Review by: Jason Purdy
Published: December 6, 1998
I’m not sure exactly when the CD-ROM became a staple in common household computers, but when it did it ushered in an era where storage space was no longer an issue for game designers. No longer did they have to worry about shipping out a box with 27 floppies in it. Just slap the whole thing on a CD and be done with it. Many of today’s games simply wouldn’t have been feasible otherwise. For example, the computer game Phantasmagoria would have taken up something in the neighborhood of 3,110 floppies. Scientists here at Avault, by the way, determined that that would be the only thing that could have made that game any worse. But I digress (constantly). My point is, the sudden explosion of available storage space allowed designers to pack incredible amounts of multimedia videos, sounds, and pictures into their games. The downside of this was that designers started creating games that were hardly anything more than multimedia videos, sounds, and pictures. Thus, the “interactive movie” was born. This somewhat infamous title has been applied to such classics as the previously mentioned Phantasmagoria, the more recent X-Files release, and a host of other games, many of which can be found near the bottom of the bargain bit at your local retailer.
The Playstation, being a CD-based system, naturally has seen a few games that fit this description. However, I have never seen a game that actually accomplished the ultimate goal of the “interactive movie” as well as Parasite Eve. This is a game that nails it from the start.
Parasite Eve’s intro seems out of place, in that it isn’t being projected onto a big screen, and you’re holding a gamepad in your hands rather than a bag of popcorn. Yes, it’s that good. It sets the scene at Christmas, 1997. Snow is in the air, visions of sugarplums are dancing all over the place, and human spontaneous combustions are on the rise.
You’re police officer Aya Brea (re-namable, just like all of SquareSoft’s protagonists) and you’re heading out to spend a nice, pleasant evening at the opera. Everything goes well until the actors, actresses, and eventually the audience all burst into flames. At first it seems that this is merely a side effect of the horrible acting of the animation impoverished actor models, but the story unfolds to reveal that the lead actress, a woman named Eve who was in mid-solo when everyone but her and Aya burst into flame, is really the cause of things. At this point you take control of Aya and chase Eve backstage, where the real meat of the game shows itself.
Parasite Eve is played in a manner very similar to Resident Evil 2. You control the main character as she explores a 3D environment in search of clues as to what’s going on. Whenever a hostile creature enters the scene the game enters a very interesting hybrid RPG/action combat mode. There is no drastic shifting of screens, or any other traditional RPG fare. Instead, the adversaries appear on the screen, and you retain complete control of your character. You run, dodge, hide, and generally try to avoid having a cap placed in your person while waiting for an action bar to fill up. When this action bar reaches its maximum, you are free to use an item, shoot at the bad guys, or use any of your mysterious parasite powers (magic). After acting, the action bar goes down to zero, and you dodge until it fills up again. After the fight, the requisite experience points and cash are handed out, along with occasional bonus points. These bonus points can be used to add some extra kick to a favorite gun, make your action bar fill quicker, increase your carrying capacity, or can have any of several other beneficial effects. In this way, Aya is customizable. Two separate players can end the game with wildly different characters.