The observant amongst us will notice that The 3rd Birthday, despite being part of the Parasite Eve franchise, doesn't mention Parasite Eve anywhere in the title. That's because Square Enix only want it loosely associated with the games that came in the past - they see The 3rd Birthday as a complete reboot for the franchise, a new chapter if you will. It's certainly not a spin-off though, so don't go thinking about it like that.
What does this mean on face value? That the game is going away from its more traditional RPG roots and more towards that of a third-person shooter. That's not to say there won't be some RPG elements, there will, but in the grand scheme of the game they will be quite minimal.
Anyway, enough about the semantics and on to the actual game. Aya Brea returns as the protagonist in The 3rd Birthday and she's now living in a world where hideous monsters, known as the Twisted, have taken over New York City. Puzzled by their arrival, an organisation called the CTI is set up to try and investigate their arrival and if possible, eradicate them.
A pretty simple objective really, on paper at least. Naturally, the Twisted don't want to be killed, but Aya is a determined lady and she finds the best way to deal with these pests is to wield numerous guns, and blow them to kingdom come. That's not all this game is about though, it does offer significantly more challenge. Tactics will be quite crucial to progress, especially against some of the harder enemies. This is where Aya's "Overdive" ability comes into play - it's allows her to effectively change her body. If there are other NPCs around, she is able to warp into them and assume control - think about how the Agents work in The Matrix, and that should give you a very good understanding of what the system is like.
This ability gives Aya a huge tactical advantage. She can use it to replenish ammo, restore her health, intermix her combat abilities or suddenly appear behind an opponent. It also allows her to get out of a tricky situation. At one point during the demo I was playing, Aya became incapacitated by a weird electricity-based move. In a normal game, players would have to wait until it wore off, but in The 3rd Birthday, all they have to do is Overdive to another body and the fight continues straight away.
It's this system alone that ensures the game remains fast paced, and it could be what helps to separate it from the other third-person shooter titles on the PSP.
Another element, from a slightly different perspective, also helps to distinguish The 3rd Birthday from other titles. Players are able to decide how much clothing Aya wears. It's been stated that the less she wears, the more damage she takes.
From what I saw at GamesCom, The 3rd Birthday's core third-person shooter gameplay was pretty standard. However, I'm really curious about how the RPG elements will affect the game, if they even do at all. The Overdive ability does help to give the game some unique appeal, but I'm slightly concerned about whether it will propose enough diversity to the gameplay.
For the brief time I played it, I enjoyed it. If the story is good enough and the game design allows for enough variety, then this could be another Square Enix PSP hit.