The 3rd Birthday Review

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Title: The 3rd Birthday
Developer: Square Enix
Game Type: PSP
Download: 1.2 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download

EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

There are many franchises that didn’t seem to last very long, and got revived years later.  There aren’t a lot of franchises this has happened to, but there are some.  Doom, for example, went almost 10 years between games.  Final Doom in 1996 and Doom 3 in 2004.  That is a more well-known franchise that this happened to.  There are other franchises this happened to as well.  Some of them are even from the big company for Japanese RPGs, Square Enix.

Back in the days of the original PlayStation, Square Enix, then called Squaresoft, developed a cross between Survival Horror and RPGs called Parasite Eve.  These were essentially called “Resident Evil with a touch of Final Fantasy”, offering a horror game with RPG elements.  The series lasted two games and dropped off the face of the Earth, or so gamers thought.  10 years after the release of Parasite Eve 2, Square Enix released a sequel.

Every time one of these franchises gets revived, it’s a surprise.  After all, when 10 years goes by and there isn’t a sequel to a game, the series is considered halted.  However, every so often, companies pull some tricks out of their sleeves and continue old franchises, although most of these are reboots rather than sequels.  As we dive into one of these revivals, here is our official review of what is considered Parasite Eve 3, the PSP title, The 3rd Birthday!

Story

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The 3rd Birthday takes place in New York City.  10 years after the events of Parasite Eve II, Manhattan is taken over by huge mutated monsters known as “Twisted”.  These twisted appear in the form of monsters that walk, fly, and even have skyscraper-sized tentacle forms that create giant structures known as “Babels”.  Special Forces are all over the place, trying to contain the situation.

Aya Brea, heroine of the Parasite Eve franchise, is in a facility far away, using a device to “Overdive”.  This device allows her to travel back in time and take over the body of anyone from the past, in order to change it.  With many allies at her side, she takes the mantle of the Overdive machine and travels into the past and present to save her comrades and stop the Twisted.

The story of The 3rd Birthday isn’t the most deep-developed story.  There is a bit of information, particularly towards the end that draws from previous Parasite Eve titles, and a lot of characters aren’t active in the story enough to get a clear picture of all of their character.  However, there is a strong sense of character for development for Aya as she travels through multiple versions of reality in order to stop the Twisted, and offers some very insightful things about the Parasite Eve franchise in general, especially towards the end.

Gameplay

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The 3rd Birthday can be considered many different things.  Some people call it an Action RPG.  Others call it a Third-Person Shooter.  Some people may even call it a “Third Person Role-Playing Shooter”.  There are many names, but the most basic thing you could say is that it’s a Third-Person Shooter with RPG elements.  It has shooting elements, and it has RPG elements, but it’s much more shooter than RPG, unlike the previous Parasite Eve games.

When you play the game, you will have a base of operations, and can go out on missions.  The base is a place you can explore, talk to NPCs, as well as prepare for your missions.  This place is far from where your missions take place, so there isn’t an open-world setting with the base.  You simply go to the Command Center, walk up to the PC terminals, and choose a mission you can do, whether it’s a new story mission or a mission you’ve already cleared.

When you’re in a mission, you will be in large 3D areas, controlling Aya as she fights Twisted.  You will be equipped with up to four weapons at a time, each of which you can cycle through as well as grenades.  The Hand Gun has infinite ammunition, but the other weapons are all limited.  Particularly towards the end of the game, it’s a good idea to make sure you know when to use what weapon.  There are ammo and grenade refill points, but many of those can be few and far between.  You can also order NPCs to all fire on a specific target if it’s in range of them.

The Overdive system plays a huge role in gameplay.  While the story has the Overdive system of Aya taking over peoples’ bodies to be able to fight and change the timeline, you can use the same system as you play the game.  In each area of the game, there will be various NPC’s around you, fighting with you.  At any give time, you can use Overdive to jump into their body and control them.  This could be from you running out of ammo, being low on health, or from a certain NPC being in a place you cannot reach on your own.

It also plays a part in combat.  When fighting enemies with certain weapons, you will get an Overdive indication around them.  When this happens, you can Overdive into the enemy, itself, and do a huge amount of damage.  This is especially useful in Boss Fights, not only doing huge damage, but can also break armor so you don’t have to only use specific weapons to be able to damage them.  Knowing and using Overdive is a key part to getting through the game.

