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Definitely worth a play, but lacking in far too many fundamental areas to be great
By Ed McGlothlin, Reader Reviewer
Parasite Eve is the kind of game many people dread coming from Square,not because it is bad (which it isn't), but because it strays so farfrom what we've become used to. Many experienced RPGamers, myselfincluded, were extremely disappointed that Square turned away frommany things that characterized the Final Fantasy series when makingFinal Fantasy VII. But Parasite Eve shows how those new concepts,despite some taken directly from FFVII, can make for a fairlyinteresting play when extended into an entire game.
PE's most unconventional aspect, the combat engine, is pulled offquite well. The battles appear on the game screen with both ourheroine Aya and the enemies moving about in real time. Magic appearsas "Parasite Energy", which covers the usual cure/haste/slow functionsquite nicely, and is represented by a numberless meter that refillsduring battle. Random battles are spread out evenly and rarely becomeannoying, with only one "hot spot" per room triggering a fight. Theweapons are all guns, but vary in range and style, and theirattributes can be moved somewhat from gun to gun. Virtually all ofthese ideas are new, and the flexibility of this engine makes for afresh experience.
Unfortunately, all those new ideas don't come without some oversightsas well. Aya walks unbelievably slowly, and there are no FFVII-stylearrows to assist with screen navigation. Parasite Energy isn'taffected by items, and its refill can slow to a crawl after a fewuses, forcing you to switch armors or cope. Aya takes forever to aim,shoot, or reload, and can't move while doing any of them. She neverreloads until you try shooting an empty gun, not even after a battle,nor is it a choice when your turn comes up during one. Removing anattribute from your gun will destroy it, narrow hallways can trap younext to enemies, etc. There are a thousand little things that get inthe way, and eventually you'll be frustrated at what you can't do asoften as you'll be impressed at what you can do.
The most lauded aspect of PE is certainly the graphics, and they liveup to the hype in most places, particularly the CG movies that appearin shorter and more frequent clips. They nicely precede battles andother plot events, and the in-game graphics are adequate enough in themeantime. Environments are very well rendered, but can only beinteracted with in specific spots that are often difficult to trigger. Certain design issues end up taking away from the atmosphere that thegraphics provide, namely the many scenes where the high-quality musicwas completely left out. The game is very short as it is, so theextended periods of silence found here are inexcusable. You save yourprogress using phones, but the pre-rendered phones remain on the hookwhen used, meaning Aya and other characters will have 50-100conversations with their right hands. Nothing appears in the hand ofpeople exchanging things, making them look like children play-acting,and characters turn by going into their running animation and spinningin a circle (hilarious, but still bad). The character animationsleave much to be desired, yet Square shows that their CG and renderedbackgrounds are easily the best ever seen.
But this game is still an RPG, cinematic or not, and after awhile yourealize that all this snappy presentation ends up being a necessity tocover a disturbing weakness in RPG basics. Parasite Eve is based onthe concepts of a Japanese novel, so the story is logical and fairlylinear, but the events are usually obvious and made to unfurl far tooslowly. The characters are very one-dimensional, and leave you withlittle interest in that already lacking story. Officer Barret, er…Daniel, is an arm-waving, rash decision-making, group ditching, proneto swearing, anything-punching, child-protecting loud mouth, but isreally a good guy at heart. He leaves the group when he thinks theyaren't acting fast enough to kill the villain that endangers hischild, and is easily upset by scientists. Sound familiar? Needlessto say, he's also black. Square, lightning has now struck twice,please leave black characters out of games until they aren't from thesame crassly racist cookie cutter. As for Aya, she at times willwonder who is controlling her, and even bewares if she may harmanother in the group. Sound familiar? She takes many of her momentsstraight from Cloud's "Self-Doubt: How to Ensure You Are Never Happy"handbook. I'd also be remiss I didn't mention the introverted Asianscientist with bad posture and a timid personality. Also making acameo is the insanely-powerful-but-late-arriving attack. This timeyour character strikes for huge damage seven times instead of calling13 knights to do it for you, but the lack of originality remainsstriking. The cast and story are the game's weakest points, and inan RPG that will tend to outweigh the best of new battle engines orthe flashiest of graphic presentations.
Certainly a game worth playing through, Parasite Eve boasts anoriginal and entertaining battle system, high quality backgrounds andCG, and the endless humor that only someone constantly talking totheir hand can create. But at a mere 8 hours for me, anything morethan a rental might be a waste of your money. A highly overratedoptional building is available in an "EX mode" should you decide toplay through again, but consists of 77 repetitive floors and didlittle to extend the experience beyond another rental at best. Justbecause a game was designed to be short doesn't excuse its being so,and doesn't mean that you won't feel the game was lacking in story andcharacters when you finish. Square can be commended for trying newideas in Parasite Eve, but those ideas are too often underminedbecause no one paid attention to the details and basics behind them. For all its new battle ideas and slick presentation, PE left meremembering mainly the flaws, resulting in a net gain that amounted tolittle more than an entertaining rental and a noble first try.
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