Parasite Eve II Original Soundtrack
Naoshi Mizuta's first work for Square was surrounded by quite unfortunate circumstances. For starters, he had the near-impossible task of succeeding the Parasite Eve Original Soundtrack, perhaps Yoko Shimomura's finest work to date and certainly her most unusual. To make matters worse, Parasite Eve II was to be much more oriented towards the survival horror genre, meaning the music required a more understated approach too. What's more, he was rather inexperienced at the point of creating the soundtrack, lacking no previous solo scoring experience or a true musical education. For a combination of these reasons, the resultant soundtrack for Parasite Eve II ended up being one of the biggest disappointments in game music history. The final soundtrack was released both in Japan and North America, though likely appealed to few of its consumers...
Despite a general change of focus, Parasite Eve's score is far from dead, as reflected by the first three tracks among others. For the opening movie, "Forbidden Power (Theme of Aya)" provides a direct mix of "Primal Eyes" except without the solo piano section that constitutes Aya's theme. It's driven throughout by a pre-recorded overdriven electric guitar performance from The Black Mages' Tsuyoshi Sekito and feels nightmarish thanks to the way the guitar constantly feels grungy and intense. The conclusion of the theme, featuring a sudden crash, eerie sound effects, and a dark piano motif is especially chilling, showing immediately the change in atmosphere for Parasite Eve II. "MIST", among several other tracks, includes the distinctive cross-rhythms that constituted "Out Of Phase" in a downtempo mix. Despite being a less than expected addition, it is a very pleasant piece to relax to with just enough harmonic interest to make it distinctive. "Theme of Aya" definitely remains the most reused theme on the score, though, and it's here that disappointments arise. "Aya Again" relies on the harmonic framework of Shimomura's original against some dark suspended chords while "The Depth of Aya's Memory" and "Cruelty of Eve's Fate" are simple piano renditions of the theme. They're not bad, but lack exuberance and variety.
Aside these reprises, Naoshi Mizuta largely rejects melodies while creating the original compositions of Parasite Eve II, in favour of ambient soundscaping. From a contextual perspective, this shift of focus perhaps made sense, in order to portray the scenes of the survival horror game in a suitably dark manner. After all, the primary focus of game music should be to accompany a scene appropriately and more understated approaches have been increasingly favoured since the PlayStation era. From a stand-alone perspective, though, the focus on ambient music will automatically alienate a lot of people, though, because of the lack of a clear melody and harmony framework. Ambient music can be appealing if treated in a mature and creative way, like in similar scores from the day like Resident Evil 2 and Baroque. However, for the most part, Mizuta takes a derivative rather than artistic approach, meaning his soundtrack is unlikely to appeal on either a superficial or intellectual level.
Focusing on the setting themes, one of the most important additions to the soundtrack is "Ghost Town". It effectively represents what it's supposed to, with Mizuta's fingerprint bass guitar use creating a Western feel while haunting sound effects radiate over. Yet while it starts off promisingly, it ends up labouring the component motifs and loops very quickly. What's more, the features used to portray the environment are so banal that the track is highly uninspiring on a stand-alone listen. Unfortunately, this is actually one of the more colourful additions to the soundtrack and most tracks have no focus. Those enthusiastic followers of the Parasite Eve soundtrack will soon be disappointed as they are greeted by nothingness with the deliciously titled yet extraordinarily uninspired "Nightmare in the Battlefield" and its successor "Deadly Calm," a minute's worth of wind sound effects. Denial is the first stage of grieving when faced with such tripe, but acceptance is inevitable as "What the Hell Happened" (the most ironic title of a piece until Sakuraba's "You Know It Fails"), "Do Something!" (they missed out "...While Mizuta Does Nothing"), and "Dryfield" (or, as I prefer, "Sporadically Placed Percussion Does Not Constitute Creativity, Mizuta") follow.
Also disappointing are the battle themes. "Weird Man" is perhaps the most noteworthy, hybridising features of minimalistic electronica and dark ambient music, to create an eerie and dynamic feel in context. However, it is too barren and abstract to be worthy of stand-alone listening. "Ambush!" meanwhile creates the feeling of entrapment by repetition of another subdued yet fast-paced ostinato, this time a synth descant. However, like Mizuta's other battle themes, it is easily underpinned with its reliance on a simple ostinato and synthy soundscapes. Peculiarly, this same descant is featured in four other themes during the course of the soundtrack, which adds little to the contextual and stand-alone experiences. As for other additions, "Pick Up the Gauntlet" may boast intense electric guitars and drums, "Wipe Out the Creatures" may feature some chromatic shifts, and "Chase" may cause panic with its rhythmic irregularities, yet all are still relatively uncreative variations on a plain composing format with a few superficial and blatant additions. They're still based on amateurish ostinati, rely banally upon string discords, and feature yet more atmospheric noise.
