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Parasite Eve 2
Score: 90%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Classic/Retro/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
The idea of replaying PlayStation (or PSOne as the new lingo goes) classics on PSP may seem a bit odd to gamers of a certain age. The platform itself (PSP) is aging, but there are still a wealth of new, flashy titles available. So why revisit a game that's over a decade old? If you experienced the surge of PSOne titles as a late-teen or 20-something in the '90s, it's no surprise that you'll feel nostalgia for Parasite Eve 2. The graphics, a decade later, are still impressive in terms of the mood they create as you explore your surroundings. If you were too young to experience survival-horror classics like the first two Resident Evil games, imagine a design style similar to today's Hidden Object games: Lots of photoshopped, static backgrounds against which you move your 3D character and interact with other 3D characters. What we notice today is the craftsmanship here and the huge amount of time obviously spent to create such meticulous detail.

Virtually another character in Parasite Eve 2, the sound design and music is fantastic. Not a drop of this has been lost in translation, and we'd submit that modern games judged against Parasite Eve 2 actually haven't come that far in this dimension. What truly sets up the creepy-factor in Parasite Eve 2 are the foreboding musical interludes and incidental sounds. Walking into a room where you'll face off against a creature, you'll often hear the enemy before you see it (or them). The footfalls and opening/closing doors along the way all add to a sense of realism, even when Parasite Eve 2 is so stilted by today's standard for immersive game design. Reading dialogue dates the game, but so much voice acting from this period was forgettable anyway. The sights and sounds of Aya Brea are still exciting after so many years, even on the smallest of screens.

The first hour of Parasite Eve 2 is a good microcosm for what you'll experience over the entire second chapter, before the credits roll. Without any spoilers, it's at least fair to say that Aya picks up where she left off in the original Parasite Eve, but several years after that game's conclusion. The existence of cryptid-like beings, infested with the Mitochondria plague introduced in the first game, is now just a given. There's a teeny bit of X-Files inspiration here, mashed up with something more action-oriented like Aliens, if you can relate to those references. During the course of her clean-up activities, Aya stumbles across a far larger threat that spirals out of control and forces her to suit up against bigger and badder Mitochondria-infested creatures than ever before.

The gameplay path really diverged between the first and second game in the series, with Parasite Eve 2 adopting a much more action-oriented style of play compared to what was essentially a role-playing game for the series' debut. Item collection and puzzles still play a role here, as well as some paranormal abilities (essentially magic) that Aya has at her disposal. Exploration and character customization is now secondary to action and real-time battles, which required some adjustment. For fans of the classic RE series, or others like Dino Crisis and Countdown Vampires, the balance between heady gaming and raw action is probably better than in the original Parasite Eve. Core RPG fans probably parted ways with the series at this stage, or were at least more challenged to perform during the action-heavy battle sequences. There's still a great story at the center of Parasite Eve 2, and the action elements feel pretty tame this many years later, so those RPG fans might find it worth revisiting the game in its revived, portable glory.

The challenge with classic or retro games is that they feel harder than the current crop. There's truth and perception in this, but you know what they say about perception and reality... If you're replaying Parasite Eve 2 and were a fan of these games, you'll have a hand-in-glove moment somewhere within the first 30 minutes. New players wondering what all the hubbub is about won't have exactly the same reaction, and will likely feel the controls are a bit stilted. The battle mechanics aren't as inspired as many these days, nor do the RPG aspects feel quite as intuitive and ingrained as more modern titles. These are things we now look at as technical limitations, but it's important to recognize that most of us at the time took for granted that action/survival/RPG games played like this. Characters like Aya Brea weren't supposed to be superwomen. They were flawed and underpowered, compared to the enemies opposing them. The first boss battle is a perfect example; you can't expect to kill an elephant with a pop-gun, right? Conservation of ammo, exploration of your surroundings, and intelligence in handling inventory all combine to make Parasite Eve 2 almost as much of an intellectual exercise as it is about direct action. RPG roots show through, but you're able to unload on enemies with a variety of firepower. One decade later, the most defining challenge is likely to be getting used to an antiquated control scheme. Luckily, some settings in the game's options menu allow you to move control away from the face buttons and use the analog stick for navigation. It's not as true to the original game, but it's probably better suited to the PSP.

Game Mechanics:
Configuration options in Parasite Eve 2 run deep, allowing you to fine tune everything from the screen format (normal, wide-zoom, etc.) to the button mapping. The different control schemes make it possible to adjust for almost any style of play, and you can also tweak some of the memory management. Real under-the-hood stuff, you know? We found the menu system a tad confusing; maybe this is exactly what it looked like originally, but we doubt it. You have two areas of control, one related to the translation from PSOne to PSP, and the other controlling options as we did back when this originally launched. The menu system lets you drill down into items Aya is carrying, including items that can be equipped for battle. It seems a bit strange to follow the RPG convention in an action game, but you'll only have access to gear equipped prior to battles. There's very little you can do to avoid battles, and once you engage with an enemy you have to defeat it or escape to a different "room." The way areas of the game are loaded can be disconcerting, since you'll often get drastic changes in visual perspective as you move around. The game has a fixed camera, so running around is the only control you have.

Once we had everything set up to our liking, we found the controls responsive enough. Nothing really compares to the original PlayStation controller, but who can complain when there is otherwise a pristine mobile rendition of Parasite Eve 2 at your fingertips. We have little illusions about this release producing converts, but it will hopefully find its way into a few new hands. The survival-horror genre has evolved greatly, but it's impressive that a game more than 10 years old can still convey such a strong mood and engage players so effectively. For the 30-somethings that grew up with classic 8-bit arcade titles, consider this: Games like Parasite Eve 2 were really the 8-bit equivalents for kids that got into gaming during the '90s. Those of us who discovered (or rediscovered) gaming during this period can now put a piece of history in our hip pocket, with Parasite Eve 2 for PSP.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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