The Decay of Parasite Eve

Written by: Jon Castillo

Features | Dec 9, 2016

Aya Brea Parasite Eve Square Enix Squaresoft

I don't think there has ever been another series more mishandled by an innovative game company than Parasite Eve.

Created by SquareSoft (now Square Enix), Parasite Eve has undergone numerous mutations over the decades that aren't exactly pretty. I still look back and remember the spiraling disaster of the trilogy; one which could have been something as epic as Final Fantasy.

Let's turn our dials back to 1998, where video games felt like video games, and everything looked and felt new, refreshing and fun - a time when there was harmony in gaming.

PlayStation's Parasite Eve was the bomb. Squaresoft showed how capable they were in making a good story. Let's ignore the fact that the loading times were long and the levels were too big for Aya's daring hot pursuit dash that would never match up to the speed of a toddler grasping on how to walk.

Let's just focus on the first five minutes of the game where we are introduced to our protagonist, Aya Brea, aged 25, in a sexy black dress, with her date escorting her to the opera.

On stage, the actress Melissa (who is not unattractive herself) breaks off character as she spots Aya in the audience. They lock eyes and follow up with a smashing headache that is as intimate and bashful as Harry Potter when his scar flares up whenever Voldy-morty is nearby.

You'd think that there was something to that eye-contact; some spark or a coming-out-of-the-closet moment. Whatever sexual tension these two built up was so hot that nearly everyone in the audience went up in flames like a bunch of Samsung phones.

Just like that, the first five minutes show our heroine, villain, and a bunch of innocent people burning to their deaths. We get a simple boss fight where we have to dodge twin laser beams while trying to figure out what just happened, just as Aya is wondering the very same thing.

You barge backstage where you find Melissa's diary and learn more about her. In spite of all the action happening in every scene or two, this is a very story-driven game. It also helped that the game looked just as flashy as any RPG could get (as showcased by the various spells you learn along the way). Though it lacked customization and needed more varied abilities, this can be forgiven due to the fact that it was the first game and paved the way for a pool of infinite possibilities for the sequels.

This is as sexy as the game would ever get, as it made the infamous and notorious shower scenes in Parasite Eve 2 and The 3rd Birthday look kid-friendly.

The monsters in Parasite Eve are also gorgeous. They are frightening, eerie things that were cleverly designed. Grotesque and repugnant, the monsters were something that even the artists from Resident Evil and its two sequels could never come close to designing (except for the spider boss; that one was kind of boring).

The battle system wasn't what you would call sophisticated. You move around with a gun on the battle screen before bringing out a matrix which allows you to pause the action and target enemies' body parts and weak spots. Run out of ammo and you're stuck with a stupid baton. Your best hope of surviving then is to locate the enemy's weak spot and focus on hitting that for the best possible effect.

The sad thing about Parasite Eve was how short it was. This is all coming from memory, but you only had the opera, the sewers, the museum, the hospital, the park, the police department, the sewers (again), the museum (or was it a hotel?), and finally the military ship. There's not much backtracking here and each of these areas ended with an epic boss battle, each one stranger than the last.

Not to mention the game's collectibles. Every game has that. Even today. Parasite Eve gave you junk to pick up as well. But unlike most games out there, the game rewards you with the ultimate weapon after collecting a certain amount of junk.

Parasite Eve 2 suffered some backlash by being a Resident Evil knockoff. Every part of it was an echo of Resident Evil - the combat, camera angles, and locked doors were all reminiscent of Capcom's famous horror franchise (the only difference is that Parasite Eve 2 allowed you to shoot fireballs).

It seems that Square had plans to compete against Capcom by introducing their own spin on the survival horror genre. It had potential. It sounded as sexy as its protagonist, Aya Brea, who loved reminding us that her name was Japanese. But somewhere down the line, Parasite Eve 2 lost its identity by being too similar to Resident Evil.

Parasite Eve 2
was lackluster - a freak show of the worst kind that should have never happened. It lacked proper RPG elements. There was little to no customization for Aya; armor, weapons, and spells (which were actually just reskinned rocket launchers) were the only things you could change on the heroine.

The constant running back and forth, finding keys within deep wells, then using said keys on the other side of town to enter a room where someone appears to be screaming as they die tends to get old. Personally, if I wanted to play Resident Evil, I'd play Resident Evil. It also didn't help that Capcom was the champion of horror games back then (before Konami scared us shitless with Silent Hill).

Where Square Enix truly misfired was in the release of The 3rd Birthday, the third entry in the Parasite Eve series.

It sounded interesting at first; people started to get the impression that each installment of Parasite Eve would have different gameplay mechanics. It's nice to give Aya a different experience for each date; with the first game's date ending in a long, sweet kiss before saying goodnight, the second being an awkward but tolerable date, and the final outing which decided to skip the romance and forced us to jump into bed with the reluctant Aya.

Sex sells after all; a concept the Japanese seem to take too far with their anime. Square Enix didn't seem to understand what their series meant and placed us in an awkward situation between being a pervert and a sex-deprived maniac.

No matter how sexy Aya Brea was meant to be, Square Enix took it a little too far with the third game. Somehow, the developers thought it would be nice for Aya to have pieces of her clothes torn off as enemies attack her. Let's not forget that the very first boss in this game was a huge tentacle.

Maybe it's just me, but it seems that there's more going on in the developers' collective artistry than we initially expected. Look, the idea of losing fabric is nice, but Soul Caliber did it better. In that game, characters' clothing were shredded just enough to make things interesting. In The 3rd Birthday, Aya would basically be standing in her undergarments while covered in cuts and bruises.

It's voyeuristic and perverted, as if Aya would need to endure a beating to the point that she would be almost naked. It's a reflection of abusing women in society, where the title's main gameplay mechanic has you invading the thoughts of other people and forcing them to do your bidding.

The gameplay of 3rd Birthday was wildly different. The idea was of technically possessing bodies until they have been crushed, mauled, shredded, or smashed to pieces was great. It added a little twist to the whole "parasite" schema, where you collected various genes that could evolve and combine to create new skills. In spite of all this though, it continues to feel as if it is missing something substantial. It didn't feel like an RPG nor a survival action game - it was a sci-fi shooter with a badly crafted and convoluted Oscar-bait story.

Should we want a Parasite Eve 4? No, The 3rd Birthday seriously damaged that possibility. A remake would be best, in order to rectify all the mishandling the series had undergone. There's just a lot of potential to the series that was never explored. Parasite Eve and Aya Brea both have a reasonably-sized fan base, but they still have a lot more to offer should they be given the chance.

About the author: Jon Castillo

Jonathan is hiding from a lynch mob after messing with the wrong basketball team. His favorite song is "Boys do Fall in Love" by Robin Gibb.

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