When Square Enix released “The 3rd Birthday” (aka Parasite Eve 3), they decided to bring back some goodies from the past. The now-defunct DigiCube was the sole publisher of the first Parasite Eve soundtrack, and the sole Japanese publisher of the sequel’s soundtrack. Both were long out of print.
So S-E reprinted both soundtracks individually. However, they also released a limited-edition box set that contained both soundtracks in full. That’s what we’re talking about here today.
On RPGFan, we have reviews of the separate soundtracks that date back to when they were new. So I won’t spend too much time talking about the music, though there are some statements I want to make in contrast to what the other reviewers have said. But first, I’ll start by discussing the packaging of this box set.
An outer cardboard slipcase houses three things: a large-size booklet (10 pages in length) and the individual digipak-style cases for the PE and PE2 soundtracks. The artwork for these soundtracks are not all the same as the individual prints were; they feature highly stylized (and, dare I say, risque) artwork of Aya, Eve, and others.
For collectors who haven’t grabbed these soundtracks before, I see this as the ideal way to have the soundtracks, in the same way that one would prefer to have the Suikoden II OSTs in the LE box as opposed to separately. So if you can get this box set, I recommend going for it.
Now then, on to the music.
The first Parasite Eve is scored solely by the illustrious Yoko Shimomura. Today we know her as one of the veteran composers in the world of VGM, having written music for dozens of large-scale RPGs and other projects, most of them praised by critic and lay-person alike. But back in the days of PE, she was still building her credentials. It was a relatively early PS1 title, so the synth soundbanks aren’t as sophisticated as they were for, say, Chrono Cross or Final Fantasy IX. This is obvious when listening to the synthesized opera voice of Eve herself — it’s a step up from Celes in FFVI, but not much better.
The instrumental work, on the other hand, is classic Shimomura. Great ambient backdrops and an excellent piano-centric score all around. This is her darkest work that I know of; easily darker than anything from Mana or Kingdom Hearts. The repeated use of key melodic themes (Aya’s, Eve’s, the game’s main theme) helps solidify these melodic strains for the player/listener. It is quite effective.
Also, for those who are disappointed by the ultra-synthy voice in the opera, there’s a bonus track at the end with a real woman singing the opera (done for the TV commercial). You’ll not want to miss it. It’s good!
Now then, to Parasite Eve II. This was Mizuta-san’s first work with Square. Like Shimomura before him, he came over to Square after doing a few selected soundtracks with Capcom’s “Alph Lyla” sound team. The composer is now best-known for is continuous work on Final Fantasy XI and its many expansions, as well as his impressive contributions to Final Fantasy XIII-2. This early soundtrack of his was panned by many fans of the time, most of whom wanted more of Shimomura’s style and instead got a lot of ambient stuff.
However, in retrospect, I think this is a pretty strong soundtrack. Sure, there are whole songs that sound like nothing more than a refrigerator or washing machine running in the background. But for every one of those, there are two or three songs that are full of tonality.
And while, yes, some of the best tracks are those that Mizuta reworked from Shimomura (the first three tracks of disc three, for example), Mizuta contributes some great “genre” tunes of his own. Plenty of horror/suspense stuff, but also some great lounge jazz, gritty Western (for the desert area), and then some really neat stuff for the end museum that isn’t far off from Jurassic Park (which fits, given the final dungeon’s similarities).
In sum, when putting these two soundtracks together, I find them more enjoyable than The 3rd Birthday OST. The same can be said of the games: one and two trump three. By quite a bit, in fact. But that’s just one man’s opinion.