It’s Her Party….
For fans of the decade-old Parasite Eve series, Square Enix’s upcoming survival horror/shooter The 3rd Birthday looks like the answer to a prayer. Developed by Hexadrive, makers of trippy rail shooter, Rez HD, the game is set “sometime in the distant future” and illustrates how a mob of monsters called “the Twisted” overrun Manhattan and come very near to driving humanity to extinction.
The game’s extended trailer starts with an oddly sedated-sounding narrator blithely explaining how the Twisted have nearly obliterated all life as we know it. The camera pans up the figure of a slim young girl sitting on a gritty urban street corner. Snow is falling and we see blood at her feet as the camera moves across her panting form; she’s injured and holds a gun wearily at her side while sirens blare in the distance.
She looks up as a flash appears in the street and the camera cuts to a view of New York City on December 24th, 2012. It’s midday, and the streets are full of people going about their business when a “powerful shock wave” announces the arrival of a “giant hive.” The hive is embodied by giant plantlike tentacles that burst through the street, flinging buildings and subway cars like so many cigarette butts. The voiceover continues, telling us about an investigative team called the CTI that’s risen to oppose the hive with its “Overdive” (no, that’s not a typo) system—which allows them to -Matrix-like – jack into a computer system and control the minds of other entities. We’re told the only viable candidate for this new system is blond femme fatale, Aya Brea. We then see in-game footage of an undershirt-wearing Aya firing shots Bruce Willis Die Hard-style, at various incarnations of the reptilian Twisted. The trailer ends with the cryptic message, “You’ll see her again. Come to the Babel in the red fog.” Nope, we don’t know what it means either.
What we do know is that while spontaneous combustion and mitochondria don’t appear to be the focus of The 3rd Birthday, the game does hearken back in other ways to the Parasite Eve series. For one thing, it stars seemingly ageless New York cop-turned FBI agent Aya Brea, and for another, catastrophic events in the game start on December 24th. Directed by Final Fantasy veteran, Motomu Toriyama, the game is said to be more of a shooter and less of an RPG, encouraging players to engage in combat with copious amounts of ammo and granting them the ability to direct the actions of their NPC allies. In keeping with Parasite Eve II, it also embraces a third person action format as opposed to the turn-based one of the first Parasite Eve and removes the often annoying random encounter mechanic.
Gameplay footage shown at the Tokyo Game Show shows Aya firing assault rifles, looking through a sniper score, using turrets, flying helicopters, and even calling in some serious ordinance in the fight against the Twisted. It also shows her exhibiting some seemingly super-heroish abilities, zooming around the screen in a speed-induced blur. Described as a spin-off rather than a sequel, the game’s selling point is its Overdive system that not only allows Aya to jump into the minds of her allies, but to literally blow the minds of the Twisted by jumping into theirs. And while the game footage seems to suggest a fairly straightforward shooter, the cutscenes and trailers released thus far by Square Enix, with their weird and dreamlike sequences, seem to hint at a much deeper and more complex storyline. After all, what in the sam hill does “The 3rd Birthday” mean?
Whatever it signifies, with Square Enix the driving force behind it, we’re sure the game’s story will be fascinating (if not labyrinthine) and no doubt the game will also look spectacular. And with any luck, developer Hexadrive will have contributed the shooter know-how needed to make the gameplay as compelling as the storyline and graphics. The 3rd Birthday was released in Japan on December 22nd, exclusively on PSP, but North American fans of the series will have to wait a bit longer—the game won’t hit U.S. shelves until some time next spring. For those of you who want to brush up on the series’ back story (and really, why wouldn’t you?) the original titles, Parasite Eve and Parasite Eve II are both set for re-release early next year on the Playstation Network.