Finally finished Parasite Eve. It was not the last game I finished in 2023 BUT it was the first of 2024, so it fits in this thread even better!
My thoughts are in the end very much in line with what I wrote on that other post. The way in which the game attempts to mix the of inventory management and resource scarcity of a survival horror with its layered RPG systems is a bit of a mess. Too many insuffciently explained concepts and mechanics that wouldn’t be an issue in a 40-60 hour game where you have space to experiment and try out things, but definitely a problem on a 10 hour long one where you don’t even know if grinding, item storaging and revisiting locations is a thing (turns out it is, but you don’t know that until way later!). Not a deal breaker, but definitely not a smooth experience.
Despite the shortcomings and annoyances, it’s a good game. Reasons why I ended up liking it are:
- The soundtrack is good (Yoko Shimomura).
- The plot and themes are surprisingly well thought and well presented. The scientific base that explains all the mutated monsters is as solid as imaginative. As a sci-fi fan didn’t really expect this game satisfying me in this particular sense as much as it did.
- The combat system: also very good. A better and less messy version of Vagrant Story, without as much micro-managing.
- Very good pacing overall. The game starts low-key and keeps escalating through the whole adventure, reaching disaster movie levels of chaos in a way that feels earned and organic.
- The climax is great. Exciting, spectacular and engrossing in all the best ways.
The characters sadly aren’t as good. I was expecting Aya to be a bit more charismatic, and she ends up being kind of a female version of Squall (less annoying, thankfully). The locations and level design could be better, the game could have used a couple of extra puzzles to increase the adventure flavor of a survival horror. You get some keys and do some backtracking but it feels a bit bland. The lack of map makes navigation more annoying than it needs to be and the way combat works makes the environments have too many empty spaces to accomodate for the arenas the battle system requires. Also: too many goddamn missable items, this game is a nightmare in that regard. There are items hidden in insane places and ends up encouraging the “mash X in every spot of the map” mentality in a way that I am definitely not a fan of. Broadly speaking I feel like Koudelka does the same genre mash-up more successfully.
BUT I liked it regardless. A 8/10 game that can be elevated to a 9/10 if the negatives don’t bother you as much, or if you are able to look past them, but definitely not on the same league of a Resident Evil 2, MGS or the best FF’s. Sits comfortably in the middle of your Legends of Mana or Threads of Fate, and your Final Fantasy Tactics or Xenogears in terms of Squaresoft’s output during that era. Also, a game I’m 100% confident I’ll enjoy more on a second playthrough, having understood the systems and being able to ignore all the friction it produced during this first contact with it.
Finally, as an aside, and related to point #2 of the positives, something that maybe explains why the game was as good in that regard is the fact that it appears to be based on a novel. Also, rather than a straight adaptation, it’s a sequel to the story, which is rather unique. The events of the novel are brought up a couple of times during the course of the game and act as a background to the story. Basically something happened in Japan a couple of years back and it seems to be related to what’s going on on NY during the course of the game. The book was adapted to a movie in 1997 (that is: an adaptation of the original story, not the one in the game) and it also has an English translation. I’m tempted to give it a shot out of sheer curiosity.
EDIT: Also how could I forget! Very cool credits theme. The fact that the lyrics were in Spanish was fun and caught me off-guard. I enjoyed listening to the song while understanding what was being said. +1 bonus points for that.