Thursday, December 31, 2009

Parasite Eve VS Parasite Eve 2

Back in 1999, I was deeply engrossed in Parasite Eve, a rather awesome horror video game. After you complete the game, you can start over in "EX game" mode ("EX" for "extra" or "excruciating" or "exhausting" or whatever you want to call it), which unlocks the Chrysler Building, a 77-floor dungeon of tedium and terror. Completing the Chrysler Building earns you an alternate ending, plus bragging rights with your gamer friends.

I was up to about floor 40 or 50 of the Chrysler Building when my apartment complex burned down. I lost my PlayStation memory card. I liked Parasite Eve enough to buy a new copy, but I was so heartbroken at losing all of that hard work that I never tackled the Chrysler Building again.

Flash forward to 2009. My nephews are really into Pokémon, and they wanted to collect every Pokémon game ever made, yes, even the really old GameBoy Color ones. So for their birthday and Christmas presents, I hunted many a used game store, tracking down the five games they were missing. It was an extensive fetch quest, but not one I could imagine anyone else in my family tackling. Nerd that I am, I loved every minute of it.

During the course of Pokémon Quest, I came across a copy of Parasite Eve 2, which came out in 2000, but which I'd never actually played. Of course, I bought it. And played it obsessively for a month or so. After tiring of multiple runs through PE2, I decided it was time to revisit PE1. After all, it was the season of Christmas, and the game is set during Christmas 1997, so somehow it seemed appropriate. (Well, as appropriate as horror and monsters can be for the holidays.) I conquered the Chrysler Building yesterday, and finally saw that alternate ending. Yay! I feel that I have achieved closure.

But which game do I like better? I really cannot decide. Despite the same title and same lead character, they are really very different games, and both have strengths and weaknesses. Let's see which one wins . . .

ADVANTAGE: Parasite Eve (the first)

1) The monsters are much, much cooler looking in the first game. The creatures in PE2 consistently look stupid. I mean all of them. It was like the design team decided to go for the opposite of the PE1 aesthetic, which was an unfortunate choice.

2) Aya's costume in the first game is much better. She can be excused for fighting monsters in an evening gown during the first chapter, since she was at the opera when catastrophe struck. After that, her attire consisted of jeans, t-shirt, and a black leather jacket--not only practical, but also quite attractive on her. While she starts PE2 with a similar costume, as soon as she leaves for the desert, she dons a miniskirt and pink cowboy boots, and wears them for the rest of the game. Really? Who wears a miniskirt when hunting monsters? And there is simply no excuse for those boots. None.

3) The first game is much more generous with inventory space. You gain inventory space automatically as you level up, and if that's not enough, you can spend bonus points to add more. In PE2, your inventory space is fixed. So by the end of the game when you've got one of each class of weapon, and at least one type of ammo for each, and all of the special charms and helpful items, you've probably only got about two spaces left for restorative items. It makes the later parts of the game especially difficult, because you are essentially out of space all the time.

4) In the original Parasite Eve, if you follow the plot as it's laid out for you, you get to the ending without incident. You can easily see the optional areas, like the warehouse and the Chrysler Building, so you know that they exist if you choose to pursue them. In PE2, if you follow the plot as it's laid out, you get the bad ending. To get the good ending, you need to save Pierce--twice--even though the game gives you absolutely no hints that he's in any danger, nor even that he's followed you into the desert. And the steps you need to take to save him are completely counterintuitive. I would never, ever have figured it out if not for the walkthroughs on GameFAQs. Heck, I would never have even known he needed saving if I hadn't read it on GameFAQs. After I learned about Pierce, I literally started the game over because I'd already passed the point where I could save him. I was on disc 2 when I realized I needed to start over.

5) The camera angles and screen layouts of the first game are such that you can always see what you're fighting. In the second game, your enemies are often attacking you from off screen and you can't see where you're aiming your weapon. Getting into a position where you can actually see your enemies often takes so long that you've taken several hits in the meantime. This makes some battles very frustrating.

