Otaku USA Magazine
The 3rd Birthday

Ava’s third outing is a curious beast to review. Initially in development for cell phones in Japan, Square Enix decided to level up the game and release it on the PSP. Unfortunately, it still plays like a cell phone game.

A sequel only by name and protagonist, Square’s 90s cult-classic, Parasite Eve, finally gets another installment. But don’t be fooled, 3rd Birthday retains practically nothing from the previous games. Whereas the original had a more tactical approach to combat, 3rd Birthday is a mindless shooter with faint RPG elements. You might think labeling it as a mindless shooter is a negative, but considering the portable medium and its on-the-go-gaming philosophy, it’s actually a plus.

When it comes down to it, the action is fun. One shoulder button locks-in on the target, the other shoulder button shoots—plain and simple. The triangle button activates your special attack as well as the body jump. Not wanting to dive too much into the story, but the game’s “healing” system relies on NPCs and the ability to “hack” into their bodies. Once you inhabit their body, you inherit their hit points. It’s an interesting system that provides a surprising amount of depth in the tougher battles.

As you progress through the game, new guns are unlocked to expand your arsenal. You’ll also pick up special orbs that modify your stats and grant abilities. You place these orbs in a grid and try to create reactions that provide the best possible bonuses to your combat. It’s a small part of customization, but any amount is welcome.

Okay, so about the story. It’s a horribly bloated, melodramatic, nonsensical piece of drivel. Once the great masters of storytelling, it’s disheartening to see one of the Playstation’s coolest heroines get tossed into such a poorly constructed narrative and incredulous story. Just stick to the action and you should be okay.

3rd Birthday, how do I judge you? On one hand, it IS a fun, simple shooter. Had this come out on the Android or iOS at a fifteen dollar price point, I would say it’s worthy of the price. But being a full-priced PSP game, it’s sorely lacking the depth that other games on the system deliver in spades. What could’ve shined as a premium cell phone title has now been relegated as a PSP game you should wait to hit the bargain bin. There’s definitely some bright spots to this title, but in the end, it’s an unceremonious return from a PSOne-era great.

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix, HexaDrive
System: Playstation Portable
Available: Now