The 3rd Birthday is rife with things that don’t make any sense. The story is all over the place, the RPG elements are nearly non-existent, the genre (third person shooter) typically does poorly on the PSP so it has been dumbed down to the point of removing any trace of challenge and, when taken altogether, the entire package does not feel like a part of the generally high-quality Square Enix library.
The 3rd Birthday is not a Parasite Eve game in either name or mechanics. Horror is traded for quick easy fights, and Aya, since she was sent back in time and is able to trade whose mind she inhabits at will, is nearly invincible. If you’re running low on health just jump to another ally a la Mindjack. While the concept is just as interesting here as it was there it realistically only serves to lower the difficulty and make moving through the battlefield ridiculously simple.
Shooters tend to do poorly on the PSP for a very simple reason. The device is not designed for a player to control the camera, the character, and the character’s gun simultaneously. The absence of a second analog input makes everything harder than in should be because when you move camera control to the shoulder buttons you’ve lost the natural location for a trigger, and when you move camera control to the directional pad you insist that the player perform to vital functions with his left thumb. Games like Killzone: Resistance manage to avoid these problems by moving to an isometric perspective which delivers a great and unique gameplay experience. The 3rd Birthday, on the other hand, just has its difficulty ratcheted down to make up for the PSP’s lack of inputs.
This, obviously, takes away from the atmosphere. You move through the bland environments in this fashion for 10 hours. Move forward, lock on to an enemy, unload a clip into it, take cover. Remove lock-on and you have a good formula. Gears of War has been using it successfully for years, but it has some other things going for it. Weapons feel different and are useful in different situations, and moving from cover to cover is vital to keeping your guy alive. The 3rd Birthday‘s difficulty level negates cover, and whatever weapon you have equipped will do the job since you can lock on and be guaranteed that your shots are connecting with their intended target.
Parasite Eve is a series that deserves to be revisited lovingly, and I hope that someday it gets the revival it deserves.
Pros: Battles start and end quickly
Cons: Combat is astoundingly easy, RPG elements are overly light and not taken advantage of, the game’s difficulty is low to compensate for the PSP’s control setup