When mitochondria go bad.
One of the perks to reviewing games is that I occasionally get to choose from several titles. Some of them are not worth the seven cents of electricity that it would take to start my Playstation, while others are advance copies of games that I have been drooling to play.
And when it comes to drool, Parasite Eve 2 delivers. Even at 70-80% complete, this game looks simply awesome. The attention to detail is stunning, the movies are graphic and done in the classic Squaresoft "incredi-vision," and it has a cornstarch plot that keeps thickening and thickening the longer it cooks (I'll try not to spoil the end part where Luke finds out that Darth Vader is actually his father while writing this preview.)
Parasite Eve 2 takes place three years after that little "incident" in Manhattan. Apparently, mitochondria is still evolving and mutating regular folks and animals into hideous beasts with superpowers and huge appetites for destruction. Aya Brea was so successful in dealing with Dr. Hans Klamp and his little pets that she got promoted to M.I.S.T. (Mitochondria Investigation and Suppression Team). MIST is based in Los Angeles, which is so populated with Neo-Mitochondria Creatures, (NMCs) that the FBI has put together an elite team of hunters to keep the whole thing under wraps. To avoid mass public panic, each incident is covered up with a headline of criminal or terrorist activity (good to see our government looking out for our best interests). Needless to say, MIST is a very busy team and quite the hazardous occupation to be a part of.
As the sequel to a game so graphically incredible it had to be called a "cinematic RPG", Parasite Eve 2 has a high standard to live up to...and live it does. The movies are clean and really put you on the edge of your seat in both anticipation and fear. The rendered backgrounds are just amazing; it's as if they hired Bob Ross to paint a "happy little corpse, right there in the happy little bush." At one point I was in a room with marble floors and huge windows. My reflection was simultaneously subtle in the floor and strong in the window. This was one of the best effects I had seen in the gameplay of any Playstation title yet. From the in-game effects to the FMVs, PE 2 is proof that the PSX still can pack a graphical wallop.
Unlike the first incarnation's turn-based, RPG combat style, this one plays more like an action adventure game. The battles are all real-time; the closest comparison I can make is to Resident Evil: Nemesis. PE 2 has many elements of Nemesis, from control to selective targeting, right down to the flash to black and white just before a battle.
Square maintains the RPG element in the form of progressive character development with experience points, battle points and such. But the heart of the game is really action adventure, with just enough RPG flavor to put it into the category.
The puzzles range from finding a particular key for a certain door to some pretty heavy clue interpreting and deciphering. Of course, the harder puzzles offer some pretty worthwhile rewards. PE 2 isn't necessarily for members of MENSA, but it's not for beauty school dropouts either.
Carryover elements from the first game include Aya's parasite energy and the parallel plots. Aya has control of some of her own mitochondria, and thus harnesses some pretty powerful abilities. The parasite energy offers you both offensive and defensive magic that can be cast in battle. As you gain experience points, you can use them to develop these abilities.
Not only is Parasite Eve 2 nice to look at and fun to play, but Square made an effort to keep things somewhat realistic. The progress is organic, really preparing you for each level and not pitting you against big monsters while armed with a slingshot. The items in your item box aren't part of some Siegfried and Roy magic show, so they don't follow you from box to box. If you think you'll need something later on down the road, you better grab it, because for the most part there's not much backtracking and you just might be surprised that it's not in the next box you see.
You must also prepare yourself between battles, because not everything in your inventory is available at all times. When you enter a fight, the only weapons or equipment that you can use are the ones you have attached to your armor, another nod to realism.
Parasite Eve 2 looks like it will be another Squaresoft blockbuster. It seems like a game with all of the action you could ask for, mixed with enough intelligence and decision making to not be a mindless slaughter-fest. It should keep RPG fanatics happy while pleasing the action-hungry crowd. But we'll have to wait until September to kick some NMC butt.