The Greatest Enemy Lies Within Your PSP
HIGH Blowing up Twisted with an orbital laser satellite.
LOW Spending five minutes waiting for a soldier to appear with the only weapon that can hurt a monster —only to watch him immediately die before you can swap to him.
WTF The entire story.
Parasite Eve is one of those stories that I am in love with: guy meets girl, guy gets girl, girl dies and guy develops an insane obsession with her mitochondria which results in him cloning her liver into a full-grown replica after which they have incredibly slimy sex right before she decides to destroy mankind and then they both spontaneously combust.
It's a love story, obviously, and a metaphor for the widespread unmitigated expansion of humanity and the destruction of nature as a result of our rampant proliferation, but that's besides the point. All you need to know is that in 1998, Squaresoft decided to make a video game based off of a book where the premise was that your mitochondria hated your guts.
...And so the United States was introduced to Aya Brea, a 5'2", half-Japanese, blonde, blue-eyed NYPD rookie detective with her own special mitochondria that made her a freak of nature, and the endless amount of angst this produced for our tragic heroine. A sequel was produced, Parasite Eve II, which would serve to inexplicably make Aya 5'8", as well as give her a case of the cloning blues and a completely unnecessary shower scene that bordered on softcore porn.
I loved both Parasite Eve games, and I still do today. They're some of the few titles I have 100% cleared, and I've even written fanfiction of the series for my own (amateur) amusement. When I heard the series was continuing with The 3rd Birthday, I was initially overjoyed.
Then I played the game.
I'm going to say this upfront: I spoiled the plot's "big twist" before I bought it, which is the only reason why I'm not particularly disgusted with it, such as it is. There's a specific twist that explains one of the many flaws of this game (Aya's odd behavior) but story-wise, nothing else is ever resolved. It can be said that the plot makes sense, but only in the same way that listening to one person's half of a static-filled phone conversation translated from Japanese to Greek and then transcribed into English makes sense, where Greek is foreknowledge of the Parasite Eve games. Simply put, it is incomprehensible.
This is not a game for fans of the series because the only acknowledgements that the first two games ever existed are the names of the re-used characters, their relationships to one another, a small nod in the timeline, and re-mixed music from Parasite Eve I. At the same time, this is not a game for newcomers, because a newcomer would have no idea who these people are, why Aya is so special (nothing about advanced mitochondria, or even the events of Parasite Eve I and II, are ever mentioned) or what the ending is all about. Heck, I have foreknowledge, and I still don't know what the ending is about.
So really, if I discard the plot, what does 3rd Birthday have left?
It's a cover-based shooter with a unique body-hopping mechanic. It's also got a good number of customizable weapons and powers that I actually found to be engaging in small doses. A player's enjoyment of the combat will be tied primarily to how well they can make do with the camera, but players of Monster Hunter Freedom Unite (and other PSP games that use the "claw" camera) will be right at home. However, even players (like me) who aren't proficient with the claw are in luck since the game's auto lock-on mitigates it. That said, there is one particular fight that will be horrific if a player can't manually aim fast enough.
There are unlockables galore for New Game+ players including new outfits (yeah, I always dress Aya up as a maid, or is that me being sarcastic?), new weapons and powers, harder difficulties, and even a few new cut-scenes. Don't get too excited, though. None do anything for the plot, and one of them is, again, a softcore porn shower scene.
It took me about eight hours to beat the game on Normal, and I am never playing it again. Given the gaping holes of the plot and the suddenness of the finale, it feels like The 3rd Birthday was supposed to be longer, but that a massive quantity of exposition was cut for the sake of time, money, or just deciding to distance the game from the Parasite Eve franchise. Either way, if this trainwreck gets a sequel, it will be an absolute miracle. Rating: 3.5 out of 10.
—by Kristin Renee Taylor
Disclosures: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on the PSP. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed 1 time. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game contains: blood, partial nudity, strong language, and violence. Lots of people are killed on-screen in graphic ways, and even though there are no details, Aya is fully nude when she Overdives during a cut-scene. The children should stay away from this one.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing: All dialogue and important notifications (such as a soldier arriving to the fight) are subtitled, and all Twisted have visible, telegraphed attacks. However, cheap attacks from monsters off-screen still happen, but between the auto-target and the mini-map, players with audio issues should have no problems.