Players expecting The 3rd Birthday to recall the tense PE-managing mechanics of its decade-old inspiration are likely to be disappointed. Beyond the return of the Aya Brea and a handful of references to events, people, and places, Birthday purposefully distances itself from its Parasite Eve linage. Whether this is due to lapsed IP rights (the original games were based on the 1995 novel of the same name) or that the developers at HexaDrive wanted a fresh start is unknown. However, what the title does unambiguously articulate is the advantage a single, clever design decision.
That mechanic is known as ‘Overdive’, and it allows Aya to step into the skin of any friendly in the adjacent vicinity with the press of the triangle button. Taking over another body has a number of key tactical advantages, from setting up shared ballistic assaults called ‘crossfires’, to transferring into a skin with a higher HP reserve. Curiously, Aya can even retain part of her arsenal when shifting skins, embedding the title with a modicum of ammo management. Players can sporadically jump into stunned foes, exterminating an enemy from within. For gamers accustomed to more pedestrian FPS conventions, rapid changes in perspective when shifting about can occasionally be disorienting. Yet, players who have the perseverance to master overdive can be formidable killing machines.
While 3rd Birthday‘s control scheme is designed to make the most of the PSP’s constricted control methods, a few problems arise during combat. Although the developers rely on a liberal amount of auto-aim during the title’s firefights, once enemies increase in quantity or speed, precision becomes a scarce commodity. Both changing targets and moving the camera are mapped to the directional-pad, forcing a player’s hand off the analog nub used to move Aya.
Additional assistance can be found in the title’s rich customization component. Killing the game’s antagonists and completing levels rewards player with Bounty Points, which can used to enhance or augment your loadout. With six types of upgradable arms- ranging from pistols, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles, grenade launchers, and special weapons, Birthday delivers a gratifying tech-tree of offensive firepower. Similarly, Over Energy chips allow players to tweak with DNA, providing buffs such as increased shot power, health regeneration, or an increased defense.
While the title’s storyline is initially attention grabbing, with an enigmatic threat which engulfs New York City. However, a dependence on amnesia, time-travel, and keeping the story excessively ambiguous likely means players will travel from one stage to the next without a clear grasp of the game’s events. Seemingly, the ‘overdive’ mechanic has also been contextualized to Birthday‘s plotline. Despite the narrative haziness, the game’s cinematics are rendered with pixel-sharp clarity, and a consistently pleasing. Likewise, the title’s in-game graphics are impressive, with deftly dithered backgrounds which capture 3rd Birthday‘s dark vibe. For better or worse, fastidious dedication was applied to Aya’s character model, whose clothes tear provocatively as she takes damage. Regretfully, more attention was devoted to rendering the heroine’s left ass cheek, then creating a personality which complemented the pathos of the game.
The 3rd Birthday works best when players are battling a seemingly insurmountable foe- frantically shifting bodies to find the sniper capable of dispensing the final, killing blow. Although this type of approach will dishearten fans eager for a methodical Parasite Eve epilogue, for action game admirers, The 3rd Birthday may be an event worthy of your presence and patience.