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The 3rd Birthday Review

The 3rd Birthday Review

Aya Brea, is a CTI agent and sole person capable of employing an ability known as Overdiving. As such, it's only natural that the fate of New York City has been left in her hands. The 3rd Birthday is certainly one interesting tale for the PSP and it's no doubt that Square Enix has actually gone quite the extra mile with rebooting the classic, and sexy, character. It's one weird roller coaster ride though, and certainly not for everyone. Regardless, it's a decent game that'll offer plenty of bang for your buck.

Set in New York City, The 3rd Birthday spans over several years, and no, you won't necessarily be experiencing them in chronological order. You play as Aya Brea who, as mentioned earlier, is a CTI agent with a special ability called Overdiving that lets her jump into the body of another person and assume control for better or for worse. New York's been overrun by an unknown, ferocious entity known as the Twisted. As a CTI agent, Aya's been tasked with jumping back in time to alter the course of history in order to learn more and, potentially, prevent the Twisted outbreak. It's an interesting concept and one that works relatively well, both in terms of narrative and gameplay.

Aya has no recollection of her past beyond her own name. It's a long story, one that's covered throughout the plot. I won't spoil anything here, but let's just say there are enough twists and turns to keep you engaged throughout the whole game, which is surprisingly long. The story's so big that Square Enix had decided to, yet again, explain a good chunk of the game's premise through the in-game database - a little something I like to call the Square Enix Narrative Syndrome and the previous culprit was Final Fantasy XIII, but I digress. While not necessarily a bad thing, the earlier portions of the story are quite brief, leaving you to read through a ton of database entries between replaying missions in order to get up to speed. Not to mention, the whole pseudo time travel bit just made things even more confusing.

It would've been nice if all this extra information was fleshed out in the story. Regardless, once you wrap your head around the basic premise of the narrative, things will start to fall into place, so long as you do your reading. And despite the time travel portions making things really confusing, it still manages to provide plenty of "what the hell" moments and, I will admit, it is something that makes the game feel rather nostalgic.

The conundrum lies in the gameplay. The 3rd Birthday is basically a third person shooter mixed with RPG elements. There are plenty of times when the game design just works like a dance and then there are the times when you question those very same design choices. Jumping in, the first noticeable thing is that there is no direct control for the camera. Granted, the PSP hardware is quite restraining, but when the camera starts to get freaky and, trust me, it will, it's difficult not to question why other PSP games can still cope rather well, while the 3rd Birthday doesn't. Locking onto a target works well in open spaces, but throw in tight corridors and corners and you'll be looking down at Aya's cleavage instead of the hordes of Twisted coming at you. The problem is only amplified when you have to Overdive with twitch reflexes.

Speaking of Overdiving, this is a key aspect of the game's combat and you can expect to use it in every single battle. To be frank, this is a really well done aspect of the game and it creates a huge tactical dynamic on the battlefield. When I say tactical, it doesn't mean slow. Quite the opposite, in fact, the game is extremely fast and tense. Shooting isn't so much as important as placement of troops and knowing when to Overdive into them. To compliment this, Aya can also command allied troops to focus on a single target; this is called Crossfire. Simply aim at a Twisted and if you have troops in cover, a Link gauge will fill up, allowing Aya to use Crossfire. Aya can also Overdive into enemies and destroy them from within. Overdive Kills deal, dare I say it, massive damage. The more you use Crossfire, the more likely you can dole out the ODKs.

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