The 3rd Birthday Updated Impressions

We hijack some bodies and shoot some twisted with an updated look at one of the most gorgeous games coming to the PSP.

The Parasite Eve series has made a name for itself as a shape-shifter. The original title, released on the PlayStation in 1998, was rooted in the role-playing genre. Its sequel, Parasite Eve II, made a move towards action survival-horror when it landed two years later. After an extended hiatus, this much-loved franchise is making its return, again in a new format. Originally developed as a game for mobile phones in Japan, the title has changed gear to find a new home on Sony's PlayStation Portable handheld and is being reborn as a third-person shooter with tactical elements.

Beautiful cutscenes bookend the combat sections of the game.

During a recent trip to Square Enix in Japan, we got our hands on a chunk of the single-player campaign and took Aya Brea and friends for a spin around an infested New York City. The game opens with a beautiful (and lengthy) cutscene introduction filling in some of the story gaps between games and setting the scene for the gameplay. We were blown away by the visual quality of the animation and left wondering if this was a console game ported down to a handheld.

Though the version we saw hadn't yet been localised for English, we had no trouble coming to terms with the basics as we were introduced to the action. Targets are locked by holding the right shoulder button, the square button fires your selected weapon, and the X button is used for Aya's more acrobatic moves, such as rolling forwards, jumping over cover objects, and dodging incoming danger. A handful of weapons can be carried at once and are selected by holding the left shoulder button and pressing the face button corresponding to the item you wish to use. During our play we had a chance to use shotguns, assault rifles, submachine guns, and a pistol with unlimited ammo that serves as your mainstay sidearm when you run out of everything else.

Ammo conservation certainly wasn't our biggest issue while we played, with swirling aqua-coloured columns of light scattered throughout the levels and being able to replenish our stocks simply by locating and walking over them. Since the game lets Aya switch bodies at will, should you find yourself running low on bullets, you can always vacate and jump to your next host by pressing the triangle button to target a nearby friendly, taking their form and resuming their weapon loadout via a move called "overdive." We wouldn't go as far as to call it bullet time, but the world slows down slightly when you engage overdive, giving you enough time to escape a hairy situation by tapping left and right on the D pad to locate the nearest replacement body. This becomes particularly crucial later when you use hosts spread out through the environment to gain tactical advantages on the battlefield, claiming an elevated position or hiding safely behind cover.

Overdive isn't limited to friendly teammates, though, and at times during combat your selected targets will change from a square to a triangular reticle, indicating you can dive into their bodies to deal damage. In pseudo quick-time-event style, you'll need to recognise and press the triangle button quite quickly, but doing so in time rewards you with a flash of white light and a temporary teleport into their skin, returning you to human form immediately afterwards and taking with you a chunk of their life bar. Though we didn't see it, we were told that repeated use of the mechanic would have some kind of penalty in the form of a detrimental effect on Aya, but perhaps that occurs later in the game.

Go traditional with bullets, or get inside their heads with overdive.

Regardless of which body you've snatched, you stay as Aya and have the ability to order other squadmates around by targeting without firing. Doing so uses the linking ability, filling a progress bar and commanding your buddies to focus their fire on a particular enemy rather than spread the bullets over the entire field, granting an additional firepower bonus in the process.

Cover is valuable, but this isn't a dig-in-and-shoot-from-safety kind of game. Liberation mode is another feather in your cap, and it lets you tap the triangle and circle buttons simultaneously to unleash slow-motion attacks. Zipping around the environment at lightning speed, your shots gain additional punch and your dodging is done automatically, but you can use it for only a few seconds, and your meter needs to replenish over time by dealing damage before you can use it again. Liberation becomes particularly useful when you find yourself surrounded by groups of enemies, trying to avoid crushing blows from fast-moving foes, and for flanking to gain a strategic advantage.

