I confess: I love Parasite Eve. Objectively, I’m not even sure it’s that good.
But some things are deeply influential to a specific individual, and it’s not because they’re great –quality has nothing to do with it. It’s a certain alchemy of personality, timing, and some x-factor that I’ll never be able to nail down. Parasite Eve was one of the first games I played, and it had a huge effect on my personal aesthetics.
Come to think of it, between this and Tomb Raider, I seem to have a thing for games featuring young women spelunking in dark places. What does this say about me? That I wish I was a spelunker? Where does one go to spelunk these days?
Keep in mind, I’m not encouraging everyone to go out and pick up a copy of the game. PS1 games from that era have aged poorly in the graphics department, and while I think the writing in PE is actually underrated, there’s nothing about it that’s sufficiently high quality to make it especially worth playing compared to more recent fare. However, as a startlingly ambitious combination of cop show, psychological thriller, Doctor Who-esque Science Fantasy, dungeon crawling, character building, gun collecting, and techno music put together in an RPG that celebrates an empty Manhattan that never was, it’s a unique piece of gaming history.
The protagonist of Parasite Eve is rookie NYC cop Aya Brea, proficient with every firearm under the sun and totally the women I’d fall for if I played on the other team (and err, if she weren’t fictional I suppose. I sometimes forget that part.) However, I’m straight, and it does have to be said that Aya can be a little dense– her dialogue is littered with exclamations like “What? How can that be!?” and “No!” and “What do you mean my mitochondria are evolving at an unusually accelerated rate?” People have knocked the character for that, but to be fair, I kind of like that about her. We can’t all be Rhodes Scholars. She’s already gorgeous, can handle a rifle as well as Solid Snake, and soon enough, will also have superpowers. There’s a fine line between idealized and insufferable, you know?
Note on the Screens: In years past I have always, always kept the default character names in RPGs out of respect for the writers’ intentions, but in some of the following screens you will see that Aya’s name is Karen for this playthrough. Is this an attempt to tag all of my screens so they aren’t easily stolen, or a sign of my growing megalomania? You decide.
The game starts with Aya on a hilariously awful date, with an escort who says things like “I had my Dad get me the best seats for us tonight!” Y’know, I wonder how much the average guy gamer likes this opening, because being a woman probably makes it about ten thousand times better. It’s like, we’ve all been on this date, but unfortunately unlike Aya, we weren’t packing heat…well, actually I was once, but that’s a story best left for another day.
Fortunately possessed Opera Singer Melissa (known from this point on as Eve) brings a
premature end to Aya’s date by lighting Carnegie Hall on fire. I used to just pretend that I had cramps.
While the other occupants of the theater are busy burning to death, Aya’s all business; she draws her gun and orders her mysteriously-not-burning date out of the theater. If I were some kind of fancy internet guru, I would make an animation of Aya body-checking her date out of the way, because that’s exactly what she does here. Minor plot hole: It’s repeated many times that Aya is the sole survivor of the Carnegie Hall Incident, only her boyfriend mysteriously escapes the theater and is never mentioned again. I guess some of her special mitochondria must have rubbed off on him when he was helping her off with her coat.
Aya approaches Eve in the name of the NYPD, and Eve starts starts demonstrating some of the problems with Japanese-to-English translation that plague this game. The Japanese use the word “body” much more often than English speakers, but a too-literal translation will often keep the word, leading to awkwardness. “I’m burning up!” has a very different connotation then “My body is getting HOT!” Guess which version this game goes with.
A pathetically easy boss fight ensues, during which Aya’s “Parasite Energy” awakens due to her proximity to Eve, meaning she has a green PE bar under her health from now on and will start learning spells to cast as she levels up. Technically I guess they’re not “spells”, they’re more like “benevolent mutations” or “super-evolved mitochondrial abilities”, but I’m going to use the word spell from now on because it’s shorter. Anyway, Eve babbles something about a connection between her and Aya (Nooo? REALLY?), and Aya has the first of about forty flashbacks to a time she was in the hospital as a small child that she barely remembers. Eve floats offstage, and Aya follows.
At this point, the story sequences start to dwindle and you begin to experience the actual gameplay of PE–in the past kiddies, opening non-playable sequences used to last for about five minutes as opposed to three hours– which I will save for the next installment. The main event is that Aya starts ransacking the basement of Carnegie Hall while looking for Eve, and mysteriously finds lots of ammo instead. Illogical perhaps, but I kind of like the idea that all of the musicians who perform at Carnegie Hall have been stockpiling bullets just in case that first-chair violinist needs to be put in their place….actually, that’s not as far from the truth as you might at first think.
Next time on Parasite Eve: Spelunking in the rat-infested sewers beneath Carnegie Hall is no reason not to look fabulous. In the interests of full disclosure my next blog entry will probably be another installment of the Tomb Raider project, but you know what I mean.
(Note: Just like the Tomb Raider Project, this was originally posted as a Destructoid Cblog; I am moving my game playthroughs over here for posterity. These entries are edited slightly differently than they were in their first posting.)