It's not fair to judge a PS1 game by PS3 standards, but it should be made clear that this is a PS1 game. If it's been awhile since you've played an older-gen game, you may be shocked at your ability to literally count the polygons. You may wonder why the game relies on text rather than voice actors. I have a friend who is a graphics snob and absolutely cannot play PS1 titles (with the exception of sprite-based art styles). His nostalgia cannot overcome the lack of graphical quality he has come to expect.
I remember being blown away by the cut-scenes in Final Fantasy VII, but when I replayed it recently after finishing Crisis Core, I was surprised at what I saw. Without realizing it, my memories had received software upgrades over the years; in my mind, somehow the remembered scenes always kept pace with the visual quality of contemporary CG.
Parasite Eve was, and still is, unique among RPGs. It's been described after the fact as an RPG with survival horror elements, the latter being a genre that was just beginning to coalesce at the time Parasite Eve came out. In reality, though the setting and storyline do somewhat follow the mood and pacing of a sci-fi horror film, labeling the game itself as survival horror is an error that could only have been made by later commentators.
It becomes clear early in the game that our hero, Aya Brea, is the only one that can stop the mysterious events that are unfolding in her native New York. An entire theatre full of people burst into flames, in an apparent mass case of spontaneous combustion. An actress, Melissa, seems behind it all, though when confronted, she calls herself an ancient Eve. And since Aya is the only one who seems immune to the mysterious powers of this woman, she must face the threat alone.
The real-world setting, the internal nature of the enemy, and the grittiness of the story give the game a very different feel from traditional RPGs, though a very compelling one. The mood is both existential and paranoiac, but it's a slow psychological burn. The game is not designed around monsters jumping out at you in the dark, as in Resident Evil, but with a slow build-up of tension.
In terms of gameplay, Aya's mostly fighting alone does mean that the usual complementary character types of other RPGs do not apply. Aya must be responsible for both dealing damage and healing herself, and there is no one to revive her if her life drops to zero. As an NYPD cop a traditional turn-based battle system, with our hero patiently waiting for her chance to fire off a few shots at the monsters, would seem incongruous. More fitting for both character and setting, the player has free movement during battle, though there remains an action gauge that must fill before Aya can perform a (non-movement) command. At the time, some described it as an action-RPG, but the game is quite a bit different from action-RPGs today.