Reviewed: April 14, 2011
Released: March 29, 2011
Square Enix is famous for making incredible games that I never finish. Either too time-consuming, too difficult, or a combination of both, I can count the number of Final Fantasy games Iíve finished on three fingers (even though Iíve played them all since FFV), and while Parasite Eve remains as one of my most treasured memories of my PS2 gaming days, Iíll be damned if I could ever beat that final chapter and boss. |
Itís been a long time since the original Parasite Eve and now Square Enix is resurrecting the franchise with a long-awaited sequel, [The 3rd Birthday]. I had my doubts about how accessible this game would be given the time since the first game and the fact I never played the second, but thankfully, this game stands on its own, both for story and gameplay with a heavy dose of third-person action and a robust RPG system, and plenty of slick references for diehard fans of the series.
Always count on Square Enix for an amazing CG opening, even on the PSP. I was speechless as I watched New York City succumb to what we later learn is called Babel, these giant tentacles that spring from the ground spawning all sorts of evil creatures known as The Twisted. We then jump to the future where we meet up with Aya Brea, who will be time-traveling back to the time when Babel first appeared to try and stop the infestation. Once there she can use her Overdrive ability to temporarily possess any of the inhabitants Ė a very cool mechanic that will quickly replace reloading or switching weapons. Run out of bulletsÖyou just Overdrive into the nearest soldier for new guns and ammo and a new perspective on the battle.
Overdrive can be a tactical advantage as well. You can warp to a solider on a high perch for a sniper shot or warp back and forth to flank an enemy. You can even possess a soldier and move him to a new location, setting up any battle like a chess board. You can then order all your nearby comrades to fire on your chosen target for massive damage.
An RPG stat system is in place to upgrade abilities and weapons. There are numerous weapons that will be added to your growing arsenal as the game progresses and with all sorts of active and passive abilities, it can be hard to know what to buy or when to buy it. There are safe zones scattered about the game and you can reconfigure at the end of each mission as well when you unlock new weapons.
The one downside to The 3rd Birthday is that the RPG elements are pretty much mandatory. There is no auto-select or best choice option, so if you donít like all this behind the scenes management this probably isnít the shooter for you. It is easy enough to just blindly click on weapons and abilities and pummel your way through the game, but youíll still have to invest the time in these setup screens. Even more annoying is that even after you reconfigure, you still have to find a save spot or all those upgrades will be lost if you happen to die, and you get to do it all over again.
As with any Square game there is a ton of content, both in back story and ongoing mission briefings. With the exception of a few major story points that feature full CG movies you can expect to be reading a lot of textÖat least if you want to know whatís going on. Itís nice to see such a robust story-based RPG on the PSP but I wish the font was a little easier on the eyes. I have to admit I was surprised just how well this game played on the PSP. It clearly would have been better with dual sticks but the designers worked out a great control scheme as well as a snap-to-cover system and an intuitive target-lock and manual aiming ability. In all but the most overwhelming of encounters I had no real issues with combat.
The PSP rocks an amazing presentation value with cutscenes that would impress the PS3 crowd and gameplay graphics that look better than anything else Iíve played this year on the system. The third-person view works great allowing for fluid combat and the ability to appreciate the detailed level design and character animation. Bosses are epically huge and reminded me of those old-school Square Enix titles. Lighting, shadows, and special effects have to be seen to be believed. The boss fight in the nightclub is a great example and will blow your mind.
As far as audio, youíll definitely want to use some headphones to appreciate the technical quality. Voice acting varies on a character by character basis. Some is really good and some will make you glad you get to read as much as you do. Music and sound effects are awesome and totally enhance the gameplay.
Expect 15-20 hours of gameplay just to get through the game and thatís not including any replays for secrets, alternate paths, or checking out any of the secrets or unlocks. The 3rd Birthday rivals a lot of console action-RPGís these days, and while it probably would have played better and received a wider audience on the PS3, I have to commend Square Enix for publishing a fantastic sequel and an exceptional gameplay experience on the PSP that any fan of the genre or the series should definitely check out.