Bring it Back | Parasite Eve
We’re back with another edition of Bring it Back, our series where we look back at dormant franchises that are due for a comeback. After our Final Fight and Ganbare Goemon features, we’re now looking at a franchise that goes a very different route. Back in 1995, Hideaki Sena released his science fiction novel Parasite Eve, bringing a horror element to the way the cells in the human body, specifically mitochondrion. The book received critical acclaim and was even the first winner of the Japan Horror Novel Award. This inspired the video game company SquareSoft to release a game as a sequel to the novel, thus bringing the Parasite Eve game franchise to life.
In 1998, Parasite Eve released for the original PlayStation, continuing years later from the book. The game involved a lot of big names at Square, including Chrono Trigger’s director Takashi Tokita, Final Fantasy’s director Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Final Fantasy VII character designer Tetsuya Nomura. It even had famed game composer Yoko Shimomura on board for the music. Using development teams in both the United States and Japan, this was a collaborative effort that created Square’s first M-rated title. Final Fantasy VII was still fresh within the minds of gamers everywhere and Capcom’s Resident Evil had ushered in a new era of horror games. This was the perfect time for Parasite Evil to come out.
The story introduces Aya Brea, the daughter of Mariko Anzai, one of the characters in the Parasite Eve novel. Introduced as a police officer for the NYPD, she’s a calm and collected character that seems unfazed by the strange events that take place. Her characterization is a talking point for the series, but we’ll get to that much later. Either way, Aya would be the central character of the series. Opposite of her would be the character Eve, or more accurately, the parasite known as Eve. She serves as the primary antagonist of the series and the source of all the strange phenomenon, including humans spontaneously combusting or transforming other lifeforms into Neo-Mitochondrial Creatures.
The general idea of Eve is that she takes on a host body and uses her cells to manipulate those around her. Not only does it make her deadly, but she can also control their actions. This allows her to make humans do her bidding and put the pieces of her grand scheme together. Eve’s goal? She wishes to bring humanity to extinction and replace them with lifeforms that can control their genetic code. The original book covers most of this, where a woman named Kiyomi was Eve’s original host. After several years of development, Eve found a man named Toshiaki Nagashima, considering him to be an eligible mate for her ultimate being. After having Kiyomi become an organ donor, Eve forced her into a car crash, leaving her brain dead before being taken off life support.
Being an organ donor, this meant that Kiyomi’s organs were now available for those in need. The Eve infected kidney was extracted and then given to a 14 year old Mariko Anzai, passing Eve on to her. Mariko would later give birth to twins: Maya and Aya. Maya’s importance is crucial, as she is the next stage of Eve. Thanks to Eve’s control, Mariko and Maya are both registered as organ donors. As you might guess, they end up in a fatal car crash, and Maya’s kidney is donated to a young Melissa Pearce. This event allows Eve to develop in Melissa as her new host, making her the antagonist of the first game. Of course, one of Maya’s eyes was also preserved for Aya, as it would be used to correct a birth defect in Aya’s right cornea. This would allow Aya her own Parasite Energy abilities as well.
It’s a lot of dots to connect, but this concept does prove one thing: this series has tons of potential. An ancient antagonist with the ability to take host in humans can spawn several games. Of course, one of the biggest areas of opportunity comes from the gameplay. The games merged survival horror and RPG elements, even using turn-based combat. Taking the active time bar from Final Fantasy, Parasite Eve gave it a different spin. While players had to wait for their turn to perform actions, they would be able to move around and dodge enemy attacks. This requires a bit more skill and provides more direct control for the player. The gameplay worked surprisingly well, and is well worth revisiting. Despite this, the turn-based element did eventually get dropped for the sequel.
The Parasite Eve series has seen three games total. While Parasite Eve II was a direct sequel, the third game, The 3rd Birthday, acts as more of a spin-off. The 3rd Birthday on PlayStation Portable was meant to revitalize the series, as it came roughly a decade after the previous game. While the presentation was well received, the story was overly complex and strayed far from the source material. Instead of focusing on the mitochondria manipulation and NMCs, the game put focus on Aya’s new “Overdive” ability. This made it so that she could send her consciousness back in time, allowing her to prevent future devastation from the Twisted. Think X-Men: Days of Future Past. While the game amplifies the science fiction aspect, the survival horror features definitely take a backseat.
Aya’s personality was also in question in The 3rd Birthday, as players found it didn’t match with her actions. Gone was the calm and collected Aya as she became more unsure of herself with each passing moment. Much like how people complained about Samus’ portrayal in Metroid: Other M, Aya’s portrayal was very similar here. Of course, the plot does play a part in this, though that doesn’t make it much better. The gameplay also changed a bit, becoming more like a third-person shooter with RPG elements. Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII comes to mind. Using Overdive also allowed the ability to transfer between bodies during combat as well. Overall, while the game has a lukewarm reception, it didn’t do enough to revive the franchise.
Despite the reception of The 3rd Birthday, the Parasite Eve franchise can definitely seek redemption. It’s full of interesting characters, concepts and mechanics that make it stand out among other games. Square Enix also doesn’t really have a current go-to horror franchise at the moment. It’s been eleven years, but this series has plenty of potential to keep going. It would be up to Square Enix to take on that task, but there are several ways for them to Bring it Back!
Perhaps the best approach to bringing Parasite Eve back would be to do a remake of the original game. Bring the game to a modern era with updated visuals, a new presentation, and maybe additional story elements. Basically give it the Final Fantasy VII Remake treatment. Things could get interesting as far as gameplay goes too. Square Enix could simply keep the gameplay and polish it up with new quality of life improvements. They could also do a complete revamp, maintaining the ATB element while giving it more of an action approach. The other question would be the camera, as the original game used fixed camera angles. It might also be cool to see a Resident Evil Remake style option, maintaining the fixed camera. The very least we could get would be a remaster like Final Fantasy VIII Remastered.
Of course, another option would be to continue the series with a new game. For this, the best approach would probably be to retcon The 3rd Birthday. It has great presentation, but it barely acknowledges the previous stories and it complicates things. Of course, the game technically retcons itself, but that’s another story for another day. The best choice here is to simply continue off of Parasite Eve II. The remnants of Mitochondria Eve could easily resurface, so they could find a way to bring the series back to the roots. Perhaps even inject more survival horror elements into the game. It might even be possible to push the series further in the future, giving a different protagonist. Technically, this did happen already in The 3rd Birthday, but it would likely be better to take a different route.
There’s a ton of possibilities for where this series could go. It’s a strong enough property that a new game could easily spark interest in other projects. A remake of the Japanese film could be a good option, or perhaps even an anime series. If nothing else, at least find ways to bring this classic franchise to the gamers of today. It’s possible that the publisher of the book has some of the rights, meaning Square Enix might have to go through some licensing. Even so, this license does seem worth the effort to utilize.
What do you think? Is Parasite Eve a series you would like to see back in the spotlight? Let us know in the comments below! We’d also love any feedback for our Bring it Back feature, or even suggestions for future editions. Don’t forget to tune in next Sunday, as we look back at a classic one-off from Sony’s Japan Studio.