I could use some cheering up after reviewing the death spiral known as the Silent Hill franchise, and what better than a classic game packed with some of the most magnificently gorgeous monsters in the entire video game medium? Squaresoft's Parasite Eve is almost old enough to drink as I write this, but remains a master monsterpiece of creature design with one dark, disturbing story to match.
I was only fifteen when the game released in North America, and for years, it was one of those titles I could only admire from afar. Back then, one of my favorite pre-internet activities was to be dropped off at Barnes and Noble, Browse the video game strategy guides, and sketch the monsters and bosses from titles I never played or in some cases never would. I'd get the chance to play through this one a couple of years later, but by then, I already knew every veinous, dripping inch of its bestiary like the back of my gelatinous pseudopoda, and my play experience became more of a virtual creature safari than anything else.
Though not actively billed as a horror title, Parasite Eve's premise and aesthetics are nothing but. It all starts with mitochondria, the organelles that allow our cells to function and are strongly believed to have once been symbiotic bacteria. According to the game's narrative, the little dears are actually capable of a collective consciousness that only needs the right conditions in which to "awaken," and once awakened, an organism's mitochondria demonstrate an almost godlike capacity to alter the minds and physiology of their hosts.
Partly due to the side-effects of experimental drugs and partly due to an implied genetic mutation, one lucky human woman's mitochondria awaken on December 24th, 1997, as a being calling itself Eve, who proceeds to tear her way around New York City, slaughtering humans in droves and transmogrifying wildlife to suit her exquisitely grotesque tastes. If you're reading this page the night it's gone up on December 24th, 2015, you may have realized it is now Mitochondrial Eve's eighteenth birthday, and you know what THAT means, guys! Our little girl is finally, at long last old enough to purchase her very own deadly handgun or rifle at almost any Wal-Mart in the United States! This would seal our doom once and for all if not for the fact that she's also old enough to be legally sued. See your ass in COURT, Mitochondrial Eve!!!
...So anyway. Monsters!
We just watched this cutie's birth, and you know we're in for some fun when a game's lowest-level enemies drip this much style, along with some less recognizable secretions. Everything about Parasite Eve's mutant rat achieves mutant rat perfection. Its luminous, expressionless eyes are positioned at maximum creepy-cute relativity to its bony, fleshless jaws, which resemble the snaggle-toothed beak of some of the more frightening pterosaurs. Its fur is like filth-caked steel wool, its eyelids appear to be melting, its elongated legs feel just a touch more insectile than they should and its forked tail ends in a lovely little splash of toxic color.
This is not your typical "monster" rat. This isn't merely a conventional animal grown to larger, meaner proportions. What we're seeing here looks almost believably like a rat's potential evolutionary future, albeit thrust upon the animal abruptly enough to nearly tear it apart in the process. That "speculative evolution" motif will be evident all throughout Eve's creations, and I've heard tell that the game's monsters actually did borrow inspiration from the book After Man.
Another early-game enemy looks more like a cockatrice than its true basis, its legs merged into an almost serpentine appendage ending in a single set of talons. The foreclaws of its saurian ancestors are re-expressed in its wings, and it bizarrely bears jointed, clawed digits in its head crest, too. It's definitely the most formidable a parrot has probably ever looked, and except for having those fingers on its head, it still seems like a down-to-earth distant evolution of a modern bird.
Now, in this case, the monster looks a little less like an accelerated evolution and more like our poor reconstructions of prehistoric life, its body shrink-wrapped and naked like so many misunderstood dinosaurs. It's not especially far from a natural cat, but it's still sinister and snazzy as hell, and I wonder if it's not supposed to evoke the youkai, nekomata, usually a dead or very old cat with two or more tails and an arsenal of supernatural powers. These cats don't do anything particularly magical, but they are much, much larger than you might have guessed from the artwork alone. Lengthier than probably any tiger, lion or panther.
I can't describe any design in this game as boring. Not even what's basically just a very dirty corvid without enough toes. It's still a pleasantlynasty little thing, and there isn't that much more a crow needs to be any scarier than to sprout a pair of perfect eyeball-plucking hooks on its feet. They're outshined by the weirdness of the parrot, which occupies basically the same "small, annoying flier" niche, but any game loaded with monsters can stand to have a few subtler, more normal specimens to round things out.
