One game reminds me of Christmas more than any other game. It’s a game that takes place during Christmas but has very little to do with the holiday. The game is Parasite Eve. I got it the year it came out. I’m not sure when it was released, but it was one of my presents that year. The other games I remember getting were Final Fantasy VIII and Xenogears. It was an excellent Christmas!
This was the same year I bought my PlayStation. It was the first video game console I bought and my first console since our NES. The only game I had was Breath of Fire III when I first got it. My tastes in games were shifting away from the PC and Strategy games to RPGs. I’m not sure why I gravitated to those games instead of others. I don’t think we had a specific type of game that all my friends played. I remember my friend Drew was a fan of RPGs and a Nintendo fanboy until Final Fantasy VII came out. It wasn’t on the Nintendo 64, so he had to move on.
I just wanted to give you a little background on how I got to where I was in 1998. Let’s get back to Parasite Eve. After unwrapping all the presents and cleaning up after Christmas, I settled down in front of my family’s TV in our basement. It was no longer in the laundry room, and my brother and I had taken over the family room. It had a few couches, my dad’s chair, the family computer, and a wood-burning fireplace. It was a nice place to play video games. I don’t remember how long I spent each game, but I know I enjoyed Parasite Eve the most.
It’s a challenging game to classify for me. Parasite Eve is primarily an RPG, but it’s combat scenes have the feeling of an Action-RPG. It’s a horror game but doesn’t fit into the survival horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Part of me thinks Square Soft, soon to be renamed Square Enix, wanted to cash in on the horror game trend. It doesn’t seem to fit into that genre for me. I never felt scared while I was playing it. Some of the cut scenes were creepy for the time.
I don’t think any of my friends had this game growing up. It felt like I was the only one who played it and talked about it. There must have been other people at my school, but it was just me in my little group of friends. I vaguely remember playing with Drew a few times. Most of the time, we just went back to something else. There were other single-player games we played together and beat. Parasite Eve wasn’t one of them. I remember playing it by myself most of the time.
I didn’t know much about this game like many games I played. I don’t think I was subscribed to any magazines at this time. I remember being a little thrown off by the combat at the beginning. When I went back to play it this year, it took me a little time to get used to it. You needed to dodge the enemy attacks, which can be problematic given the confined space you have to operate in. It uses a fixed camera like Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Each time you encounter an enemy, the music stops, the room goes black and white, and there is this pulse of sound like a heartbeat.
You then transition into the combat scenes. I like them! It felt different then the other RPGs I had played before it. Now it feels like one of the Tales games or one of the Mana games. It’s an active combat scene instead of a turn-based combat style. Usually, I prefer turn-based games. You can freely move around the screen and attack a sphere that pops up. If the enemy is in the sphere, you will hit it. Depending on where the enemy is, you will do more damage. Once you get used to it, I think it’s good, and you can get good enough to avoid enemy attacks. I don’t know if I was always terrible at the combat in this game, but I struggled to avoid the enemies as I went back and played it again. This is one of the many games I enjoy playing, even if I’m awful at it! I did get better as the game went on, though.
You also get some superpowers to use. These act like spells or techniques. This is a part of the game that made it fun for me. You don’t have a party to delegate roles, so everything is on Aya. She had to be your warrior, black mage, white mage, or any other type of character you might typically see in an RPG.
The monsters are all creepy. The first time you come across one, it’s a great scene. I might have been scared by it on the first play-through, but not I think it is just a great scene that sets the tone for the game. It tells you this is a world where anything can become a monster. Just before that, you get the opera scene where Eve burns all of the people in the audience. Those two scenes tell you what to expect for the rest of the game. The normal people aren’t going to be much help, and anything you see could turn into a monster and attack you.
There is one boss fight where this comes in. You meet a police dog called Shiva. She was a very good puppy, and Eve turned her into a boss for you to fight. It was the one scene that made me feel something during this playthrough. Your partner’s son plays with Shiva when Eve attacks the police station. The whole Police Station level feels different. Eve was attacking innocent people you didn’t know in the previous levels. They were also dead by the time you showed up. With the Police Station, she is attacking your friends. You got to know these characters during the short time you played the game.
They were the only characters whose names you knew. There was a history between Aya and the rest of the police station. They hadn’t worked together for a long time, but they did seem to know each other well enough to be worried about one another. Now Eve is attacking them and turning the police dogs against them. At this point, most of the city has been abandoned, and Aya is the only one who can fight back against Eve. You’ve got a lot of stuff thrown at you about mitochondria and cells at this point. Thankfully no one invokes Star Wars since that stupidity wasn’t introduced yet!
You move through a few other parts of the city and revisit some locations. At times it feels like you’re just wandering. There is a path through all of this. At times, it can be hard to find it, but it’s well worth the effort. A few bosses in this game drove me crazy the first time I played it. As I go through it again, I wonder how I managed to beat it. Looking at bosses like the centipede, I asked myself how this was done. How had I figured it out before, and why was it so hard to figure it out now. What was different this time?
Most of the game uncovers the mystery of Aya and Eve’s shared past. They’re connected in some way that neither of them fully understands yet. The answers are slowly given to you through interactions with Eve as she tries to awaken something inside of Aya. You find out why as the game moves on, and it’s a plot similar to a few Japanese horror movies and horror manga. These were different from anything I had watched or played at the time. Looking back, I didn’t appreciate what this story was. It’s a great tale.
At the time, I didn’t know much about the movies in Japan, and the anime I watched wasn’t anything too crazy. Most of the horror movies I had watched were slashers from the 80s. I was aware of no video rental stores that stocked international movies or independent horror movies. Video games were the way I saw some of the stranger themes in the horror genre. Nowadays, you can see things like Parasite Eve in film. You can even see the live-action Parasite Eve movie! However, I just had this fantastic game to play over and over.
Parasite Eve means a lot to me. It’s one of the games I have quite a bit of nostalgia for. It still looks good for a PlayStation game. If it had been made earlier, it wouldn’t look as good as now. The last thing that sticks with me is the sound in the game. The snow crunching, the glass crackling, and the other effects make the game sound eerie. It’s such a spooky game. As the series goes on, it gets a little weird. It almost felt like Square Enix didn’t want it. Parasite Eve 2 was very good, but I didn’t know about 3rd Birthday. It was on the PSP, and for some reason, wasn’t called Parasite Eve 3. I don’t think we will see more from this series, and given my recent track record of saying this means a remaster will be announced, it just feels lost. I hope it comes back someday, though.