I am sorry for my long absence after all this time, and I have finally returned after taking a very long break. Still not feeling all too well, but I have a job, even if I am not getting paid to do this. What got me out of my break though? A little game called 3rd Birthday. But before that, it’s time for some backstory!
3rd Birthday is the latest entry of the Parasite Eve series of the Playstation 1 era, and is for the PSP. However, unlike the other two games, and most of this information does come from die-hard gamers in Gamefaqs forums, 3rd is a spinoff to the series, not a sequel of any kind. In fact, I am currently playing Parasite Eve 1, and could tell this information right off the bat. But the good news is that you do not need to know any of the past games to play this one. The bad news is that even with the knowledge, things will not make any sense. And in future reviews of the other Parasite Eve games, I’ll be comparing some of the story bits, but that won’t be for a long time since I am already gaining more and more games to review.
So where does this game take us? Well, it does still involve the mutated Mitochondria known as the twisted, which involved into demonic and bizarre looking creatures, each with their unique kind of look to them, and honestly, combined with the graphics and design, are pulled off rather well. The story takes place in the future, where the Twisted have taken over New York. As Aya Brea, the protagonist of the first two games, it is your job to go back in time through the use of a time machine and organization, and try to save people using the power of Overdive. Overall, a simple story that does open the door for a lot of themes to be explored…
Sadly, this game’s story is more confusing than any of the Xenosaga games. Unlike with complicated stories like those, games like Final Fantasy series and Xenosaga had long lengths of gameplay and the ability to stretch on the stories, and do proper character development, make us know and care about the characters. 3rd Birthday does not have this luxury, and as a spinoff, things are made worse. One example I can bring is one of the games that are linked to Final Fantasy VII. Not sure if you can call them spinoffs, but their gameplay was very different from a standard RPG. The length of the game and the long cut-scenes, while some may find annoying, brought deeper insight into the lives of Zack and Vincent.
3rd Birthday does not do any of this, or at the very least, tries to, but comes across as very confusing. We know nothing about these new characters, and while Aya Brea was featured in the last few games, her characterization is incredibly different, though later on, we do get an explanation. And while I do not wish to spoil anything about this, trust me when I say you will be left scratching your head as you “uncover the secrets” of the story. Otherwise, in terms of background, you have to dig up information yourself via the large amounts of information the game gives you in text form.
That’s right, it took a page from Final Fantasy XIII and is giving you a textbook of information to read if you really want to try and understand this story. And while it does a decent enough job providing information on events that are seemingly absent, it is a very poor way to tell a story. Why? Because we are in the 21st century of gaming now. Imagine if you were about to watch a movie, but before then, you are given 500 pages of text to read before you can continue on. And this is just a way to needlessly pad out the game, by reading. Say what you want Final Fantasy XIII, it had hours of content and story that could extend the character development and such, and it’s far easier to read their emotions, no matter how annoying or bad the game may seem. As such, I can’t really comment on the rest of the characters, but there’s literally nothing much to say about them! All of this makes for what has to be the poorest and worst attempt at story telling I have ever seen in a video game. I could probably write a paper on this, but I’ll spare you that torture. The only character I can write about is Aya, who has been reduced to a fearful girl and sex appeal. And believe me when I say at the end of the game, you are going to feel very dirty if you had perverted thoughts.
But that’s enough about story, as there other aspects. To help make sure this isn’t a complete flaming of this game, I do want to say that the graphics of both cut-scenes and the environments are gorgeous, showing off the destruction of New York by the twisted very well. The Twisted themselves, with the levels they are in, are also beautiful to look at. There’s not much free roaming, but it’s a step-up from having to wander hallways in FFXIII. And you can at least interact with the environment, such as using ladders to gain higher ground to gain an advantage over enemies. The environments do show quite a bit of detail, and combined with large bosses and the damn good soundtrack, it makes this both a pleasant sight for the eyes and a pleasure for ears.
This however is not what makes a game good. It can help greatly, but this doesn’t make five-star material, for the gameplay kinda drags this down. Controls are stiff, with Aya moving incredibly slow, ruining the tone of a violent and horror type of game since there is no urgency with her running. Okay, yes, this isn’t a horror game, but considering the chase scenes where you have to avoid an all powerful monster called the Reaper, as well as other enemies, you think you might want to run with some urgency, Aya. In fact, her movements are very limited, since you can’t even roll out of the way when an enemy is about to hit you if you have him locked on and have anything but a handgun equipped. And without a way to control the camera, aka a second analog stick, trying to roll out of the way of attacks will take a lot of practice. And with other weapons force Aya to do a small weak side-step, which is useless against larger attacks. You also cannot spam the dodge button, as after three, you are left vulnerable.