Rather more impressive is another of Parasite Eve's winged pests, the remarkably strange looking bat. While its wings remain relatively unchanged, its face has become more of a five-toothed bug-catcher, and its eyes and ears have seemingly merged into a new, more alien sensory array. It almost looks like someone's edgier, grittier interpretation of the pokemon Zubat, and I'd definitely love to see how this would look evolved into a "Golbat" equivalent.
Our first of many marvelous arthropods, the centipede actually boasts a more millipede-like tubular body, with thick, dark armor plating, and four prominent eyes totally unlike those of any current myriapod. What's most interesting, however, are the "jaws." In an actual centipede, the frontmost pair of legs are modified into opposing mandible-like claws which deliver the animal's venomous "bite." In the neo-mitochondrial centipede, four front legs appear to comprise an upper and lower set of "jaws" with an almost comical, gaping underbite, almost reminiscent of Todd Mcfarlane's Violator.
Have I mentioned enough how much I love moles as monsters? We so often regard them as cute, innocent woodland creatures, but to worms and insects they're the soil-dwelling equivalent of a great white shark. This gloomy-looking beast nicely emphasizes how menacing a mole can really be, with beautifully exaggerated digging claws, a toothy scowl and pale, hairless skin that really says "subterranean monster." I just feel like maybe an opportunity was missed here by giving the mole eyes at all, and opting for a regular, pointed nose instead of doing something with a star-nosed variety.
The really cool thing about the mole however is that its arms stretch. They fly right across the screen to stab you in the gut.
Monkeys are such horrible animals, aren't they? I mean that in the most affectionate way. You can really see our common ancestry in their tendency to flip shit and tear each other apart over practically nothing. I think of all the horrible monkeys I've seen in and out of fiction, Parasite Eve's has the most appropriate look of mindless, bestial shittiness on its face. That ghastly left arm, by the way, is rigid like a big crescent boomerang blade of rotten bone, and that's exactly how it works. This godawful animal hurls off that entire weird arm, which comes right back and re-attaches.
While I respect and admire all living things, I have to admit I always found bears to be the most forgettable of almost all animals. There just never seemed to be much to them but a big, hairy pile of general-purpose mammal. Leave it to this game, though, to make a bear I can really fall in love with. Capable of generating electricity for whatever reason, the fly-like eyes - if those are even eyes - are so eerie on an otherwise vertebrate face, which also appears to be in the process of decomposing. The disorderly clumps of talons that are its front paws are also quite interesting, as is the veiny, blubbery white skin you can almost mistake as furry at first glance.
The "upgraded" rat isn't nearly as adorable, but that's to be expected from something that's either been merged with a human or heavily modified to look like it was. I like the implication that Eve may be toying with potential replacements for the human race. That, or she's being a real drama queen and turning rats into people as some kind of pseudo-poetic "you're all the same vermin" message. I get the idea, Eve, but it's a little too blunt, isn't it? Kind of...trite? You don't want to be remembered as the Banksy of body horror, do you?
Monstrous spiders in fiction are constantly shown spewing silk out of their mouths, which is something only one kind of spider is actually capable of doing, and I can understand why. In an action-packed monster battle, it would be a little awkward for spider monsters to keep turning around and mooning their victims with their spinnerets.
Eve hit on excellent compromise when she simply twisted a spider around into a walking silk-gun, the abdomen almost becoming a "second head." This is another one that seems evolutionarily feasible, and a real-world "giant" arthropod would even benefit quite a bit from a reduced number of legs like this, to boot. Eve really knows her stuff.
There isn't a great deal of difference between the neo-mitochondrial snake and a regular snake, except for its eyeless, bony head and enlarged, external venom glands. Cool enough looking, but the real changes are internal, as these snakes are capable of thriving in winter weather - and some of them can summon lightning, because why not. Bears are doing it too. The more the merrier.
This was one of my absolute favorites in the game when I was younger, and while my tastes have shifted a little, I still have a soft spot for this little rascal. Eve has basically taken an armadillo - normally a fat, scuttling, pig-like animal - and turned it into a sleek, fast-moving killer. Looking almost flea-like, it can curl into a wheel and launch itself with bone-shattering speed or strike with its bladed, shovel-like forelimbs. I especially love those cold little eyes staring from its triangular face. Eve can make even the goofiest animals look frightening...but no less adorable.
