A Thrilling Adventure Game Against the Horrors of Biology
Squaresoft developed their own unique RPG twist to the survival horror genre that started with the success of Capcom’s Resident Evil. Their game was known as Parasite Eve, a fun mix between thrilling horror and engaging RPG gameplay. The game was released in 1998 and sprouted a mini franchise and had enough of a following to be available on the PSN store for PS3 several years later.
Parasite Eve is a game based on a novel written by Hideaki Sena, who was a pharmacologist and a graduate student at Tohoku University. Sena’s novel got famous enough to receive a Japanese film adaptation directed by Masayuki Ochiai. Square collaborated with Hideaki Sena’s publisher as they made the game’s story, locations, and the creature/character designs. The game was also made to be a loose sequel to the novel before it.
The story of Parasite Eve takes place in New York City during the holiday season and follows a young police officer named Aya Brea during a date in the opera house. Things were normal until people started spontaneously combusting and catching on fire as an eerie woman sang. After evacuating the opera house, Aya confronts the mysterious woman, who identifies herself as Eve. Chasing her into the sewers, Aya Brea encountered animals being mutated into horrifying monsters as Eve transformed and wreaked havoc across the city.
The rest of the story follows Aya’s pursuit of the mysterious Eve, dealing with animal mutants that started taking over the city, and discovering why Aya has similar abilities to the villain. The game is 50% cinematic storytelling and 50% gameplay and exploration. A majority of the locations are modeled after real areas in New York City. Fun locations include the St Francis Hospital and the Museum of Natural History.
Combat in Parasite Eve is very interesting. Unlike Square’s other RPGs at the time, Aya Brea can be moved around the area and avoid attacks while moving closer or farther from enemies. During this time, the Active Time Bar will fill up. When full, Aya can then be commanded to take action from using items to using her equipped weapon against targets. When shooting at targets, a grid will form around Aya and any enemies in the grid are susceptible to significant damage while those outside are likely to avoid hits. Weapons could also be customized or modded to have different advantages.
Aya also has parasite energy that allows her to use special attacks or boosts to counter enemies. This parasite energy develops throughout story events when Aya’s mitochondria, the organelles inside all living cells, evolved in such an advanced state that they work symbiotically with her, giving her abilities and helping her resist Mitochondrial Eve, who’s basically Mitochondria manifested as a conscious being.
Along with interesting facts and trivia on mitochondria, Parasite Eve features multiple true facts on microbiology and many real life scientific theories one the human body and the source of many elements of a cell. The game’s science facts were inspired by Hideaki Sena’s personal knowledge and expertise in the subject matter due to his time as a lecturer in microbiology and genre fiction.
Parasite Eve doesn’t have voice acting, meaning that all the dialogue must be read. Since there are no voice actors, Aya Brea’s name can be changed by the player as an option. Because there’s no audible dialogue, much of Parasite Eve’s story progression and emotion is felt through very beautiful and effective music by Yoko Shimomura. Her musical works brought a lot of feeling and emotion into the game, creating a level of immersion that elevated the story even without voice acting.
One final note is the art direction, done by Tetsuya Normura from Final Fantasy fame. Even the creature designs were made with his aesthetic. Aya Brea was designed to be both strong and beautiful, making her one of the stronger female protagonists in the 90s of gaming. All the creatures in Parasite Eve were real life animals that have been twisted or exaggerated by Eve’s cell altering influence.
Parasite Eve is an unforgettable experience. While the gameplay takes some getting used to, the story is spectacular and feels like a police procedural with a monster twist. The monsters were cool to look at and fight while Mitochondria Eve is a fascinating villain to face. Aya and the supporting cast are all compelling to follow and their stories are well fleshed out. The game was popular enough to get a sequel released in 1999. Parasite Eve is a must buy wherever it can be purchased and is worthy of returning as a digital purchase in the Playstation store.
Parasite Eve (1998) Official Trailer