|Dev: Square Enix/ Hexadrive|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: March 29, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Blood, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Violence|
Luckily Aya has a few RPG tricks up her sleeves, though. Weapon customization is back, but Aya also has a gene grid that can be used to unlock and level up abilities like regenerating health for both the player and NPCs, attack up, crossfire (a group attack that focuses all NPC energy on a single target), and other offensive and defensive measure. It's not quite magic, and if you're expecting a wide variety of cellular special abilities, you're again going to be disappointed, though like its predecessors T3B seem to be a game that demands replays before you can make use of a lot of its deeper strategies. However, once you're leveled up a bit and can clear a room of Twisted (who often have really high health meters) in a matter of minutes, it's deeply satisfying.
Square still seems to be hurting for focus to some degree, as a lot of the things I mentioned above I had to either figure out on my own or simply were almost too buried to really be accessible. It took three or four hours to get the hang of how and when to use overdive as well as getting used to the pace of combat (only MercurySteam's Castlevania has kept me as vigilant in battle in the past several years). Aya's gene upgrade system has no tutorial that I could find, though if you've played enough RPGs you can figure it out without too many problems—that being said, it still feels buried underneath T3B's overlying action game shell. I'm not ever one to advocate handholding in games, but there are few times where at least a little more direction would have been helpful. In some ways the lack of direction makes T3B feel like a throwback, while in others it just comes off as unfocused. You may have to fight a little to really enjoy the game to its fullest extent.
On other hand, T3B may be the most gorgeous PSP game I've seen yet, with only Peace Walker giving it a run for its money; Yoko Shimomura's beautiful soundtrack is the perfect blend of old and new motifs; the action, once you get the hang of it, is mostly a lot of fun, give or take a few ridiculously unfair scenarios. Even the real-time damage to Aya's costumes, needlessly sexist almost to the point of parody, are a nice touch, since you have to repair them in order for any given outfit to perform at top defense (a notion I had to learn the hard way on more than a few occasions). The 3rd Birthday is undoubtedly a hot mess, but if fans can look past its flaws, there good game lurking somewhere beneath its surface, waiting to be enjoyed. Well, as long as you're not looking for Parasite Eve 3.
CCC Freelance Writer