After having decisively transformed and conquered the RPG genre with Final Fantasy VII,
Square gained enough resources to experiment, to branch out. The results included racing games,
fighting games, and other RPGs. One such RPG was Parasite Eve, an adaptation of a Japanese novel intended to be further
towards the "cinematic" end of the scale than most RPGs before it. Indeed, the game is rife with
FMV, and takes place in a short space of time (a week) as a detective movie would. You play detective
Aya Brea, the best game heroine since Samus Aran - your mission is to stop a bizarre threat known as Eve,
who has massacred a bunch of people in Carnegie Hall by lighting them on fire, and is now on the loose,
causing previously harmless animals to mutate into fearsome creatures.
The game is one of the shortest RPGs ever - at the time, it may have even been the shortest. It only
lasts ten hours, which is ideal for a movie-type game but short for a typical RPG. Critics attacked the game
based on its length, but that seems to be missing the point. The intent of the designers was to create
an action- or detective-movie-like game with a short length, a short time span, and a whole lot of adrenaline-pumping
action. And there's a lot of that last thing - the FMV imagery is absolutely horrific at times, and the scene
with the horse is one of the most effective scenes in any game to date.
The game is helped by its fairly engaging science-fiction base, and moreover, by its use of real-life locations.
It takes place in New York City, in a present-day setting, which gives the game a grounding in
reality that makes it more immersive. The battle system produces a similar effect - you have to
move around, waiting for your Final-Fantasy-like ATB gauge to fill - once it does, then you can target an enemy
with all sorts of firearms. However, the battling doesn't sit very comfortably with the cinematic aspects of the game -
after all, in an effective movie, you wouldn't see the heroine upgrading her armour or spending several minutes taking
out one miserable enemy. The bonus dungeon (100 floors of pain) was a nice idea, but ends up being an exercise
in tedium and frustration, and adds nothing to the plot. In the end, the game part detracts from the movie part,
and the movie part detracts from the game part. It's worth playing once, but you're as unlikely to return to it as you
are to watch that summer action blockbuster from five years ago again.