Something is in the air in 2022, and it is making publishers revisit their classic horror franchises. In the span of 24 hours both Konami and Capcom shared a plethora of information on the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises respectively. Many of these announcements revolve around modern remakes of fan-favorite games. Yet one company has yet to join in on this trend. With horror gaining so much attention Square Enix needs to take note.
It’s time for Parasite Eve to make a comeback.
A different type of horror — Development on the original Parasite Eve starts with the story of another Square Enix game, Final Fantasy VII. During the pre-production for FFVII Hironobu Sakaguchi wrote an initial plot that took place in New York City, and would follow a detective pursuing the ecoterrorist organization Avalanche. While the New York setting was scrapped and the characters would eventually shift into the iconic cast fans know today, the original idea never left Sakaguchi’s mind.
In developing a new horror game for Square, Sakaguchi melded his original idea for FFVII with the Japanese horror novel Parasite Eve. The final version of Parasite Eve that released in 1998 follows protagonist Aya Brea, a rookie cop on the NYPD over the course of six days as she attempts to stop Eve, an intelligent mitochondrial being that can take control of people and cause them to self-combust.
The Parasite Eve series feels distinct from the big-boy horror franchises in gaming. While Resident Evil and Silent Hill aim towards survival horror, Parasite Eve is a uniquely Square Enix approach to the genre — a role-playing horror game.
Aya travels to various locations in New York from a world map. When walking around maps the player can enter random encounters, however, these do not initiate a separate combat screen instead commencing the battle on the exploration map. Rather than strictly turn-based, Parasite Eve has a pausable real-time system that makes use of an ATB mechanic like in Final Fantasy. Aya can move around the screen freely to doge attacks and then use any weapons or items when the ATB is full. It bears a striking resemblance to the combat in Vagrant Story, which Square would release two years later. In survival horror fashion, the game had item scarcity as well, lending a sense of danger to combat encounters.
Something special — This blending of genres made Parasite Eve stand out in a year that also saw the release of the original Resident Evil 2. But the gameplay wasn’t the only good thing about Parasite Eve. Aya is a fascinating protagonist, created by Sakaguchi and designed by Tetsuya Nomura. She feels like the best parts of Leon Kennedy, Claire Redfield, and Cloud Strife rolled into one. She is the central point in a narrative that embraces darker and more adult themes, leading it to be Square Enix’s first M-rated game.
The game was successful, becoming the third best-selling game in Japan in 1998. A sequel was released one year later, and a third game came in 2010. But besides re-releases on the PlayStation Network and the original games’ inclusion in the Japanese version of the PlayStation Classic, the series has remained dormant for 12 years.
In the 24 years since Parasite Eve was released, no other game has replicated its unique approach to horror storytelling and combat. Not even Parasite Eve II or The 3rd Birthday follow in the footsteps of the original, instead attempting to emulate Resident Evil or third-person cover-based shooters.
AAA remakes have become a common occurrence in the gaming industry. While some can feel uninspired, remakes like Resident Evil 2 bring an inaccessible classic to a modern audience with reverence to the original but a modern sensibility. Square Enix has shown their capabilities in pulling off a good remake with the FF7 Remake trilogy of titles. Parasite Eve deserves this attention from Square, be it a remake, a remaster, or (fingers crossed) a new title altogether.