The game's first boss is a giant, mutated alligator encountered where else but New York's sewer system. This was one of the designs that really fascinated me back in the day, just for all its strange, unnatural patterns and textures. The eyeless, four-toothed head looks more like something adapted to swallow prey whole in a pelican-like fashion, which is honestly several degrees more terrifying than the risk of simply being bitten into pieces. It also has one of the coolest looking tails I've ever seen on a reptilian monster. Look at that. That looks like one huge pain in the ass to draw, doesn't it?
I used to think this was one of the game's less interesting monsters, even if it was by far one of the most horrific looking anthropomorphic dogs I've ever seen, with those soulless green eyes and that yellow-fanged grin. That was before I ever even noticed that it had an upside-down human face for a forehead, which propels it to nearly the top of Parasite Eve's most disturbing designs. You can see how the arms and hands are awkwardly twisted around, too, like the whole monster is a human and a dog melded back-to-back. They don't call it a werewolf, but this is exactly what I like to see in a werewolf.
Most of the cockroach is so life-like, it doesn't even offer much for me to review, but Eve saw fit to give it a blind, quasi-humanoid head with the teeth of Giger's xenomorph and some lovely strips of exposed muscle, which is killer. You may also notice the highly realistic ootheca, or egg sac, protruding from its abdomen. In appropriately roachy fashion, these things battle by rapidly multiplying in number!
The scorpion is another monster sort of streamlined down to its basics. The body is little more than a ball with several sets of pincers, while most of its length is in its enlarged tail and exceptionally vicious-looking stinger, which could very well also be what it feeds through, considering it has no other recognizable mouth. At the center of its ball-like body are what may be a cluster of eyes, but that's actually where it emits toxic gas, which means Eve's scorpions are venomous and poisonous!
A crab is such a humble, unassuming animal that you would never expect it to be one of the game's most difficult bosses, let alone a hidden, optional boss, but this crab is apparently just that special, and it certainly looks it. The body and face almost look more like some ancient carving of a demon than a sweet, innocent crustacean, and the human-like quality of the eyes is marvelously haunting - especially when the entire eyeballs float out of their sockets and attack independently with electrical blasts. Check them out:
This is easily the coolest possible thing for a giant devil-faced mutant crab to do, bar none, really taking the principles of a natural crab's pop-out eye-turrets to a more dramatic level. Even if she drives natural, unmutated life to extinction, isn't Eve pretty much making everything she touches so, so much better? It beats a slow demise at the hands of global warming and deforestation, doesn't it? Eve is absolutely A-okay in my book.
This oddity looks a little more like a protozoan if you ask me, but I won't judge. You might expect this obscenely magnified cell to be a slow-moving but well-defended "slime"-like enemy, something that creeps along at a snail's pace, but you would be terribly wrong. The bacterium actually moves fairly fast, it's almost as tall as a person, and when it gets close enough, it spits out its entire nucleus like one of those boxing gloves on a spring, socking you right in the gut and somehow inflicting poison status. How hilariously godawful would these be to contend with? It's bad enough in-game, but imagine being trapped in a room with all these hopped-up gumdrops smacking you upside the head every time you let your guard down as you slowly grow sicker and finally keel over. I'm sure if they were capable of making sound, it would be nothing but perpetual, high-pitched giggling.
Actually encountered in a post-game, high-challenge dungeon crawl up an infested skyscraper, the bipedal and incredibly nasty-looking bees are controlled by this lovely, wingless queen with one of those big bug-mom kiesters. It's only termite queens who really boast that kind of booty game in the real world, but it's such a freaky, memorable visual that it's become iconic to arthropod matriarchs of every variety.
The queen is protected by two kinds of offspring; a sleeker, thinner anthropomorphic hornet and a big, red bruiser. I spent a great deal of time trying to draw all three castes just right as I sat on the floor of that Barnes and Noble so, so long ago, and I still don't think I'd be able to do them justice. They're still wicked as hell.
Oh yes, this game also has dinosaurs, and while we now know animals like these were much more bird-like than lizard-like, we can cut this one some slack, since it has been abruptly reconstituted from fossilized bones. Perhaps its final aesthetic is even limited by Eve's understanding of a dinosaur, since she ends up providing most of the biomass herself and basically "molding" it around the display skeletons.
And where does she get that biomass, you ask?