So what are your tools? Weapons of course, but more on that later. Aya is painfully weak, unlike in the last games. You do not have potions to instantly restore help, instead having to stand still for a bit, without aiming, to regain health. And with monsters constantly thrown at you, that is impossible until you get a break, or find a health potion you use automatically, not by carrying them. You also have a transformation ability which works almost like the Devil Trigger in Devil May Cry, only this one lasts about ten seconds and takes a long time to build up again, but thankfully, Aya does move incredibly fast and is extremely powerful in this mode to compensate.
However, your real useful ability is Overdive. Unfortunately, when Aya is caught by an enemy, she is absolutely useless since she has no melee skills or anything of the sort, and can easily be killed by most enemies if thrown with so many attacks. In order to compensate for this, you can damage enemies enough to perform an Overdive by going inside of them and dealing a large amount of damage, and it can also gain DNA chips which are used for your second customization option: the DNA board, which can be incredibly infuriating. You gain DNA chips which, when linked, can give you a range of benefits that are mostly passive or activate automatically, rarely though. You can have up to 9 abilities max, though linking together similar abilities can make them stronger. Since this is done by overlapping abilities together, you will keep resetting the abilities before fusing until you can get what you want, and this will take a long time. A simple fix here would have been just have a list of benefits, and choose one, or just stick with one formula.
Locking on is thankfully simple, save for maybe the fastest of enemies. Simply lock on and shoot, and it all just depends on the weapon you use, and how you use it. And thankfully, the weapon selection is varied and useful. Shotguns, handguns, revolvers, assault rifles, sniper rifles, and even special weapons like grenades and grenade launchers are all for use as you play through this game. They can all be upgraded as you progress, though most customization does require fulfilling certain goals in missions. And while tedious, upgrading is one of the best parts of the game. Combined with multiple styles of guns, you can upgrade your style to choose either do more damage, or do less damage, but cause enough to gain the chance to perform an Overdive on an enemy. However, aside for your standard infinite ammo handgun, you can only carry two other weapons, and an extra weapon depending on who you managed to control.
But perhaps your biggest help are soldiers. While individually, they are useless against an enemy when not used as they do only little bits of damage, you can control them with Overdive and attack enemies from different vantage points. And the only way for them to actually deal real damage is to use Crossfire, which allows everyone on your team to lock on so long as you maintain a steady aim on the enemy, then unleash the barrage. This is also great for Overdive sequences to appear quicker as well. And even if Aya does die, she can dive into another body and resume gameplay, though if there are no more, it is game over. You can also dive into soldiers with special weapons, and once you leave, you can then purchase the weapon for your own use.
The amount of guns you get is extremely limited on lower difficulties however, forcing you to either play on harder difficulties, or gain achievements by playing previous levels and even earning a higher grade. Higher grades do reward more money and such, and between missions, you can redo them from your current difficulty level to lower ones. The level of challenge also changes how much experience you get, so if you are on easy mode, you won’t gain much and have to grind more, if you wish to. On higher difficulties however, you gain more EXP. Still, this really doesn’t matter, as leveling up only affects HP slightly. The real thing you want to upgrade is the gun skill level, as the more kills you gain for a weapon, you also gain customization options to make them more powerful, thus doing more damage and opening more options.
One final note: Aya’s outfits. Yes, you gain outfits which either increase or decrease defense, and these can range from modest to revealing, and the more damage you take, your defense is weakened and her clothes are torn off, as well as making wounds visible. Not necessarily a bad addition, and it does make it more of an incentive to dodge attacks. However, the game’s stiff controls and incredibly hard difficulty make it damn near impossible. And it just serves to prove that Aya is nothing more than sex appeal in this game, and that’s not encouraging.
Overall, while it may not seem like it since I am not spoiling the story, and do admit that there are cool things about this game, this game is a mess. You may have fun with the music and graphics, maybe a few boss battles, but otherwise, it remains a bad game. I understand games can be seen in different opinions, as I do have a friend who loves this game’s story, but I just gotta ask: why? Every time I try to ask about this, I get a different answer trying to defend this game, and it fails horribly, and they refuse to see it. All I can say is do not pick up this game, especially if you are a Parasite Eve fan. Even if you are strangely perverted, don’t bother with this game. By the time you see the ending, you will feel bad for ever having such thoughts, or even playing this game for that matter.
If you are up for a gameplay challenge, maybe. I finished the game in 20 hours, but that was spent leveling up and finding more DNA. The game has about six chapters, and you can probably finish it in five hours. On that end, I can’t stop you. Story end, I can, because this story is absurdly bad, as if Square Enix did not even bother looking at Parasite Eve from the past!
The 3rd Birthday chugs out a 2 out of 5. Had the controls been smoother, and the customization much easier, I would grade this a 4, maybe a 3 at least. As it stands though, it is extremely bad, and as a growing fan of Parasite Eve, this is just betrayal. Not since Blue Dragon Awaken Shadow have I ever felt this way about a game. And that’s all I can say. If you want to know more about this story, do your own research, or wait until I review the other two Parasite Eve games. But trust me, you will feel dumber and confused for doing so.