Time to Celebrate “The 3rd Birthday”

“The 3rd Birthday” is the revival of the PS1 survival horror series “Parasite Eve.” Unlike its predecessors from over 10 years ago, “The 3rd Birthday” is a third-person action game with some RPG elements. While it can be quite difficult, “The 3rd Birthday” is an entertaining adventure with tons of action and an intriguing story.

In “The 3rd Birthday,” a strange new threat called “The Twisted” has suddenly appeared in modern day Manhattan to wipe out all of humanity. Picking up a year after the initial attack, Aya Brea, the protagonist from the original series, returns as humanity’s last hope. While she has lost her memory, she now has a new ability called “Overdive.”

By using “Overdive,” it allows her to send her consciousness back in time and essentially possess other humans to help her fight “The Twisted.” While this is an interesting premise by itself, the story becomes especially intriguing as the current timeline reacts to the changes you’ve made during each mission.

“Overdive” isn’t just used for the story – it factors heavily into combat as well. With just a simple button tap, Aya can jump between soldiers on the battlefield, which leads to some cool encounters. In an early battle for example, there are snipers on the rooftops and soldiers in the streets below. By jumping back and forth between the two groups, it is possible to strategically break apart the enemy forces with ease. Don’t think that “Overdive” makes the game too easy though. Enemies have large amounts of HP and can effortlessly tear through you with even your slightest of mistakes.

The regular encounters are pretty cool as there are plenty of deadly enemy types, each requiring their own specific strategies, but the game really shines in the excellent boss fights. The boss fights are often fought in large arenas, befitting of their massive scale.

In one early example, shooting a gigantic scorpion-like creature head on deals little damage, but, by maneuvering up to a nearby rooftop, you can shoot its weak spot from above. In a truly impressive fashion, the colossal creature, in real time, will then turn around and slowly scale the building to come after you. There are multiple boss fights per level too, which is great for keeping the action from ever becoming too repetitive.

Even though “The 3rd Birthday” is a PSP game, the controls do not suffer too much. Locking on to enemies works well enough, though it can be finicky when there are a large number of targets. Aiming certain weapons can be a hassle however, as neither the d-pad nor analog nub feels right for the game. Movement works really well as it is easy to dodge attacks and get into cover.

Outside of the base gameplay, there are a few smartly-implemented RPG elements. First, it is possible to customize all of the weapons you bring in to battle. There is a large arsenal to choose from and, by pouring funds into upgrades, you can modify some of the features while sacrificing others to make them more unique and useful for you. There are quite a few places during each mission where you can exchange and customize weapons, which means you can adjust your arsenal as the situations demand it.

The other main RPG component is that you can modify Aya’s DNA on the “DNA board.” By killing enemies with the “Overdive Kill,” it is possible to obtain OE chips to place on the board. When placing these, DNA often mutates and new passive abilities are gained. Sacrifices must be made to achieve the best board, making it a tough puzzle of sorts to figure out.

One of the game’s other great strengths in addition to the combat and story is the strong presentation elements of the game. Most of the environments are especially detailed for a PSP game, which, when combined with the impressive scale the game conveys, makes the game feel spectacular. While nearly every unimportant character’s voice acting is terrible, the main cast does a respectable job.

There are a few last flaws worth mentioning. While the game performs well most of the time, even in chaotic situations, there were instances where the game slowed down considerably for a few seconds. Most crucially, however, is how difficult the game is. By default, the game is set to hard, which is legitimately tough. It is still pretty tough even on the medium difficulty for most combat and is really tough still during boss fights. This is likely to be a turnoff for people, as frequent deaths and failures are common even after you gain a solid grasp on the controls.

It would be a shame to give up on “The 3rd Birthday” for the few minor flaws it has. The game has really unique and strategic combat due to the “Overdive” and the story, both Aya’s personal story and the overarching story, is pretty interesting. “The 3rd Birthday” isn’t for everyone, but if you are looking for something unique and constantly engaging, be sure to check it out.

Rating:  4/5 Stars