Thankfully, there are a few genuinely redeeming tracks on the score. "Ark" is perhaps the most notable ambient track here. Here, Mizuta creates music in the structure of an overriding arch, starting softly with an ethereal synth pad and a celesta before introducing further forces, including mystical bells, further synth pads, and some gorgeous pre-recorded Indian choirs, developing to a subtle peak that has incredible atmospheric qualities before each force individually retires and the theme dissipates into silence. Subtle yet blissful, Mizuta should be incredibly proud. "Voice of Mitochondria" also has a certain amount of depth, with its static yet highly resonant bass line combining with amazingly effective tuned percussion use that is somehow made to sound paranormal, varying in rhythm and tempo considerably to put the listener at edge and present something alien, yet retaining some of the theme's unusual warmth as well. Perhaps most emotive of them all, however, is "Douglas' Grief," which is also deeply heartening with 'new age' synth pads combining with a very slow bass guitar line. Emotions aren't created through any remarkable melodic progression or buildup to a tear jerking peak, yet the beauty of the timbres and the silent nature of the piece make it an ideal time for reflection after a tragic event.
One feature that adds to the diversity of the score is that Mizuta draws influences from popular music and jazz styles to create certain pieces. "Tower Rendezvous" is the first of such track, composed in the style of a '20s lounge jazz music, led by a soft piano that plays fairly intricate pseudo-improvised melodic lines against low-key backing from an acoustic bass and drums and a fairly simple harmonic basis. Another pleasant piano-based track is "Return to the Base," which, much like the Resident Evil save room tracks, represents the calm before the storm. The way the acoustic bass forms cross-rhythms with the piano's slightly jazzy lines adds a tinge of uneasiness, and the use of an electric rather than acoustic piano enhances the ethereal feel. Yet these two compositions aren't particularly impressive in a wider sense, merely primal imitations of more elaborate and artistic compositions featured in mainstream music. "Vagrants" likewise is definitely reminiscent of a '50s blues theme played on an ancient vinyl record. It's distinctive approach adds to the pastiche feel of the scene it is used in, but it's far too hackneyed and repetitive to be worth stand-alone listening.
The soundtrack develops a more militaristic edge during the second disc. This is particularly emphasised in "Prestige of the Nation", an anthem featuring an epic brass melody against prominent snares; like much of Mizuta's works, it's nothing special musically, but does the job by using traditional features. "Distorted Evolution", while no "U.B.", captures the intensity of the last battle with a melody, powerful choir backing, and a constant heartbeat in the background to reflect the reality of this epic struggle. After some dull ending themes, the Parasite Eve II soundtrack concludes with two electronic remixes. Both are pretty bad though, thanks to a combination of bad track selection and repetitive arrangement approach. "Weird Man (Delete-Core Mix)", while created by an external artist, offers nothing but tedium to the score with its endlessly repeated motifs and five minute playtime. The soundtrack is not redeemed with its last track, a four second clip of a dog running and then barking. After all those ambient soundscapes and hackneyed imitations, the only reward are two dire remixes and a yappy pet dog trying to escape from you. Meh...
Clearly, the Parasite Eve II soundtrack is a disappointing experience. The final soundtrack lacks neither the thematic substance and stylistic creativity of Parasite Eve and The 3rd Birthday, or the depth or intellectualism of more ambient scores like Baroque and Resident Evil 2. Mizuta generally offers a serviceable accompaniment to the game's scenes, but fails to offer much of stand-alone worth due to his understated and derivative approach throughout. There are some impressive compositions, such as "Forbidden Power...," "Ark," and "Distorted Evolution", but these are too few against the endless ostinati and ambient noise. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day and Mizuta proves this in such creations, while fortunately developing slightly before composing Final Fantasy XI. Overall, this soundtrack is only recommended to those who especially enjoyed the soundtrack in context.
Hiroshi Nakajima: 2.33
Naoshi Mizuta: 2.34
Tsuyoshi Sekito: 1.1
Yuji Isogawa: 1.19, 1.21
Forbidden Power (Theme of Aya)
Nightmare in the Battlefield
The First Encounter
What the Hell Happened?
Return to the Base
Hunt in Dryfield
The Bottom of the Well
The Depth of Aya's Memory
From Dusk Till Dawn