6) The puzzles in PE2 are really, really irritating. Some of them aren't too bad, but the one to get the safe combination is completely ridiculous. (Counting the toilets and mirrors in the hotel? Who thought that would be fun? Do they assume all gamers have OCD?) Thank goodness such pointless, frustrating timewasters are absent from the first game. The most difficult puzzle in PE1 involves pushing some machinery out of the way to expose a giant red button on the wall. Fortunately, there is a giant red arrow painted on the wall, pointing to the machine that needs to be pushed out of the way. There's never much standing between you and some good, old-fashioned monster killing.

ADVANTAGE: Parasite Eve 2

1) Parasite powers are much more versatile and easy to use. In PE1, you learn them in a set order as you level up. In PE2, you buy them with PE points, so you can decide whether you want to sink all of your points into pyro powers or healing or whatever you like. There are several useful and valuable attack powers, unlike PE1, where you have only two offensive powers, both of which use up all of your energy and leave you vulnerable to attack afterward. In PE2, Pyrokinesis is a powerful attack that uses very little energy, giving you a viable alternative to simply shooting everything. Plasma is another great power, giving you a nice little area-effect attack for when you're surrounded by bats or bugs. PE1 never had an area-effect attack (except for shotguns with the "burst" effect), but man, an area-effect parasite attack would have been handy for all those birds in Central Park.

2) Charms, which are completely useless inventory clutter in the first game, are so incredibly valuable in Parasite Eve 2 that you wouldn't dare put them into storage. No matter how tight inventory space is, the Ofuda and its ilk are worth having on you. Just remember to attach them to your armor.

3) You don't really level up in PE2. You get better weapons and armor, and your parasite powers grow stronger, but you yourself are not significantly tougher. That means, when you visit earlier areas that you'd previously cleared, but which are once again full of monsters, said monsters are still challenging. You never reach the point where you're too tough for the enemies, and so the game stays in balance.

4) PE2 has built-in maps. All turned around and not sure which rooms you've cleared? Hit a button and check the map. In PE1, I would have killed for that functionality, especially in convoluted places like Central Park, the sewers, and the Chrysler Building (especially with the Chrysler Building, where the floorplans change every single time you visit). The maps in PE2 not only show you which rooms you've visited, but they even show you which rooms have monsters for you to fight. Gotta love that.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other

In PE1, you get to tune up your weapons and armor, giving you the opportunity to customize up the wazoo and build whatever you like. It's a lot of work, and very time consuming, but it can also be very rewarding. In PE2, the weapons are as they are, what you see is what you get. The only customization you can do is with one particular rifle, which can be fitted with any of five special attachments. If you like tricking out your gear, PE1 wins hands down. If you just want to pick up a weapon and shoot, then PE2 is the game for you.

Ammo is where PE2 customizes things. In PE1, ammo is ammo, with the exceptions of rockets and Maeda's special rounds. Otherwise, standard ammo works in all pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, etc. In PE2, however, not only does each class of weapon have separate ammo, but also there are several different kinds of rounds for each class of weapon. This makes more sense and better mirrors real life. However, if you're carrying a pistol, a shotgun, a rifle, and a grenade launcher, you might have three types of pistol ammo, three types of shotgun shells, mercifully only one type of rifle round, and three types of grenades. Do you think you have any inventory slots left for healing items? But you don't want to leave any of those weapons behind, because different weapons work better for different types of monsters. I may be partial to the shotgun, but I wouldn't want to be down in the depths of the shelter without a rifle, either. And for certain boss fights, if you don't have a grenade launcher, you are quite simply screwed.


In PE1, Aya has no problem looting a pharmacy and a gun shop in Soho, yet in PE2, she's scrupulous about leaving cash by the register when she takes medicine from the derelict general store. And later on she bawls Kyle out for stealing drinks from the abandoned bar. When did she have this moral awakening?