Enjoy one of the most horrifying moments ever rendered on the Sony Playstation, making even me a little queasy to this very day. As much as she loves turning birds and rats into genetic hellspawn, Eve makes little use of human bodies until she decides to just break a whole audience down into raw elements, melting people into some sort of undifferentiated cellular slime under her direct control. Jesus.
It's this people-pudding Eve later employs to liven up the Natural History Museum, fusing it with a few choice specimens to give long-extinct bones a new makeshift musculature.
Another that just moderately spruces up its base animal, Eve's pterosaur has a highly flexible-looking body suspended between its tattered wings, a lack of any obvious eyes and curious, ear-like projections sprouting off the back of its head, nearly meeting its natural crest and giving me the distinct impression of a bat-like sonar array. It also looks like the wings are formed not just by finger bones, but by a modified pair of ribs, as well!
Two larger, boss-caliber dinos really show off that they're just skeletons animated by a nauseating human slurry, though the bones themselves are also somewhat mutated and exaggerated, particularly around the head and face.
The really creepy thing about this triceratops is that it's head will eventually come off, but it will still be a long way from finally dying.
You knew this was coming as soon as we got into prehistoric life, didn't you? Whether we were spoiled beforehand or not, we all had a perfect "oh, shit" moment the very instant a t-rex skeleton appeared in this game. Like the trikey, Eve wasn't satisfied with just wrapping some meat around a fossil and calling it a day, since this ghoul seems to have even more teeth than it's normally supposed to and a slightly modified, more devilish-looking skull structure. There admittedly isn't a whole lot else going on with these dinozombies, but they leave us with just the four anyway, and it feels like just the right amount of necrosauria before it gets a little old.
I'm not doing these in order, as you may have noticed if you've actually played the game, but whatever. I've seen a lot of spider-people in my day, especially a lot of spider women, as they seem to be the one "creepy" invertebrate widely associated with femininity. I guess it's the whole "black widow" thing.
As many as I've seen, however, this is another one of the best. Even as a lover of arthropods I find something extremely unwholesome about that slimy, brain-like abdomen, and its human elements look more like a crude mannequin formed from chitinous plates. I think my favorite part is her face. I can't tell if she merely has glazed-over eyes or vestigial white pits where her eyes once were, but either looks superbly dreadful over that toothless, unnaturally widened maw and obscenely massive, glistening black chelicerae. She's terrifying enough to have been the main villain and final boss of her own game.
Earthworms are another surprising choice for boss-battle material, and another I must commend. These might "just" be greatly enlarged nightcrawlers with scary teeth, but how often do you see bona-fide earthworms as monsters at all? It's more common to see cheap imitations of the sandworms from Dune or the graboids from Tremors, and when real annelida are drawn upon at all, our soil-eating friends tend to take a backseat to the more dramatic leeches and polychaetes. Earthworms are cool worms, too! Eve knows it! Dragon Quest knows it! In fact...
...While the concept of an earthworm with teeth is more than simplistic enough to emerge convergently, the Dragon Quest example also just goes by "Giantworm," all one word and notably different from how other Parasite Eve monsters are named. Coupled with the fact that these are both Squaresoft properties, I do believe we are looking at a very subtle, very broad "cameo" of sorts.
We saw this one mutating in an earlier video, and it seems bluntly inspired by John Carpenter's The Thing. Obviously named after Cerberus, this horrific fiend would barely be recognizable as a dog if not for its three canine muzzles, and you could be forgiven for paying more attention to the fanged sphincter between them. It's as if the dog heads have become little more than accessory mouthparts, each housing a barbed tongue to assist in reeling in its prey. The rest of the monster is almost more insect-like than mammalian, with a a pair of chitinous, hooked arms and an additional set of curious pom-pom limbs. It's all topped off with that nasty tail, a rotten and mangy thing that appears to end in yet another mouth.
You can't expect a lady who builds skinless dinosaurs and giant crabs for a hobby to sit around in a boring old human body for long, and Eve fast takes on a monstrously "evolved" form herself. In her first iteration, it's difficult to tell where her body ends and clothing begins, as though actually drapped in outgrowths of her own colorful flesh. With her billowing blue "tail," she kind of makes me think of some kind of tropical fish, though she'll quickly shed any resemblance to a fancy koi.
