock on the door to smithereens, Aya has to find some rope so she can lower herself into a well (which of course is dark as hell and filled with monsters) and use a secret underground passage to get into the store. Another puzzle that comes to mind is one in which an old car on a hydraulic lift is blocking a door that Aya needs access to. Any reasonably fit human being could easily climb over the car to get to the door (it's a small sedan for crying out loud). But in Parasite Eve II, Aya has to turn on the power to the lift; fuss with the hydraulic controls; open an iron gate from the other side; go back; fuss with the controls again; and finally get to the door the car was blocking by going through the unlocked gate (whew). Puzzles like that don't make much sense to me. They're not even challenging—they're tedious. But as in any other game of this type, you have to keep reminding yourself it's just that—a game. Consequently, all logic is thrown out the window.
Just about everything else in this game was fully expected. I expected the scene in which we get to watch Aya take a nap and a shower in the monster-infested hotel (how could she possibly sleep when monsters are practically in the next room?). I expected the enemies that attack you before you can even see them. What I didn't expect was the lack of spoken dialogue. As Brad says, the characters talk to each other like mimes—making lots of gestures but no noise—with subtitles along the bottom. It threw me to see all of this dialogue going back and forth and yet everything staying quiet. Perhaps Square was trying to spare us the pitiful voice acting of the Resident Evil games, or perhaps Square was just cutting corners on the game's budget (because hiring voice talent, even bad voice talent, is expensive). Whatever the case, I think Brad's right—bad voice talent is better than none at all. I think I might even have cared more about the characters had there been voices to associate them with.
Parasite Eve II adheres strictly to the rules of the game it plays, so fans of these types of games might enjoy it. I enjoyed some of the game's scary moments and its spooky imagery, and I even enjoyed looking at Aya in that mini-skirt (she's rendered very nicely). But I wasn't into the unfair and mostly boring tactics games like this have to rely on to challenge the player. Playing the latest survival horror game reminded me of how annoying it is to have enemies approaching you from all sides and not being able to see all of them due to the fixed perspectives and fake environments.
I don't know about the game's story—mitochondria and cellular behavior and all that jazz. I guess the game's having fun with the sci-fi possibilities there, and it is kind of imaginative (though probably not plausible). If you take it at face value, it can be entertaining. The best line in the game: "Our mitochondria will have the last laugh!"
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood & Gore, Animated Violence
Parents will probably want to skip this game if they are buying for a child not old enough to buy his or her own games. There are a lot of monsters to kill, there are lots of guns (and ammo, oddly enough), hearty splashes of monster blood galore and there's even a shower scene with the game's female protagonist to top it off. Of course, after reading this, I'm sure that gamers who ARE old enough to buy their own games are currently en route to do so.
Gamers in general will find a solid, if predictable, survival horror adventure. The graphics are in the top tier of current PlayStation offerings, and there's some replay to be had with three different endings, along with extra game modes and items which open up after completion. The combat difficulty is as easy as you'll find in these types of games, with only a few of the puzzles being stumpers at times. Most people will come away satisfied, and overall the length (eight to 10 hours) is short enough to be compatible with most attention spans.
Square fans will probably want to stay way from Parasite Eve II. While Square is known for taking risks and trying new things in their games (except the Final Fantasy series) Parasite Eve II is pretty far afield from what most fans might be expecting from the biggest name in RPGs. It loses most of the concessions that the original Parasite Eve had in favor of more closely emulating the current king of the bone yard, Resident Evil. While it basically succeeds, the result will probably turn a lot of traditional Square followers away.
Parasite Eve fans may or may not be disappointed in Parasite Eve II, depending on what aspects of it they originally enjoyed. Its more a sequel in spirit than in actual gameplay and design since combat is no longer handled with the green targeting sphere, and tinkering with items and weapons has been trimmed down to almost nothing. The core elements of story and character do continue, and people who played the first game will definitely get more out of it, though its nothing as epic as Square usually attempts.
RPG fans would be buying the wrong title. Dont be fooled by the Square logo on the cover theres nothing here for people looking for a "cinematic RPG," and the control scheme will likely send RPG fans into fits of frustration. Be warned, this is purely an action game with a smattering of RPG.
Survival horror fans will be pleased with the game. It scores direct hits enough times to make you overlook the misses, and its a well-made, if unimaginative addition to the genre. It doesn't dethrone current kings Resident Evil—Code: Veronica or Silent Hill and doesn't break any new ground, but if you feel the need to put some lead into dripping monsters while running through deserted towns this will definitely tide you over.