TGS 2010 - The 3rd Birthday Hands-On Impressions

In September, I attended Tokyo Game Show 2010 as press. These previews were originally posted at criticalgamer and my blog over at 1UP.

Square-Enix are returning to the Parasite Eve canon in the form of The 3rd Birthday on the PSP. A spin-off of sorts, it's a third person over the shoulder shooter set in the near future, featuring our familiar heroine, Aya Brea. The 3rd Birthday was one of the most impressive portable demos on show at TGS, looking and controlling great on Sony's portable.

The demo is situated in a desolate city overrun with the Twisted, strange organic creatures, all spikes and tentacles. Doing away with the Twisted isn't particularly challenging as the R button provides a convenient lock-on feature, and an automatic cover system allows for simple duck, pop and shoot progression. The difficulty was amped up slightly for the larger bosses but they aren't really a match for Aya. And just for the record, I didn't notice the lead's jeans wearing away as she took damage, though I trust it's in there somewhere.

Despite a linear urban setting, Aya is able to traverse the streets and roof tops, eventually ending up in a helicopter to provide a spot of cover for her beleaguered allies. The weapons are mapped out to the analogue buttons, and it quickly becomes apparent which ones suit which situations best. At one point you are ducking behind barricades firing off your machine gun while the next you are providing sniper cover from up high. There was a good range of equipment on offer, though the demo could be completed quite easily without relying on anything but the standard machine gun.

Aya's main tool in felling the Twisted is her Overdrive ability, which sees her teleport from one area of the map to the other, by swiftly inhabiting the body of another NPC, be they civilian or military. This is achieved with a quick press of the triangle button and is accompanied by a red mist and a moan from the displaced ally who then occupies the space in which you previously resided. By doing this, you inherit your new hosts weapons, ammo and health. This system encourages you to tackle each section tactically, enabling you to outflank enemies, get yourself in or out of the action, or achieve a better line of sight to snipe a rampaging monster. The other option is to utilize Overdrive mode to escape danger, removing you from harms reach but sacrificing a comrade in the process. Finally, by following an on screen prompt, it can be used to finish off a wounded enemy as Aya overwhelms the creature and it explodes with a satisfying splat. From what the demo showed, we can expect Overdrive to play an increasingly vital role as the game progresses and the levels become more challenging.

Desperately fighting your way through swathes of the Twisted, The 3rd Birthday comes across as darker and more violent than previous Square-Enix PSP titles. Throughout the demo and impressive cut scenes, our heroine is shown as distressed and invariably in pain, resolute in her struggle with the Twisted menace. Via flashbacks, the pre- demo cut scenes hinted at a story line surrounding a possible younger sister and Aya's struggle to protect and/or reclaim her.

The 3rd Birthday looks extremely promising, but with a yet to be announced Western release date (due 22/12/10 in Japan), we will have to wait a while before we can enjoy the experience in full.


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