Perhaps disappointingly, Eve's most disturbing and unpleasant iteration will only be her second, feeling rather more like "final form" material if you ask me. I guess the idea was that she'd get grosser before she sorted herself out more, but this look is so grotesque that I tend to remember it much more easily than the rest.
The horrendously swollen, pregnant stomach is nasty enough, but then she's got breasts cascading down her torso like gobbets of dripping wax, a pair of ambiguous flesh-sausages hanging off her thighs and a series of womb-like pods dangling off her nether region like a nauseating "tail." Imagery like this is basically why the game received an "M" rating for "sexual content," a very rare designation for its time.
Eve Mk III is admittedly cool as all heck, even if it doesn't make you want to retch in as wonderful a way as her previous look. She's got that sort of "fallen angel" look that so many other video game and anime villains are into, but she livens it up with a more fashionable "rotting teratoma" aspect to show the Sephiroths of the world how it's done. I really dig the thorny paddles replacing her original hands, the gnarly new arms on her head, the flowing "hair" of cancerous tissue and the meaty exhaust-pipe things off to the sides, but what really draws my attention is that blue-green, coiling ribbon. It's so clean and innocuous compared to the rest of her anatomy that it winds up being creepier than her more dangerous and sickly looking extremities.
Eve's final form, unfortunately, looks even more human than her first mutation, and all that's really interesting about it is the sort of exoskeletal framework wrapped loosely around her, like her legs are being hugged by a big, weird centipede. It's otherwise terribly anticlimactic, especially for a sort of last-ditch combat form she takes after what seems like her final defeat. You really dropped the ball here, Evey, you could have been terrifying.
The Ultimate Being
As it eventually turns out, Eve herself isn't even the true threat to humanity, but began incubating a superior life form back during her bloated second stage. It undergoes its final developmental stages in that human jelly mass we saw earlier, the one that can make dinosaurs, which pollutes an expanse of ocean by the climax.
So our final final confrontation is against a slimy, ghastly little angel-baby born from an ocean of liquid Homo sapiens, and the little shit grows fast.
Once again, the second stage might actually be the most interesting. The pale, alien child-thing is reasonably unsettling, but the phallic, worm-like spinal growth and wing-like hands are actually a separate, detachable piece, presumably existing to carry, feed and defend the true entity. The closest thing to this in nature would be the larval stages of some Nemertean worms, starfish and a few other marine invertebrates, which basically grow the entire larvae inside themselves, gather food for it and eventually die as it breaks free and begins a life of its own.
The being's third, near-mature form is fairly forgettable. An interesting gender-neutral humanoid with a big insect-like rump, but kind of just a stepping stone to the finale, which is actually a decent enough payoff this time.
The fourth and final ultimate being really looks the part. It retains human elements, but also looks a lot like a sea angel or clione, and its fully inhuman face is enclosed in a transparent membrane like an organic space helmet. Both ends of it are also notably Freudian, just for an extra little dash of the uncomfortable, really communicating that this thing is all ready to start making more of itself and presumably supplant us as the planet's dominant organism. It really does look like I imagine we would if we were hyper-adapted to survive anywhere from the deep sea abyss to the vacuum of space, and I don't doubt that's exactly what this entity is capable of.
Parasite Eve boasts one very final, optional post-game boss to defeat, essentially a secondary "back-up" eve awaiting us at the top of the monster-ridden Chrysler building, the true nature of which is a great big fat plot spoiler, so we'll skip that part. Unfortunately, her design is almost the only one in the game that brings basically nothing new or unique to the table, but I can't really fault its inclusion. It might not be my cup of tea, but it's somebody's, and there's a certain classic quality to giving a game's strongest monster the cleanest and most unassuming design, kind of like when Frieza started evolving into a gigeresque salamander monster but ultimately came out looking like a creepy little child-man.
MY TOP SEVEN
Let's not leave this hanging on an underwhelming bonus boss. Instead, I've saved my absolute favorite enemies for the end!
So, the chameleon. Its first and most obvious feature is that its hind legs appear to have fused with its tail, facilitating an inchworm-like locomotive method that feels appropriate for a slow-moving arboreal reptile, though this critter can actually launch itself with surprising speed and force.
Strikingly, the corners of the chameleon's mouth almost meet completely at the back of its neck, giving its skull a sort of flip-top like a trash can lid, with a huge underbite that looks a lot like it can unhinge like the lower jaw of a snake. It's a gullet clearly adapted for swallowing prey much larger than mere insects, calling to mind the outrageous jaw structures of abyssal fish.
