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- - Parasite Eve
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Parasite Eve is one of the few (if not the only) M rated game I like. Its interesting story twists and turns through a dark plot that makes this game almost like a book instead of a true RPG. In fact, it is more like an adventure game with RPGish elements than anything else.
It's Christmas Eve and rookie police office Aya Brea is on a date to the opera when all hell breaks loose. As the lead singer Melissa Pearce performs, audience members spontaneously combust into flames. Aya investigates the opera house to discover mutated rodents and other critters running about. She then comes along Melissa, who has mutated herself. Melissa has a chilling message for Aya, and the story takes off from there.
She is the main character of the story. She's been a member of the NYPD for a bare 6 months when this case comes up. Stubborn by nature, she's partnered with Daniel "Bo" Dollis, who is 20 years her superior on the force. His experience balances out her brashness to make a well-balanced team.
Daniel "Bo" Dollis
A cop with no desire to be stuck behind a desk, he's content to leave positions of authority to others. Don't let this deceive you into thinking he's irresponsible. He keeps a good eye on his rookie partner. He divorced from his wife a year ago and currently has custody of his 8-year-old son, Ben. Ben has a fondness for the station's dogs and can be found playing with them when his father allows.
She grew up a sickly child. Even as an adult, she has many medical difficulties and is often taken to the hospital. While growing up, she always desired the leading role in an opera. The chance to lead the group on the Christmas Eve performance is a dream come true, but also a nightmare if her body fails her and her understudy must substitute for her.
He's from Japan and is a stereotypical geek: glasses, sloppy dress, very intelligent, etc. His insights to the case that Aya and Daniel are working on are invaluable. (He's also good comic relief at times, much better than JarJar could ever be >P )
There are other characters in the story that I don't have listed here. Do your best to keep track of names and places, and take notes if necessary!
PE takes place over 6 days, which are kind of like chapters in the story. The game itself is very story-like with lots of dialogue and battling / exploring in-between it.
The battle system itself is quite unique. Aya is the only playable character in the game. When she enters a battle, her battle gauge charges. Once it's full, the player locks onto the enemy with her weapon and executes. What makes this so unique is that it's from a near overhear perspective where the player is constantly moving Aya to dodge any attacks that may come her way. When locking onto the enemy, a doom-like grid appears around Aya. If the enemy isn't within the grid, they aren't within attack range and she needs to be repositioned before attacking. It's a bit difficult to explain, but looks cool and plays well.
The detail that's given to Aya's armament is outstanding compared to most games. She can use a variety of firearms (and clubs). Each one has a different range, clip capacity, how it fires (rapid fire, spread shot, single, etc.) and how many slots it has available for modification. (I'll get to that in a moment.) Aya's weapon can only fire a set number of rounds per battle round, and the weapon itself holds a finite amount of ammo before reloading is required. If Aya has to reload during battle, it slows her down noticeably before her next attack round comes up.
Customizable weapons are one of my favorite parts of this game. As a player progresses, they will find an item called 'Tool' or 'Super Tool'. A Tool allows the player to take a single attribute from one weapon and add it to another (space providing) at the cost of the original weapon being destroyed. The Super Tool allows a player to do the same thing without the weapon being destroyed in the process. Weapons can also be modified by the guys in the station's armory if they have a modification permit from the Chief (or later, trading cards). Modifications can also be made to armor. If a player is clever in how they use their resources, they can create a weapon and armor that will make them near unstoppable.
Good item management is another key to success in PE. Aya has only so many pockets in her vests. As her armor gets better, her item capacity increases. Fortunately, items can be put into storage at the armory for later retrieval. I would recommend storing all weapons/armor/keys/recovery items that aren't immediately needed away until they are needed. (Including storing away several Tools for a rainy day..).
Items cannot be bought, only found/given to Aya. Aya carries a finite amount of ammo. Don't worry about this aspect too much. Enemies often drop much more ammo than what was pumped into them in the process of bringing them down. Additional rounds can also be found in the armory every time Aya returns to the station. (A recovery item can also be found every time Aya returns to the armory).
The difficulty of battles varies greatly. Most of it is at a leave to be mildly challenging (meaning, it's at a pace that additional level building isn't required). The exception to this is an area called 'The Warehouse'. This area has some of the most difficult enemies and bosses this side of the final confrontation. Fortunately, the Warehouse is not a required area to explore to finish the game.
When Aya gains a level, she receives bonus points. These points can be spent on either boosting her stats or on increasing the number of items she can carry. (Personally, I usually opt for the latter).
Aya has one more trick up her sleeve. As the game progresses and she gains levels, she'll learn how to use her 'Parasite Energy'. PE is essentially magic that can be used to heal hit points, status ailments, attack enemies, etc. Aya's PE meter is filled by not using it during battle. When she does, the cost of the spell is subtracted and then the meter starts filling itself again. Once Aya is high enough level, she'll have enough PE capacity to cast several spells before serious recharging is necessary.
This is not a long game. 8 hours is average for the first quest completion. Saying that, it does mean that there is a second quest. At the end of the first quest, Wayne (the person running the armory) allows you to engrave your name onto 1 piece of armor and a weapon. These two items are then transferred over to the second quest should the player choose to take it on.
The second quest is exactly like the first quest with one big difference, the player can enter the Chrysler Building when they get far enough. The Chrysler Building is a nasty 77-level, randomly generated, maze with the opportunity to leave and save every 10 levels (after defeating an equally nasty boss). Hard? You better believe it. What does meeting this challenge net you? How about the real ending to the game. (You didn't think it was all happy now, did you?)
As I already mentioned, PE is rated M. This is due to a couple of things. The dark (and often graphic nature) of the game itself is fully capable of scaring the crap out of someone (myself included). When Aya shoots something, blood squirts out. When a creature mutates, its flesh peels off. (The rat near the beginning of the game is a beautifully done movie, but what a way to turn a person's stomach!) The box says it has 'mature sexual themes'. I can't recall any such scenes off the top of my head unless they're referring to the tight dress Aya's in during Day 1. I definitely wouldn't let younger children play or watch someone play this game. (It's given me nightmares. I'd hate to think of a 10-year-old having them too..).
The game's controls can be a bit awkward, especially if you don't have an analog controller. The menu system also isn't as instinctive as it could be. Perhaps the game (first quest) isn't long enough to train myself into which buttons to press to open menus since I was still having problems at the end. (Of course, Square has this annoying tendency to configure the controls differently for each of its game --; )
Graphics wise, PE is a gem. (Or, at least, it was when it was released..). The movies aren't as good as Square's later efforts, but the progress made from FF7 to PE to FF8 is traceable and should be kept in mind. The graphics while moving around are nice and keep in line with the evolution I've pointed out. The scenery is appropriately dark/dismal to fit the mood.
The music does a lot to add to that mood. I must admit some of the freakiest parts of the game is when there is no music. The feeling that a monster is going to leap out and catch you at any moment sends chills down the player's spine. For as good at the music is during the game, it doesn't work very well as a soundtrack CD. I have the OST and Remix CDs and can barely make it through them once. Some things just don't work well out of context...
PE comes with a Demo Disc. On the disc is a playable demo of Xenogears and movies for Final Fantasy 8, Brave Fencer Musashi, and Bushido Blade 2.
I recently bought PE new for $25US. The store also had it for $20US used. I consider this a good buy if you're into the genre. Though, it's always best to rent or borrow a game first if you're unsure as to if you'll like it or not.
Reviewed October 24th, 1999