Parasite Eve is one of those stories that I am in love with: guy meets girl, guy gets girl, girl dies and guy develops an insane obsession with her mitochondria which results in him cloning her liver into a full-grown replica after which they have incredibly slimy sex right before she decides to destroy mankind and then they both spontaneously combust.
It’s a love story. Obviously. And a metaphor for the widespread unmitigated expansion of humanity and the destruction of nature as a result of our rampant proliferation, but that’s besides the point. All you need to know is that in 1998, Squaresoft decided to make a video game based off of a book where the premise was that your mitochondria hated your guts.
And so the United States was introduced to Aya Brea, a 5’2”, half-Japanese, blonde, blue-eyed NYPD rookie detective, and her special mitochondria that made her a freak of nature, and the endless amount of angst this produced for our tragic heroine. A sequel was produced, Parasite Eve 2, which would serve to inexplicably make Aya 5’8”, as well as give Aya a case of the cloning blues and a completely unnecessary shower scene that bordered on softcore porn.
I loved both games, and I still do today. The Parasite Eve games are one of the few games I have 100% cleared, and I’ve written fanfiction of the series for my own, amateur amusement. When I heard the series was continuing with The Third Birthday, I was initially overjoyed.
And then I played the game.
I’m going to say this upfront: I spoiled the “big twist” of the game before I bought it, which is the only reason why I’m not particularly disgusted with the plot, such as it is. I will say also that this one plot twist only serves to explain one of the many flaws of this game (specifically, Aya’s behavior), and- story-wise- nothing else is ever resolved in the entire game. The story makes sense, but only in the same way that listening to one person’s half of a static-filled phone conversation translated from Japanese to Greek transcribed to English makes sense, where Greek is foreknowledge of the Parasite Eve games. It is incomprehensible.
This is not a game for fans of the series because the only acknowledgements that the first two games ever existed is the names of the re-used characters, their relationships to one another, a small nod in the timeline, and re-mixed music from Parasite Eve 1.
At the same time, this is not a game for newcomers, because a newcomer would have no idea who these people are, why Aya is so special (no mention of mitochondria, or even the events of PE1 and 2 are ever mentioned), or what the ending is all about (Heck, I have foreknowledge, and I still don’t know what the ending is about, because it doesn’t make any sense).
So really, if you discard the plot, what do you have left? You have a cover-based shooter with a unique body-hopping mechanic, with a good number of customizable weapons and powers, that I actually found to be pretty fun in small doses. Your enjoyment of the combat will be tied primarily to how well you can make do with the camera, but players of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (and other PSP games that use the “claw” camera) will be right at home. And even if you’re not proficient with the claw (like myself), the game’s auto-lockon serves to mitigate it (there is one fight that will be horrific if you cannot manually aim fast enough with the D-pad, though).
There are unlockables galore for New Game+ players, including new outfits (yeah, I always to dress Aya up as a maid /sarcasm), new weapons and powers, harder difficulties, and even a couple of cutscenes (neither do anything for the plot, and one of them is, again, a softcore shower scene).
It took me about seven hours to beat the game on Normal, and I am never playing this game again. it is just that bad story-wise. Given the gaping holes of the plot and the suddenness of the finale, it feels like the game was supposed to be longer but that a massive quantity of exposition was cut for the sake of either time, money, or just deciding to distance the game from the Parasite Eve name. Either way, if this game gets a sequel it will be an absolute miracle, because the product as delivered is trainwreck regardless of if you liked the previous games or not.
If, Square-Enix, you do make either a proper Parasite Eve 3 or a Third Birthday 2, feel free to hook up with me. I will be more than happy to fill in those massive, gaping plotholes you left strewn about your game.