Parasite Eve Preys Upon a Fear of Our Own Bodies
Parasite Eve doesn’t make for the most cheerful Christmas outing. Unless you like bursting into flame on Christmas Eve, I guess. The fire might be preferable to what you’ll run into next, though. The game’s central premise involves the mitochondria in your cells taking over, twisting people and animals into sickening shapes and gelatinous forms. With this cellular destruction comes some truly discomforting monster designs. Moreso, though, the idea behind what is happening loans the game a chilling power.
Aya was just out to check out an opera the day before Christmas. A nice, cheerful show about burning witches. Very festive. However, instead of the witch burning, all of the other actors suddenly catch fire. Probably seemed like a neat turn to the opera until the crowd started lighting up as well. Aya confronts the witch actress (Eve), who will be our main antagonist for the rest of the game. Turns out she can awaken some bad things in the mitochondria of cells near her. Not yours, though, leaving you to be the only person to stop her from doing all sorts of nasty things with her powers over the rest of the game.
Eve has a powerful effect on anything she comes near throughout Parasite Eve. When she’s not making people light on fire through her powers, she’ll cause the mitochondria in cells to awaken. This process seems to make cell growth go haywire, turning the smallest rat into a colossal, bleeding thing. You get to see every moment of that rat transformation the first time it happens, too. Its jaw elongates outside of its mouth. Eyelids tear and droop down its face. Limbs elongate and rip through skin. It leaves the body misshapen and mangled. Looks incredibly painful to endure as well.
With many horror games, you see the aftermath of the transformation. By the time you meet the monster, it’s already a mindless thing in a sickening body. This doesn’t make them any less unsettling, but it’s rare that I see the process play out in front of me. This game took the time to really focus in on the process that happens when the mitochondria transform something. You get to drink in every twisted change. Every inch of the mouth breaking free of the skin around the face. Which is a hell of an image to see in action.
Parasite Eve aims to make the player really feel a pang of sympathy for the rat. Or at least some horror at what that process must be like to go through. It languishes in the details of it, ensuring you take in every agonizing change as bones and muscle take on new shapes. The resulting monster would be gross to behold on its own, but because of the efforts put into showing this initial transformation, it’s hard not to imagine it again with each new creature you see. It feels like you’re immersed in their pain, and the ugly possibility that awaits everyone if you don’t stop Eve.
The game does this again with a dog, to even greater effect. Possibly because I’m more attached to dogs than rats. Even if that’s not it, the next transformation is even more disturbing to me. Holes rip open on the skin of this poor animal. Spikes burst from the tongue as the dog looks on, empty eyes staring as it undergoes this change. Tentacles tear their way out. The head splits into three segments. If the rat didn’t get to you, this transformation just might.
We’ve seen horror like this in many other scary games, but Parasite Eve hits differently. It’s far from the only game to include a disturbing transformation. However, it leads in with that terrifying body change. You see it right from the start of the game, and a few times after that. You’re continually reminded of how awful it must feel to endure this process. Constantly shown how chaotic and horrific it must be to the thing living through it. The game wants you to think about it and imagine it.
Which makes sense, as this is not some outside virus you need to be infected with. Not some supernatural curse. The game’s fiction is built around cell parts and biology. It’s still far into the realm of horror fiction, but the idea that there’s a part of our cellular makeup that simply awaits a command to go haywire and take over is more terrifying than some outside virus. We’ve all seen our bodies turn on us to some degree. Got allergies? Gotten extremely ill? We all know what it’s like to go from feeling fine to feeling decimated.
Eve can cause this reaction in our mitochondria just from being near. She causes this effect in animals and people everywhere she goes throughout Parasite Eve. She liquefies a whole crowd into some sort of cellular soup. Changes flies, bats, bears, and other animals into vicious, mutated versions of themselves. It all happens just because she was passing by. Just from being close, she makes their mitochondria turn them into something disgusting. And the process looks like pure agony. All from something that already exists in our bodies deciding it wants to do so. All because we passed near some unseen signal that told our bodies to break down. In a truly horrifying fashion, too.
This is the thing that disturbed me the most throughout the game. It was this idea that your own body could easily turn on you. That a simple signal or small outside influence could change everything about your mind and body. I’ve seen it myself through illness and allergies. Felt my whole body take a horrible turn from something I made contact with. Likely without my realizing it, too. It’s a concept that feels especially unsettling these days, if I’m being honest. We know all too well how our bodies can be destroyed by something just happening to pass near us.
Parasite Eve is filled with all kinds of gross foes to turn the stomach and add a sense of disgust to your playthrough. Their transformations are played out in awful detail so that you really get a sense of the horror of it all as well. It’s in the sci-fi story of mitochondria and cells that it touches on fears about your body and how it may turn on you, though, that the game truly creates its terror. It makes you see every painful moment of what COULD happen to your own body, leaving you wondering when, or if, something just as awful could happen to you.