Action-RPG Parasite Eve is a favorite of mine, as its wintry New York setting and bizarro sci-fi tale spoke directly to my tastes. So upon hearing its new PSP iteration, The Third Birthday, would be a third-person shooter I couldn’t help but fret. Square Enix’ last notable shooter was Dirge of Cerberus for the PS2. Yeah.
After some time with Aya Brea’s new adventure at a Sony video game showcase in NYC yesterday, I can shed my fears slightly. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I wasn’t underwhelmed either. I managed to jump into the game and get used to the controls immediately. They’re very easy, simpler than Peace Walker or Monster Hunter, though similar to both.
The right shoulder button locks on to enemies, eliminating the need to mess with the D-pad, which controls the camera, most of the time. When I did claw my finger up to control both the camera and the analog nub that moves Aya, the camera moved a little too slowly for me. Unfortunately, there were no options in the menu to alleviate that, leaving me to rely on the R-button lock-on to switch the camera around. Peace Walker and its millions of options spoiled me so.
I suppose its combat did too, as there wasn’t much to fighting besides locking on to the same two or three monsters over and over and draining their HP with machine gun fire. There was a little variety in weapon choice — a powerful, satisfying handgun and a more powerful, satisfying shotgun — but they all did the same basic thing. There’s a dedicated grenade button (the Circle button), though I didn’t see them do much more damage to enemies. Apparently there are no melee weapons in the game, even though due to a costume-changing mechanic, Aya can effectively turn into Final Fantasy XIII‘s Lightning complete with the use of her gunblade. No slicing and dicing, just more shooting.
Which would get a little tiresome if that’s all there was. When Aya’s low on life she can “dive” into other people around her to take them over and continue the fight. I did this a few times throughout the demo to save Aya’s bacon and it was easily the most thrilling aspect of the game. It’s an intriguing prospect, figuring out the best way to set up a whole team around a level full of nasty enemies. I can imagine some memorable boss fights could come out of 3rd Birthday. But, the boss fight at the end of the demo was hardly a fight — Aya had to run away from an unkillable creature, “diving” past barriers into other people to avoid being killed.
Which means all the people she dived in and out of got eviscerated! Sacrificing countless mooks as a result of diving in and out of them ought to take a toll on poor Aya’s psyche. Cutscenes were in Japanese, so I couldn’t gauge whether or not she was feeling guilty, and I didn’t get a lick of the sound for that matter, due to loud surroundings and lack of headphones. Shame, too, I love what I’ve heard of Yoko Shimomura’s piano-charged soundtrack in the trailers.
I also love love love the visuals. I know Square Enix games are always the prettiest girls at the ball, but next to Peace Walker and Monster Hunter, 3rd Birthday has really got to be the best-looking game on PSP. Which gets me thinking: this is probably the first game in the Sony handheld’s final gasp of worthwhile titles, isn’t it?
Well, it ought to be a good one. Or interesting at least. Yeah, The 3rd Birthday‘s interesting. There were no RPG elements or any of the weapon customization of the previous games in the demo, though I was promised they would be there in the final game, which is out in Japan in a few weeks. Once it’s out there, a lot more info about what the game’s really like ought to spill out onto the Net. Meanwhile, I look forward to The 3rd Birthday even more now that I got a taste. Just look at that trailer below. Confounding time travel narrative aside, that looks like a game I want to
wrap my tentacles around sink my teeth into.