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CyanideBlizzard's Parasite Eve Game Review

Parasite Eve game Review

Story & Playability

Out of all the reviews I’ve done before, this has been the one review I wanted to go back and revisit. I felt my initial review of The 3rd Birthday was incredibly bitter without properly explaining why I was so harsh, or getting into aspects of why I would score the game so poorly. While I personally believe in not removing something that’s already been done, I want to make an exception for this review. I want to really break it all down.

This may take a while.

It’s hard to talk about The 3rd Birthday without talking about Parasite Eve. A lot of this falls on the fact that we play as Aya Brea, the main character from the series. Characters that are featured in The 3rd Birthday, such as Kyle Madigan, Kunihiko Maeda and a few others are also characters featured throughout the two games released in the Parasite Eve universe. Adding further to this is the continuing theme of having the game take place during or around Christmas, alongside the return of Yoko Shimomura as a main composer. Add in an introduction featuring a remix of Primal Eyes, the main theme song of the Parasite Eve series, and it is really hard to get around the fact that The 3rd Birthday really wants you to think of it as another Parasite Eve entry. Yet within all of this, the only thing Parasite Eve about 3rd Birthday are only the things I mentioned. Sadly, for the game this ends up keeping it from being a better game than what it should be.

To really understand more, we have to look at The 3rd Birthday as a whole. Rather, we have to start looking at why the series is so strongly compared alongside Parasite Eve.

Parasite Eve was billed as a Cinematic RPG experience back in 1997. Starring Aya Brea, it was a combination of action and horror elements mixed into an RPG system. While the game itself was roughly around 10 hours, it delivered stunning cut scenes and a very interesting-but-unique storyline. Parasite Eve instantly became a classic, going on to become a Greatest Hits in the Playstation library and one of the staple titles Squaresoft became known for in the late 90s.

Flash forward three years later and Parasite Eve II was introduced. Aya Brea returned to once again battle it out. However, things certainly weren’t the same. Parasite Eve II took on a far stronger approach to action and limited the RPG elements significantly. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to compare the game to Resident Evil, because the gameplay and controls were virtually identical. While being a huge step backwards for a good part of the fan base, Parasite Eve II enjoyed moderate success. This was mainly due to the huge upgrade in visuals and while the gameplay departed, it was assisted by the likes of an auto-aim, multiple endings and a very strong first half. While not necessarily the game fans wanted, it was the game that they certainly did not mind getting.

Sadly, after all of this Parasite Eve simply disappeared from the map. Rumors were spread of possible iterations on next gen systems (Playstation 2) but these rumors quickly came and went. It wasn’t until 2006 that rumors begin to float of a mobile phone entry in the series. While these were more reliable, these were also few and far between. It wasn’t until several years later that a confirmation came. We saw a picture of Aya Brea in a wedding dress, holding a gun. Parasite Eve would be coming back, and it would be coming to the PSP.

Except, it wasn’t called Parasite Eve(PE from here on out) anymore. It was called by a new name, The 3rd Birthday. Furthermore, the developers vehemently supported that this game would have absolutely nothing to do with that universe or any of the characters. This begged the further question of why even bring back these characters and certain aspects known to fans of the Parasite Eve universe. Finally released Stateside on March 29th, 2011, after playing the game I began to realize why. The 3rd Birthday needed something to grasp ahold of in order to be a marketable property, and Parasite Eve was a series that had long since been stagnate and had a fan base just waiting for a new entry.

To really explain my harsh words, I really need to get into the story itself. The 3rd Birthday takes place on December 24th, 2012. A mysterious plant entity bursts out of the ground around numerous locations in New York, destroying everything in sight. The largest entities that began to take form were dubbed “The Babel” and are conceived to be the heart of the problem. Alongside “The Babel”, a life form known as “Twisted” began to appear and slaughter everything in sight. A few years prior to that, in December 2010, a young woman in a blood-stained wedding dress was discovered. She was later identified as Aya Brea, and while she had absolutely no memory of her past she became crucial to help out the CTI. CTI, Counter Twisted Investigation, was established to combat the Twisted and figure out what exactly “The Babel” is. This may sound a bit wonky, but according to the game the first “Twisted” was discovered around the same time they located Aya in December 2010. Through some means that are vaguely touched upon in the story, we find out that CTI discovers that Aya can transfer her soul from her body to another one, an ability that was given the name of “Overdrive”. Dr. Hyde Bohr, the chief of the CTI, alongside several others decide to use this ability to somehow time travel back in order to prevent the disaster. For this to be accomplished, they develop a machine called the “Overdrive System”. This machine makes use of Aya’s ability and sends her into the past. In order to travel, though, she must take control of a body from that time period. The machine itself was finished sometime in 2013 and as put into service shortly afterwards.

