Parasite Eve II

Nearly three years have passed since Aya Brea’s encounter with mutated beings in New York City, with Aya now working for the FBI’s MIST (Mitochondrial Investigation and Suppression Team) division in Los Angeles. There, she discovers a new string of Neo-Mitochondrial Creatures (NMCs) that threaten to cause a greater tragedy. Square’s Parasite Eve II is the hybrid survivor-horror/RPG franchise’s first sequel, bearing many changes from its predecessor to make it feel closer to the former genre. However, these changes are mostly for the worse, especially in the case of one particular aspect making the game virtually unplayable.

Said aspect is the game’s absolutely woeful system of movement. While the sequel is in essence a 2-D game (aside from 3-D character models and enemies), movement resembles that in a first-person shooter, where pressing up moves Aya forward, pressing down moves her backwards, and pressing left and right rotates her. This system is very annoying, and even the most learned players will have a difficult time adjusting to this movement scheme, with no available option to change it in favor of more traditional 2-D movement. The movement system single-handedly ruins the game, both in and out of battle. Just what were the developers thinking?

The battle mechanisms themselves are significantly different from those in the original game. As with before, though, Aya can choose from a variety of weapons, many with different kinds of ammunition, and some with useful attachments. She can also equip different kinds of armor, each with a belt onto which the player can put consumable items and other firearms with which to switch during battle if desired. Here, the sequel makes the unusual decision of both limiting the number of items the player can carry into battle on her armor’s belt in addition to the stingy limit outside of battle, and thus, the developers could have very easily let players access all available items without severely impacting the game’s already-heavy difficulty.

Aya also has HP indicating her health and MP allowing her to cast magic, but no experience levels this time around. Rather, occasional items will permanently increase her HP, and armor can provide boosts for either or both stats. Battles themselves begin when Aya enters a room infested with NMCs (indicated by red on the game’s maps) and either draws near them or aims her weapon at them. Key to combat is the targeting system, with players able to use the square button to aim Aya’s weapon at enemies. Weapons have a primary attack executed with the R1 button (basically, firing the weapon’s ammunition), and sometimes a secondary attack executed with R2 (for instance, a certain rifle’s attachment can temporarily stun many enemies).

Aya can, as mentioned, use magic spells, which the player must unseal through experience gained after battle. Magic spells have up to three levels of power each, and both unsealing and leveling them will permanently increase Aya’s MP by a small amount. Spells must charge for a certain time after the player selects them, during which enemies can cancel their execution by attacking Aya, although increasing spell levels can somewhat decrease their charge time. Aya must also reload her firearms’ ammunition occasionally (with R1, if more is available), and as with casting spells, she is completely vulnerable to enemy attacks while doing so.

Winning a battle nets Aya experience for unsealing and leveling spells in addition to bonus points the player can use to purchase new weapons, armor, ammunition, and items from certain NPCs (or a special vending machine in the latter part of the game). Should the player leave a room without killing all enemies, Aya will lose some bonus points and retain no rewards for what enemies she did kill in said battle. The number of battles the player can fight throughout the game is fixed (though NMCs do respawn occasionally in certain rooms after the player advances the plot), so if the player is struggling, they can’t always “level up” to have an easier time.

The movement system, as mentioned, single-handedly breaks the battle system, and often makes combat needlessly difficult. Aya cannot sidestep, and can only move forward or backward (with the latter option being very slow), so if the player wants to avoid enemy attacks, they must turn and run (and Aya cannot move while attacking). Additionally, status ailments can be very crippling, especially if no items or spells (with some enemies able to “silence” Aya) are available to heal her, as can running out of ammunition, if no option weapons or ammo are on Aya’s belt. Melee combat is also pretty much impossible (while Aya does get a baton, it’s fairly weak), and other options such as being able to somehow block enemy attacks would have been welcome. Ultimately, combat throughout the game is a chore at best, and often unplayable.

Gameplay outside battle doesn’t fare any better. The maps Aya receives in her quest, however, are actually somewhat useful, as they show which rooms have enemies. Unfortunately, many other flaws, minor and major, cripple interaction, such as the fact that the game clock is way too slow, not counting time spent in the menus. The sequel also makes the odd decision of having the text in cutscenes automatically scroll, even though there’s no (major) voice acting, with no pause button being available, either (although scenes are mercifully skippable).

Major flaws include the aforementioned awful system of movement, not to mention severely-limited inventory space. While the player can deposit items into boxes, said boxes are not magically-connected like in the Resident Evil games; though the sequel’s approach is more realistic, no one plays games for realism. Revisiting locations in want of extra experience, said boxes, and purchasing new gear can also be tedious, given the vastness of some of the game’s areas. In the end, this is hardly a shining example of how a game’s control should be.

The developers, however, definitely deserve credit for changing the series’ formula in the sequel, even if most changes are for the worse, and Parasite Eve II feels closer to the survivor-horror genre than its predecessor. Regardless, those hoping for a fresh, innovative experience should definitely look elsewhere.

The sequel attempts to weave a serious plot like its predecessor, but ends up often feeling like a retread, with few familiar faces from the first game aside from Aya, little character development, and even less addition to the franchise’s overall mythos. The story is also somewhat convoluted and difficult to follow at times (and the often-terrible direction on how to advance the game is another mark off), with some rather trite plot points, as well, such as using a Coca-Cola magnet to fish out a key from behind a grate (with some occasional Coke machines, as well); product placement is bad enough in film and television, and hurts deeply when it occurs in games. Overall, even those who enjoyed the first game likely won’t get much out of the narrative.

Equally unfortunate are the bland aurals. There is very little, if any, memorable music, let alone a central theme in the first place, and no noticeable themes during most exploration, aside from the occasional ambience typical of the survivor-horror genre. Sound effects, such as Aya’s gunshots, are decent, although the game’s less-than-half-a-minute of voice clips hardly helps. All in all, the sound certainly won’t win any awards.

The visuals are probably the game’s strongest aspect, what with photorealistic pre-rendered scenery, reasonably-proportionate character models, bizarre enemy designs, shiny FMVs, and so forth. Granted, it is somewhat annoying that the scenery constantly changes after a second or two while Aya is navigating her environs, what with a slight lag during screen transitions, and that battles can take place on more than one screen is actually a detriment to combat, especially if the radar is unavailable, given the player’s inability to see enemies at times. Overall, the graphics are decent, but even they can negatively affect the gameplay.

Like its predecessor, the second installment is somewhat short, about fifteen hours long (an estimate, given the sluggishness of the game clock), with a New Game+ available for those who somehow enjoy the game, though odds are most players won’t want to take advantage of it.

Never in the history of RPGs has a title come along ruined by a single glaring flaw as the first Parasite Eve sequel is by its horrible movement system, which the player will both notice and experience from start to finish, with little chance of fully adjusting to it. Other flaws hurt the sequel far more than help, such as a consequentially-awkward battle system, weak controls, a forgettable story, and unmemorable sound; even the graphics, while decent, can negatively impact the player’s experience. In conclusion, Parasite Eve II is unfit for both human and mutant consumption, and a disgrace to its predecessor and the Square name.

The Good:
+The graphics are decent.

The Bad:
-Terrible battle system.
-Awful movement system.
-Unmemorable story.
-Forgettable soundtrack.
-Graphics can give poor view of battlefield.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation
Game Mechanics: 2/10
Controls: 2/10
Story: 3/10
Music/Sound: 3/10
Graphics: 6/10
Localization: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 2/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 2.5/10

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