While The 3rd Birthday may be the third game in the Parasite Eve series, this action game has been described as a spin-off, with significant enough changes from the previous games to garner a new title. At the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, Square Enix released a new trailer and had a playable demo of The 3rd Birthday, where we could step into the shoes of Aya Brea (and others) to get a feel for how the game plays.
The protagonist, Aya, is a CTI special agent in New York City who has the unique ability to use a system called "overdrive," which allows her to inhabit the body of someone else. The demo set us up in Episode One: The Past, where Aya is at a dance club right before an attack. It is December 24, 2012, and the enemy is known as the Twisted, an organic life-form that seems to spawn out of portals and come up from underground. Once the club cleared out, we were thrust into what seemed like a boss battle with one of the grotesque creatures from the trailer. At a glance, it looked like an overgrown piranha, but with long tentacles and a huge mouth that shoots harmful, spiked explosives.
Thankfully, there are well-placed barricades in front of the stage during the fight, which you can press up against to shield yourself from harm. The cover system works automatically, and you can leap over barriers with the X button. Aya heals over time, so seeking out shelter gives you time to regenerate before jumping out again. By holding the R button, you'll automatically lock on to any enemy in the room. No aiming is required as you dump your ammunition rounds with the square button. You're equipped with grenades and four weapons, which you can switch between using the L button and the face buttons to select.
The controls are easy once you realize which buttons to press (our instructions were in Japanese). With the lock-on, it's pretty hard to miss the target, unless you have something in your way. On top of the cover system, Aya is extremely agile; she has the ability to flip and dodge gracefully out of the way with the X button. After defeating the hideous monster, we headed toward the backstage area and had to clear out more misshapen creatures. We weren't alone, however. There were soldiers with us that looked like they were part of the National Guard. When we reached the hotel lobby, we regrouped with more soldiers and pressed on. Not all of them made it though, and one thing to note about the enemy is that it spits some kind of strange acid that burns and eats away at your flesh until you explode. The creatures themselves also burst into a gooey mess once you take them down, so we made a point to keep our distance.
We didn't have a lot of time before we were ushered out of the demo, but we did get a chance to play with the linkage system, which lets Aya transport herself into the body of a nearby teammate and use that person's weapons. This is convenient when you're low on health or ammo, and we're sure that this will be used a lot more often later in the game. Based on what we gathered from the trailer, cutscenes, and gameplay, it looks like there is a much deeper story surrounding Aya than just a CTI agent looking to save the world from complete destruction. A young girl who could be a sister was shown in the trailer as well as in our demo. We couldn't make out the conversation, but the girl seems to be a part of Aya's dream or imagination.
We're curious to find out exactly what's happening beneath the city streets of NYC, so look for more updates on the game soon. The game is set to come out on December 22 in Japan, but no date has been announced for North America.