The 3rd Birthday


posted 4/25/2011 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PSP
As nice as it is to have another entry in this series, one thing isn't right -- Aya Brea.  She may look the same and have the crazy over dive powers, but this is not the Aya I remember.  A decade ago Aya was a strong female character, ready to get her hands dirty investigating a series of weird happenings.  In this game she's a timid wimp.  She's easily frightened and hardly has anything to say.  Heck, even when she picks up an item she makes a pathetic whiney sound.  She's not the strong heroine a story like this requires.

Aya's leisurely run is also frustrating, since we're supposed to be racing against the clock to save millions of lives.  This isn't a problem when she's exploring the gorgeous (though mostly flat) environments, but she's in a world of hurt when the supernatural creatures inevitably show up.  Her speed makes her an easy target, which often results in a lot of cheap hits.  This is made even more frustrating when the game's targeting system doesn't work properly.  Throw in a camera that often works against you and it's easy to see why I was pulling my hair out.

Even if the camera problems were ironed out and you locked on perfectly every time, that still wouldn't fix the game's main problem.  I found the enemies far too powerful for their own good.  Even after you've upgraded your weapons, you'll discover that unloading an entire round will barely chip anything away from your enemy's health.  You'll spend a long time unloading clip after clip waiting for your foe to die.  You can be killed in little more than three or four hits, which makes everything feel very unbalanced.   This is especially annoying when you're at the end of a long battle and die.  This means that you'll have to fight the whole battle all over again, which isn't nearly as much fun as it sounds.
The game's level designs are also disappointing.  Instead of exploring a large world, you're mostly just running through corridors looking for a boss battle.  Maybe it's because I spent so much time fighting each boss, but it felt like there was very little build up before each large-scale boss fight.  This wouldn't be a bad thing if it wasn't for the cheap tactics all of the bosses use, yet another thing that makes this game infuriating.

Yet despite its frustrating spots, I ended up having a good time with The 3rd Birthday.  As the craziness ramps up, so does your firepower.  It's a lot of fun taking your high powered guns out and racking up the kills.  What's more, as the bosses get bigger you'll find yourself diving into tanks and helicopters.  It's because of the game's compelling story and gameplay gimmick that the game worked for me, even with all of its frustrating problems.

It doesn't hurt that the game looks amazing.  Aya's adventure is full of tiny details that make everything that much better.  Like how her clothing keeps getting more and more destroyed with each successful dive.  The battles are also impressive looking, even when you're constantly dying.  Best of all, Square Enix is at the top of their game when it comes to making top notch cinemas.  The 3rd Birthday looks fantastic.

Sadly, the audio isn't nearly as strong as the visual.  I've already complained about Aya's whining, but everybody else has their own annoying habits.  Thankfully there are a few good voice actors, but even they can't sell this material.  On the other hand, the incidental music is strong and the sound effects are fine.  One minor complaint: The game uses this very odd (and gratingly annoying) remix of Christmas music.  I hope Square Enix never does that again.

I'm torn when it comes to The 3rd Birthday.  I'm intrigued by the storyline and presentation, but can't stand what they've done to the main character.  Even though the game can be excruciatingly frustrating, I still say it's worth playing.  The big action set pieces are undeniably impressive, even if they're marred by some weird gameplay quirks.  Aya definitely deserves better, but this is a good first step at resurrecting this worthwhile franchise.  Hopefully everybody learns their lesson before making The 4th Birthday.

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.

With its impressive visuals and compelling storytelling, The 3rd Birthday is an exciting new chapter in the Parasite Eve series. Too bad the game is marred by stiff controls, frustrating gameplay and cheap bosses. If you can get past these hiccups you'll discover another worthwhile PSP game!

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