How many games have you encountered in your lifetime that feature a stunning operatic performance followed up by the spontaneous combustion of every member of the audience?
Unless you’ve got access to a treasure trove of titles that have never been released, your answer should have been one — Parasite Eve, an exercise in survival horror similar to the Resident Evil experience. As Aya Brea, players were tasked with keeping Mitochondria Eve, a woman whose sentient mitochondria had taken over her very being, from destroying the human race with her fantastic powers.
After completing the first game, my mind had been officially blown. Topics had been discussed in it which my young mind had never even begun to fathom. Having enjoyed Resident Evil prior, as well as the "typical" PS1 games that were bought for children my age, Parasite Eve was a completely new experience for me. So imagine my excitement when my father brought home a sealed copy of the sequel to one of my favorite PlayStation games ever.
Parasite Eve II continues where Parasite Eve left off. However, rather than chasing down Eve and the minions she had left behind, Aya faces a new threat: NMCs, or Neo-Mitochondrial creatures. Rather than a lowly cop, Aya has hit the big time, having been promoted to the FBI. As head of MIST (Mitochondrial Investigation and Suppression Team), she’s been dispatched to Los Angeles to conduct an investigation and sighting of the terrifying new creatures. You feel a complete metamorphosis from scared and confused Aya Brea to confident, ass-kicking Aya who’s on a mission and nothing can stop her.
At the time, it felt like a bit of a metaphor for my growing up. I had been a younger, impressionable child at the original release of Parasite Eve. Like Aya, I was becoming a new person, too, but instead of developing my mitochondrial powers, I was expanding my horizons and growing up. Aya was a dear character to me during the years I spent playing Parasite Eve over and over. She was almost like a sister to me, even while I became hopelessly obsessed with the Final Fantasy series through the originals and beyond.
The sequel improved upon its predecessor in many ways, in both storyline and graphics. With the introduction of Kyle, it seemed Aya finally could have a love interest, rather than living a life of solitude with her powers. And instead of one concrete villain to chase after, all of a sudden, there were several. What’s more, a new Eve surfaced. However, she was nowhere near as frightening as the original Eve. A young girl, a clone of Aya — how terrifying. However, it did pique my interest and at times it did become a much scarier game, knowing that a young girl could birth the Ultimate Being.
While the original Parasite Eve was a lesson in frustration at some points, because of the ATB system, the sequel improved upon battles in many ways. Lending an RPG-like experience point system to the combat system, gamers were encouraged to stand and fight rather than run away like a sniveling coward. Incentives such as experience points were used to power Aya’s mitochondrial powers. Rather than the powers being suppressed and presented as an unusual occurrence, they were embraced and encouraged to develop. Each area of mitochondrial powers were relegated to attacking, defending, or healing, and were assigned to an appropriate element. While the control scheme was still that of an awkward Silent Hill or Resident Evil, it managed to take the two games and combine them in ways I hadn’t seen possible before. It had a strong, but not overly sexualized protagonist, RPG elements, survival horror themes, and a story to die for.
I played that game countless times before finally moving on to the PS2, where I have had many similar experiences and could count them all off here to you today. Even though Parasite Eve II isn’t my absolute favorite game of all time, it ranks undoubtedly high in my heart as one of those "wow" experiences that will never be erased. With the upcoming release of The 3rd Birthday, I can’t wait to see how much Aya has grown and evolved. I can only hope that the next iteration in the series provides as much fun, intrigue, and fascination that the games that came before it did.