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Published on April 13th, 2011 | by Craig Schorling, Editor

The 3rd Birthday Review

System: PlayStation Portable (PSP)
Developer:  HexaDrive
MSRP:  $29.99

As I write this review for The 3rd Birthday it is with contrasting feelings and emotions.  As a gamer, I grew up loving and eagerly anticipating the release of the next Square Enix game.  Recently however, the caliber and quality of their product has declined drastically.  Final Fantasy XIII was a tremendous letdown and Final Fantasy XIV is on indefinite hiatus.  Kingdom Hearts 3 is but a whisper in time at this point and not much in the way of innovation has come from this once juggernaut of a company.  When I heard that a new Parasite Eve game would be coming to the PlayStation Portable system (PSP) I was a bit skeptical.  The first Parasite Eve game for the original PlayStation is one of my favorite games of all time and in my opinion a very underappreciated title.  Wanting to feel a bit of gaming nostalgia I decided to try out the newest installment to the franchise.

The 3rd Birthday is a solid game and a title that both newcomers to the series and old school fans alike will appreciate and enjoy. Some old characters are back and new ones are introduced.  Backstory is available for newcomers to the series in order to help fill in the gaps as well.

The story in The 3rd Birthday is a solid one and one that is filled with memorable moments and twists that will keep the gamer engaged.  There are some story telling devices that I do not like to see in any game, which involve relying on optional reading of data logs to get all of the details.  I believe that if a story element is important enough you should tell the gamer in the game itself and not tack it on the side so to speak.  We do not go to a movie with the intent of reading a program during the movie to fill us in and we should not expect games to do the same.  That being said, there is a good story to be found in The 3rd Birthday that will please almost all who pick this title up.

If there is one thing that you can count on from a Square Enix title it is cutting edge visuals.  This release is no exception.  The rendered cut scenes in the game are some of the best that the PSP has to offer and the in game visuals are equally impressive.  The game does suffer from bland and repetitive backdrops at times but the quality of the visuals is constantly there and adds to the overall enjoyment of the game.

The backbone of The 3rd Birthday is its gameplay and mechanics.  The blend of RPG and 3rd-person action shooter is very well done.  As you play you earn points that you can use to customize, upgrade, and buy new weapons along with repair your gear.  The more you use particular weapons the more that they will level up, thus opening more in the way of upgrades and attachments.  It is thoroughly rewarding to turn a basic machine gun and turn it into an instrument of pure death and destruction.

Another interesting mechanic is the use of DNA.  As you play you pick up new DNA combinations that you can equip to your DNA board.  This gives the player perks in the field of battle and allows for some very interesting combinations.  A good deal of strategy is involved as you progress as some DNA combinations have positive and negative effects.

There is a Final Fantasy Tactics feel to this game in the way that you can control the other soldiers around you in battle.  At any given time you can enter the body of another soldier, which instantly gives you access to their weapons and health.  By being creative and thinking ahead you can position your comrades in very spread out, strategic locations to aid you in battle.  This can mean the difference between life and death at times.

There is also an “Overdrive” mode that serves somewhat as a limit break that allows you to deal out massive amounts of damage to an enemy.  Hitting the correct button once you have dealt enough damage to an enemy triggers these events.  When all of these elements are mixed together in can create for some very unique game play experiences and allows for the gamer to play to their own personal style.

As good as the gameplay mechanics are in The 3rd Birthday, the controls are equally well laid out.  Everything seems to flow and feel natural as you play.  The buttons are utilized in a way that the player has easy access to almost everything that they need.  There are limitations that present themselves but that falls victim mainly to the PSP itself and not the developer.  There is only so much that can be accomplished with the use of one analogue stick and the team at HexaDrive has made a worthy effort where many have failed.  One major gripe that I have with the game is the camera controls.  To manually change the camera the player must use the directional pad, which is incredibly awkward to do in the midst of battle.  The auto target feature aids a lot during the early stages or when there are few enemies on screen but once enemies become stronger, faster and more abundant some severe issues begin to present themselves.

The sound in the game is good but nothing amazing.  The music, at times, can really enhance the mood but at other times in becomes the same tune over and over again.  The voice acting is in and out with some segments being decent and others being almost unbearable.  I was hoping for a little bit more in this department but all in all it could be worse.

Final Truth:

The 3rd Birthday is a game that any fan of Parasite Eve will be pleased with and anyone looking for a good solid gaming experience of the PSP should pick up.  The game play is fun and at times can be epic.  The amount of customization is rather robust for a handheld and if you are up for the challenge there is a good deal to unlock.  It is good to see that Square Enix still has the potential to release some quality games and I can still hope for an upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3.

[xrr label=”Rating: 7.0/10″ rating=7.0/10]

+ Great visuals.
+ Fun combat and customization features.
+ Solid control scheme.
Camera controls can be a downright disaster at times.
Voice and sound are mediocre and inconsistent.

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