PSP Game Reviews: The 3rd Birthday Review

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The 3rd Birthday Review

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Replay Value:



Overall Rating:       7.8



Online Gameplay:

Not Rated





Number Of Players:




Release Date:

March 29, 2011

I was a big fan of the original Parasite Eve. It remains one of my favorite games of all time. And while PE2 adopted a real-time mechanic and made it feel too much like Resident Evil, I still enjoyed myself. Therefore, I’ve been looking forward to The 3rd Birthday ever since Square-Enix announced it, and the return of the super-cute Aya Brea could’ve made my day. And while the game features insanely high production values and has a lot of strong points, the biggest downfall centers on the gameplay…which only reinforces my belief that PE should’ve retained the hybrid mechanic found in the first title. This game is just begging for a chance to pause and assess the situation, and that’s primarily because the control is always iffy and the frustrating moments pile up quickly.

The graphics are one area where Aya’s new adventure is distinctly Parasite Eve in nature: the in-game visuals are good but not quite outstanding or impressive, while the cut-scenes are drop-dead gorgeous. Some of the hardcore Aya fans (who really wish they could propose to a virtual creation) will want to struggle through some of the more difficult sections just to catch the next cut-scene. We’re talking pure portable brilliance. Beautiful. On the other hand, the gameplay graphics aren’t quite as detailed as I would’ve liked, and for some reason, I thought the design of the basic enemies was a tad uninspired. The bosses are cool, though, and both the effects and area construction are solid. The truth is that there are many highlights to be found when playing – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – but those cut-scenes are the cream of the crop.

The sound is yet another combination of peaks and valleys. As for peaks, I’ve always thought these games had great music, and Square-Enix doesn’t disappoint. I certainly wanted more tracks, especially when engaged in combat, but the score is both appealing and fitting. The effects are better than decent, too. The voice acting is hit or miss but there’s one annoying tidbit: whoever voiced Aya is excellent. She really is. Unfortunately, she has nowhere near enough lines because Aya’s character just isn’t fleshed out enough in the story, and we’ll get to that in a minute. Some voiceover performances are average or even mediocre, but the music and effects – which are always quite prominent – save the day. And really, Aya finally has a voice, and it’s a fantastic one…and she rarely speaks. Whatever.

It’s the not-too-distant future in Manhattan, and a plague is terrorizing the city. The “Twisted” are responsible for this plague, but few know how to stop it, and people are dying left and right. At the start of the game, you see gigantic dark tentacles exploding out of the ground; at one point, you catch a glimpse of a terribly ensnared Statue of Liberty. This problem requires more than guys and guns; it requires someone with a very special ability; someone who can alter her DNA and turn herself into a 100 lb. fighting machine. Aya Brea returns as the protagonist and despite being plagued by visions and dreams that hearken back to her hazy past, she presses forward with her dangerous assignments. Not only can she change her DNA on a molecular level to be more effective, she can also “Overdive,” which is essential to survival.

During this third-person shooter quest, Aya is more vulnerable than you might think. Although she can take refuge to allow her health to slowly refill, most enemies are quite capable of taking her down in only a few hits at the start of the game. She’ll level up and get stronger, and you’ll amp up her capabilities via the aforementioned DNA alterations, but it’s still a challenge. When she’s in trouble, there are two things she can do- the first is that Overdive, which lets her immediately jump into an ally’s body…kinda like “The Matrix.” Thing is, Aya isn’t really there; she is sent back to the past, before the world reached a critical state. Therefore, she can do cool stuff like this but she’s hardly invincible; if she dies out there, it’s all over. And no, none of this can be considered “spoiler-ific” because you learn all of it within the first hour.

Now, the gameplay controls: you move with the analog, which works fine. You aim with the L1 button and it’s usually a lock-on feature for most weapons. Aya will automatically put the nearest enemy in her sights, and then you just tap (or hold) the R1 button and fire away. She can swap weapons at any time with the directional pad and tossing a grenade is as easy as aiming with L1 and pressing Circle. She can execute an evasive dodge roll with the X button and when near a defensive barrier, she will automatically crouch behind it for the sake of cover. The camera does a good job of keeping up, even if the auto lock-on can often leave you disoriented. But there are a plethora of issues, and that includes the fact that some cover doesn’t always work; if you’re not flush against it, you can still be struck.

