Parasite Eve has sold some 1.9 million copies for Square-Enix since its original 1998 release for the PlayStation. That's relative lightweight compared to Square's Final Fantasy titles, but the game has gained a unique place in the company's history, and a loyal enough fan following to justify two sequels — the latest of which becomes available for the PSP in less than one week. In anticipation of this long-awaited third title, Square-Enix confirmed this past fall that both Parasite Eve and Parasite Eve 2 would be re-released via the PlayStation Network, and they have fulfilled the first half of that promise now.
I still remember my first glimpse of this magnificent game. I had finally gotten a PlayStation console of my very own, and played every game and video on the accompanying demo disc at least half a dozen times. I was absolutely enthralled with everything. Three-dimensional gameplay for the first time, polygonal rather than pixelated graphics. Videogames would never be the same.
But there were two items on that disc I just kept going back to, over and over and over. One was a playable demo of a game-in-progress, the voice dialogue still in its original Japanese. Some action game called Metal Gear Solid. The other was just a promo video, with no gameplay shown. The so-called “cinematic RPG”, Parasite Eve.
Thinking on it now, I realize there's a lot we take for granted. As true lovers of videogames — at the time, still a relatively niche market — we were used to applying a certain degree of imagination, seeing the characters and not the individual pixels, feeling the emotion in a conversation comprised only of text. Suddenly, at least in small bursts, we were immersed in a game world with all our senses. The best FMV of the day allowed us to see our real characters, not crude renderings, accompanied by full, emotional upwellings of music.
In a select few games, for the first time, characters actually spoke. Game developers found themselves hiring actors, utilizing a skill set they had never required before. Immersive sound and graphics are the standard now, but at the time, the quantum leap from the capabilities of the previous console generation was something to boggle at.
It's almost 13 years later, but this game has stayed with me. I've replayed it several times in the intervening years. I tracked down the original sheet music for piano and learned the main theme by heart. I pre-ordered the sequel. When I stumbled across a little known J-horror film in a shop, loosely related to the game, I went home with a copy. And, truthfully, maybe I've always been a little in love with Aya Brea. So this week, I experience it all one more time.