A new Parasite Eve game has been longed for by fans for over a decade. The wait is over with the release of Square Enix’s new entry, The 3rd Birthday. There are a ton of changes, especially the new heavy shooting element. However, a unique story and gorgeous cutscenes don’t save this game from being filled with control issues. Some fans of the series will probably welcome the new changes, but others may be turned away by the heavy shooting elements.
Rating: 3.75 out of 5
The 3rd Birthday review
Imagine New York City overrun by strange creatures, destroying all that is good in the world. This is the premise behind Square Enix’s latest entry into the Parasite Eve series, The 3rd Birthday. In this game, you still play as Aya Brea as she must save the world from the Twisted by traveling back in time to save the future. It has been just about ten years since the last Parasite Eve game. Does The 3rd Birthday surprise or disappoint? Let’s just say it definitely surprised me in many ways.
The story in The 3rd Birthday is unique in the sense that Aya and her team must use time travel to rid the world of the Twisted in the past. The time machine, The Overdive, is similar to The Matrix in the sense that if you die in the past, your soul cannot make it back to the present. During the six episodes, you travel to various points in time to both get to know your enemy and figure out how to stop “The Babel,” which has appeared throughout New York City. I found the overall story arc to be quite entertaining and the cutscenes great, but it is what is in between them that was difficult to handle.
Controlling Aya is completely different than what you would think and the lock-on features made combat a bit on the boring side. You use the PSP nub to move, the left trigger to lock onto enemies and then the right trigger to fire. This leads to many battles where players will stand in one spot and hold down two buttons. The problem here lies when trying to manage multiple enemies. If you want to strafe and change enemies at the same time, your left thumb has to do some gymnastics because changing targets is done with the D-pad. To solve this, you can use the Overdive System that Aya has to jump into various characters. Still, I felt like I couldn’t do what I wanted due to the controls. That being said, the large amount of weapons did help with keeping combat somewhat fresh. Having up to four weapons at Aya’s disposal helped in that greatly.
Over the course of the story, you will be graced with gorgeous cutscenes that are top notch. Typical of most Square Enix games, but I was surprised by their length and quality, especially on the Sony PSP. I found myself engrossed during most because Aya is such a flawed character. She seems broken emotionally and we get to peek inside of her during most of the cutscenes. This was easily my favorite part of the game, and was unexpected in a third-person shooter. I hope we see more from the series, but on other platforms as well.
Another one of my favorite parts of the game is the soundtrack. Creepy, chilling and engrossing are ways that I would describe it. But, with any Japanese game, there are some crazy rock tracks included that did not seem to fit with the game. The voice acting is not stellar either, but it is serviceable. Some of the things that Aya says during battle were cringe-worthy to say the least.
Shooting your way through the six episodes in The 3rd Birthday is not all that long, about six to eight hours. This is pretty normal for most AAA shooter titles these days, but I was left wanting more. There were also some areas with huge difficulty spikes that I had to replay many times, even on Normal difficulty. These moments were few and far between, but hurt the game overall. After completing the story, there are some extras, including cheat codes to change the game drastically. These are not that compelling, but for someone who likes to get the most out of their games, it is a nice touch.
Having not played the first two games, The 3rd Birthday is my first Parasite Eve experience. The story and how it is delivered is the best part of the game. The gameplay itself does leave something to desire but for me, it was totally worth my time. Playing through The 3rd Birthday has made me want to go back and play the classics from the original PlayStation (Parasite Eve is available from the PlayStation Network as a PSone Classic). If you are looking for a unique action game on your PSP with a unique and interesting story, The 3rd Birthday is a perfect fit if you can look past its complicated control scheme.
Thanks to Square Enix for making this review possible!