So, finally, I’m talking about games I’ve beaten once again. Kinda sad that it’s been literally months since I did an entry like that, isn’t it? Seems like its either too hot, too cold, or I’m just not interested. That’s just how it goes around here, my interests flip-flop.
But I’m happy to say my latest conquest was actually a worthwhile game. Parasite Eve for the PSOne was probably Squaresoft’s last good game. I say “probably” because I kinda stopped following the company during the Playstation One years. On the Super Nintendo, Square’s name was synonymous with quality, but that didn’t quite hold true in future console generations. In fact one Square game, Final Fantasy VIII, was so bad it very nearly ruined the entire RPG genre for me. I’m glad that didn’t stick.
Getting back to Parasite Eve, the Happy Video Game Nerd already did an excellent overview of the entire trilogy, so there’s not much I can add, but I’ll try anyway. The reason I even played this game, considering my history with Square, was because I happened to find it in Goodwill for two bucks. Both discs only had minor blemishes, the case and manual were intact, and the only thing missing was the bonus disc of game demos, which for two bucks, I could forgive the loss.
After putting it into my Playstation, I immediately was drawn in by the well-paced, no-nonsense storytelling, with dialogue that gets right to the point, but more importantly I liked the gameplay. Happy Nerd’s “It’s like Chrono Trigger meets Resident Evil” comparison is spot-on, because you only ever fight one battle per screen and its usually obvious where its gonna pop up. Sometimes you can actually identify what I call the “trigger zone” and carefully step around it, and sometimes it just doesn’t happen anyway.
But even if you do get into battle, its fun to fight, because it really does play more like an action game (in fact, Parasite Eve basically justifes the existence of the term “action-RPG”). Getting hit, for example, is based on whether the enemy’s attack makes contact with Aya’s sprite, not based on random die rolls like in most RPGs, and since you have free movement that means you can actually get good at dodging. And let me tell you, one thing I normally hate RPGs is how they give you little or no control over your fate in battle, so a system like this is very welcome. When your AT bar fills up, you can choose to do an action (and later in the game you might find an upgrade that allows two actions per turn).
As for magic, here you have “Parasite Energy” and its basically unlimited–your Parasite Energy refills slowly over time. If you’re having visions of Eternal Darkness and its similar mechanic though, I have to warn you: Parasite Eve is nowhere near as broken and exploitable as Eternal Darkness was, largely because of three things: One, you only get two attack spells and they both require ALL your Parasite Energy, and using them leaves you stunned for a second once they terminate. Two, the more powerful healing and support spells take a large amount of P.E. And three, your bar refills slowly. It seems to refill faster if you keep using your action bar, something I particularly noticed in one fight where I just ran around dodging an enemy until I had half my Parasite Energy back.
You see, there’s an element of strategy here too. When you shoot, your locked in place until Aya’s done shooting. This means sometimes its better to wait until you dodge an enemy attack, then blast them while they’re winding down. However, casting a spell pauses the action until the spell is finished, which can be a lifesaver in some situations. Also, here’s a PROTIP, because I honest to God did not figure this out until the final boss, but: Just because you have a gun that can fire three bullets at a time, doesn’t mean you’re forced to. If you don’t want to fire all three, just assign the ones you do want to fire and then press Square. Likewise, when you get that upgrade that allows you to issue two commands in one turn, if you ever want to skip the second command, again, press the Square button. Trust me, knowing this made the game much easier.
There is one element I questioned initially, and it was the “Tools” system. Okay, basically you get these “Tools” that can take either perks or bonus points from any weapon or armor that has them, and give them to another weapon or armor, destroying the original in the process (unless you use a “Super Tool”, which moves the points or perk without destroying the source). Each Tool or Super Tool can only be used once, but by scrapping old equipment and giving its points (which do accumulate) to the new, you can build up the gun and armor of your choice to be the strongest weapon in the game.
The reason I questioned this system was, simply, because like most RPGs, you’re constantly getting new equipment that is better than what you had before. At times, I wondered if I was making a mistake by putting all these points into one gun when I knew something better could be just around the corner. However, now that I’ve beaten the game, I can confirm that for the most part, there isn’t a wrong move. If there’s a gun or a vest you really like, go ahead and build it up. Chances are you’ll still be able to beat the game with it.
PROTIP: So far as I know, there’s only one area in the game where you can get Tools as a random drop, and that’s on the 3rd Day, when [SPOILER] monsters invade the police station. I noticed some monsters there drop Tools, and even though I didn’t do this, it might be worthwhile to grind for tools so you can scrap all the spare gear you have and make a super-badass weapon and armor combination.
Okay, so do I have anything to criticize about this game?
Well… there was one thing. When opening doors, chests, lockers etc. positioning is super-picky. Sometimes I thought a door or chest was un-openable but no, I was actually just standing one micropixel away from where the game wants me to stand. I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed a lot of items that should have been obvious just because of this picky positioning (The Happy Nerd points out a case of this in his review).
Okay, so was there anything I HATED about Parasite Eve?
Yes, there was.
It’s one of those mistakes that Squaresoft kept making well into the PS2 days.
My old enemy.
Let me tell you about the final boss. There’s a save point, and then you go through a door, sit through a cutscene with some Full-Motion Video sprinkled in for good measure, then the fight starts, and its four stages, and if you die at any stage, its back to that save point…
… And you have to sit through the cutscene again. There is literally no way to skip it.
And the final boss is kinda tricky, it might take some experimenting before you finally figure out the trick to dodging its attacks and taking it down. It took me about three times, and each time I failed, I had to sit through that goddamn cutscene.
Oh, but then the game pulls one last trick. It doesn’t end with the defeat of the boss, see: After all four forms, the game goes into a Clock Tower-like segment where you’re running from a monster and have to do one last thing, and if it catches you, you instantly die. The first time, I got caught by it because I tried to go back to that save point, only to be told it no longer worked, and really I didn’t properly understand the shift the game took–I assumed that if it caught up, I’d simply have to fight it in a battle screen like every other monster.
So I died…
And I had to sit through that goddamn cutscene again…
Really, it says something about how good the game was that I kept playing it. If it had been just about any other game, this bullshit would’ve been enough for me to just call it quits and be done.
Like the Happy Nerd, I only played through the main game, and felt the main ending was satisfying enough. I went to the EX game and took a glance at the Chrysler building but didn’t bother to complete it. Not yet anyway, but maybe someday.
PROTIP: I want to point out something the Happy Nerd didn’t properly convey: He made it sound like the EX Game was the Chrysler building, but its actually more like a New Game Plus because you play through the main story again, just you get to carry over a weapon and an armor that Wayne engraved your name on when the choice was offered (he also still has whatever you left in storage with him, except for plot-relevant items like keys), and Aya starts with 3000 bonus points, but is back to being a level one character. I think the Chrysler building might be easier if, instead of tackling it immediately, you instead replay the story until Day 5, by which point Aya will be more built up.
… By the way, while I’m not unaware of the irony of doing a post immediately after Christmas about a game that takes place ON Christmas, I by no means planned this. Even so, I hope you all had a good Santa Day!