So, let’s make a list of all of the things that are discovered within the beginning part of the game itself. Within the first thirty minutes to be exact.

-Amnesia
-Time Travel
-End of the World scenario
-Hero discovered with an ability that, despite having amnesia, is figured out to be the key to save the world.
-People then build machine based upon a power they have absolutely no knowledge of and somehow manage to use it to send hero back through time via consciousness link.

The biggest problem with these elements is over half of them are explained via text dialogue windows that you can access from a computer in the game. That’s right, this isn’t explained in the introduction but rather the player must then access a computer with Aya, and actually read up on the history in order to understand. Even then, understanding is a bit of a loose term to use. How did they know that Aya had this ability? Did she use it sometime and they suddenly knew what it did? That’s pretty impressive that, within the span of two years, they were able to not only fully analyze Aya’s ability, but also have a complete working understanding of it and how to build a machine to compliment it. All while being attacked by a life-threatening entity that was destroying civilization.

Far too much of the plot is simply set up for convenience sake and unfortunately it doesn’t improve either as the story progresses. We’re also introduced with characters from other PE titles such as Kyle Madigan, and Kunihiko Maeda. The inclusion of Kyle is understandable, as the story progresses we understand the purpose he serves and it ends up being pretty essential. Maeda, ends up feeling more like fan service to the first title more than anything else and a complete odd ball at the worst end of it.

I must mention that while the PE games strongly focused around Mitochondria and mutation, they still had a semblance of grounded reality to work with. The 3rd Birthday just feels like an absolute mess of a storyline, going for a mish-mash of random fantasy and science fiction clichés to create a storyline that ends up coming across as incredibly confusing. This becomes absurdly hard to comprehend simply because over half the information necessary to know is told via text dialogue found by the player, who has no clue of knowing that this type of information is actually available for access until you dig around for it and even then the story still ends up creating a great deal of confusion. Sadly, the ending itself doesn’t resolve matters but instead creates a significant plot hole. I’m not sure what the aim was with the story, but from start to finish I don’t really know what exactly I experienced because I never had a good grasp of what was going on.

So the story may not be up to snuff, but what about the gameplay?

Gameplay has completed shifted from the RPG action in the first game, to Action with light RPG elements in the second, to heavy third person action with very minor RPG elements for this title. It wouldn’t be much of a comparison to say The 3rd Birthday is aiming to be more like a Western 3rd person action title. It’s fast-paced and exhilarating. Aya can dodge roll, she can shift target focus, change weapons. It is also important to note that the Overdrive ability is a key factor for success. During the stages Aya visits, there are different soldiers on the field. Aya can use her Overdrive ability to swap to any of them, provided they are alive, and fight the enemy from there. Once she has taken too much damage, or wants to swap to a solider with different weapon layout, she just simply uses the ability again. There is no cool down for it and it can be used infinitely provided that there is someone to swap to. This lends itself as being the most enjoyable part of the game.

Alongside this new ability, the Overdrive skill can be used on monsters. Once damaged enough, a monster will have a yellow triangle appear over it. When pressing the same button on the PSP, Aya will Overdrive into the monster, damaging it heavily. Furthermore enemy DNA can be acquired this way and can be then equipped by Aya during in-between stages of the game, where she’ll have access to the previously talked about data as well. Aya can also purchase additional weapons and change her clothing as well for better armored versions.

Sadly, not everything is perfect with the gameplay itself. The 3rd Birthday is a Third-Person Shooter on a system not designed for Third-Person Shooters. 3rd Birthday is also done with an over-the-shoulder viewpoint ala Dead Space and Resident Evil 4-6. While being a perfect concept for this game, it ends up being an atrocious nightmare on the PSP. The biggest success to this perspective is that on other consoles, one analog stick is used to move the character around while another is used to move the camera. This allows the player to keep a constant eye on their surroundings and more importantly have more freedom and control. The PSP only has one stick, which means the D pad ends up being delegated to camera duty. There’s just one problem with this. The analog stick is located on the left hand side of the system, which is the same location of the D-pad. This makes it virtually impossible to control both Aya and the camera, as well as the button commands on the right side of the console. The end result is that you either have to move Aya around, or move the camera, but not both. This will end up resulting in a lot of deaths until you develop a system in which generally revolves around rolling away from the enemies, adjusting what you need or hitting the L1 button (this centers the camera directly in front of Aya) as frequently as you can to reposition the camera. Improvising is absolutely key here, and even then it still doesn’t help against most flying enemies who are far quicker than you. Ideas like this are not impossible to execute on the PSP, and while there are workarounds it still doesn’t detour from the fact that at times this game is absolutely abysmal to control. This system could also work if there were four trigger buttons, but unfortunately that isn’t the case as there are only two.