Also, the running speed seems slow and the quick-fire roll is jarring in comparison, and can easily screw with your sense of direction. Allies will sometimes get in the way, too, especially when trying to take cover; I had to Overdive into some guy who just wouldn’t move. Now, on top of it all, add some majorly frustrating elements: the problem is that you don’t always know what to do, and the hints they give you don’t help much. Certain bosses will leave you scratching your head, and because your health can’t regenerate unless you’re staying still, you’re constantly concerned about getting hit. One solid strike can end the game immediately, and that gets more than a little irritating. Lastly, for some reason, I just couldn’t stop my fingers from cramping; I’m not suggesting the button layout is bad, but the gameplay speed is demanding.

In regards to the story and as I mentioned above, Aya is just too passive to be an engaging main character, and she apparently has no personality of her own. Regardless of what people say to her – and that can include some highly suggestive remarks – she responds in much the same way…which is to say, with a little sigh or surprised expression, and very few words. The story is good but you don’t really have any idea what’s going on until the third or fourth hour or so. Therefore, this story-driven title stumbles a bit right out of the gate; with Aya’s great voice and alluring good looks, you would think she’d be more of a highlight. But she’s basically just eye candy who suffers from torn clothing when damaged (which isn’t anywhere near as big of a deal as the media made out) and does what she’s told.

That all being said, I imagine many will have fun playing the game. I did, even if I was close to tossing the unit at the wall. The challenge isn’t overly crazy, the balance and pacing seems just about right, and I very much liked the philosophical and scientific concepts in the story. Extra depth via DNA boards and unlocking, purchasing and upgrading weapons is much appreciated, and makes it feel more like an action/RPG. Overdiving is a sweet feature – especially when you Overdive into a foe to implode it – and the developers make good use of it. The story, despite being too much undercover early on, is intriguing and even surprising in some areas, and the writing isn’t terrible. The dialogue isn’t great but then again, I wasn’t really expecting it to be. Lastly, I should add that nothing about the gameplay can be considered “broken;” it can only be dubbed “erratic” or maybe “eccentric.” If you can deal with that, you’ll enjoy yourself.

The 3rd Birthday has a lot going for it, but it falls short of being a top-notch production due to significant control issues, a high level of frustration, and a main character that looks and sounds great, but doesn’t contribute much. The cut-scenes really are mind-blowing, the story is a plus provided you stick with it, the design, pacing and structure are all good, and some of the boss fights are borderline memorable. You just have to find a way to stay alive… I still say that, although every single game must have some “twitch” element these days, the “old-fashioned” mechanic from the original Parasite Eve would’ve worked wonderfully here. Yes, Square-Enix, I’m aware of your new “direction.” I still don’t like it. But this game isn’t bad.

The Good: Stunning cut-scenes. Great music and main character is voiced well. Design and pacing is solid. Storyline gets more interesting with time. Some nice ideas and features. Atmosphere and style is always appealing.

The Bad: Takes too long for story to get going. Aya isn’t a fleshed-out protagonist. Control is a definite issue. Frustration is inevitable.

The Ugly: “Yup, dead again. Way to go, cutie.”

3/30/2011 Ben Dutka

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New Comment System

Legacy Comment System (17 posts)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011 @ 9:57:39 PM

Thx for the review. I don't understand why SE continues to modify this series. I loved the style of the first game and hated the gameplay in the 2nd. Now with the 3rd it's yet again a change.

I'm going to get it eventually but not at its current price.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 12:13:06 AM

Am I the only one who went out of the way to get 300 pieces of Junk, just to make the AK-47 so I could annihilate everything in the Chrysler Building?

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 6:28:47 AM

I don't think I ever got all the way to the top... Not sure why I never finished that part.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011 @ 10:11:29 PM

It's a little sad that where SE used to be top notch all the way around they now seem to only manage top notch cut scenes. Cut scenes are important, but any decent animation studio can do that, so kinda seems to me they are choosing the wrong thing to focus on.

