Parasite Eve began life as a science fiction novel, adapted into a movie which was adapted into a horror/sci-fi jrpg by the company now known as Square-Enix. The Parasite Eve game followed a rookie police officer named Aya Brea, whose mitochondria gave her special abilities - like the ability to not burst into flames whenever she was near the titular parasite. Using her special abilities Aya went about Manhattan in a typical JRPG fashion - running into random encounters, leveling up her abilities and eventually fighting Eve on the ruins of the Statue of Liberty.
Parasite Eve II changed the gameplay from jrpg to something more like Resident Evil or Dino Crisis. Aya - now a member of the FBI - now attacked the mitochondrial monstrosities in real time, although she still gained experience points from kills. Going on missions to kill the monsters, she encounters a new kind - an artificial kind. She then meets a handsome PI named Kyle Madigan, discovers a secret underground facility which is like Jurassic Park but for artificial mitochondrial monsters - all of whom were based on Aya’s own DNA. She then rescues a girl named Eve - also cloned from Aya’s DNA, the President of the United States orders a space gun to destroy the entire area, Eve turns into a monster who Aya then kills.
Keeping those games in mind then, I hope you understand the gravity of what I'm about to say. The plot of The 3rd Birthday is total insanity. You see, the previous games had people spontaneously combusting and turning into monsters and monsters pretending to be humans all revolving around the inexcusably naive Aya Brea, but only The 3rd Birthday brings time travel into the mix.
The game opens in a snowy Manhattan, on Christmas Eve 2012. New York city is beautiful, with gentle snow falling in the well lit streets and a little girl is walking with her mother when everything - naturally - goes to hell.
A hole opens up in space time and a lovecraftian tentacle snakes through - and hundreds more holes open up all over the city. Buildings and structures are toppled like building blocks and monstrous creatures known as Twisted appear. The Statue of Liberty is torn apart by the vine-like tentacles and around New York giant towers of tentacles known as Babels form.
Meanwhile, two years ago, Aya Brea is/was found in a blood soaked wedding dress outside a church. Found by Dr. Hyde Bohr - a scientist with government ties - she was taken in by him and after a while began exhibiting a strange ability - Overdiving.
Overdiving allowed Aya to transfer her consciousness to any other person, and when the Twisted started showing up with similar parasitic abilities, she was quickly run through a gamut of tests by various government organizations.
Dr. Bohr was now the leader of the CTI (Counter Twisted Investigation) however and his team had assembled a device which would allow Aya to send her consciousness back in time - hopefully stopping the whole Twisted thing from ever happening.
Aya had unfortunately lost all of her memories before being found by Dr. Bohr. Apparently she lost all of her common sense too, as at no point does she seem to question how he found her, why he was allowed to take her in or why he'd want to. She does seem eager to find out more about her sister however, who keeps appearing in her dreams.
Things only get worse - or better, depending on how you feel about outrageously ridiculous plots - from there, as Aya meets back up with Kyle Madigan - voiced excellently by Jensen Ackles of Supernatural fame.
In fact, the voice acting is decent all around, with the voice actors proving themselves professionals regardless of how ridiculous things get. Yvonne Strahovski's (Chuck, Mass Effect 2) Aya Brea is definitely a highlight because of this - Aya Brea is obviously objectified in many instances and yet Strahovski still treats her role seriously, managing to give Aya an emotional depth which would otherwise be lost amidst the scenes of her in the shower and having her clothes torn off.
Yes, Aya’s clothes slowly deteriorate the more damage she takes. Not in a saucy way, she doesn’t end up running about in her bra and panties and underneath the tears you can sometimes see cuts and grazes. Between missions, or in certain areas during missions, you can spend BP (the game’s currency, earned through fighting and completing certain objectives) to repair her outfit and you get better outfits (and worse outfits) as you continue through the game.
Leaving the story out of it, The 3rd Birthday is a very solid third person shooter. Like Resident Evil, The 3rd Birthday ditched the tank controls of Parasite Eve 2 for an over the shoulder camera and there is a serious focus on tactical positioning during fighting, thanks to the Overdive.
Aya can transfer her consciousness to anyone in range with a tap of the Triangle button and if there is more than one person nearby she can change who she will transfer to by looking in their direction. If Aya targets an enemy who is also being targeted by someone behind cover, a crossfire gauge fills - and once full everyone targeting that monster including Aya can attack for extra damage.
This places an emphasis on positioning, especially when you notice the different capabilities of certain types of soldiers. In each area you might find some civilians, some standard soldiers and some elite soldiers. Civilians are useless, but the game implies you might receive an award for saving them all (something I’ve not managed to do.)
Standard soldiers have better weapons than Elites, but are not as good in battle - making them ideal candidates for an overdive. Diving into elite soldiers and placing them behind cover, then diving into a standard soldier and taking control of them yourself tends to be the most effective method of fighting - although things can get hectic fast, given that the twisted can come at you and the soldiers from all sides and will eventually destroy cover once they’ve attacked it enough.
Aya also has the option to dive into a substantially weakened enemy - doing massive damage - and in ‘Liberation mode’ - where her full abilities are unlocked and she becomes a berserk killing machine - automatically killing most enemies.
Diving into enemies stuns Aya for a second, which can mean life or death on the higher difficulties, but it occasionally gives you an OE chip as well - and OE chips both make and break The 3rd Birthday.
OE stands for Over-Energy and OE chips can be placed on a special DNA board in different combinations to alter Aya’s DNA. That’s right. Different chips have different abilities - like raising defense or healing, or giving you boosts to attacks during Overdive or Liberation mode. The board is a 3x3 grid, and chips usually occupy two spaces, although sometimes you’ll get one which occupies more.
Placing an OE chip on top of another OE chip can either boost the abilities already on the grid, boost the abilities available on the chip, or mutate into new abilities altogether. What happens when the chip is placed is up to chance, but you can try again indefinitely until you get a combination you’re happy with.
You begin with one board, but you get an extra board midway through the game and a third board upon finishing - and the emphasis in The 3rd Birthday is definitely on multiple playthroughs. Those who have followed the game on the internet will know that the infamous shower scenes (fairly dull affairs in which Aya takes a shower and you see a lot of mist and not much else) can be watched indefinitely in the game’s video library after completing the game 50 times.
Perhaps after 50 times through the game the story will begin to make sense (honestly, what I've explained doesn’t begin to touch on how preposterous the plot gets) but regardless, the gameplay is definitely enjoyable enough to play through more than once. While - like most PSP games - I would have preferred to play it on a console, Square-Enix has done a great job molding The 3rd Birthday specifically for the PSP. The 3rd Birthday is one of the PSP’s better games and it’s just a shame they had to muck things up with its ridiculous plot and juvenile fan-service.