However, this is far from the biggest problem for me. That is reserved for one thing and one thing only.

Aya Brea.

Aya’s personality, or rather lack of, stems my greatest source of frustration. What made Aya Brea such a memorable character was how strong of a female she was in the games she was featured in. Aya has always been a beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed woman, but it was her bravery, courage and personal flare that made her admirable. She wasn’t afraid to charge into danger, nor was she ever bullied into intimidation or silence. While elements of these aspects are still present in The 3rd Birthday, they most certainly are few and far between. Aya spends a lot of the time sulking and when she isn’t, she’s quivering in fear. I would go so far as to say almost reaching the point of emotional instability at times during the game. This is entirely explained by the end of the game, but more than anything else it felt like a crutch. When I played the game for the first time, it felt like a lazy excuse to justify this character and even now it feels just like lazy writing to the fullest extent. No player, without someone spoiling it, would know this and most players who know this character would be turned off by such a poor portrayal of a character. By the end of the game you’ve already developed an opinion of the character and this only serves to frustrate the player since now we have absolutely no clue what type of person Aya actually is.

Another really bizarre development choice was what they decided to do as a damage indicator. When Aya’s character takes damage in the game, her clothing starts to disappear. Yes, the more damage she takes, the more damaged her outfit will become and the more revealing she’ll be. I’m so glad that we decided to pander in this direction. Not only is this feature silly, but it feels so incredibly out of place. Especially since there’s a health bar available. If this was the only form of knowing how damaged she was, it would be a rather interesting feature. It just feels like excessive fan service as a result.

We also get a shower cut scene with her as a bonus feature just simply to be there. Probably since there was one in the second game, they felt they had to do an even better one in this? I seriously cannot wrap my mind around it. This, alongside the outfits, strike me nothing more as trying to further sell the game with sex in case all else failed. The end result is that it makes the game seem more smutty than tasteful. Good job.

Finally, this leads me into the overall problem the game faces and that is the fact that it borrows far too heavily from PE. The 3rd Birthday is a very cliché-riddled story, but what will draw people to this game will be the visual flare and the combat. With these alone, along with the surprisingly good sound design, make it for an experience that is definitely worth checking out. The problem is too many elements from the PE universe make their way in here and sadly none of them are good. I can’t think of a single reason as to why this game had to be so PE influenced expect for the name recognition in order to push as many copies as possible. When your creators tell the fan base that this game has nothing to do with it, yet so much of the cast and concepts are elements that have been seen in previous titles it makes one begin to wonder.

I really wanted to like The 3rd Birthday a lot more, but there was just too much of an identity crisis to really feel anything other than sadness as I played through this game for a second time.

Story : 2
Gameplay : 5

Rating: 3

Graphics

So with such a verbal thrashing I gave to the game itself, surely I’ll feel the same about everything else. Right? Well, not exactly.

The 3rd Birthday is an absolutely beautiful game. This is by far one of Square-Enix’s strongest titles on the PSP in terms of cut scenes and in game graphics. The introduction excites the player as we’re treating to a movie-level intro as everything goes to hell in a hand basket. Furthermore, Aya has never looked this good. The way her hair flows, to how she moves is absolutely stunning to watch. It is painfully clear that a lot of detail and effort was put into making this game as beautiful as possible and it certainly paid off.

Even in terms of in game environments, they are nothing short of breath-taking. No doubt pushing the PSP to the fullest, we get detailed views of the city as we wander around. While the soldiers themselves are rather generic and unfortunately there isn’t much diversity in terms of locations, what we do see is a visual treat.

However, what really sold me were the particle effects. The extra, little details put into making the game visually stunning. I said earlier that The 3rd Birthday is the best looking game on the PSP and this is a big reason why. This is especially so with effects from gun shots, to utilizing special moves, to enemy specials as well. Everything about this game just screams beauty when you look at it.