Sad to hear the gameplay is the weakest link, because on any game that is where you spend the most of your time and it really should be a strong point or the game gets annoying.

I have yet to start the parasite eve games, but I have the first and should be starting soon. I guess since this one was good, but not as good as fans would have hoped, I guess it's ok that I'll be late in picking it up.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011 @ 10:58:04 PM

It seems to me like a lot of Japanese developed games this gen are ending in frustration for gamers.

Sounds like this half baked heroine hasn't altered the trend. A shame really.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011 @ 11:03:22 PM

Not exactly an awful score, but for those of us who remember especially the first game fondly, it's a disappointing one.

I appreciated the differentiation you made, Ben, between gameplay and the rest of the production. For me, a functional gameplay mechanic is pretty key, so while I -may- get this, I will likely wait with all I have on my plate.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 1:32:54 AM

ask Wada and its co. all should go rotten.

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Lawless SXE
Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 3:15:09 AM

Ah, but is it a good representation of the Parasite Eve series? Is it a good way to continue, or do you really believe that it should be taken back to being more like the original? Is the PSP/NGP a suitable platform for the future of the series, or should it go back to the home consoles?

Yeah, I'm bored and have nothing more to say about The 3rd Birthday than that I will pick it up soon... -ish.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 10:19:13 AM

It's just another step in the more action, less thought direction. No, I don't particularly think that's a good idea for Parasite Eve.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 4:48:29 AM

The game is action based. I though the gfx were good for a psp game.nah nevermind. so the main
issue in this game is the control. the gameplay
isn't that top notch either imo.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 6:14:30 AM

The frustration factor is a real turn off, but this still looks like a spectacular game. I'll wait for it to come down in price before I consider a purchase.

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 7:49:03 AM

Too be fair, SE's last "Ace-in-the-hole" Tetsuya Nomura-san has to work with this game alongside FFversusXIII AND FF Agito XIII. It's shows how dire SE's situation is right now considering the controversy and the wayward feature of FFXIII as well FFXIV.

All in all, the game could've been better if TN didn't have to sideline other projects (FFversusXII could've been finished by then). I'm pretty sure right now, he's not very happy that SE is trying to push him so hard. After all, PE is HIS baby alongside Kingdom Hearts. Most developers are having headaches dealing with ONE game. He's doing THREE! So kudos to him for at least making a solid game in this situation.

Last edited by Ricochet on 3/31/2011 7:49:54 AM

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Thursday, March 31, 2011 @ 4:11:53 PM

I never played the originals and I just got 3rd Birthday. I love it so far. I dont know what all the fuss is about....I never have any issues with control, one joystick is more than sufficient. that isnt to say that two joysticks wouldnt be welcomed...but it works they way it is.

o well...everyone is entitled to their opinion

Last edited by Mystery75 on 3/31/2011 4:14:06 PM

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Friday, April 01, 2011 @ 4:30:38 PM

The voice over actress is the beautiful Yvonne Strahovski, did you not think this character sounded like Miranda from Mass Effect 2.

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Sunday, April 03, 2011 @ 1:50:24 PM

Man i really need to come here more ofter , the newsletter come so late after most article .

That aside ... i really don t get why people find it so frustrating/hard unless played on hard from the get go( what i did the first time i played until i beat chapter 1 before switching to normal ) .The only thing i found annoying were the weapon with no auto-lock ( sniper , grenade launcher ).

Hope third birthday sell enough so we might see #4 and like Ben , i hope to see the mechanic of PE1 make a come back , it would be perfect for an handheld version .

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Monday, April 04, 2011 @ 11:30:04 PM

I dislike how she not as spicy as before because I now can see her cowarding in fear in the game. Aya personality is not the same.

Last edited by dhell on 4/4/2011 11:32:40 PM

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Tuesday, April 05, 2011 @ 9:07:00 AM

I got mine through the post the other day, it came with a delightful artbook too :)

I have yet to play it, becuase i am currently playing through the series, We never got PE1 in the UK so i'm not going to lie i downloaded it. and I loved it. I'm so furious I never got the chance to play it earlier. It blows PE2 out the water.

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