Parasite Eve and the Majesty of the Japanese Horror Genre

Parasite Eve

I don’t do horror games. Or, I’ll amend that… I’ll do horror games if I’m watching a playthrough on YouTube or Twitch of someone else playing it. And only during the daytime, with one of my earbuds out and my attention only slightly on the screen. 

Yes, I’m a big baby, which might make this entire piece confusing. Why, with so many games out there, would I choose to write about one of the classics of the horror genre if I can’t even stomach the least offensive scary games? 

I’m a massive Final Fantasy fan (along with a large percentage of the population, I know). Of course, I still am to this day. The correlation here stems from the fact that Parasite Eve was also made by Square, and it was released pretty soon after FFVII. During that period, anything Square made, I’d play. They had my utmost devotion, and even if this was going to be a little spooky, I’d take it in stride. 

Parasite Eve is a half-survival horror and half-action role-playing game, following Aya Brea, a new member of the NYPD, as she deals with a horrific encounter at Carnegie Hall. During an opera performance, everyone inside the building spontaneously combusts, with only the singer and Aya left unscathed. When Aya gives chase to seek answers, the singer, Melissa, transforms into a beast, claiming to now be ‘Eve.’ She says that Aya’s mitochondria needs more time to develop, and disappears. 

If you just read ‘mitochondria’ and thought ‘it’s the powerhouse of the cell,’ you’re A) the same age as me and B) pretty correct, because a lot of this game relies on that fact. Basically, you are trying to save New York City before every single citizen either catches on fire or transforms into a giant slimy orange mass of sludge. 

It’s scarier than you’d think, given that it’s pretty dated. This is no P. T., but it will make your heart beat out of your chest more than you’d expect. Rather than the jump scares you may be accustomed to, the tone of Parasite Eve is what makes it crawl under your skin. It has a way of making you truly feel like you might be just about to burst into flames yourself…

A Game Based on a Movie Based on a Book…

In 1995, a book titled Parasite Eve was released in Japan. Written by Hideaki Sena, it was a horror novel which felt a little too real, largely because Sena was also a pharmacologist. Weaving some truths into his storytelling, the novel became a smash-hit, winning the first ever Japan Horror Novel Award. 

Parasite Eve GameThis book, which dove into the possibility of mitochondria simply breaking free of their symbiotic relationship with their human hosts, was the perfect fodder for film. On 1 February 1997, the Parasite Eve movie was released in about 150 Japanese theaters. A. D. Vision did release the film with subtitles in the US the following year. While reviews were mixed, it seems to have become a cult-classic, and I’d recommend a watch if you can get your hands on it

This brings us to the Playstation game. Parasite Eve was the first M-rated game released by Square, and shocked audiences on release with its vivid cutscenes and haunting soundtrack. The music was composed by Yoko Shimomura of Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy XV fame.

Whether critics deemed it worthy or not, fans definitely made their voices heard. In 2000, a poll put Parasite Eve at number 16 on a list of the best Playstation games of all time. In 2010, another poll revealed the title to be one of the ‘top seven 90s games that need a remake.’ I would wholeheartedly agree, though, no, no remake has been announced just yet. 

(Know this: FFVII Remake’s producer, Yoshinori Kitase, is all for a Parasite Eve remake. Hope is not lost.)

Whether it’s been two decades since you last played the game or you’re just hearing about it for the first time, you’ve got options. Yes, you could buy an actual disc copy for your original PSX if you’re a fan of tradition. Or, like most of us, you could rejoice in the fact that Parasite Eve is available on the PS3 store for pennies. 

Sadly, the Playstation Classic console which released in 2018 did feature Parasite Eve, but only in the Japanese release. So glad we got Destruction Derby instead. Thanks, Sony…

Parasite Eve II Came Just One Year Later… but The 3rd Birthday Took a Decade

While it was released in Japan in 1999, North America was lucky to get the second installment of Paradise Eve in 2000. Taking place a few years after the original game, Parasite Eve 2 also sees the return of Aya Brea as the main character, and battles take place in real-time with some more open world features. As opposed to the first title, Parasite Eve II is much more focused on horror, with the role-playing aspects being very downplayed. 

Parasite Eve II had an ace up its sleeve: Kenichi Iwao wrote and directed the game. If the name isn’t familiar, he’s the one who wrote Resident Evil. That definitely instills some confidence. Critics agreed, saying that Square did a great job listening to players and improving upon the original by leaps and bounds. 

A new copy is going for almost $500, so I’d say used is your best bet. Or find it on the PS3 store for much cheaper. 

Parasite Eve 3

Fans wouldn’t be so lucky in terms of wait time for a third installment. Paradise Eve 3, called The 3rd Birthday, wasn’t released in North America until 2011. It was also released exclusively on the Playstation Portable, which, as many of us recall, wasn’t… the best system around. It’s likely that plenty of fans of the original haven’t played 3, simply because they didn’t have the console. 

The third installment also sees the return of Aya Brea fighting monsters in a post-apocalyptic New York City. This time, the game isn’t actually a horror game at all, and is much more of an action-shooter title. Many praised how the game looked, and the high quality of the music and sound design, but condemned the confusing story and somewhat repetitive gameplay. 

If you have a PSP, congrats. If you don’t, well…you might just have to watch a walkthrough. 

With the PS5 looming on the horizon, we can all pray for one hell of a good remake. It’s about time. 

Square Enix
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