"...it looks as if Parasite Eve fans will have another winner on their hands..."
For a long time, Square Enix fans have been eager to get their hands on Aya Brea's third outing, The 3rd Birthday. No longer bearing the Parasite Eve moniker, The 3rd Birthday is an action-RPG/clothing ripper simulator that I had the opportunity to try out at TGS this year.
Before playing the title, I was able to watch several trailers for some of Square Enix's upcoming games, including The 3rd Birthday. My impressions of the trailer were that this new entry in the series is certainly true to the spirit of its predecessors, at least thematically. The game takes place in a modern setting which looks great and gets even better when it starts being ravaged by a very evil-looking group of beings called the Twisted. The music in the trailer was both enjoyable and evocative of the past Parasite Eve titles, and it's clear that Yoko Shimomura composed the soundtrack.
After the trailer, I was handed a PSP with three save files, each presumably from a different section of the game. I picked the first, which took place inside a nightclub of sorts. The first thing I noticed was that it looks and sounds great (even though it was a bit difficult to hear the music at times). Presentation-wise, it is easily on par with Square Enix's other big name PSP releases. The first section of the level involved a boss fight with a giant tentacle monster that had erupted out of a stage (mirroring the first game, which I thought was nice little nod to fans of the original). The area was littered with fellow soldiers, who play an integral part in the game's combat, and chest-high walls for cover.
Once I started moving around, I found that the controls were intuitive and very responsive. The L button plus any of the four face buttons allowed Aya to swap quickly between a variety of guns (I used the shotgun, of course). The R button locked on to enemies and allowed Aya to strafe around. In the absence of foes, holding the R button brought up a targeting reticle that would allow Aya to aim and fire her weapon freely. The triangle button engaged Aya's ability to transport herself into the body of another fighter, which is where those fellow soldiers come in handy. Everyone that Aya can inhabit has a full name, which seemed like it was aimed at making the player understand that Aya was literally stealing people's bodies for her own use. Moral conundrums aside, stealing a body was a good way to move around the map quickly and avoid death, as each body had its own life bar. Pressing square would fire Aya's weapon, and the X button allowed for a dodge roll move that I found far more useful for avoiding enemy attacks than the low walls, which I very rarely used. Lastly, Aya was able to throw grenades using the circle button, though I also found these of only limited use as her main weapons were more than adequate to dispatch foes.
After defeating the boss, I was able to explore the nightclub and was tasked with clearing out all of the enemies inside. Periodically throughout the stage, I encountered groups of friendly soldiers who would chat with one another and Aya when she ran past. The character models were all very clean and detailed, particular Aya's. The oft-mentioned destructible clothing was present, but the game drew little attention to it and I found myself worrying more about dodging and shooting enemies – which is where the clothing did come in handy, as it allowed me to quickly gauge how badly hurt I was.
I ran out of time before being able to finish the demo, but a quick look at the limited menu present showed a character level as well as HP and experience amounts, so it looks as if Aya will be able to level up throughout the game. However, there were no inventory or growth systems hinted at in the demo, so it remains to be seen what the full game will have in store in this regard. The action was very solid, but seemed as if it could get a bit repetitive without some added wrinkles. The enemy design was frightening and looked as inspired/insane as the original games; the one boss I fought was huge and imposing. The music channeled the first two games one-hundred percent, so it looks like it won't be disappointing in that regard either. The controls are very solid (important, given that the game is very much a shooter-RPG), and if Square Enix has some variety or interesting growth systems in store to combat the sense of repetition, it looks as if Parasite Eve fans will have another winner on their hands when the game releases this Christmas.