Following on in roughly the same vein as its predecessor, but with a number of changes to the battle system and some very nice plot-twists, Parasite Eve II will take you, as Aya Brea, from New York to Nevada on your quest to exterminate neo-mitochondria creatures (NMCs) wherever they may roam.
You start the game inside the MIST centre, the newly-formed governmental body that specializes in sending out operatives to clear up NMC problems. Aya's practicing her shooting skills, and does fantastically, right up until she pops a cap into a cardboard young girl. Her faintly geeky friend, Pierce, cracks some jokes, then you, yourself, are given the chance to test out the battle system. From the first impression, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you're playing Resident Evil, because you basically are. A major problem with Parasite Eve II is that it can be summed up as Resident Evil with (and very possibly by) numbers.
After a short while you're given your first mission: clear some NMCs out of a major tower in the middle of town. The SWAT team failed, but of course, Aya still walks in alone. You have to admit, she's got guts if nothing else. Entering the main area will again give a pleasant feeling of Resident Evil-related nostalgia, as you look around and see the SWAT team, or rather their remains.
Inevitable comparisons to Resident Evil follow apace: the graphics look like they're from the same series, the resemblance is so uncanny. The game implements the 'standard' prerendered backdrop with the characters overlaid on top, the screen flicking every so often to a less awkward camera angle. This causes a number of problems: sometimes, camera angles are awkward, leaving you to trust to the autoaim and to guess at the range of enemies before they hit you. Additionally, there's a noticeable loading time between screens, leaving a seemingly-paused Aya in place for a second between each and every screen.
This is combined with a rather clumsy control system: you turn too fast while running and too slow while standing still. The glaring absence of any form of quick-turn button meant I was frequently trying to spin around 180 degrees - a maneouver that doesn't exist - and getting a bite to the back when I could have been facing the enemy and shooting 5 seconds earlier.
After a fair amount of time and, of course, the requisite 4 unexplained circumstances and events that any RPG must have before the main game, you and your associate end up flying away by helicopter as the tower explodes. Once back to the office, you're quickly bundled off to Nevada, where a remote village appears to have a connection to the NMC assault at the tower.
Here the game starts proper, and unfortunately the style of the game doesn't change in the slightest. Apart from the occasional CG scene, which are pretty but nothing astounding, the game proper plays exactly like a form of Resident Evil with numbers. While that's not bad - the game's plot is able to carry you through - the major problem is the complete lack of anything new. The graphics are all of a standard we've seen before, the music (on the rare occasion any actually pops up - normally it's absent to preserve atmosphere) is heart-thumping but common, similar to most music in most contemporary horror games.
The controls, too, are the same as every survival horror game out there: forward, back, turn, lift weapon, shoot? Check. Next zombie/NMC/unwilling target button? Check. Menu and map? Check. While it's comforting and easy to learn, the turning circle is either too fast or too slow, so it's very easy to end up rubbing up against the wall at a much-reduced speed by accident until you get hit, and the lack of any form of quick-turn irritates no end.
The only difference - or addition - to the Resident Evil games is the Parasite Energy system. Simply put, it's a spell system where you purchase abilities with XP gained from killing NMCs, ranging from a normal fireball to a healing spell to the infamous Inferno seen in the introduction to Parasite Eve 1. It's a nice system - the really powerful spells available only when you've 'mastered' the element in question - but by the same token the game is made much, much easier if you know just which spells to go for.
Fortunately for Parasite Eve II, the storyline goes a long way towards helping the game. While not as deep as a 'true' console RPG, it is nevertheless full of twists and turns, and some surprisingly high-up people. Aya is nice and believable, even if she does tend to fall in love with people fast, while Kyle is annoying enough to provoke reaction - always a good thing. Together with multiple endings - and the best ending being quite a treat - the plot lifts Parasite Eve II from a mediocre to a fairly good RPG.
Another point in favour of the game is the sheer volume of extra stuff that you can get. As well as the normal game there are two game modes opened up after completing it: Bounty and Survivor mode, offering tougher monsters, increased rewards, and deadlier gameplay. In addition, upon completing the game your score will be evaluated and new items will appear in the shops, ranging from being able to purchase abilities with money rather than XP to being able to purchase rather outlandish weapons - a gunblade formerly wielded by a certain Square character being a case in point.
Overall, don't expect this to be the same as the first game of the series: the style of play is quite different. However, by the same token, don't buy this if you burnt out on survival horror games long ago, as you'll merely find the game a chore to get through. If you're not burnt out on survival horror and love a challenge, get this simply because you'll find the Bounty modes a treat.