I was never a huge fan of Parasite Eve as a game, but I loved the music. I can’t say I remember a whole lot about the first game outside the terribly over-the-top storytelling (the quote I’m referencing in this post’s title pretty much had me wanting to turn the game off about 5 minutes in) and the fantastic score by Yoko Shimomura, and I never got around to experiencing Parasite Eve II or its soundtrack composed by Naoshi Mizuta.
I suppose that’s what makes this box set special to me. It’s giving me the chance to catch up on the first and finally experience the second game’s soundtrack. Likely re-released on Square Enix’s record label to promote the upcoming The 3rd Birthday, there’s no better time than now to bring out the classics that inspired that excellent soundtrack.
But do the original soundtracks withstand the test of time? Find out in our review after the jump.
A lot of people out there are already intimately familiar with this music. Not just because both games featured excellent soundtracks, but more recently, many of the key themes from Parasite Eve were arranged and featured in The 3rd Birthday, which we reviewed just a month ago.
For the original Parasite Eve, all of my favorites are here. The highly memorable piano arpeggios that act as the key motif of “Theme of Aya” will send chills down your spine and appear throughout the entire score, including on the opening track, “Primal Eyes,” which also sports some beastly electric guitar work, fitting of the “primal” in the track title.
Other greats include Shimomura’s unique battle themes: “Arise Within You” with its cool jazzy elements and “Plosive Attack” with its catchy progression and intense drum ‘n’ bass percussion. “Out of Phase,” while not a battle theme, sports a similar sound, adding an element of mystery of Aya Brea explores her surroundings. All of these tracks stand up remarkably well, and are definitely a lot of fun to go back and listen to after being exposed to so much of Shimomura’s more upbeat work on Kingdom Hearts.
There are some great atmospheres here as well, including “Memory I” with its drawn out string swells and trailing piano notes, the droning “Gloom and Doom,” “The Surface of the Water” with its gurgling groans and moans, and “Musica Mundana” which hammers you with a relentless flurry of bass notes.
You will notice, however, that some of this music does not withstand the test of time. It’s kind of interesting how we as game music fans will praise the use of 8-bit and even 16-bit sounds as “retro,” but have a more difficult time accepting PlayStation era soundtracks. They’re like that awkward teen stage that nobody wants to remember. This is particularly notable when in tracks that contain synthesized choral elements (unfortunately, a lot), effectively ruining tracks like “Influence of Deep,” “Memory III,” and “Kyrie,” all of which are otherwise fantastic.
There are some interesting tracks tucked away at the end of the original Parasite Eve soundtrack, including a smooth trip hop track with live vocals titled “Somnia Memorias” and a lengthy orchestral arrangement of “Main Theme.” While this piece did not come off as significant on the soundtrack itself at less than 2 minutes in length, this 8-minute long arrangement is both beautiful and elegant, perhaps pointing to the feminine side of Aya Brea that lies beneath her strong character.
Parasite Eve II, on the other hand, is a completely different story. People give Naoshi Mizuta a hard time for whatever reason; I’ve generally enjoyed his work over the years. I’ve never experienced the music from Parasite Eve II, but I can come right out and say that his moody and highly atmospheric score has not only aged better, but really nails that dark, brooding sound that Shimomura only touched upon in the first game.
The opening tracks, “Forbidden Power [Theme for Aya]” and “Mist” are throwbacks to “Primal Eyes” and “Out of Phase,” respectively, but from there on out, it’s all Mizuta, and it’s all fantastic. The haunting choral pads and blaring synth sweeps in “Nightmare in the Battlefield,” the tumultuous bass and unsettling melodies in “What the Hell Happened?,” and the desolate and dark “The Bottom of the Well” all really hit the spot for that dark atmosphere you’d expect from a survival horror soundtrack. And better yet, the soundtrack is full of tracks like these. While they’re not as memorable as many of Shimomura’s compositions, I do appreciate great ambiance.
Mizuta covers a lot of other territory as well. There’s a classy lounge tune called “Tower Residence” and an industrial NIN-esque track titled “Pick up the Gauntlet.” At the end of the soundtrack comes a sweet electric piano ditty, “Aya’s Diary,” and a vocal-less pop ballad, “Gentle Rays,” which is absolutely beautiful. There are also a few arrangements/remixes, just as with the first game’s soundtrack.
Overall, I’m impressed with this collection. I admit it’s kind of odd to put out a box that contains only two soundtracks. They could have thrown in The 3rd Birthday to add value and make this more complete, but it’s still nice nonetheless. And if it’s not for you, Square Enix also just re-released the original Parasite Eve and Parasite Eve II soundtracks with their original packaging if you already own one and are just looking for the other. Still, as you’ll note from our unboxing video, the packaging is very nice, with lots of provocative artwork and a sturdy cardboard box. It’s currently available from CD Japan and Play-Asia, so check it out if you’re interested.
What are your thoughts regarding Square Enix’s two-pronged approach with the re-release of the Parasite Eve soundtracks? Do you think there’s much to be said for Mizuta’s highly-atmospheric Parasite Eve II soundtrack?Tags: Ambient, Box, Box Sets, Jazz, Naoshi Mizuta, Parasite Eve, Parasite Eve II, Reviews, Square Enix, Survival Horror, Videogame, Yoko Shimomura