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Parasite Eve series

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Posted 09-13-2009 at 06:26 PM by December Man
Updated 05-05-2010 at 09:53 AM by December Man

The PE series are a unique breed of horror games – they mix the typical gameplay elements of survival horror(cinematic camera angles, item finding, puzzles) and RPG(experience gathering through fighting, levelling up etc.). There is absolutely no other game series, or any game for that matter, mixing those supposedly unmixible genres, AND doing this surprisingly well all at the same time. For that alone they are worth checking out.

Storywise the games are fan-fiction sequels to a book of the same name by Hideaki Sena. The story is full of biological and genetic plot devices, coherent and all seems plausible as much as sci-fi realism can, all involving a young woman called Aya Brea(of Japanese descent). It's understandable, although complex, and engaging.

Gameplay wise what stands out are the RPG elements and combat which are different, quite drastically, in both games. In PE1 the heroine has action points which regenerate in real time. You use them all at a time to attack, cast Parasite powers and items. While waiting for your next opportunity to attack, you have to dodge enemy attacks, also in real time. It's a lot of fun, but near the end constant respawns in every single room of a museum you run around, make the combat very tiring. You level up and gain more HP, Parasite points(used for powers) and unlock additional Parasite powers.

In PE2 the combat is pretty much a lot like in any other survival horror game. No action points, no levelling up. You still get XP, but instead use it to unlock and level up the Parasite powers. You can increase max HP and Parasite points by wearing different types of armor. Unlike in the first game, Parasite powers are not essential here and some fans claim they actually finished it without using them.

The massive change in combat and marginalizing the RPG elements in PE2 divided the community into haters and lovers. In my opinion you just need to approach PE2 differently and all will be well.

There are some flaws in PE2 though, concerning the conditions you need to meet to get different endings. I ranted about that in Silent Hill(the first one). The factors are unclear the first time around. In PE2, it is IMPOSSIBLE to get anything besides the bad ending on your first time through unless you're using a walkthrough. Hell, the conditions are so arbitrary, unclear and absolutely no clue is given whatsoever to achieve them, it's hardly possible even in many subsequent replays. Only when a player decides to do something „I haven't tried before”, probably around the 10th replay, will he be able to get any kind of idea as to what to do. I read that some players weren't able to get a different ending even after the 18th(!!) time through. This is just blatantly bad design.

To add insult to injury. In Silent Hill 1 the character you had to save to get the good ending later had a visible and understandable influence on the final boss fight which led to said conclusion of the game. In PE2 you also have to save a person; unfortunately the guy is irrelevant to the story. He does not influence any boss fight at all, nor the story in any noticeable way, so why saving him has so much importance in the endings is totally beyond any comprehension. As previously mentioned: bad design.

As to the scare factor. Both games are not scary at all. However, the gameplay in both is so original and satisfying, it all makes up for it.

To sum it up – even though they won't scare the living hell out of you, the unique experience present in both a complex and intelligent story and rewarding gameplay is enough to check it out.
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