Before each mission, you're given access to a tactical menu that lets you customise your equipment (Aya's clothing) and weapons as well as tweak and modify your DNA. Genetic modification is possible by collecting "over energy" chips from the dead, using them as currency to unlock combat skills and ability upgrades. Chips can be stacked to improve your preferred talents, while combining them in a particular order or mixing and matching different types of chips yields different bonuses.

As beautiful and fresh as the combat felt, we did run into a couple of minor quirks we're hoping are ironed out before the game ships. While open areas were well lit and easy to navigate, hallways in one section were almost too dark to see, forcing us to rely on hugging walls and glancing at the minimap to find our way. Cover too was at times a little more finicky than it needed to be, and while the majority of the time approaching a safe resting place would stick us and keep us out of the hurt, a few times we didn't snap properly, leaving us exposed and forced to move away and return to our original spot before it would take. Targeting is for the most part solid, latching onto things we wanted to shoot, but it wasn't without its faults. Inactive hives off in the distance would sometimes be locked onto, while active aggressors like an enemy in the foreground would be ignored.

Short pants in the middle of a New York winter? Yep, she's tough.

Like the game's visuals, the audio is another standout element of The 3rd Birthday. The inclusion of a pumping Japanese pop/electronic soundtrack fits perfectly with the slight futuristic edge of the game, blending a real-world setting with the science-fiction elements of the alien invaders.

Quirks aside, we walked away from our hands-on time pleased with the beautiful, action-fuelled ride, and we're eager to uncover its cryptic storyline further. With the series having lain dormant for over a decade already, fans shouldn't have any trouble sitting tight until the game is released exclusively on the PSP halfway through 2011.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Did you enjoy this article?

Sign In to Upvote

106 comments
joder666
joder666

Body snatching?......mmmm. I played a lot parasite eve 2 and i don't recall aya could ever do such a thing. Just wait to see how they explain that.

theJBlounge
theJBlounge

I really hope this game turns out good. I enjoyed PE 1 and 2. But I'm really concerned this will be another FFVII: Dirge of Cerberus.

eliebaz
eliebaz

this game looks AMAZING please square enix dont keep us waiting for FFXIII versus much longer but this will shut me up till after the E3 hopefully we will see a release date given. sorry people i know this is irrelevant but im going to go crazy waiting for the game. and Nevermind kingdom hearts 3

SKErwin
SKErwin

DevilKazeya No, she's very HOT!!!!

Mohammad37
Mohammad37

c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon

Digital_DJ_00
Digital_DJ_00

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!! AYA BREA WAS AGENT SMITH ALL ALONG!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?! WHO KNEW?!?!?!?!?!?!!? OH NOES!!!!!!!

robekl123
robekl123

Eliebaz: I do actually have some news for you about Kingdom Hearts since i got the some contacts from Squar Enix but i'm sorry to say that i'm not allowed to announce any details about it.

RueRyuzaki
RueRyuzaki

When will the English Version come out?

Mr_kvest
Mr_kvest

I want this game very much. I hope it will become a brand

eliebaz
eliebaz

COME ON COME OUT ALREADY!!! PLEASE SQUARE ENIX CAN YOU NOW MAKE KINGDOM HEARTS 3 PLEASEEEEE!!!!!

MAXAM999
MAXAM999

A game that we'll never forget .. Big hit for Gaming history !

QtrArt
QtrArt

i love that game

shyshyshy
shyshyshy

There shouldn't be a dichotomy between what games belong to what platform. Console games are, hands-down, the best platform for any game in the market. The ps3 have many good exclusives far reaching than the psp. This really had me boggled upon reading the comments about the 3rd Birthday not coming to the PS3. I mean, c'mon PS3 owners have their cakes already, let the psp owners have their slice as well. Us psp owners cannot complain about PS3 games not coming to the psp, we have no choice because that is highly impossible. PS3 owners on the otherhand will still have wishful thinking on their side, seeing that psp games can easily crossover to the console. Give the psp owners a break, why dont ya.

