THE THIRD BIRTHDAY / Square-Enix / Sony PSP
 
 
The 3rd Birthday has two major problems. The first is that it's simply trying to be an FPS on a system that's one of the most ill-suited for the genre. To cope with its limitations, you face only two or three enemies at a time, large durable monsters with ridiculous life bars that you have to tediously plink away at using clumsy, over-complicated controls. All of this force-fed to you by a tutorial that roundly sucks.

The other problem is that it's one of those properties that lay dormant for a decade, and when it was finally pulled out of the closet and dusted off, it was in the hands of an all-new team that really didn't know what to do with it. There seems to be no other vision at work here other than "Huh, we have this old Parasite Eve IP laying around. Nerds seemed to fap to the chick in it, so let's slap together some game where she has destructable clothing and see if we can make at least a few dollars on the deal."

Heroine Aya Brea is back in New York for some reason, even though she set up shop in L.A. in the previous game. Manhattan has been suddenly raped by tentacles, and Monstar Appear, so Aya and some all-new team of government wankers are on the case. Since the last game, they've developed the technology to both time-travel back to the past, and also to possess the bodies of soldiers therein. As to the hows and whys of this plan's intricate workings and how they make any fucking sense at all, you'll just have to repeat yourself "It's just a game I got on the bargain bin for $5, I should really just relax" because it just gets more confusing and poorly written as it goes along, compounded by an Engrishy localization.
 


The very first game was an action-RPG more heavily leaning toward the RPG aspect, the second game transitioned to more of a traditional "survival horror" style while still retaining very minor RPG trappings. For this third game, pretty much all RPG influence has been tossed right out the window in favor of non-stop 3rd-person dudebro shooting interrupted only by the Metal Gear wanna-be cutscenes. It looks quite nice for a PSP game, but that's about where it's ability to impress ends. Plunking away at the same repetitive spawn-in enemies until you get an "overdrive damage" cue is incredibly boring. You'd think jumping around between soldiers would spice things up a bit, but they're all so samey it really just feels like regenerating health and teleporting to a new position than jumping between different characters. Part of this is due to the fact that when you're in a soldier's body, rather than seeing yourself as their character model, you just constantly see Aya's character model, so the game could pimp its pathetically pervy "clothing damage" system - Aya gradually gets stripped down to bra and panties as you get shot up. The bigger boss battles are the only place where the mechanics begin to realize their potential, but those are few and far between.

Ultimately, the 3rd Birthday doesn't work for anybody, save maybe nerds with a hardcore clothing damage fetish. Fans of the series will be disappointed by the crap writing, Aya's sexualization and the "you'll want to protect her!" treatment given her character (as well as an absolutely atrocious final twist that buries the series for good.) Those intrigued by the hybrid RPG nature of the previous games will be disappointed to find that aspect almost entirely stripped out here. Dudebros will just find it to be a repetitive shooter with a clunky camera. I don't know who the target audience for this really was, and I'm not sure the devs ever knew at any point in the process either.
 
 
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