I love the original Parasite Eve games on the PlayStation; the world, the story and the graphics drew me in. When I heard that the The 3rd Birthday was coming to the PSP, I was insanely excited, seeing as it seemed as though I was one of the five people on Earth to own a PSP. This third installment to the series was released twelve years after the sequel, and it is somewhat of a reboot of the franchise. Unfortunately it falls short from the high expectations that the first two games gave me. It is a well made game, it’s pretty, the controls work for the small PSP and the story is decent. However Square-Enix has changed the concept so much that it could have been an entry to a completely new franchise and not part of Aya’s tale. The new concept may have been the last nail in the coffin of this franchise, but let’s all hope that’s not the case.
The 3rd Birthday is a reboot of sorts; the developers started the game off in a very similar vein as the original. It opens with a gorgeous fly in of New York City and people enjoying the Holidays on Christmas Eve. Snow is falling on their smiling faces when suddenly huge tendrils tear through the concrete and begin to destroy all of New York’s icons. These tendrils we later find out are called “Babels” which spawn monstrous lifeforms called the “Twisted.” A year of so after this havoc in New York occurs, a response team is created called the CTI (Counter Twisted Investigation) to battle the Babels and Twisted. The protagonist Aya Brea is introduced here. She was found after the initial incursion in New York with no memory and a completely different personality. Dr. Hyde Bohr, Chief of the CTI, takes her in and discovers that Aya is capable of “Overdrive,” which allows her to jump her soul into other people’s bodies. Dr. Bohr then uses this power to send Aya back in time in hopes of changing the past and ending the Babels’ reign in New York.
The game’s levels are episodic and sometimes jump in and out of order of the actual story which can make it difficult to follow; time traveling has a way of doing that. I’ve never been a huge fan of episodic gaming, even when you get all of the episodes at once; to me it breaks up the flow of the game and pulls you from the experience. My personal opinion should not steer you away from this title; I just felt a caveat was in order. The cut scenes between the episodes surprised me with their quality as do the in-game graphics. To be honest the graphics in The 3rd Birthday look better than some PlayStation 2 games I own, and a few PlayStation 3 games to boot. The voice-overs and music quality match that of the graphics as well. Square Enix spared no expense with this release, which is disappointing due to the fact it was only released on the PSP. Had they released alongside a PlayStation 3 version, this title may have received a better reception from previous Parasite Eve fans.
The controls would have been better suited to an actual controller over a portable device. During intense boss battles, my hands would begin to cramp up because I would have to bend my fingers in very strange ways to stay alive. The firing controls are similar to all those in gaming at the moment, the left trigger is aim and the right trigger is fire. Movement is the tiny circle pad on the PSP and camera control is the D-pad, which gets tricky, I’ve been trained in using the right thumbstick to move the camera for years now, so I found myself facing the wrong direction several times. Probably the second most important button after fire is “X;” this is a very unforgiving game and if you don’t learn how to dodge fast you’ll be continuing quite a bit. Triangle is “overdrive;” that’s when you can jump from soldier to soldier during the fray to get a better tactical advantage and better weapons. To change to those weapons you hold down square and they show up on the screen for you. You then choose one with the D-pad. The game has relatively easy controls until you’re battling a boss and can’t quite keep them in view; that’s when the carpel tunnel sets in.
I enjoyed this game much more than I thought I would. My nostalgia levels shoot through the roof when anything survival horror PlayStation era comes my way, old or new. Those nostalgia levels sometimes affect my take on remakes or re-envisions of certain titles. Parasite Eve is very important to me, and while The 3rd Birthday is far from perfect, it was quite fun to play. The story keeps you moving even though it reminds me a bit of Source Code. The graphics are stunning, and the controls could be a bit tighter, but the PSP is the PSP, so that comes with the system, not the game. If you’ve not picked up this title and have a PSP smothered in dust, you should give it a try. Or if you happen to have a PS Vita and can download it from the PSN give it a go, you won’t regret it. Any Parasite Eve fan should at least try the game; it may grow on you.