Today I’m talking about one of my favorite Survival Horror on PS1 games, it’s a game I have some of the best memories of. And though I’m covering it in October for Halloween, it’s actually a Christmas game. It’s Parasite Eve.
You play rookie NYPD officer Aya Brea over a very eventful 6 days. The game is considered a sequel to a novel of the same name by Hideaki Sena, which posits that Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the body’s cells, has undergone an incredible evolution and is poised to take over humanity. As Aya, you need to fight to protect your friends, the city, and figure out why you seem to be the only one immune to the terrifying effects of a mysterious woman called Eve.
Parasite Eve is a game I got for Christmas in ‘98. I was so excited when I opened it up, but the family was coming over and I wasn’t allowed to play it right away. However, I was determined to experience it in some way so I kept the game’s amazing intro cutscene on, just looping, all throughout the day and showed it to anyone willing to come down to the basement and watch it with me
This game has one of the best openings, to this day. Aya arrives at Carnegie Hall to watch the opera, something she felt oddly compelled to do. As the lead soprano, Melissa, begins singing her big number, everyone in the theatre spontaneously combusts. It’s chaos. People are falling off balconies engulfed in flames and trying to run but not getting very far. And Melissa just keeps singing.
Aya and her date seem to be the only ones not affected, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t combust just so she could do this cool shoulder check here. Gaining control of Aya, you need to climb on stage and approach the woman causing all this. She tells you that your cells should be awakening soon, a confusing message, and then you fight. Rather than the rather ponderous turn-based combat of a Final Fantasy, in Parasite Eve you are active all the time.
Though you do have an Active Time Bar that limits how often you can shoot at her with your sidearm, you have to stay moving and avoid all of her attacks.
As this first fight is happening Aya complains that she’s getting hot, something in her body is reacting. Before long, the woman escapes and you need to chase her through the rehearsal rooms. Now you have a second meter – Parasite Energy which gives you supernatural abilities like healing, damage, or haste. You’ll get more of these as the game goes on and Aya gets stronger.
At the end of the introduction, you’re left with visions of terrifyingly mutated creatures, a mysterious and dangerous nemesis called Eve, and the question of how she is related to Aya.
The science behind the game’s plot is at least loosely based in reality. The author of the novel is a microbiologist and used theories about mitochondria evolving
symbiotically with humans as the basis for the story.
Through interrogations and making friends with a helpful scientist named Maeda, Aya and her partner Daniel slowly learn the truth about what’s going on.
Eve was born when Melissa’s body was taken over by her mitochondria and has evolved to be able to control the mitochondria of others – by making them combust or melt into giant ooze creatures.
But Aya’s mitochondria have also evolved, which is why she is immune and now has new abilities to lean on. This makes her the only one who can fight Eve.
Tensions ramp up when it’s discovered that Eve is trying to create the Ultimate Being by impregnating herself.
The characters in the game are all great.
I love Aya as the protagonist. She starts out slightly naive but she’s a badass. She never shies away from a fight and is always stepping up to protect those who can’t protect themselves.
But she is also understandably confused and even a little angry at everything that’s being thrown at her so suddenly. Her battle with Eve is not only physical but mental, as she wonders if she’s a monster too.
I love seeing her grow into her own and become increasingly more powerful as she evolves, eventually getting access to some incredible abilities that require her to let the mitochondria take over during combat. Her partner Daniel is the classic more experienced mentor-figure.
He is also a single dad to his son Ben and much of his attention is pulled between his job and protecting his family. And Maeda is brilliant and charming in an awkward kind of way. He’s always giving Aya little charms to protect her before each mission, showing that he cares about her safety, if not her limited inventory capacity.
The 6-day structure and the path you take through New York, constantly tracking down Eve, work really well and result in an excellently paced game.
Parasite Eve’s sci-fi story is grounded by taking place in a real city. You’ll visit the Central Park Zoo, The Museum of Natural History, maybe even the Chrysler Building depending on how much you want to put into the game. Each location takes something familiar and twists it, filling it with horrifying creatures and the threat of terrible things happening.
When traveling between locations there’s an overworld map that lets you select where you want to go and there’s usually a little scene between Aya and Daniel who talk about what’s going on as they drive.
It does a good job of setting up and familiarizing you with locations, like the police department, only to have you return back there later under much worse circumstances.
When combat starts, it’s a real treat. First, the room brightens, there’s the sound of a heart beating, and the amazing fight music kicks in. Combat takes place wherever you currently are. No going to a generic field or room or play out a fight, if you’re in a narrow hallway, you fight in that narrow hallway. The battlefield is different in pretty much every combat instance, giving you new obstacles or challenges to adapt to. At one point you’re fighting on a falling window washer platform, at another, you’re in a carriage being drawn by a terrified and slightly on fire horse. The different locations keep it exciting.
And then there’s what you’re fighting.
Eve is causing everything around her to mutate and evolve. The creatures you fight are gross disfigurements of what they started out as – rats with split tails that throw fireballs, bipedal alligators, and, my favorite, a whole bunch of different dinosaurs in the museum, their dry old bones brought to life by the organic goo Eve is controlling.