Another big feature is called Liberation Mode.  When you fight, you will gain energy to activate this mode, which is kind of like a “Rage” mode.  When in Liberation Mode, you will be able to attack enemies much faster and do greatly higher damage than normal.  However, Liberation constantly drains your health, so making sure you are constantly damaging the enemy to keep your health from dropping is a key thing.

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The RPG elements come into play when you defeat enemies.  Every time you, or your allies defeat enemies, you gain Experience Points.  When you get enough, you will level up, increasing your stats and capabilities.  There is also customization in mission preparation with DNA that you can obtain by Overdive-Killing enemies, granting you various effects in missions, like health regeneration or more firepower.

While there are objectives throughout the game, each mission is mostly fighting your way through Twisted until you reach a checkpoint where you can reload and save, or you reach the end of the mission and defeat a boss.  At the end of each mission, you can be awarded with new weapons as well as weapon upgrades.  You can use points you earn from missions to buy, upgrade, and equip these weapons for future missions.  You can also earn new costumes which have different defensive stats.

The thing to mention about costumes is one of the more quirky parts of The 3rd Birthday.  When you take enough damage in a mission, Aya’s costume will tear away.  If you get hit enough without repairing the costume at a PC Terminal, nearly all of Aya’s costume will be gone and she will practically be bare.  This also lowers her defense, so it’s important to keep those costumes repaired.

All in all, The 3rd Birthday is a lot of shooting and RPG-like customization.  From start to finish, the game should last you at least 10-12 hours on the Normal Difficulty setting.  You can gain more time if you want to replay the game to unlock all of the weapons and costumes, particularly one costume that requires several play-throughs to obtain.

Controls

The controls for The 3rd Birthday aren’t incredibly extensive, though they’re not as simple as an RPG, either.  First of all, the camera is controlled by the D-Pad.  So, redirecting the D-Pad to the Right Analog Stick will greatly increase the comfort and make it feel like a normal Dual Analog Stick shooting game.  Most of the other controls won’t need to be redirected, nor is the touch screen needed.

The main movement will be done with the Left Analog Stick.  That will allow Aya to move throughout each area.  Most of the other controls are with the face buttons and the triggers, though.  The L button will allow you to lock onto an enemy for precise shooting, and the R button will let you fire your currently-equipped weapon.

The rest is with the face buttons.  The X button allows you to jump and dodge and the Square button allows you to open your inventory for changing your equipped weapon.  The Circle button allows you to toss a grenade, and the Triangle button allows you to use the Overdive ability to jump into NPCs or enemies.

When you’re controllig the game on the PlayStation TV, all of the controls are the same as on the Vita.  You can redirect the D-Pad’s camera controls to the Right Analog Stick which helps a lot, but you won’t be using the L2, R2, L3, or R3 buttons for anything in the game.  It will be identical to controlling it on the PS Vita.

All in all, the control scheme is easy to remember, and putting the camera to the Right Analog Stick greatly increases the comfort of playing the game.

Presentation

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The graphical presentation of The 3rd Birthday is one of the higher PSP games.  When you are inside the game, be it in your base or on a mission, you are in an open 3D environment.  Everything in the game is 3D and there is a pretty big amount of detail in everything, from Aya to the enemies to the environments.  It’s not on par with some of the more polished PS Vita games, but it’s one of the highest graphical presentations that can be found on the PSP.

The load times for the game are fairly short each time, but there is a crashing issue that should be addressed.  It doesn’t happen often, but every so often when you go from one part of a mission to the next, the game will crash and make you reload your last save.  It only happened to me twice when I played through the game, but that’s more than enough to say it wasn’t a random glitch and it’s an issue that everyone should be aware of before making the purchase.

Summary

The 3rd Birthday brings a mix of shooter and RPG to the PSP as well as the Vita. On the downside, the game has been known to crash occasionally between mission checkpoints and the story isn't nearly what Parasite Eve fans will be expecting. Behind that, however, is a fun mix of shooting and RPG customization that has its own form of uniqueness that any RPG or shooter fan can get into

8/10

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