mischiefmeerkat
mischiefmeerkat

Parasite Eve retuuuuurns! *buys a PSP nao* if this is anything like the first two games it will be epic as all hell

kantoook
kantoook

finally an important event for the the PSP...welcome back Aya

chaos269
chaos269

parasite eve is back and better, i agree with g5naim, it should have been for ps3 would be better graphics and more ideas and skills to add to it and maybe even more levels.

g5naim
g5naim

@Visa004 "If it was consoled, it'll sell much for much more and all the fans will be happy and god sakes, the friggin PSP has too many games and the PS3 has none." ************************************************************************************* Did you type this up on Opposite Day? What a joke! The PS3 is getting a lot of third-party support nowadays, and a lot of exclusives for the upcoming year. Things have been going steady since '08 thanks to MGS4 and UC2. Meanwhile, the PSP is just starting to get itself back on its feet with only a few excellent games such as Ys, MGS, and GoW. Why do you think certain people shy away from a PSP and prefer a DS instead?

yukinaze
yukinaze

wow aya was so sexy and beautiful :). i wish they release parasite eve on ps3

MichaelChainsaw
MichaelChainsaw

@RoRulon - Yes, Chrono Cross. That wasn't a direct sequel and played nothing like Chrono Trigger. I'd like to pretend I never played Chrono Cross.

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

@ Yomigaeru err I guess xD tbh I havent really played Parasite Eve 1 and 2, just heard of it from mates. Oh and btw @ a certain "someone", PS3/PS-3 its the same thing god dammit. Don't be a wuss about every tiny detail, if you don't like how say "PS-3" then don't read the god dammed comment.

NColdhardt
NColdhardt

@Philly1Uper: All I'm asking is for you not to be a hypocrite. It's not that difficult.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

@NColdhardt My man, don't call me a grammar nazi if you are gonna try and correct me.

Yomigaeru
Yomigaeru

Actually Godblade, Parasite Eve was the RPG, while Parasite Eve II ditched the vast majority of the RPG elements and became a survival horror type of game. That said, I didn't too much care for the sequel, but the first was one of my favorite games of all time. And I'm with MichealChainsaw: why does Square Enix relegate anything that isn't part of their "AAA" titles to handhelds? Enough with the remakes of old FF games...how about more confidence in new IPs? Though to be honest, I am keeping an eye on Lord of Arcana, since it seems to be a new entry into the genre that Monster Hunter basically started...

Savior4Life
Savior4Life

The first game was great! But I never played the 2nd. Looking forward to this...!!!

RoRulon
RoRulon

@MichaelChainsaw - They already made Chrono Trigger 2. Chrono Cross? Although to be fair, I see where you're coming from. Chrono Trigger was (and still is) one of the best JRPGs I've ever played, only beaten by Final Fantasy VI and V

MichaelChainsaw
MichaelChainsaw

Why put all these games on PSP Square? I mean can we get some full blown console games! Chrono Trigger 2 would be nice... any decade now...

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

@ NColdhardt its called 3rd Birthday and not Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday cause according to critics, they changed the whole perspective of the game. Whereas Parasite Eve 1 & 2 were purely R.P.G's this one is kinda like a T.P.S/R.P.G fusion. I guess since the game mechanics wouldn't feel at home with Parasite Eve 1&2 and also that it wouldn't cause controversies that this one doesn't have the 'feel' of parasite Eve, since its kind of a shooter, they left out the Parasite Eve part and named it just "The 3rd Birthday". Hope this helped clear your doubt :)

sulaymanqazi
sulaymanqazi

imm gonna get this game... but by the time i get it, the psp2 will come out.... but ill still get it

GenosHazard
GenosHazard

ive never played parasite eve, but a lot of my friends a couple years older than me keep telling me it was one of the best games they've played. i dont own a ps1 so im hoping this psp verison will be as good as the original

