December 16, 2009

Aya Brea On My Mind

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , — Jamie Love @ 8:34 pm

Parasite Eve
Two teasing bits of video and a few scant comments about the direction for Square-Enix’s PSP title, The 3rd Birthday, have had to serve as morsels to feed my appetite for a continuation of the Parasite Eve series. While good things come to those that wait, my patience for more details is at the boiling point, because the franchise has always been the good horse to bet on. The original title emerged during a period of legitimate experimentation for Squaresoft, and remains one of the most intriguing and potentially important deviations in the company’s development catalog.

Side-stepping the typical Square-speak of the day about the first cinematic role-playing game, Parasite Eve presents layers of possibilities, which make the physical game as much a mutation as the creatures running loose within the world coded to the disc that carries it. And from a company prided on pushing visuals, narrative, and occasionally the mechanics underneath those fancier concerns, Parasite Eve is a series that represents an evolutionary experiment, finding a strange and peaceful balance of those elements where one so often overshadows the others. Deviations and changes in the continuation of the franchise are not risks, but instead the very means of staying true to the inherent nature of the game and its narrative heartbeat.

Parasite Eve represents the chaos of change and evolution in a way that isn’t simply confined to narrative concerns, but is also a potentially continuing mutation of design and style.

Parasite Eve
Parasite Eve stuck its big toe outside of Squaresoft’s comfy and predominate sphere of influence, dragging some keepsakes along into the then emerging genre of survival horror. Confronting monstrous creatures was nothing new to that genre or to Squaresoft. What the game tapped with a less cited perspective on the idea of internal horror, establishing a world caught halfway between an investigative drama of 1990’s sensibility and the films of David Cronenberg. And this gave rise to a different horror from those waiting within the town of Silent Hill as Parasite Eve sought the deepest and most primal fear of all, the one that defies and defeats any attempt to rationalize the situation even while in possession of scientific logic. And while this can develop in ways similar to the Resident Evil series, the difference is crucial in a “man playing god” versus “man chained to the nature and mysteries of his being” equation.

Parasite Eve is about the state of separation between the physical and the mental, our mental inability to control the physical host that houses our capacity to reason – the rise of the flesh with a will and an agenda that refuses to be controlled or comprehended. In short, our great humanizing weakness.

Parasite Eve

Where Silent Hill is so reliably about the physical manifestation of internal conflict and strife, Parasite Eve tackles the fundamental conflict of life, which pushes aside all psychological concerns in light of the truth that the mind cannot survive without the body, and is greatly challenged to do so in opposition to it. And this core principle at the heart of the series has always gifted it with the potential to reinvigorate the medium.

In a similar vein to Silent Hill 2, the chain of events taking place through Parasite Eve and its sequel begin and end with the game’s protagonist, Aya Brea, and so comprehending the series better would necessitate understanding her character. But that’s no easy task.

If we think of the way in which confronting the horrors of Silent Hill 2 lend insight into the character of James Sunderland, Aya instead faces confrontations emerging from a relationship to her physical being, leaving the mind a lesser understood element in the mix. And unlike a classic Squaresoft RPG, where slices of back-story arrive to give a fixed and evolving sense of a hero’s identity, any sense of Aya is thrown into a constant state of flux. The very act of using her powers throughout the game is changing her in ways the player cannot see, the character development taking place at a level invisible to the player’s eye.

Parasite Eve

What’s immediately found in Aya’s physical character is the unmistakable hand of her creator, which leaves her only a slight wardrobe change and a few zippers away from training Chocobo or chasing down hearts alongside Mickey Mouse. In that sense her physical design symbolizes a sense of Square stepping into new territories while still retaining a strong sense of self. And it leaves Aya walking a tightrope between scientific fantasy and a grittier realism.

In truth her image is rather plain, with little accentuation or exaggeration, particularly given the quirks of her parents. It’s as if she is meant to be a blank slate for experiences written across her evolving form throughout the series, waiting for character to emerge from the events that spawn from her very DNA. But this is complicated and obscured by the nature of her power, which keeps her relatively ageless and perpetuates the mystery of her deeper character. That doesn’t mean that Squaresoft wasn’t above throwing maternal instincts into her story the second time around, but even that bit of predictability tells us very little about who Aya is. But then we wouldn’t have seen that side of her if not for events that literally emerge from within her.

Aya is destined by design to be defined by the events of the franchise, first by the legacy of her sister’s organs and then by the exploitation of her own. Aya is then left drawing her identity from these events that are a part of her rather than bringing a sense of self to them, which leaves me impatiently waiting for something more than just another kick at the can.

So I continue struggling and grasping for some sense of Aya Brea, circling around to find so much of her character and potential waiting to be realized within The 3rd Birthday, which seems to hold the promise of taking these elements in hand and delivering a title worth the trouble of the words invested toward it here. And these hopes and expectations are again pinned to the evolution of design and style we’ve been led to anticipate.

1st bit of teasing video
2nd bit of teasing video

1 Comment »

  1. I can’t stand the fact that the sequel will release on PSP. If Sony allows us to play Minis on our PS3, why not do the same for the PSP downloadable games? I can think of 6 PSP games I want to play, but that still hasn’t made me buy a PSP and I DO own a PS3.

    Comment by EdEN — December 29, 2009 @ 12:28 pm

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