|Dev: Square Enix/ Hexadrive|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence|
by Steve Haske
After waiting eleven years for a sequel to Parasite Eve II, The 3rd Birthday is not exactly the game I was expecting. That's a hard sentence for me to write—the weight of my personal history with Parasite Eve alone almost betrays my hand. I've long grown used to Japanese developers' penchant for paper-thin-psycho-anime-style sci-fi storylines in games, and learned to take them with a grain of salt.
And yet T3B's narrative is so nonsensical and uneven it leaves me at a loss for words. It almost feels more like a side-story than a true Parasite Eve 3. Aya's character is more or less completely different, as are the world, the characters, and the game's design, and the slowly unraveling narrative feels disconnected, almost jarringly so at times. Though the game has its reasons and it begins to resemble the sequel to PE II that it actually is by the end, fans looking for a linear progression in the same vein of the first two games will most likely be disappointed with T3B's fragmentary progression. Basically it has the designs to be a sprawling epic narrative, but is generally undermined every step of the way, making it hard to ever connect with anything that's going on. I don't remember the last time a game continually jerked me around from "Oh, that kind of makes sense," to "WTF?" and back again so many times, but so it is with The 3rd Birthday.
However, let me be clear: I am not saying that I don't enjoy T3B. It's still a fun game. Its execution just leaves something to be desired. As it stands, the game plays sort of like Resident Evil 4, only with an auto-aim button and an interesting body-snatching mechanic ripped from Prototype (or Square's own Mindjack, if you prefer). Essentially Manhattan has been laid to waste by mutated species called the Twisted, and Aya, a member of a government counter-insurgence agency created to deal with the problem, has to leap back in time in order to prevent certain future events from happening using an ability called Overdive. Overdive doesn't actually send Aya back to the past, but rather sends her consciousness there, temporarily inhabiting the body of whoever she's possessing at the moment. This makes up the basis of combat: Aya can overdive at any time into any adjacent NPC, which can give translate into an advantage in battle, given that when you overdive you inherit that NPC's health, weaponry, and vantage point. Overdiving into enemies is Aya's other major skill, which implodes them from inside before sending Aya's consciousness back to the last NPC she was in.
What works well with overdive is how Square hasn't skimped on its usage. The Twisted are quick and agile, and often attack in large groups—in fact game battles get so intense that if you're not constantly on your toes, you can easily die in a matter of seconds. Make no mistake, even on normal difficulty T3B requires a lot from its players, and expects you to pick up the mechanics of battle quickly with what at first appears to be a relatively steep learning curve. However, overdive is always key. By quickly jumping from ally to ally (generally the only NPCs you find are military personnel brought it to deal with the monsters), you can maintain distance between you and your target, something that becomes absolutely essential in the latter half of the game. You may often find yourself using soldiers as bait for monsters before leaping out and attacking the Twisted from behind, which despite its moral dubiousness, is a handy tactic to employ in certain cases. Still, the game is highly challenging—almost unfairly so at times, given certain situations with respawning enemy points, not to mention all the game's action taking place in real-time—so if you're expecting an easy time of things, you're going to have your hands full here.