Regardless of how common it is to see visuals like this in a Square-Enix game, is it plain as day to tell that the majority of the budget for this game went towards making it an absolute thrill to look at. Sadly this also seems to be a very dull looking game. There are a lot of brown and gray tones used in this game. For some reason, they wanted to show off a bleak environment with as little color as possible and the end result is a lot of the game tends to blend together.

Rating: 7

Sound

As with graphics, sound is also rather well done for a handheld game. In terms of vocals, the game itself is sort of a mixed bag. There’s a cross between A-list celebs voicing key characters in the series, and the B-team coming in to voice a lot of the rest. I also have to confess that due to the majority of the dialogue being closer to grim-dark material, a lot of the characters just sound depressed. It certainly fits the feel of the game, but it also makes the sound itself a bit monotonous.

The game throws us one huge treat as Jensen Ackles from Supernatural (Dean Winchester) fame voices Kyle Madigan. What was a huge surprise to me is Mr. Ackles does a rather incredible job for voice acting. Most actors struggle going to voice acting, but considering this is only the second game he's been in, I was completely shocked at how great he not only fit Kyle, but the delivery of his lines. This was a very pleasant surprise during my first play through and even more so when I played it again and had forgotten it.

Unfortunately, I have a rather huge complaint in this area. Aya Brea, as mentioned in z287's review as well, is rather lifelike in the game. She'll breath heavily after being in an intense match and let us know when she's hit. The problem with the English VA version is this can start to become rather annoying. During the third stage boss, I ended up muting the game after a while because between Gabrielle Monsigny constantly talking and Aya being constantly bombarded, I was ready to throw my PSP through a window. This is how I felt when I first reviewed this game and two years later, that hasn’t changed at all.

This by no means is the fault of Yvonne Strahovski, of Chuck (Sarah Walker) and Mass Effect 2 (Miranda Lawson) fame. She does a very wonderful job as Aya Brea and to be honest, I wouldn't want anyone else to play the part, or at least anyone else I could think of. It's just the game has Aya make a noise whenever she's hit and this can really start to become ear grating when she's being bombarded with attacks. Things like I mentioned cause individuals to pine for the yesteryear of games without voice acting.

Aside from this complaint, I found the music enjoyable for the most part. It's a shame that the game strayed away from the style that Yoko Shinmomura introduced during the first game, as I personally feel such a soundtrack would of been even better suited for 3rd Birthday than the one created. We hear her opening theme of “Primal Eyes” during the introduction, but the soundtrack strikes me as vastly different from the flare she normally uses. However, I do have to say it is beautifully constructed for the games setting and most likely the overall better choice for a fast-paced action title and works perfectly!

Another disappointment is there is only English voices on this game. Sadly, this is continuing the tradition of Square-Enix not putting an option for bi-lingual voice work.

Rating: 7

Fun

I have to confess, I really wanted to like The 3rd Birthday. I wanted to like it when I first picked it up and reviewed it, and two years later I still wanted to like it just as much. It seems someone decided that putting Parasite Eve elements would be able to help carry this game to legendary heights, but instead it just highlighted all the problems even more. I said it before and I’ll say it again, as the game stands by itself it’s a beautiful-looking third person shooter on a system that it really shouldn’t be on, with a storyline that rockets all over the place and is more of a confusing mess than enjoyable.

I can only imagine what game the developers were originally creating before they put in the Parasite Eve elements. Or at least that’s the impression I get, that there was a game originally created and somebody decided “Hay, remember that one series? What if we put things from it in here?!”. I can’t deny that this game is one gorgeous title that has a rather enjoyable soundtrack, but the gameplay and story make it impossible to really enjoy. Furthermore the title is marketed towards fans of the Parasite Eve series, but those are the ones that would be most turned off by this title.

For those that aren’t, it’s a decent experience. The title itself will take up around 7 or so hours of your time, and has plenty of replay value (such as costume unlocks and additional endings). However, there’s a lot to muscle through to really enjoy. Major plot holes at the end of the game, not to mention the game gets to punishing levels of difficulty alongside a very bizarre misogynistic take on Aya is sure to also turn off others to the game itself. It’s just hard to recommend anyone this game, because I’m not sure who exactly it is supposed to appeal to.

Rating: 3

Final Verdict

4.33 (below average)

Reviewed by CyanideBlizzard, Mar 15, 2014

Comments

  1. myri-chan Mar 15, 2014

    I've heard of that game but never played it, so i can't comment much about ,i think i was too obssesed with the Resident Evil games at the time. but after reading your review i really believe now that i should have tried it ... got's potential ....great job Lord Cy-Ninja :)

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