It's taken more than 10 years, but the much-anticipated third entry in the Parasite Eve series is finally available in North America. I've been looking forward to this release for a year myself, and have been chomping at the bit as the official date neared. Aya Brea is a bit of a cult favourite among RPG fans in the know, and I'm no exception. Of course, the return of a beloved character can be a double-edged sword. The anticipation for this release has been palpable, but the expectations have also been high. Will long-time fans be pleased with Aya's latest adventure?
Let's start with the visuals. Tetsuya Nomura returns as art designer, and the only major creative force to be involved with all three games. As a result, Aya Brea still looks like Aya Brea, but sharper and sleeker. Character designs are all very good, while backgrounds serve their purpose. Cutscenes are as good as it gets with the current generation, not only for handhelds, but home consoles as well. The in-game graphics are at about the limit of the PSP's abilities.
A nice surprise upon first firing the game up is hearing "Primal Eyes," one of the themes of the first game, subtly remixed. Additionally, the "Parasite Eve Main Theme" on piano also makes a reappearance in this game. Yoko Shimomura returns to the franchise as one of the composers of this game, bringing back the old favourites. So far, so good.
However, get into the game itself, and the familiarity soon fades. Square-Enix has made a point of the fact that this is not "Parasite Eve 3." It's the third game set in the Parasite Eve universe but not necessarily the third entry in a strictly linear series (despite following the previous entries in chronological order and featuring the same protagonist). The gameplay is entirely new and the Twisted, the antagonists of this game, show no apparent relationship to the mitochondria-controlled mutants of the first two games. And the world of the game, a post-apocalyptic New York, is also very different. Three years before the events of the game, the Twisted appeared literally out of nowhere and overran the world.