The Third Birthday Revisited On The Vita – Under The Radar Review

Our Rating
out of 5.0

This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita.

Fans of the cult classic franchise Parasite Eve were shocked a couple of years ago to hear that the series would be receiving a third installment, not on the PlayStation 3, but on the PlayStation Portable instead.  To make matters worse, this new addition would be a third-person shooter instead of the 2.5D Survival Horror/RPG that the game’s predecessors were.  A 3PS game was almost a guaranteed “dead-in-the-water” experience for gamers on the portable console with the lack of a second analog stick, leaving the camera controls to be used by the D-pad (which made it virtually impossible to simultaneously move and look at the same time) or the right side buttons (which felt unnatural and clunky).  However, The 3rd Birthday is not only compatible with the PlayStation Vita and available for download, the ability to map the camera functions (which lie on the D-Pad) to the right analog stick open up the possibility of making this game a truly enjoyable experience.  So with that, we have decided to take another look at The 3rd Birthday and give it a full review on

Ten years have passed since the incident that took place in Parasite Eve II.  The mitochondrial entity known as Eve has been long-since defeated.  New York is rocked by a cataclysmic event in which giant stalks erupt from underground, destroying much of the city and parts of the harbor, including the Statue of Liberty.  From these unnatural structures, a new enemy emerges, known as the Twisted.  It quickly overwhelms the populous, killing everything in its path.

Two years later, the Counter-Twisted Investigation Unit (CTI) has enlisted the assistance of Aya Brea, who mysteriously has no memory of her life before, however she does have the ability to leave her body and possess (or as they refer to it, Overdive) the bodies of other individuals.  CTI develops the Overdive System, an apparatus that allows them to send Aya’s consciousness back in time to the events that took place on the day the Twisted arrived, in an attempt to change the past and defeat this new enemy.

The 3rd Birthday is a third-person action shooter with RPG elements.  You take on the persona of Aya Brea as she hits the Twisted-infested streets of New York to turn the tide of a war that’s being waged through time.  The combat system of The 3rd Birthday plays much like a third-person shooter, with a couple of interesting features.  The first is Aya’s ability to possess, or “Overdive,” into the bodies of soldiers or civilians in the immediate area.  Since Aya is moving her soul through the past and doesn’t herself have a corporeal form, she takes over the bodies of these people and controls their actions.  The bodies she possesses can be damaged, and if they die, her soul becomes lost forever; however, Aya can Overdive into someone else before this happens.

Gone are the mitochondrial powers Aya once possessed in the previous two games; instead her Overdive ability can be used as an offensive weapon as well.  As a Twisted takes damage, a triangular reticule will display on the baddie.  This indicates that the enemy is weakened, allowing Aya to quickly dive in and essentially explode them from the inside out.  Another available power is Liberation, which is an ability that charges over time as Aya kills more enemies.  This power, once unleashed, allows Aya to quickly dash across the battlefield, as well as focus her Parasite Energy (PE) into powerful energy shots that cause massive amounts of damage.  However, this power is time-limited and does not last for long, so use it sparingly.

In normal combat, Aya is able to direct the fire of her fellow soldiers using Crossfire.  Crossfire is performed by iron sighting (zooming in) on a given enemy and waiting for a gauge to fill up.  Once full, a quick tap of the right shoulder button will unleash a hail of fire from all living members of your team on the selected enemy.  This is an excellent way to quickly weaken a Twisted in order to Overdive into them for a spectacular kill that earns you plenty of experience and PE points, which we’ll discuss in a bit.

Aya also has the ability to cover in The 3rd Birthday.  Simply walk or run up to a barricade to duck down behind it.  However, unlike many other games that have a cover system, the Twisted can quickly destroy a barricade if you catch their attention.  Using cover in conjunction with Aya’s ability to jump into other friendlies will be your most commonly-used strategy in keeping the Twisted off balance – when cover works.  The cover system is not entirely accurate and you will sometimes encounter a problem where Aya won’t want to duck down.  She also has the ability to mantle over cover, much like you would in Gears of War.

Mapping the camera controls to the right analog stick took care of the biggest complaint about the game.  You now have the ability to look and move at the same time, saving you a lot of trouble in later levels when you’re dodging enemy fire from multiple directions while attempting to get a lock on a Twisted.  The only control complaint that stands is the fact that once you iron sight a target, you cannot keep moving to further avoid fire.

While The 3rd Birthday doesn’t have a “save anywhere” system, developer HexaDrive seemed to have realized the importance of being able to save often by putting in staging areas: rooms where you and your fellow soldiers can take a breather, load up on ammo, save your progress, and upgrade your weapons’ stats as well as Aya’s stats and abilities.

