Hands-on: Parasite Eve II

Aya Brea returns with new gameplay, better graphics, and better curves.

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Aya Brea is back. The blonde FBI psycho-bomber with the mitochondria fix is bigger, blonder, and badder than ever, and I mean that in a good way. In Parasite Eve II, Aya returns three years after the events that took place in the original PE. Interestingly, the team that developed the first episode isn't responsible for the sequel. Instead, a whole new team has created what Square hopes is a reinvention of the series. While the game still takes place on detailed, pre-rendered backgrounds a la Resident Evil, the battle system has changed, and if first impressions are anything to judge by, then it's changed for the better.

The biggest improvement in Parasite Eve II is a new an auto-targeting system. You can now see your enemies before you approach them and initiate battle sequences by locking onto them. From there, you can choose to attack a couple of different ways. The standard option is to attack using your firearm, whichever firearm that may be. Aside from filling your opponents with lead, you can also select a Parasite attack that will subtract energy from your Parasite energy bar. One of your basic Parasite attacks is a fireball that's not too different from one Ken or Ryu, of Street fighter fame, might throw. As in the first game, there is an extensive customization interface that lets you tailor your armament to suit your particular preferences.

Graphically, the game has taken a leap forward by providing the best-looking polygonal characters this side of Resident Evil 3. Aya, in particular, has been given extra special attention, with a superbly modeled figure that looks awesome with all of PE II's high-contrast lighting effects. Control is still Resident Evil-ish, and this works fine.

From initial impressions and about an hour of playtime, it looks as if Square has actually improved the feel of the game, rather than simply rehashing the old one. Kudos to them for the effort, as lackluster titles such as Chocobo Racing gave off the impression that Square was getting lazy. One final nongameplay note is that the Japanese version of Parasite Eve II has an extremely well-designed cover (read: quite sexy), and it would be great if the American release featured the same one. Check back for the full review, coming shortly.

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