Sometimes you’re fighting multiple different kinds of creatures at once, and you need to learn their patterns so you can avoid taking damage.
There’s actually a lot to think about in combat. Each of the weapons you’ll find has a range on it so you need to be close enough to hit what you’re aiming at while avoiding attacks from close up.
Your Parasite abilities spice things up by letting you slow down enemies or confuse them, heal yourself in a number of different ways or channel your energy into a bullet that will do extra damage but leave you temporarily dazed.
Sometimes fights start seemingly randomly, while at others they were clearly scripted and you knew what was coming as soon as you stepped into the room. Both the combat and the exploration excel at walking the line between feeling like a Survival Horror on PS1 and an rpg. Ammo and health were constantly on my mind, but I never felt weak, I knew I was a match for all these creatures.
Combat was harder than I remember it being and I went through healing items pretty fast on a lot of fights, especially bosses. But that combat start-up effect is just so good I was always excited for it to happen, no matter how low on health and ammo I was.
To help you survive, the game has quite an in-depth weapon modification system. By finding tools you can move the stats or bonus effects of one weapon onto another, strengthening it and modifying it to your tastes. You’ll come across a wide range of guns and body armor and if you find a favorite you can sort of level it up with you by feeding new weapons into it.
Leveling Aya herself is actually a little less interesting, she has a few stats that increase on their own and then you get bonus points you can put into either increasing the rate at which your Active Time Bar increases or your inventory capacity.
At each location, there are a number of chests to find which can give you access to new weapons, health items, and ammo, it’s always a relief to come across one.
I don’t tend to have a lot to say about music in my reviews, but this soundtrack is phenomenal, one of my favorites ever.
The composer is Yoko Shimomura, who’s also known for Super Mario RPG and The Kingdom Hearts series. The soundtrack makes excellent use of piano to underscore the tension and dread of each scene, it has thumping electronic sounds when you’re in battle or watching one of the beautifully rendered CGI action scenes and it makes heavy use of the intro’s opera to give many tracks some extra weight.
There’s an almost unnatural sound too much of the score which is unnerving in the best possible way.
The other sounds are also very effective.
I love the sound of Aya’s shoes clomping and echoing on the concrete. It’s not necessarily the most realistic sound effect but it’s great.
The game’s CGI cutscenes are glorious. I think they still look pretty great even now, on a technical level, but it’s the contents of the scenes that makes them memorable. Seeing a rat’s skin pull away from its face as it mutates or watching an entire audience of people melt into the ooze and combine together into a terrifying mass of goo.
it’s so gross and so impressive. If you like body Survival Horror on PS1 this game has you covered. There are a lot of cutscenes, but I’m always excited to see what weirdness is coming next and they are brilliantly executed, making excellent use of lighting, angles, and shots of the beleaguered city to really drive home the scale of what’s happening.
Of course, compared to the cutscenes the rest of the visuals can leave something to be desired.
It’s hard to see Aya like this, and then be handed control and she looks like this.
These character models are not attractive and it’s hard to make out facial expressions.
While the backgrounds still look pretty good, the game is also extremely dark. It can be hard to see where you’re going in some locations and often it’s impossible to tell when a chest is near until the screen lights up when you get into combat.
Parasite Eve would be my first choice for a game to get a remaster. Gameplay-wise it holds up very well, the cutscenes and music are great but some nicer character models and a few other little quality of life changes would do wonders.
The other main complaint I had while playing this time around was where the save points are. This is honestly a pretty common issue from this era of gaming, but having a save point followed by 10 minutes of unskippable dialogue or cutscenes then a difficult boss fight is really not ideal.
At the end of the game there’s a 4 phase boss fight, intercut with dialogue and cutscenes, followed by an intense, though slightly slow-moving chase, and if you die at any point you just have to do it all over again. Puts a little bit of a damper on an otherwise exciting ending.
Also, if we’re remaking things, let’s get rid of the junk. Yes, items called junk that exist just to fill up your inventory.
Don’t need those.
When Parasite Eve first came out critics complained that it was short and linear. Because they were dumb and their priorities were wrong.
At under 10 hours, this game is the perfect length. It doesn’t overstay its welcome, it doesn’t make you grind for experience or items. Aya finds out what she needs to do and gets it done without being averted by nonsense side quests or unimportant characters, making her a much more practical protagonist than most.
Parasite Eve is a great game that I recommend to anyone. Like Survival Horror on PS1? Play it. Like RPGs?
Give it a try. Want to hear one of the best game soundtracks ever? Download the soundtrack and play the game. Though the series has received 2 sequels, one has tank controls and one apparently ruins Aya’s character so I just pretend those don’t exist. But I’m very happy that in 1998 Square gave us something a little different and introduced the world to Aya Brea and her beautiful mitochondria.
Evolved mitochondria seem to not only be bent on the elimination of humanity, but also of nipples. What does it have against nipples?
If you want to see more of my Survival Horror on PS1 favorites check out my look at Rayman. Or another of my reviews article. I have a Patreon if you want to support the channel. Thanks for reading this post and I’ll see you next time.