Review by: Blake Nelson
Published: September 21, 2000
Parasite Eve was a gamble by Squaresoft to diversify and expand its franchises, because it was designed to be a cinematic RPG, a different type of role-playing game from Final Fantasy style. The move paid off in high sales, but did not garner the kind of rave reviews that were hoped for. In fact, the reception in the media was decidedly lukewarm. Despite this, the original was such a strong seller with PlayStation owners that a sequel was a practical certainty. The success of the second title in a series, however, is not assured by the accomplishments of the original. Often they can be merely derivative, such as the Tomb Raider franchise, or downright abysmal. Once in a great while, a game rises above its predecessor, reaching new heights in gameplay and innovation. Now that the sequel has been released, we can find out whether Squaresoft has avoided the sophomore slump and hit gold.
Parasite Eve 2 begins three years after the events in Parasite Eve. In PE, Aya Brea, who was then a NYPD police officer, investigated a string of gruesome deaths in New York City, including the burning to death of hundreds of concertgoers at Carnegie Hall. In the process, she discovered the mitochondria menace, which was threatening the existence of life as we know it. Mutated mitochondria, organelles found in human cells that provide our energy, had become sentient, with their own motivations that were not compatible with our own. These neo-mitochondria generated immense amounts of energy inside living things, transforming normally harmless animals into terrifying monsters and destroying unwitting humans. Aya determined that these events were linked to a young woman named Eve, the source of these new parasites. While apparently saving mankind, Aya was also affected by Eve. Her mitochondria were changed, imbuing her with spell-like powers in the form of parasitic energy.
As the sequel opens, Aya has left the NYPD to make hunting mutated animals, scientifically referred to as Neo-Mitochondrion Creatures (NMCs), her full-time job. As an agent assigned to the FBI’s Mitochondrion Investigation and Suppression Team (MIST), she is responsible for investigating, containing and cleaning up mitochondria-related events. When something goes very wrong at Akropolis Towers in Los Angeles, a SWAT team is sent in to deal with the situation, but nothing more is heard from them. When Aya shows up on the scene, a police helicopter crashes to the ground in flames and all hell is breaking loose. Inside, Aya finds that NMCs, stronger than any she has ever encountered, have butchered most of the SWAT team. For the first time, she witnesses the transformation of a human being into a horrific monster, and is ordered by MIST to find out what is happening and how to stop it.
As you explore, you will need to examine objects in order to uncover clues, accomplish goals, and find weapons, armor, power-ups and items needed to solve puzzles. These are all added to Aya’s inventory. Like any adventure game, you will have to keep a sharp eye out for things to examine and new areas to explore. Movement with the D-pad or the analog stick will be familiar to anyone who has played Resident Evil and Final Fantasy, with up always being forward from the direction Aya is facing. Aya can walk or run depending on how far you push the analog stick. The controls are greatly simplified by the fact that movement takes place on one plane. Everything Aya needs to accomplish is accessible through the push of a button, including examining items more closely, opening doors, using her weapon, conjuring her spell-like abilities, and walking up and down stairs.
The largely empty world of PE2 is gorgeous and haunting. The absence of other people, birds or animals from most of the scenes adds an eerie desolation that is appropriate for a Resident Evil-styled, survival horror game. PE2 evokes a suitable atmosphere for terror. In each of the different environments you traverse, there is the ever-present sense that things are not right. The bright Mojave Desert, dim mine shafts and foreboding skyscrapers all seem creepy, helping create the feeling that you are alone in a strange world, with danger lurking in the shadows.
As you move throughout a level, you will occasionally be given clues as to which objects are important, such as Aya commenting that she sees something. For example, certain items will be a different color than the surrounding area, and some locations will have lights that glow or blink, such as control panels and the payphones you can use to save your game. Once you enter an area, your only way out will be finding a way through. This requires you to locate keys, pass cards and so on that will unlock different parts of the level. There are a few obligatory puzzles tossed into the mix that mostly revolve around figuring out access codes, which requires paying close attention to any numbers you come across. Armed with newly won prizes, you will spend a lot of time retracing your path through the current level to solve problems that earlier prevented you from entering specific areas. For example, level one contains a control room panel with two keyholes. The first key is close at hand, but you have to get nearly to the end of that mission before an adversary leaves the second one behind. These kinds of errands are typical, and on your return trip, you will face more NMCs.