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The 3rd Birthday Review

Review; Jun. 24, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
After years of waiting, Aya Brea is back, although not quite as you remember her

Right off the bat one should take note that The 3rd Birthday is not called Parasite Eve 3, despite sharing the same main character, Aya Brea, and some minor characters from the past two titles. In fact, if it were not for the main character, Birthday would not even be in the same family as the previous Parasite Eve titles. Birthday is a completely different title with a completely different premise and game play mechanics. Fans of the series would be wise to take this into consideration; otherwise you'll be in for a shock.

The 3rd Birthday Screenshots
Click the image to view game screenshots

However, if you're a newcomer to the series or enter this with an open mind, then The 3rd Birthday is an enjoyable action RPG with a large selection of weapons and customizable abilities. Defeating enemies and bosses gains you different orbs that enhance your character whether it's through additional health, faster health regeneration, or stronger attacks. You gain access to grids which allow you to arrange the orbs in a sequence, combining different orbs to create new abilities. I ended up spending up hours just customizing my grid set and creating a different Aya for different combat situations. Despite the action nature, the stat tracking RPG mechanics are very strong.

Along with these customizable features, the much-touted Overdive ability is a twist to the normal third-person, shoot-and-take-cover mechanics present in a majority of third-person shooters. Using Overdrive allows Aya to instantly possess any NPC character in the game, gaining their weapons and gear in the process. This allows Aya to have a form of kinetic transportation across the battlefield, providing a position advantage over her enemies. When fighting normal enemies, it's an extremely useful option. When fighting bosses, it's essential. The second boss in the game had me Overdriving back and forth between soldiers to gain a line of fire on its weak spot -- or to switch to another soldier to avoid a highly damaging attack. It almost turns into a puzzle -- which soldiers to possess first, which ones to leave alive to utilize more powerful weaponry.

The graphics are some of the best on the PSP, rivaling even the best-looking titles like God of War and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. The characters' models are detailed, and the CG cutscenes are the par-for-the-course excellence that Square Enix games are known for.

As a fan of the series, my only complaint is unavoidable, as anyone who has ever invested time and energy into playing through a series so much so that they start to care about the characters and the events that surround them. If you haven't guessed by now, it's the story that is the biggest disappointment here.

Actually, disappointment doesn't even begin to describe the mess of the story that disregards the characters and relationships built up from the past titles in the series and instead reboots them in some bizarre time traveling, true love alternate universe. Aya Brea was known as a strong and independent female character in a time when strong female characters were uncommon. Now she's nothing more than a babbling, emotional wreck, who clings entirely too much to a past love who may or may not be alive, rather than focusing on her task to save the world from flesh eating creatures. I understand how the loss of a loved one could affect her performance and compromise her emotions, but it seems like too much of the game is spent trying to explain her relationships (that she also forgot because, gasp!, she has amnesia) rather than focusing on the invaders and their threat to humanity.

Even for those who are new to the series, this doesn't even function as a good stand alone plot, as it quickly becomes too convoluted and needlessly complicated to reach a conclusion that is admittedly anticlimactic.

The 3rd Birthday is great game play combined with a horrible story. This is a game that will undoubtedly determine what kind of gamer you are. Are you one who needs a compelling story to continue through the game? Are you a gamer who puts game play over storytelling? Or are you a little bit of both? Either way, Birthday is a solid action RPG for the a hand-held with little life left in it. Overall, I can say that, in the end, I did enjoy playing through the game, but only when I checked my inner fanboy at the door and took the game for what it was. For die hard Parasite Eve fans, that may not be a possibility, and your experience may suffer as a result.

Comments

JCXanirus

JCXanirus - Jul. 14, 2011 at 3:07:47pm

I still want a REAL PE3 on consoles.

GizmoDuck

GizmoDuck - Jul. 2, 2011 at 7:23:35am

The origional games on the PS2 are some of the best ever and id hate to think that, what in essance is its spiritual sucsessor, is not up to par. This makes me a sad panda.

But I did buy it for the girlfriend anyway and she hasnt played the others so im guessing she will enjoy.

Review Score
7.5

Mature

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

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