Hot off the heels of the successful Resident Evil trilogy, Dino Crisis, and Silent Hill games (and by hot, I mean hot, there were four survival-horror titles released for the PlayStation 1 in the year of 1999 – Parasite Eve II being the last of the heralded genre at the time), this barely remembered IP suffers some anonymity today despite the favourable reviews of its day. Which is a shame, considering all the new elements it brought to its genus of games as well as its fine story direction by the original writer of Resident Evil, Kenichi Iwao.
Convoluted conspiracies and cocoons
First off, what’s interesting to know (but completely unimportant) is that this game actually serves as the second sequel to a Japanese science-fiction horror novel that spawned the entry prior to this game. Secondly, as I said, it totally doesn’t matter. This story is off-the-walls bonkers and is so obtuse in its efforts to create intriguing threads of mystery and backstory between its characters and the shady organisation they are fighting against that it would take a legitimate consipracy theorist to piece it all together. Basically, it turns out that the mitochondria in our cells are their own organisms and that some people are using them to produce ‘magic’ from their bodies, and some are using them to breed humans out of existence with cocoons. That’s all I got, and in classic Japanese fashion, that’s all you need. Oh, and there’s a kidnapped little girl that looks like you?
Magic? In a survival-horror game?
The previous entry in the series was a horror JRPG, featuring turn-based battles. This sequel capitalises on the success of the survival-horror methods of exploration, item management, and puzzle-solving whilst retaining the flavour of its JRPG predecessor with elements such as the aforementioned convoluted storyline and magic points. This is what makes Parasite Eve II stands out the most as a fantastic title of the era. The magic operates in real time and showcases the AOE (area of effect) that any given spell may cover, offering an additional gameplay mechanic that can really turn the tide in some overwhelming scenarios. Enemies are faster, larger, and more plentiful in this game, and having a magic system that can ignite a dome of flame around your character, or heal you instantly, or lower the defense of an opponent is a much welcomed feature that elevates the game’s sophistication.
Horror in the daytime
Much of this game takes place in the Mojave, in a small, almost abandoned town called Dryfield. This locale becomes so unique and visually interesting that players won’t want to escape the horror, they’ll want to stay in it as long possible if it means that they’ll get to keep hearing 16-bit crows caw, doors creak shut, and lonely boots kicking up gravel. For all these agents, and those inherent to the survival-horror genre, it is remarkable to experience a pre-rendered map pull off horror in the daytime so well (a feat remarkable for any medium of horror). Only small sections of the game take place at night, and there are a few stretches of gameplay that take place in secret underground bases, but eventually you are returned to daylight and reminded that this game knows it doesn’t need spooky, dark mansions to scare you.
If you can get your hands on it…
This game is rare. Not only is it a PS1 title, but the game itself is a bit of a collector’s item for fans of the genre. If you do have a PS1 (or a PS3 to emulate it), and can get it, do so. Without hesitation. Apart from the insane story (which I think is a part of the JRPG charm) and the tank controls that may turn people away from survival-horror, especially old school survival-horror, this game is a not to be missed experience. Also, if you need anymore convincing, Parasite Eve II has one of the best boss introductions of any game I’ve ever played. Periodt. It’s a relic of the past, with emphasis on the word ‘relic’. Four out of five Cthulhus. More to be read here.(4 / 5)