Home > Chronological Challenge > Chronological Challenge Reviews – Parasite Eve 2 / RE Code Veronica

Chronological Challenge Reviews – Parasite Eve 2 / RE Code Veronica

In this week’s second collection of Chronological Challenge reviews, we finally come to the end of 1999 and head into the 21st century at last. Today we look at a Resident Evil title and a game that needlessly tried to be Resident Evil. Enjoy!

Parasite Eve II
Publisher: Square | Developer: Squaresoft | Year: 1999 (Japanese release)
Original System: PlayStation
Played on: PS3 (original PS1 disc)

Goal: Tackle the outbreak of mitochondrial creatures

Actual Outcome: Defeated the mass of cells that became a strange angel creature and beat the game

Square Enix, we need to talk.

In 1997, you released a cool action RPG called Parasite Eve in Japan and then in the US, but due to your limited resources, it never got a UK release at the time. Which is fine, but in more recent years, Sony have allowed the release of old PS1 games via PSN, including imports, and Parasite Eve has never once received a release this way.

You did, however, release its sequel on original launch because by the time that came out you’d partnered with EA or something, so your European launches were a lot more consistent. And yet, still, the original game was nowhere to be seen. Having played the original while in the US, it has to be said that this was a major omission from your library, and its continued absence is quite possibly your second worst decision after that whole Rise of the Tomb Raider business.

But anyway, I initially put off wanting to play this second title in the series for years because of the absence of the first game, but after briefly playing the first and seeing others playing it online, and also reading the novel that began the whole story, I picked up Parasite Eve II at a convention and decided to just go ahead and play it for the challenge.

Parasite Eve II is an interesting game in many ways. It’s a strange hybrid of Resident Evil style survival horror and an action RPG. You wander around a maze-like environment solving puzzles and managing items just like in Resident Evil or Silent Hill, but when you encounter an enemy, you switch over into battle mode, which plays out with elements of an RPG. You target an enemy, and you can hit them with attacks and use magic powers while dodging them in real-time. It adds an interesting dimension and does go a considerable way to fix the problems with combat in these types of games.

In fact, the battle system is fairly strategic and does indeed draw a lot from the first Parasite Eve (based on what I played of it, at least), but with some more changes that make battles more a case of running around and finding your opportunities than the pseudo-turn-based nature of the first game, where your attacks were restricted by an ATB bar that you had to wait to fill. The targeting system is fluid and a million times better than some of the awkward targeting and aiming in Resident Evil, and the use of magic powers (sorry, mitochondrial powers) does add some interesting dimension to proceedings.

There are issues, however. The freedom of movement means that enemies are also now free to attack as much as they want, and with some groups of enemies that can lead to frustration. For instance, getting hit by a moth enemy that prevents from targeting while two cow/puma/dog creatures charge at you and remove a huge chunk of your HP the moment you walk in a certain room is not my idea of a fun time. The powers are also a little disappointing in their execution; the game does encourage you to use them to your advantage, but MP costs are often a little too high for frequent use, and this can lead to frustration too.

There’s also a sense that Parasite Eve II is trying way too hard to be Resident Evil. The first game was unique, and couldn’t be directly compared to any other game. It had its own unique battle system and level design, and stood out from the crowd incredibly well. But this second game, so determined to cash in on RE’s success, constantly feels like a push-and-pull between being a sequel that builds on the original, and a less-polished clone of Capcom’s zombie series. Which is a sham, as the original was solid enough on its own merits without the need to pull all this flimsy survival horror nonsense on board.

Fortunately, Parasite Eve II’s lore is interesting enough to distinguish itself. It uses the original concept, presented in the novel and first game, that the mitochondria in our cells is a separate species that is slowly evolving to take control, creating a body horror scenario where certain individuals are able to manipulate mitochondria and turn people into horrific beasts. The protagonist, Aya, is also capable of using her mitochondria in this way to a lesser extent, but she’s using them for good to save humanity.

However, this interesting concept does steadily begin to resemble the activities of Umbrella in the RE games, with the story even culminating in a romp through a secret facility where the monsters are made, and it’s so sad after the intrigue of the first game.

Where the game really excels is in its presentation. It’s one of the better-looking PS1 games, able to blend its pre-rendered backgrounds into the polygon models a damn sight better than its contemporaries, and with some disturbing monster design on top of that. The soundtrack is excellent, continuing the first game of atmospheric electronic minimalism that the first game employed so effectively.

Ultimately, Parasite Eve II is an excellent game with an identity crisis. It desperately wants to be its own thing, but is also determined to tie its design and structure to its contemporaries, and this constant conflict prevents the game from reaching its full potential.