Igissx
Igissx

Sweet! I may not be the most devoted fan, because i only played the second game, and some of the first, but the game looks pretty good. I will criticize one thing though, i do not understand why Sony is making so many sequels for the p.s.p but not the ps3 *glares at Valkeria Chronicles*, but at least the game looks like its shaping up to be a fantastic game. @Dexter_graves : If it wasnt for resident evils "Asteroid/Tank" controls, there would not be that many survival horror games out that were "scary" other than Alone in The Dark, and jeez i wonder how that turned out. Resident Evil has seen alot of advancements through its super long life span, but i will say it has done alot of things right, except for making it a over the shoulder shooter...

NColdhardt
NColdhardt

@Philly1UPer: Don't be so anal about him placing a hyphen in PS3. Stop acting like a grammar Nazi. It's sad. It's even sadder that you misspelt "it is" as its.

NColdhardt
NColdhardt

Just seeing this made me get out my ol' dusty PSX to replay PE and PE2. This is definitely a must-buy for me. One question though, why wouldn't they name it Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday?

GodBladeMegaten
GodBladeMegaten

@robertwarnes91 GhostOfSparta and Peacewalker had extreme graphics too but didn't notice any long load time. @packers91 so yeah it'd be a lot cooler if this thing was for the PS3 and not the PSP, I mean sure I enjoyed raging Blast 2 a hell lot on my PS3 which I woulden't have if it was for the PSP BUT then thats the complain! I mean look everytime something decent gets released on the PSP people complain that it should have been out on the PS3, Valkyrie Chronicles3, Ghost of Sparta, 3rd Birthday, KoH:Birth By Sleep, etc, and yeah as you say we'd be a lot better off playing these on consoles rather than on a handheld, but then what is the PSP supposed to have? The usual trash the PSP gets? Why are all PS3 owners so high about the PS3? I mean I got both consoles and I think its absolutely awesome that the PS3 isnt getting these PSP "exclusives". I dont hear PSP owners complaining that Black Ops and Hot Pursuit and Prototype are getting launched on the PS3 and not the PSP. Also it maybe just me, but for a 7 year old console concept thats still able to give graphics and game play nearly similar to the PS3 *Ghost Of Sparta#cough#cough* , sorry got a bad cold, yeah I think I'm quite happy with my PSP.

angelbless
angelbless

Been waiting for a Parasite Eve sequel since PE2, It doesnt hurt to wait some months more :P

FinalDuo1886
FinalDuo1886

PLZ bring back the classic PE music. Everything else looks perfect so far, but If they can keep ost as good as the other two, then I'm sold

galdor77
galdor77

looks pretty gory, i am looking forward to this

JJB03
JJB03

i like how each game in the franchise is a diffrent genre don't see that often or hardly ever that something rather speciall in my opinion i want to play the first two now iv never heard of them shame i don't have a psp :/

frankj22
frankj22

Good news, PE1 and PE2 was a pretty curiosity. The fact that Squaresoft (SquareEnix) used some real New York locations in those game was something really special and unconventionnal from a japanease developper. Still own my player guides from those 2 games they were amazing.

dexter_graves
dexter_graves

I never thought much of the first Parasite Eve. The controls during the battles were dodgy and the game was needlessly difficult. I didn't even like it enough to use a Gameshark code to finish it, something I ended up doing on Vagrant Story when I got to the final boss and found that I couldn't reach him to score a hit because it was too short. Parasite Eve 2, however, was an awesome improvement over Resident Evil's asteroid control scheme. It's a control scheme that many hate but I got used to it and learned to love it. The cool part about PE2 was the way it mixed RE style action with an experience system. Aya was upgradable. I'm glad they're ressurrecitng the series but I want another Chrono Trigger.

DLobotomist
DLobotomist

so is it gonna be for psp2 or psp... if its psp 2 the I'm going to wait for it...