The 3rd Birthday [Review]

Let's do the time warp again!

The 3rd Birthday

Unfortunately for survival horror fans, there haven’t been many satisfying entries into the genre in some time.  Even the Resident Evil series, which many have called the founder of the genre as a whole, has strayed away from its survival roots and into action territory.  The Parasite Eve series was always a close second to me as far as these types of games go.  Now Square Enix and HexaDrive  have brought that series back to life with The 3rd Birthday, which despite its name is not a spin-off but rather a full-fledged sequel.

In The 3rd Birthday, you play as series protagonist Aya Brea, a once proud New York cop and now an operative working for the Counter Twisted Investigation.  From the game’s opening it’s plain to see that Aya has come upon some hard times recently.  After being found as an amnesiac and wearing a blood soaked wedding dress, Aya is taken by the CTI as a guinea pig of sorts.  As New York is taken over by mutated creatures known as “the Twisted,” the CTI deploys Aya along with her strange psychic abilities in an effort to stop the horrific outbreak of monsters.  A crucial part of the CTI’s plans and a power weapon as well, Aya is once again tasked with bringing peace and sanity back to the Big Apple.

Visually, The 3rd Birthday is a good looking game.  The cut scenes are stunning, especially the rather lengthy opening cut scene, although environments are a little on the plain side.  Being that Manhattan has long since been evacuated since the arrival of the Twisted, the only flesh and blood humans Aya encounters are battle ready soldiers and a handful of very terrified civilians.  Generally the lack of characters can make the game seem sparse, but overall it looks good.

As far as the plot is concerned, I feel the setting needs to be explained more in depth as most of the game actually takes place during past events.  During the course of The 3rd Birthday, Aya is actually hooked into a special machine, also called Aya, which allows her to transport her consciousness into the past and to take control of other soldiers and CTI operatives.  The process through which this is done, which the game refers to as the “overdive” system, will doubtlessly remind many of you of the 1999 movie The Matrix.

The 3rd Birthday

Much like how Agent Smith in The Matrix always appears as himself, any character the player inhabits in The 3rd Birthday automatically takes on the appearance of Aya Brea.  Diving into a fellow human being will gain you his health and any weapons he currently has equipped.  By using overdive, you can jump to various characters on the battlefield in order to get a better view of the battlefield.  Unfortunately selectable targets of the overdive system are as susceptible to death as Aya and jumping to another person to save your life will ultimately sacrifice his or hers.  If there’s one problem I had with this mechanic, it’s that characters only recover health over time when possessed by the player.

While the overdive function certainly has its uses in combat, it is not the only weapon in Aya’s arsenal.  Players can also use the liberation ability which temporarily grants a large boost of power and allows one to run faster, fire weapons more quickly, and enhance the speed of any other options available in battle.  The downside of using this ability is that sometimes combat can become unmanageable as a result.  I often found that if I tried to get away from an enemy I would end up running straight on into a wall.   At least it’s difficult to feel embarrassed in front of the grotesque Twisted.

While the second game in the Parasite Eve series strayed away from RPG elements, The 3rd Birthday brings them back.  In this new installment, weapons are highly customizable and any stat ranging from accuracy to capacity can be finely tuned.  New weapons are not bought in shops, but rather earned by using the overdive system to possess a character.  Unlocking the various rifles and shotguns isn’t guarantee to happen every time the player dives into another character and gaining new equipment is very random. In addition to weapons, the overdive system can also be used to gain DNA chips which contain a variety of different traits and abilities which can be equipped.  The abilities granted by using these chips range from handy to useless with the worst of the lot including such gems as “slow” and “illness.”  In order to get the most use out of these countless DNA chips, players will have to configure them into various arrangements on Aya’s DNA board.  There are many different usable chips combinations and it takes quite a bit of strategy to actually get Aya battle ready against the game’s various enemies.

The 3rd Birthday

Another interesting customization option comes in the form of Aya’s outfits. In lieu of the traditional RPG system of armor sets, The 3rd Birthday implements a costume system in which new outfits are earned which grants bonuses such as higher defense or resistances.  As the player takes the fight to the Twisted out in the field, Aya’s equipped costume will gradually rip and tear as it takes damage and can only be mended once the player reaches a safe point.  By completing side quests or finishing the game on higher difficulty settings, a bevy of new outfits are earned for use in combat.  Aya’s unlockable costumes range from risque to bizarre as new costumes such as a naughty schoolgirl uniform, Santa outfit, and even Lightning’s armor from Final Fantasy XIII can eventually adorned in-game.

Enemies were not super difficult, but Aya is quite weak when compared to any of the game’s enemies.  Upon death, your only chance is to warp into a soldier (or in some cases civilian) nearby and use them to the best of your ability.  If all of the usable characters in an area perish, Aya has nowhere to warp and it is officially game over.  Generally the combat in the game is quite easy as each enemy comes with its own set of weaknesses and certain weapons are powerful against certain enemies.  Unfortunately, ammo in The 3rd Birthday is quite scarce and weapons can run out of bullets quickly.  Thankfully ammunition can often be found in incredibly conspicuous, and quite frankly annoying, glowing pillars of green light.  So at least when ammo is tight, you can plainly see where it is.

Overall I had a great time with The 3rd Birthday, although I certainly had issues with the control limitations of the PSP.  Fighting off the enemy Twisted can be unpleasant at times due to the awkward turning of the analog stick.  Also both the camera and weapon select are controlled through the directional pad which switches between functions depending on duration of button presses.  This can make it tough to select weapons as not tapping the button lightly enough forces the camera to move instead of getting the gun you need.

That being said, The 3rd Birthday is still a game worth playing and I would certainly recommend it to fans of the series or those action-RPG fans looking for something new.

Jessica Weimar
Jessica Weimar
Jessica Weimar

MASH Veteran

Jessica is clearly a fan of video games, or she wouldn't be writing for this site. She attends college and like most other staff on the site, has a day job that she despises. She spends most of her free time playing games with her boyfriend.

The Latest from Mash