Aya has a massive collection of weapons that become gradually available to her as you progress through the game.  Weapons are divided into six categories: Handguns, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, Sniper Rifles, Launchers, and Special Weapons.  Most of the categories are self-explanatory.  Special Weapons encompass uncommon weapons like heavy machine guns, or (if you had a code to download the DLC), Lightning’s Blazefire Sabre (from Final Fantasy XIII).   Most of these weapons are capable of having certain attributes, such as ammo capacity, recoil, and power, upgraded to deal more damage to your foes.  Upgrades are unlocked in tech trees which become unlocked at a certain character level, and after the lower level upgrade has been purchased.

Aya’s own attributes can be upgraded through the Over Energy menus.  Whenever you perform an Overdive Kill, or Overdive into an enemy or a solider, you can acquire DNA boards which are displayed in the Over Energy menus.  These DNA boards are color-coded into five categories. Blue is the Passive category, which grants or boosts passive abilities such as damage resistance, increasing your chances of performing a critical shot, or becoming invincible for a short period of time.  The Liberation (Purple) category increases Aya’s rate of regenerating the Liberation gauge, energy shot power, or inferno powers.  Overdive (Orange) increases healing and resistances to poison and other effects.  Overdive Kill (Yellow) increases the power of your Overdive Kill. Finally, Malignant (Red) attributes harm Aya by slowing her down or reducing the rate of other attributes.  These are caused by side effects related to manipulating your DNA.  The DNA board is a series of nine slots in a 3×3 grid.  Each fragment (or OE chip) comes in slots of two or three, either vertically or horizontally.  When placed on the board, the OE chip’s attributes are applied to Aya.  If they overlap an already occupied slot, the two competing DNA fragments will merge with a random outcome.  If the outcome is not desirable, you can retry the process until you get an outcome that is acceptable to you.

Also upgradeable, or rather changeable, are Aya’s outfits.  These outfits can increase or decrease her damage resistance, although for the most part they are merely aesthetic.  Most outfits are unlocked by beating the game a certain number of times.  Her two standard outfits contain a pair of jeans and a sleeveless black leather top, with White Eider adding a winter coat.  Unlockable outfits range from business suits and full suits of armor, to swimwear and a Santa outfit… yeah.  Adding to the effect, damage taken by the outfit is reflected as the ensemble becomes shredded (and subsequently more revealing) over time to alert you that Aya herself is taking more damage.  All of the outfits are repairable at your staging areas through the main menu… if that’s what you choose to do.

From a story perspective, you have everything the original Parasite Eve games had, with the addition of voice acting.  The 3rd Birthday, for the most part, is translated well from the original Japanese script, so conversations aren’t broken and make sense.  Yvonne Strahovski (who also portrays Miranda Lawson in the Mass Effect series) does a good job with the script she’s handed.  Unfortunately, the Aya Brea portrayed in The 3rd Birthday isn’t as strong of a character as the previous games.  In the original Parasite Eve, Aya was a rookie NYPD cop who chased down ten-foot-tall monsters while waving a badge and a gun, whereas in The 3rd Birthday she seems more meek, fragile and soft spoken.  While the reason behind this is explained later in the story and is in part due to her memory loss, it doesn’t feel like the Aya that we all grew up with in the late 90s.

The 3rd Birthday was always a graphically gorgeous game, but this is even more so on the PlayStation Vita’s 5-inch OLED screen.  Enabling the Bi-Linear Filtering and Color Space options on the PlayStation Vita does a remarkable job of stepping up the game’s look to match the higher resolution.  While on the first play through the game looked a bit grainy, enabling these options cleaned it up significantly to make it look as though The 3rd Birthday was made for the Vita.  Cutscenes are beautiful, with facial animations conveying emotions nicely, while the in-game graphics for a PSP game are detailed and colorful, making the game an enjoyable experience all around.  It’s hard to expect anything less when a name like Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts) is tied in as one of the game’s artists.

Yoko Shimomura returns to the Parasite Eve universe as well as one of the composers on The 3rd Birthday.  Her work on the original game offered a score that resonated with first time players.  Her updated rendition of the Parasite Eve theme for T3B is even more enjoyable than the original, bringing it out of the cold, dark days of MIDI and into the modern light.  Shimomura most definitely hasn’t lost her touch with conveying emotion with music, as every tone fits the moments you encounter them beautifully.

Overall, The 3rd Birthday was a game that simply wasn’t given enough credit when it launched a year ago.  Bringing it to market as a third-person shooter on a system that could be considered by many to be a place where shooter games go to die didn’t help matters either.  However, after returning to this game on a system that’s able to give it the recognition it deserves for solid gameplay mechanics and a deep and involving story, it’s easy to say that The 3rd Birthday is worth revisiting on the PlayStation Vita.

The 3rd Birthday receives a 4.5/5.

***EDITOR’S NOTE*** Thanks to Gray Snake for the corrections regarding Yoko Shimomura!

Our Rating
out of 5.0

About This Post

March 2, 2012 - 8:30 am