Resident Evil: Code Veronica X
Publisher: Capcom | Developer: Capcom | Year: 2000 (Dreamcast release, Japan)
Original System: Sega Dreamcast
Played on: PS2

Goal: Escape Rockfort Island

Actual Outcome: Escaped and took down the Ashfords

Following the release of the Dreamcast, Capcom wanted to move their popular survival horror series onto the more powerful platform and advance the series. Problem was, Sony weren’t too happy, and so the Resident Evil 2 side game Nemesis was forced to adopt a number while the in-development Dreamcast title had to exclusively take on a subtitle. And so begins the weird story of how Code Veronica appears to be a side game but is actually as much a part of the main series as those with numbers.

Code Veronica is weird in a few other ways. It’s the point where the series formula began to look a little tired. While there’s plenty here to indicate that the game is a technological progression from its predecessors, it tends to be fairly minor. Pre-rendered backdrops have been replaced by real-time modelled environments. The characters have more definition in their designs. The series finally moves out of Raccoon City and its surrounding areas. All progress, and all welcome.

But where Code Veronica trips up is in the mechanics, which have barely progressed from the previous titles, and they’ve also become annoying in their executions.

Resident Evil, as far as I’m concerned, was always about exploration. Explore the mansion, explore the police station, explore the city, but while Code Veronica is mechanically similar to its predecessors, it seems to actively punish exploring. My challenge playthrough was my third attempt to beat the game, with the first two attempts consistently derailed by a level of frustration that never really goes away.

You see, along with the inclusion of Nemesis in the previous game, this is the exact point where Capcom were determined to make the series more action-oriented, but it still took a few years for the mechanics to catch up. Having to balance limited resources and inventory space becomes hugely frustrating if you don’t know what’s coming. Far too often, Code Veronica loves to surprise you with hugely tough enemies that can attack you across a room when you can’t even see them, hordes of zombies that block narrow pathways, and a character change partway through that you can mess yourself up on if you’re unaware of it hours before (which requires a previous playthrough or a guide) because you’ll find yourself with the worst inventory in the world – didn’t ensure decent weapons and/or ammo were put in the box before the scene change and forget to go out of your way to give a man your lighter? Have fun constantly running out of ammo!

Indeed, this is the game’s central problem. If you know where you’re going, you can often burn through specific enemies and avoid others with just enough ammo or health to spare. If you leave the pre-determined path to explore a bit, chances are you’ll get surrounded by zombies in a room you can probably skip for now, or worse, trigger the spawning of a Hunter or Bandersnatch that you’ll have to constantly run past for hours. As such, you’ll often find yourself running low on resources in a way that feels out of your control. While previous games have employed inventory management, it’s always done in a way that feels…well, manageable, but not so much here.

You’d also think that by this point, especially with new hardware moving forward, Capcom would have been capable of improving their storytelling, but oddly things seem to have gone backwards. The acting is consistently bland with a single exception that we’ll get to, and Wesker’s presence feels arbitrary because he hadn’t been talked about in a while (and his Matrix-style antics are just plain silly). Not to mention the character switch halfway through is largely retread of an old area shortly after you’ve left it as Claire, and the plot justification is the narrative equivalent of a “no one was at home to receive your parcel” note.

And then there’s Steve. Good Christ, Steve. Ostensibly Claire’s sidekick, he’s an obnoxious child with daddy issues who fawns over Claire and actively crashes a plane at one point because he tries to look at her boobs. He’s presented as Claire’s love interest despite Claire showing a rather ambivalent attitude towards him for the whole game until a pivotal moment where suddenly she grows feelings (maybe?). He’s the sole character who isn’t bland in the acting, as his performance is so irritating I spent the whole game wanting to punch the guy.

It’s probably pretty clear that I feel that Code Veronica is one of the weakest games in the Resident Evil series. The wrong kind of difficult, washed-out graphics, obnoxious side characters, and a general sense that the game doesn’t want you playing it make me wonder where it all went wrong after the successes of the first two games and most of Nemesis.

  1. garethtorrance
    August 25, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    A great run down of Parasite Eve 2. Good to see you played it man! I doubt you can remember me, but that was my first LP all of 7 years ago, haha. It definitely isn’t as good as the first, and I do feel they tried to make it too similar to Resident Evil in many ways, but its still more enjoyable than The 3rd Birthday in my opinion 🙂

    • September 26, 2016 at 6:33 pm

      Oh wow, my response is SUPER late and I’m sorry! But yes, I do remember you and your LP! That was so long ago! 😀

      And yeah, 3rd Birthday is so bad that it’s best to pretend it doesn’t exist :p

      • achaiusplays
        September 27, 2016 at 7:23 am

        Haha, no problem! I’ve done that before on an old Final Fantasy XIV blog I ran. And yeah, it really was a long time ago, haha.

        Also, agreed! 🙂 I’m still waiting for an actual Parasite Eve 3… You know, following Aya properly. Although, even if they did actually announce one I think I’d be worried about them turning into an action game now anyway…

  2. October 11, 2016 at 11:13 am

    PE2 is still better than the first for me. Both are great, but it’s better, shame a better sequel is never gonna happen. Code Veronica was good, but it’s corny like you said. I don’t think its the weakest RE title overall, but it’s in terms of the mainline ones.

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