Why You Should Play Parasite Eve
Articles,  Blog

Why You Should Play Parasite Eve


Hello everyone! This week we’re doing something
a little different since Jaylee is out of town and I have a super-busy day-job week
(so please click on our ads).  Today, I’m going to evangelize one of my favorite games
that comes up a lot on the show: Parasite Eve. Parasite Eve was originally released in both
Japan and the North America in 1998, situating itself in a unique place in history for the
Playstation and Squaresoft. On the surface level, it follows the formula established
by Squaresoft’s most recent Final Fantasy game, Final Fantasy VII—players run
from room-to-pre-rendered-room to initiate written narrative, interspersed with turn-based
combat and state-of-the-art, CGI cutscenes. It comes right off the success of Final
Fantasy VII, but leads right into the dismal failure of Final Fantasy: The
Spirits Within. And so here I champion Parasite Eve, a game that is interesting
for what it does, and what it doesn’t. It’s a game that is very much the product of its
time, and it fits into a fascinating narrative of hubris and transnational courtship. It’s
that narrative that is of the most interest to me, and it’s what I’m going to propose
today. Let’s start with the basics of what you
do: In Parasite Eve, you play as Aya Brea, a rookie cop in the NYPD who soon discovers
she a) is the only one capable of fighting the new monster in town, and b) essentially
has super powers. Battle takes after the Final Fantasy series with turn-based combat
and spells (here rebranded as Parasite Energy), with the fun twist that you can move around
the space in real-time between actions—allowing you to dodge enemy attacks and get closer
to enemies to deal high damage. When it comes to dealing damage, a dome appears over Aya
showing her range of attack. Depending on what weapon you have equipped, you may be
able to hit multiple enemies, as different weapons have different numbers of shots allotted
per turn. Sounds fun, right?  It’s when we start looking at the story that things
start to get interesting. Parasite Eve isn’t just re-skinned
Final Fantasy. Watching the intro video—complete with the awesome Yoko Shimomura score—you’ll
notice that New York landmarks figure heavily into the game’s aesthetic. This is because
Parasite Eve was part of Square’s declaration as a Hollywood heavyweight able
to replicate American film sensibilities—something that is mirrored in the game’s dual tag
lines “the cinematic RPG” and “Final Fantasy VII x Hollywood Digital Arts=Parasite
Eve.” The game was developed in a collaboration between Square and its newly minted, ill-fated,
US studio. It’s easy to look at this and think this is Square formally courting the
US audience after Final Fantasy VII was such a huge international success. And
in many ways it is. But that’s a little too simplistic. Especially considering that,
in order to display its Hollywood sensibilities, Square chose to use a property that was only
known to Japan: Hideaki Sena’s incredibly popular novel, Parasite Eve. Perhaps it was to guarantee sales in its native
Japan while deviating from its standard Final Fantasy fare? After all, the novel was
so popular that it was already adapted for film and radio before Squre introduced its
game. Whatever the reason, borrowing the Parasite Eve name and plot opened the game up to
all kinds of disgusting monsters and mutations that rewarded players for their progress with
graphic cutscenes. The Parasite Eve game served as a sequel to the original novel,
transplanting the very-Japanese monster, Eve, into the very-American setting of New York.
However, since the novel and film would not be released in English until 2007 and 2000
respectively, US players in 1998 would have had no idea that this was part of a pre-existing
franchise. For Japanese players, there are all kinds of hints as to how Eve ended up
in New York, bridging the time between the novel and the game. These would all go over
an American player’s head. The American player is informed by an entirely
different set of texts. In 1998, the player is filling Aya Brea’s shoes just two years
after they first met Lara Croft, while tuning into the second season of Buffy The Vampire
Slayer, four years after The Spice Girls took over airwaves, and seven after Clarice
Starling lead her grisly murder investigation to several Oscars. This was a decade that
redefined and commodified women’s stories, and here was Aya Brea, fighting off a woman
that just wanted to melt New York into a uterus—and it’s played completely straight.
We’ve already talked about on the show how Aya remains a great lead character, and she
was unique as an American nineties action hero. She wasn’t like Buffy or the women
of Scream, the post-modern horror film also released two-years prior, who were aware
of their gendered circumstances and genre conventions. There’s a sincerity to the
actions that is distinctly unlike anything an American player would be accustomed to
consuming—a distinctly foreign, unfathomable buffer that crops up between player and text
in the most unexpected way. And that’s the core of what makes Parasite
Eve so interesting to me; these tiny, unsuspecting moments that show the limits of textual and
cultural translation. These idiosyncrasies appear everywhere–not just in its depiction
of gender, but race and even genre. In introducing Eve as its villain, there are twists on genre
conventions that push the boundaries–not enough to truly transcend them, but enough
to be off. Strange. Maybe a little uncanny in a way that they can contribute
to the horror. I imagine it’s similar for a Japanese player, seeing familiar monsters
and characters in settings nearly a century of film tells us they don’t belong. Square
knew Hollywood, but there was something that couldn’t be reconciled. Maybe they could
harness that difference instead? Strangely, Square and Parasite Eve’s
weird film legacy doesn’t end there. Back before Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
almost destroyed the company, there was talk of Square Pictures adapting their version
of Parasite Eve for the big screen. This, of course, didn’t happen, but that
didn’t stop some movie rumors from continuing. As IGN reported in 1999, Madonna had purchased
the film rights for Parasite Eve, a claim Square refuted, but IGN stood by. While
Madonna doesn’t have the greatest track record in film—speaking of historical context,
this was only a few short years after Evita—it makes me wonder what Parasite
Eve would have been like in her hands. Would she have been an Eve that owned her
sexuality? Or maybe her Aya would have been more self-aware, for better or worse, ham-fistedly
bringing attention to discrimination while also serving to the camera. Given the game’s
legacy, I have to wonder how that film have translated bringing the Japanese Eve
to American audiences? Lots of questions from one little, forgotten
game. Parasite Eve is available now for most regions on the Playstation Network,
and I hope you’ll check it out. Let me know what you think of it–or what you think Madonna’s
Parasite Eve would have been like. I admit it, Desperately Seeking Eve is still
something I kind of want to see. See you next week. DEZ: No more dead bodies OK?
SUSAN: I’ll see what I can do.

