The Old Gods – Parasite Eve II

Parasite Eve II, set a few years after the events of the original game, sees the return of protagonist Aya Brea.  As a recently appointed Hunter with the FBI’s MIST team, Aya Brea is sent out to the middle of the Mojave to investigate a recent outbreak of Neo Mitochondrion Creatures.

Although generally well-received by the public, Parasite Eve II came close to the end of the PSX’s life cycle for it to get the proper attention that it deserves.  It came at a time where it could be properly appreciated as a fun survival horror with strong RPG elements, but was missed due to the fact that many had moved on to the Playstation 2.

In the opening scenes, the plot of the previous games are explained in limited detail.  Aya has moved from the NYPD to Los Angeles, as part of the FBI’s Mitochondrion Investigation and Suppression Team (MIST).  The team is sent to the Akropolis Tower, where Neo Mitochondrion Creatures (NMCs) have overrun the area and taken out an entire SWAT team.  As Aya and colleague Rupert make their way through the tower, Aya discovers that NMCs can take on human form and discovers a humanoid Artificial NMC (ANMC), Golem No. 9, who eventually destroys the tower – minus our heroes, of course.  During her investigation in the Akropolis Tower, one of the NMCs that she destroys leaves a small metal implant behind – with sand in it.

After the events at Arkropolis, Aya is dispatched to Dryfield, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  It wouldn’t be a survival horror if Dryfield was all peachy, now would it?  Dryfield is in the middle of an NMC infestation itself, as well as the entire…er…town being completely deserted.  That is, except for Mr. Douglas and his dog, Flint.  The two of them are the only people in town that haven’t run fled due to the NMC infestation.

Tip: Always save the dog.

While exploring the town, going through some of the open rooms at the Motel, Aya comes across private investigator Kyle Madigan – the two of them decide to partner up to investigate the strange goings-on and a “shelter’ that Madigan is searching for.  Aside from Douglas and Flint, he’s the only survivor.  What lies ahead in this shelter?  Is it real?  Where are all the NMCs coming from?

One of the first things that can be noticed about PEII is the power behind it.  For a PSX game, it looks incredible.  Even today, playing it on the PSP, it still looks great, especially the cut scenes.  The environments are pre-rendered with items and characters overlaying, but it still looks great.  Character models and enemies aren’t quite as ‘blocky’ and polygonal as they are in games like Resident Evil or Dino Crisis.  The enemies have their own unique appearances and while some of them look kind of silly, others are genuinely…wtf-ish.

Honestly…I’ve never looked at hummingbirds the same ever again…

The environment is often very claustrophobic, with NMCs popping out from every nook and cranny.  Parasite Eve’s typical survival-horror control scheme often times makes it difficult to weave around them, too, amping up the tension just a bit.  If you don’t have any bullets left or any MP to use some parasitic energy, you’re running…and running…and running.   The game features stationary camera angles and often times you’ll find yourself aiming and shooting at something offscreen, which is now possible due to the elimination of the ‘dome’ from the first game.

Even though there ‘are’ people around, I’ve never felt more abandoned in a survival horror than I have in Parasite Eve II, even in the Resident Evil games.  Probably because Douglas isn’t just another NPC – you need him.  Aya can rack up BP like it’s no big deal, but BP is nothing without something to spend it on.  Douglas can sell you supplies, ammo and weapons.  Stuff that – unlike in other games – you won’t find in the field.  You can find some health and some relatively small-powered ammo in the field, but it’s piddly compared to what you actually ‘need.’  So when you’re on the opposite side of the map and your gun goes click, you tend to feel quite isolated.

The feelings of isolation are amplified by the terrific soundtrack.  Using a slow guitar riffs and then changing to a high beat ambient music during battles, the soundtrack lends a very modern feeling to the game, even while being in such a dried-out husk of a town like Dryfield.

The battle system is more like Resident Evil than it is any RPG, with the combination of parasitic energy from Aya.  For each NMC you destroy, you gain Battle Points, which you can use to spend on weapons, ammo and supplies.  In addition to earning Battle Points, you also earn EXP, which you can use to upgrade Aya’s parasitic abilities.  It’s nearly impossible to go through the game without using them, as they can increase health, temporarily protect Aya, and even increase the potency of her bullets.

Parasite Eve II’s story might be a little hard to follow at times, but it more than makes up for it in atmosphere, cerebral puzzles and good old-fashioned survival horror gameplay.  The 3rd Birthday is nothing like it – depending on how you felt about The 3rd Birthday, that could be a good or a bad thing for you.

Parasite Eve II is available on PSN for the Playstation 3 and the PSP.

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