From a more objective standpoint, the chameleon may very well be one of the finest works of art in the entire game. With its maniacally toothy grin, conical eye-turrets and elongated snout, it exudes a playful level of personality and an uncanny ghoulishness even while exhibiting a fully feasible level of biological functionality. Frightening, whimsical, and believable all at once. Monster design quite simply does not get better than that.
Every time I think of Parasite Eve, the frog is actually the first monster I remember. Like the chameleon, it's another beautifully plausible mutant, streamlining a frog down to its basic, definitive features. It's one huge, gaping mouth with a single pair of legs for hopping around on, its tongue slightly modified into a muscular grasping appendage not all that removed from the real thing. The asymmetrical arrangement of eyeballs is really all that gives this away as an unhealthy biological abomination, and they add a charmingly goofy touch to an otherwise truly dreadful creature. I certainly can't imagine many fates worse than being ingested whole and digested alive in something's slimy, toothless mouth, which must do double-duty as the monster's stomach, since its mouth constitutes its entire body. This horrible thing must wrap you in its tongue and just sort of hold you in its mouth like a Venus fly-trap while you dissolve.
Appearing only in the post-game Chrysler Building, the treasurebox basically fills the role of a mimic by hiding out in item boxes. So, we know what kind of monster the treasurebox is, but we get no clue at all as to what sort of organism we're looking at here. Could it be another enlarged microbe? A hideously distorted cnidarian? A fungus? Or is it one of the few mitochondrial mutants with no natural basis, just some living clot of flesh Eve created to jump out of boxes and make your life hell? Whatever it is, I find it charming as heck, a lot like such classic Legend of Zelda weirdos as the Leever or Like-Like, which also looked like basically nothing in particular. I like that. I like a nondescript lump of flesh that tries to kill people.
Every bestiary worth its salt offers at least one botanical entity, and they're always a delight. Given what we've seen thus far, you would expect Eve's entry to be some sort of grislier take on Audrey II, but instead, her killer plants resemble relatively innocent, ordinary looking bushes or leaf piles. Blending in perfectly with the terrain of central park, they adorably scoot along the ground like oversized tribbles, or maybe legless fry guys. They're almost comical, until they strike at you from clear across the screen with their barbed tentacles.
Eve's murderous shrubberies are another of those monsters boasting a very, very simple yet immediately memorable design, not quite like any other plant monster I've seen before or since, despite how obvious their design feels in retrospect.
Back when I used to peruse this game's strategy guide like it was a weekend bible study, I actually didn't find the Flyman all that appealing, perhaps for the simple reason that it had the front end of a human on the back end of a fly. It's that bio-organic gas-mask-skull visage of a fly that I find so lovable, after all, but as the years ticked on by, my appreciation for this pitiful hybrid grew and grew. It might have been much cooler if the game featured both a human-headed fly and fly-headed human, but if there's really only room for one, I think I'd leave this cutie as-is. It's a nice departure from my expectations, the human features are just ghoulish enough to still appeal to me, and its in-game personality matches its design and concept horrifically.
The Flyman, see, is actually one of the game's less aggressive adversaries. Its combat strategy, such as it is, seems to be to mope around for a while, haphazardly fly a few feet in your direction, mope around a little more, then just throw up absolutely everywhere. It hunches over where it stands and horks up gallon upon gallon of acid, spreading out in a massive pool around its feet. It's hard to tell if the miserable chimera even knows what it's doing. It may very well have no active goal to kill you, but it's both very unwell and very in the way, which I can relate to on so many levels.
Looking closely at the Flyman's mouth, it doesn't even look like the poor thing is adequately shielded from its own acid. Good lord. It's like Eve either created this thing without really thinking about it, or created it out of pure sadism. How much of its human element might still be conscious? We already know the mitochondria canonically take over all motor functions, independently of the host mind. What we may be seeing here is just a victim of Eve's spiteful sense of humor, trapped along for the ride in an unstable body that keeps trying to eat fetid garbage, only makes itself sicker in the process, and slowly melts its own face off.
