What We Know:
It's been a full decade since Parasite Eve 2 was released on the original PlayStation in 2000. Now, Square Enix are returning to the franchise with The 3rd Birthday. The Parasite Eve name has been dropped from the title, as the game seems to be a completely new story in the same universe, but with the same main character.
What We're Seeing Now:
Whereas the original Parasite Eve games were a blend of survival horror and RPG, The 3rd Birthday is more of a third person shooter. The graphical style is reminiscent of Silent Hill, but there all similarities end, as the gameplay consists of taking cover, managing ammo and rolling out of harm's way.
It's unclear whether the game switches up to a slower paced, more investigative style at certain points. The section I was shown was pure combat. If the entire game continues like this, I feel it would be a shame, as a lot of Parasite Eve's appeal was in the slower, survival horror sections. That isn't to say that the combat doesn't look fun, however.
Aya Brea is back as the main character, but the monsters are completely new. Aya belonds to an organisation known as the CTI, the Counter Twisted Investigation. These monsters have travelled back in time from the future and have invaded New York, where the game is set. It's unclear how the titular 3rd Birthday fits into the story at this point, but producer Yoshinori Kitase told us that explaining it would give away too much of the game at this point.
To help her battle against the Twisted, Aya has the ability to possess other living people. This ability, known as Overdrive, gives Aya the health and weapons of the person she possesses. It also means combat will be much more strategic, with the ability to instantly flank an enemy by simply possessing someone on the other side of the battlefield. This strategic combat could help switch up the gameplay a bit if the game does turn out to be a pure shooter.
RPG elements do make a return, however, with Aya gaining experience and levelling up to acquire new special skills and abilities; this is a Square Enix game, after all. It will be interesting to see how this fits into the third person shooter style.
I'm not completely sold on The 3rd Birthday yet, but there's some definite potential there. It's possible that the game is too far removed from the Parasite Eve games of old for fans of the franchise. Despite that, it could be a good portable shooter with a unique, strategic hook in the Overdrive mechanic. Its PS2 quality visuals make it a great looking PSP title too, even blown up on a big screen, as it was during the demonstration.
The game was originally developed for release on mobile phones in Japan, but Kitase said that the game ended up being “too high quality” and it was therefore redeveloped for the PSP. If The 3rd Birthday is successful, it's possible the franchise could make a jump to HD consoles. Not bad for a mobile phone title.