In an interesting approach, I am taking a step back and reviewing a game that was released nearly a year ago on the PSP. We never got a chance to review The 3rd Birthday on our site, which is a shame because I am personally a huge fan of the Parasite Eve series. Thankfully, we now have that chance, and on a new console. Our entire review was played solely on the PS Vita system with the new features that it brings to your downloaded PSP games. Does it hold up on a new system almost a year later? The answer is a resounding yes.
For those that have not heard the premise already, here is a quick rundown. You once again step into the high-heels of the suggestively dressed Aya Brea who awakens in Manhattan after the city has been all but destroyed. You learn that the city was overrun by a nasty outbreak, and it is your job to travel back in time, and stop it from happening. The new enemies, known as The Twisted, will serve as your main foes, and Aya has a few tricks up her sleeve as well. It is a well-written narrative, if not a touch confusing at times.
The 3rd Birthday is more of an action game than past PE titles, which was a concern at the time of its release. Personally, I found the change to be more appropriate for the series, and even on the PSP, the standard controls worked fine. With the Vita, though, we are able to change the dynamic to make it play even better than before. Much like the PS3, you can tune a few graphical settings to make the game a little more presentable. To be fair, it looks good running with standard settings. The biggest addition, though, is the ability to map the right analog stick of the Vita with either the d-pad or the face button functions. This puts camera control on the stick, creating a more standard third-person shooting affair.
Things can be a little touchy at first, as the game was designed for the d-pad, but once it clicks, it really frees up your left hand to focus entirely on movement. Combined with the lock-on mechanic found in the game, this really opens up what the team initially intended and makes it a much more enjoyable experience on the Vita.
Aya’s special attack allows her to channel into others using Overdive. She can explode enemies from within or simply take over others on her side to gain more health. It is an interesting mechanic that becomes essential the further you get into the game. You also have a series of upgrades using a 9×9 grid that can be overwhelming at first. You have to be careful not to waste new abilities, and if you want to really flesh out your character, you better learn where and how to stack them.
Visually, the game still holds its own against even some of the Vita launch titles. The new filtering from the PSP straightens out some edges, but one of the effects actually left the game looking blurry. Thankfully, the core game already looked great, especially the opening cut scene. Even if you are playing vanilla, this game looks fantastic. The voice acting is decent, with some stand out performances, but the music truly stands head and shoulders in this area. The remix of the original theme and hearing the subtle piano melodies really bring the PE franchise back. Fans of the originals will be unable to walk away without goose bumps.
For those that may have passed this up when it launched on PSP last year, the Vita updates are just icing on the cake. The 3rd Birthday is still one of my favorite PSP titles, and playing it again on the Vita just re-enforced my love of the series. Once PSOne titles start working on the Vita I can finally have my Aya Brea trilogy in one place to play at my leisure, and while this new game is a radical departure as far as gameplay is concerned, it still fits right in with the theme of the series as a whole.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.