Review: The 3rd Birthday (2011) (PSP)

The following is a review of The 3rd Birthday for the PlayStation Portable.

Fairly incomprehensible story, but wonderful game play

Way back in 2005 I found a copy of Parasite Eve. While I tried playing through the game shortly after, it wasn’t until many years later that I actually started and finished the game (twice). I also happened to come upon a copy of Parasite Eve 2, but outside of a very little bit of play (less than an hour), I never really got into the game.

When I heard about The 3rd Birthday I was initially very interested in the game. However, the more I heard about it the more I was worried that they had changed the direction of the series. As it finally hit the U.S. and more people were able to play it, people that had played and enjoyed the Parasite Eve games generallly didn’t like the direction it went. So I knew that if I was going to enjoy the game I’d have to remember not to think of it as Parasite Eve 3.

I had played the demo very briefly, so I wasn’t too worried about the controls, so once the price dropped on the electronic version of this game, I went ahead and picked up a copy.

Given that I don’t play many games on my PSP, and especially given that I don’t play many games of this time, my first play through of the game was on easy difficulty. Including replaying some levels multiple times, it took me 9 hours and 53 minutes to finish the game, over the course of about a week. Had I skipped replaying certain levels (which I could have done - more on this in a moment) it would have taken a couple hours less.

The story is, quite frankly, a bit of a mess. It starts to get clear as things progress, but there are rather significant plot holes. And this is definitely not the Aya Brea of the Parasite Eve series. It sounds like if I had played Parasite Eve 2 things would have been slightly clearer (knowing who a few characters are), but fans of the series seem to generally think there’s wide holes in the story.

Fortunately, that does nothing to take away from the gameplay experience.

The game is a shooter, generally third-person behind, with the exception of a few vehicles you can use. Again, excluding during the use of vehicles, at any one time you can have access to between 3 and 4 weapons, two of which you can choose, and 3 of which you can customize to your liking. The fourth weapon is specific to the circumstances, and generally some choice of which weapon you have is available.

The game plays rather quick, but in many areas you can’t survive by just shooting your way through. Instead you’ll have to choose the right weapon for the job, and make use of cover and evasion.

You can also equip clothing - two at first, with the rest coming after your first game is complete - and special skills. For the latter you have a 3-by-3 grid on which you can place ‘strands’ of skills, which each strand filling 1 to 3 slots, either horizontally or vertically. You can have one skill multiple times on the board, but only if they’re right next to each other does the skill level stack. It might sound complex, but it’s actually rather easy.

The 3rd Birthday also features RPG elements in that you can level up both your character, weapons, and weapon proficiencies (allowing access to more weapon upgrades).

The game is broken up into episodes, which contain chapters, or areas. Generally the chapters have certain feats that you can optionally complete which will unlock extra weapons or parts. Going through normally, I probably got 20-25% of these. You can see what all the feats are after you’ve finished the areas, and replay with this extra information in mind. You can also improve your rank, but by itself that doesn’t really unlock much (just more points to unlock weapons and parts).

I found myself replaying certain areas again to fill smaller periods of time, so the game was certainly enjoyable. The story wasn’t that good, but I came into the game expecting it to pretty bad. Since I intend on playing through the game again on a higher difficulty (and perhaps again after that), I give The 3rd Birthday 4 of 5 stars. If the replay value wasn’t high, it would only get 3 of 5 stars.