It's hard to pick my actual, personal favorite monster in Parasite Eve, but I think Mixedman might be one of my favorites out of any game. It's another that took me some time to really fall in love with, especially since I've seen so many melded-together clumps of human anatomy in horror fiction, but this single, humble video game enemy seems to achieve a level of ghastliness your typical anthromalgamate can only dream of. Its faces and vague impressions thereof are just uncanny enough. Its chaotic arrangement just surreal enough. Its mis-matched skin textures just grody enough without going overboard into decay and gore. It would be a bloodcurdling thing to witness even if it posed no immediate danger, and worse still to fathom becoming a part of.
For me, I think the "worst" (as in scariest, as in best) part of the Mixedman is that central, off-green body with the fat, rounded-off appendages. It looks imprisoned in its own overgrown skin, its toothless hole of a mouth its sole remaining feature. Monsters in this game didn't get a lot of unique sound effects, but you can tell just by looking that this thing is almost constantly moaning.
Mixedman also boasts one of the weirdest and most unexpected attack methods in the game; see that one featureless, brain-like round ball, hanging just under the groaning potato-head? That thing breaks off and bounces around like a killer basketball. The Mixedman then slowly grows another one, until it's ripe enough to join its buddy. GOD that's weird. A big mangled clump of people just continually sprouts leaping meatballs. Are they babies? Do they grow into new Mixedmen if they escape? That might make sense, but maybe a little too much sense. Rational biology clearly isn't Mixedman's game to begin with. Mixedman just wants to shoot some hoops with its goiters, okay?
While the Mixedman is my #1 babe, I felt like the squirrel would be the perfect monster to end with. Its deliberate sense of humor just wraps up this otherwise dramatic, horrific monsterfest in such a neat little package. We've seen everything from sweet, gentle armadillos to sweet, gentle bald-faced hornets twisted into Cronenbergian fever dreams, but Eve's "squirrels" remain tiny, fluffy, doe-eyed woodland critters seemingly hybridized with chipmunks and possibly sugar gliders.
As you may have guessed, however, their harmless appearance is little more than a ruse. The little bastards have incredibly high defensive stats and usually flee from combat before they die, but not before they've unleashed a hailstorm of psychic projectiles that inflict confusion, which you may recognize as virtually any given game world's most frustrating status ailment.
Even with a couple of forgettable humanoids, I can still say that there is no single video game out there with a monster selection more perfect than this one. Whether you're into giant insects, fallen angels, haunting fleshbeasts, anthropomorphic animals or skinless dinosaurs, Parasite Eve has not only got you covered, but puts a unique aesthetic spin on even the most conventional concepts. Every last one of these monsters are sincerely, effectively cool without going too far into accidental cheesiness, and it's all nicely wrapped up in the absurd yet marvelously novel premise of a mitochondrial rebellion.
...And do you want to know the best part? The part that makes so many other series look lazy in comparison?
Parasite Eve has had two sequels now, each one attempting something completely different with its enemy motifs, and each succeeding in its own special way. Official art isnt available for everything in Parasite Eve II, but I'm sure you can tell from these two alone that it was really something else. Borrowing a page from Man After Man, mitochondrial mutation is being used this time around by a mysterious organization to quickly modify human subjects into more specialized forms for different ecosystems, like this wildly disturbing Chaser and Suckler. There are blubbery, amphibious "dumpty men," gangly, elongated "stalkers" and even big, bloated toad-looking hominoids employed as living energy generators.
Sure, I wound up missing critters like the Flyman and the Chameleon, but I'd much rather see something new than see something recycled just because it worked once before.
...And then there's Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday, a game I've only seen other people playing online, which attempted an even more divergent route from the same old mitochondrial mutants. I've got a few criticisms of the game itself and its portrayal of its characters, but in terms of monsters alone, this was yet another bold experiment for the series with a satisfying payoff.
This time around, a series of enormous, organic hives called Babel sprout up in New York city, and continuously spawn utterly alien entities referred to as Twisted. These lack the kind of personality and charm I love so much in more recognizable mutants, but they're still gorgeous, inventive and strange as hell, especially when we learn what they really are and where they come from. I don't love the Twisted nearly as much as the first game's warped wildlife, no, but I can easily admire just how different a flavor they offer and the thought that went into just trying something different.
This is, in fact, basically exactly what I always wanted from the poor, battered Silent Hill series; a unique theme and aesthetic for each game, which the franchise basically teased us with in Silent Hill 2 and seemed to shy away from forever after.
Parasite Eve is the Sistine Chapel of creature design.