Many have called the PS1 era the golden era of Squaresoft. Though Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX are its best known works of the era, Parasite Eve is another franchise borne of the company's reknowned prowess in producing top-notch cinematics.
The plot of the original comes from a 1995 novel by Japanese author Hideaki Sena, wherein mitochondria from an ancient progenitor named "Eve" have survived and spread into the cells of the whole human race. Based on the scientific relationship between mitochondria and cells in producing energy, the novel supposes that the mitochondria could rebel and cause the humans to spontaneously combust by accelerating that energy reaction.
The game Parasite Eve
is a sequel to that novel. Protagonist Aya Brea finds her mitochondria awakened within her during a night at the opera. Her nemesis is an actress named Melissa Pearce who causes her entire audience to burst into flames. Afterwards, Pearce is transformed into "Eve" and has an insane instinct to complete the mitochondrial rebellion started by her progenitor.
The original Parasite Eve was released in North America in late 1998. It came after the mainstream success of Final Fantasy VII. Though it contained many of the same elements, it had quite a few changes, making the game similar to Capcom's Resident Evil
. The tagline was, "The worst foe lies within the self."
Unlike a traditional RPG, Aya Brea was able to move during combat, firing with pistols which needed to be carefully customized. Time stopped when she used her mitochondrial powers, and a wireframe polygon appeared for her to target her enemies. The result was a combat system that was more interactive than Final Fantasy VII, but less demanding than that of Resident Evil.
The game was set in New York, and the frequent CGI cinematics were breathtaking for the time. Though the game could be beaten in less than a dozen hours, the engrossing plot made up for this with many reviewers. The game didn't reach the success of the Final Fantasy franchise but gained enough fans for a sequel.
Parasite Eve II
The sequel, Parasite Eve II
was a thematic departure from the original. Much like Square's Secret of Evermore
, the creation was given to a Western developer. In the sequel, protagonist Aya Brea traded her opera dress and heels for a denim jacket and combat boots. She still fought mitochondrial enemies, but rather than taking place in New York the majority of the game was set in the Midwest.
Reviewers praised the improved controls of the sequel. Rather than firing with the X button, the controls were moved to the L1 and R1 buttons - which would be the same control scheme embraced by many action games of the PS2 and PS3 era. Dodging enemies became much more critical, and the combat system became more skill-based, rather than stat-based.
Despite the improved control scheme, the game was notably less cinematic than the original. Much of the gameplay revolved around puzzles, searching out healing items, and finding items to open locked doors. The color palate was more limited than the original, conveying a desolate, dusty look.
The plot and characters were also a drastic departure from the original. Rather than fighting Eve, Aya spent the majority of the game fighting Number 09, an antagonist wearing a gas mask, combat armor and wielding a machete. Aya used a 70s sports car as a mobile base to store weapons. Much of the plot centered around a child also named Eve that looked shockingly like Aya.
The 3rd Birthday The 3rd Birthday
is a PSP game under development by Square Enix. In a shower scene in Parasite Eve II, Aya explains that she is nearly immortal becuase her mitochondria keep her artificially young. In the third game, we see that Aya has not aged a day - though it's been a decade since the last game.
Almost nothing is known about either the plot or gameplay. In a cinematic released at a 2008 Square event, we see Aya as the bride at a wedding. Pulling her trademark pistol on an unknown enemy, the wedding ring slowly falls between the barrel and the viewer. Aesthetically, the 3rd Birthday looks much closer to the original Parasite Eve than the sequel.