In PE2, when Aya tells her boss that she encountered a NMC as big as an elephant, he says that there was nothing like that in New York. Um . . . forget about the T-Rex, did we? What about the centipede that was as big as a subway car? The colossal earthworms in Central Park? Or that giant walking blob of goo that was as tall as the Statue of Liberty? And some of those rats in the upper stories of the Chrysler Building were at least rhino sized. Face it, New York was full of really huge monsters. It wasn't all snakes and crows.

Plot issues

In PE1, it made sense for Aya to be fighting the mitochondrial mutants alone, since any other person who got anywhere near Eve either burst into flames or melted into slime. However, in PE2, the NMCs (Neo-Mitochondrial Creatures) do not cause this effect, and the FBI has a whole unit of ordinary humans devoted to fighting them. So why is Aya always alone, even though she repeatedly calls for backup? The only real reason is to facilitate solo gameplay. However, in this case, gameplay comes at the expense of plot. (To be fair, PE2 is not the only game with this problem. With Resident Evil 4, I always wondered why only one solitary Secret Service agent was sent to rescue the President's kidnapped daughter.)

In some ways, PE2 seems less like the sequel to PE1 and more like the unholy union of Resident Evil and Jurassic Park. (Oh yeah, as soon as Aya set foot in the Ark, the Jurassic Park theme song started playing in my head.) I even started calling it "Parasite Evil," first by accident, and later by intention.

When I saw the movie Parasite Eve, years after playing the first game, I thought that the plot seemed completely unrelated to the game. (Of course, it was based on the novel. Allegedly, so was the game, but much more loosely.) Upon replaying the first game, I've realized that the events in the movie (and thus the novel) are actually described in the first game, when Maeda talks about the incident in Japan. So it's nice to see they really are connected.

And if you watched Episodes I-III of Star Wars and thought George Lucas pulled that whole midichlorian thing out of his butt, might I point out the similarity between the words midichlorian and mitochondria. Mutant mitochondria give people amazing super powers? High midichlorian count determines who is strong with the Force? I think Lucas played Parasite Eve.

Oh, and I'm pretty sure that Daniel (PE1) is secretly Superman. He and Maeda jump from a second-story window in the museum, yet show up mysteriously unharmed later that same evening. (This does not imply that Maeda has any special powers. Clearly, Daniel saved him.) Then later, Daniel leaps from a helicopter, bursts into flames, and then slams into the ocean. Either the fire or the impact should have been sufficient to kill any mortal. And the fact that he ignited proves that he was inside the radius of the enemy's power, where no one could possibly rescue him, except Aya, who was far too busy fighting the Ultimate Being at the time. So even if he survived the fall, he would still have been adrift in the ocean at night with no hope of rescue. And yet . . . when Aya finishes the final battle and returns to shore, there he is, standing on the pier waiting for her, whole and well. His clothes aren't even singed. The only conclusion is that Daniel is an invulnerable superhuman. Too bad he couldn't have given some of that amazing survival power to Pierce (PE2), who seemed to be made of tissue paper.


Well, I ended up with six points in Parasite Eve's favor, compared with only four in Parasite Eve 2's favor, with other factors being toss-ups. I think overall, Parasite Eve is the better game. But really, both games hold up remarkably well for their vintage, and both are grand fun to play.

Now I'm all hyped up for The 3rd Birthday (aka Parasite Eve 3), which is slated for release sometime in 2010. Looking forward to seeing more of Aya, no matter how ludicrous her adventures become.


DevCNub said...

I am sorry fo the really late reply, but this article is just AWESOME! It sums up a lot of the +/- aspects of both games. I still have to say though, the game states transitions (that is, simple things as going through doors and puzzle animations) were executed better in the first game. Oh, and let's not forget the music, the battle theme and the police station theme in the first one were blast, while the second is kind of weak in that regard. Still, this is subjective. Anyway, thank you again for the great post!

Anj said...

Thanks, DevCNub! I agree with you about the music. The first game had a much better soundtrack. Can't believe I forgot to mention that.