15 Comments

  • Reverie

    Looking back on the aesthetics makes it obvious that the people who made Parasite Eve understood the layout of NYC, whereas the people of The 3rd Birthday didn't. I know I keep coming back to it, but it blows my mind how a game that was created over a decade ago has landmarks and scenery where you look at it and go, "Wow, that's definitely New York" whether they're during cutscenes or gameplay. Whereas playing T3B, hardly anything was recognizable about the city.

    Either way, I'm glad to see some more appreciation for Parasite Eve. It was the first video game I ever played all the way through on my own, started my love for survival/horror, and Aya Brea became one of my favorite video game protagonists of all time (I even like her a lot more in Parasite Eve 2, since her confidence and sass isn't a trait you see with a lot of female video game characters. Or, at least, I'd like to see it more). It makes me wonder what your in-depth thoughts are regarding the games after the first Parasite Eve, beyond mentions in passing in previous episodes.

    I also vaguely recall the Madonna = Parasite Eve thing. I think it would've been interesting… Honestly, I'd love to see an American adaptation to the Parasite Eve video game, but maybe I'm just pining to see Aya Brea again.

  • Sleepy Teddy

    Parasite Eve is one of my favorite games. There's just something about it that draws me in. I don't know how to describe it. I like Parasite Eve II and The 3rd Birthday as well, but there's just something magical about the first entry in the series that hasn't been replicated since. Aya Brea is my role model. She's so strong and so kind, in the things she does as well as thinks, but she never loses her humanity. I want to be just like her.

  • darklink34

    I would play it if I could, but there's no european version :/ . I know you can emulate the game easily on pc, but for me that just doesn't feel the same for some reason.

  • Hannabel Chesterfield

    This game was bizarre and awesome. I wish I'd beaten it but even with save states the last boss was too much of a spike in difficulty.

  • Yoshimi

    Eve always freaked me out as a child. She haunted me much like the horrors in Resident Evil and even more so. There was just something about her that haunted me, Her body structure, her personality, her motives, it was just terrifying. But as I got older and played through the original again I realized her scariness matched her beauty. She was a Strong, Terrifying, Badass and Beautiful monster. As much as I find her horrific, I find her beautiful like a work of art all the same.

  • Christopher Davis

    Great game, just beat it! Funny I didn't realize how much this game broke the mold until seeing the credits roll. It stars a strong female protagonist with a black cop and a Japanese scientist in supporting roles, with most of the action taking place in New York City. I felt the game too easy at the beginning, but the difficulty ramped up to the perfect level by the end. The final battles were challenging and required a good understanding of the mechanics presented. All in all loved this game!

  • Jagar Alagoria

    I played this game as a very young child of around 9- the same time I played Resident Evil Directors Cut- and as such the game has stuck with me even now at the age of 22. I finally beat the game three years ago, before my Playstation 2 burnt to a crisp, and playing it even now, the game is fantastic. The characters are fantastic, the visuals are beautiful for the time and hell, even to a certain point now; and the music is the definition of haunting, beating out some of even the most modern games. It's still fun, still an emotional journey, and I don't care if it's only 15 hours long it's so worth playing again it doesn't matter. I wish it got a little more recognition, but I'm so glad to hear someone else enjoying it so much. I think I'll subscribe, see what else is in store. Very good review!

  • SaiyanGamer95

    In a way, Eve is more African, if you think about it. Not to mention that she's also kinda every race ever.
    Also, I've actually been playing around with the idea of a PE movie myself for quite a while. Got the opening scene and some actors down, but the rest of the movie is proving rather difficult.

  • Renaye Clarke

    wth. how are we getting reviews a gazillion years later when i can't even find a version of he game anywhere and been looking since 1999 lol

  • Jarod Smith

    Parasite Eve was one of my favorite games during my teens, back in the late 90s. I played through it (New Game +) so many times, I can't even count. Fantastic game.
    I never played either of the sequels though, but from what I've heard I didn't miss much. I always heard the sequels were nowhere near as great as the original.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *