The Let's Play Archive

The 3rd Birthday

by The Dark Id

Part 2: Meat Puppets

Previously on The 3rd Birthday, Manhattan was razed by hundred foot tall tentacles. A year later, a former NYPD detective/FBI agent had her soul sent back in time to possibly possess a random soldier. Let’s see where we go from here, shall we?

New Music: Beginning of Breeding

Welcome to the actual gameplay of The 3rd Birthday. This is, of course, running on an emulator. But it is a pretty good looking game for something originally hailing from the PSP. Square-Enix did some impressive work on that console. Episode 0 is, unsurprisingly, a tutorial. But the support staff has some one-sided exposition to deliver first (Aya doesn’t really talk back much ever.) So I’ll let them talk. Dialogue coming in over the radio appears in the top-left corner.

The Overdive device sent your conscience there.
Just in case you forgot the primary function of the device you just crawled into. Little FYI.
The Sacrifice Incident from a year ago - It's the area where the Babel appeared.
In case you're wondering, you're inside a National Guard, Aya. But your body is still inside the CTI building.
We're going to get your started. Blank will navigate you. Don't forget that you're in a war zone. The troops involved in the Sacrifice Incident were annihilated. It's been reported that they ran into some enormous Twisted called Reapers.
I can tell you one thing - they're gonna be a huge pain.
First, we need to get our hands on any information we can.
Could I have a refresher on a few things. Such as most of those proper nouns…?
Aya, focus on your mission.

The final goal is to destroy the Babel's core - the Big Orb.

So, we have essentially just brain-jacked this soldier here for the mission. The game takes a while to mention it properly, but we’re not actually physically Aya Brea when out in battle. We’re merely controlling the body of Dave Fisher here (the person we’ve Overdived into’s name is displayed in the bottom right.) Being an anime girl in tight clothes is just for the player’s benefit. Everyone else in the time period we’re occupying sees and hears the guy we have possessed. Which will make a real skeezy later gameplay mechanic make absolutely no sense.

Several tutorials pop-up around now explaining the HUD. Here’s the skinny. Specifics like brain-jacking dudes and the Limit Break Liberation will be explained later in the stage. The radar in the top right will light up and indicate what direction enemies are in relation to Aya. Which is good because, given this is a PSP game, limited to only a D-pad and one analog stick, the controls are clunky and the camera control isn’t great! The D-pad controls the camera, while the analog stick is movement. So, unless you’re doing some weird claw hand clutch, good luck doing both of those at the same time.

Here’s the aiming controls. Holding L will lock onto enemies, while the R trigger will fire. There is technically free-aiming. But there is zero reason to fight with the controls to ever do so. Aya’s default weapon, the pistol, has infinite ammo. How? Don’t worry about it.

Aya also gets access to grenades and she has a fairly decent throwing arm. Unless an enemy is flying or high above the ground, there are rarely combat arenas too large to chuck a grenade at an enemy. Unlike the pistol, grenade supplies are limited and have to be replenished by picking up supplies in the field.

We also have access to a weapon wheel where we can have up to four weapons equipped (well, three weapons and the infinite ammo pistol.) Between Overdive missions, Aya can adjust her loadout. We’ll get to that later. You’d think that, diving into the consciousness of a soldier in battle, we’d be limited to the weapons they were carrying at the time. But nope. Aya can magic her personal arsenal back in time.

How, you ask? Yeah, good question. There is no answer.

Falling literally out of the sky, we meet our first enemy. So, alongside the tentacle molestation of Manhattan, a race of bizarre murderous creatures started popping out of portals (there’s space-time distortion portals now, by the way) and killing everyone. These were dubbed, “The Twisted” because uhh… well… occasionally those tentacles made sort of a spiral pattern while growing and… sure, why not?

If you were wondering what CTI stood for earlier, it is “Counter Twisted Investigation”.

ANYWAY! This is the most basic form of Twisted, The… Slacker. Christ, these names are dumb. The Slacker just sort of hobbles slowly towards its victims before lunging and taking a swipe. They can do a sort of shoulder check as well. That’s about it.

Our primary form of defense is a dodge-roll. Aya can hurl herself several feet and roll to safety. She can perform three dodge rolls in rapid succession before briefly needing to take a break to regain her stamina or something. Not that there is any stamina bar. The animation just interrupts after the third roll and there is a wind-up time to start barreling around again.

It’s worth noting, that Aya can only roll with pistols. Any larger weapons, like a rifle, will make Aya perform a far less effective sidestep which only travels a couple feet. This, again, can only be performed three times in a row before Aya needs to take a brief break.

A half dozen Twisted or so attack Aya. Or Dave Fisher being controlled by Aya, if we’re getting technical. The Twisted will seize up and explode after death. Which can slightly damage Aya if she’s standing close to them. It’s more annoying than an actual threat. Aya receives Experience Points, which do exactly what you’d expect, and BP, the game’s currency, for each Twisted slain. That will all come up later.

The final Slacker Aya guns down will smash a barricade past some SWAT vans, which leads to the next area where we’ll hit another tutorial.

You can jump into and take over someone else's body.
Keep transferring from vessel to vessel to maintain an advantage during battle.

So at any time during battle, Aya can Overdive into another nearby body on the map and brainjack them as her new host. The previous body will return to normal and resume battle. Did they know they were being possessed by a magic woman from the future? Were they conscious during the process? Or did they just blip back to their senses suddenly two blocks away and suddenly injured?

This question and more will never be answered! As far as we’re concerned, everyone present on the field are just disposable health bars for Aya Brea. If Aya is injured, it’s really the body of that particular soldier that is suffering damage. When Aya jumps out of a body, the previous form will slowly regenerate health. However, if a soldier dies while Aya is possessing them? They’re fucking dead! BUT Aya still has a few seconds before slipping into oblivion to hop her consciousness into a new healthy body and continue the fight. As long as there is another meat puppet for Aya to take over, she’s still in the game.

Of course, there is a finite amount of warm bodies to hijack and if Aya cannot split out of a dying man before they expire, she dies too.

There are things for you to find out there. You can use them as shields. Overdive near those objects to avoid getting hit while fighting. Got it?

Cray seems to think Aya is so green that she cannot comprehend the concept of a cover shooter. If Aya gets near any convenient waist-high barriers, she’ll duck behind them to take cover. She cannot climb over them, though. That’d be crazy talk.

We’re given a tutorial on taking cover just as another type of Twisted warps into the area. Meet the Wad. It’s an uhh… sort of flat manta-ray looking thing that glides around a bit before hovering and expanding into a big blue ball.

Then it fires a volley of fireballs at it Aya or any unfortunate soldiers out in the open. The fresh meat AI soldiers do participate in battle taking potshots. But they all have the survival instincts of a goldfish and take far more damage when not being possessed. A Wad blowing its whole load on Aya will only maybe take out a third of her HP. But it will nearly outright kill any soldier suffering the same. Soldiers will occasionally reinforce an area. But it is best to help out guys in trouble. Dead soldiers won’t do us any good if our current body loses a limb or two.

While the Slackers only took about a single handgun magazine to down, Wads are heartier. They take a good three magazines of pistol fire or a full magazine and a half from our rifle. Their post-mortem body explosions are a touch more threatening as well. Wads and Slackers are the only two enemy types we’ll be facing in Episode 0.

Once the area is cleaned out, we’re free to proceed to the next area. The 3rd Birthday isn’t especially good at informing the player where map exits are located or when enemies will stop spawning. Things just kind of end and we’re expected to wander into the next zone indicated on the map.

Look at all those Twisted!
I guess it's your turn Cray.
Alright, rookie. You have no chance taking them head-on.

So the lesson here is occasionally there will be soldiers on the high ground or in other advantage spots we ought to Overdive into for an edge. It is good advice and we’ll do just that to get overwatch of the battlefield. There is another reason why we’d want a good view of the battlefield.

…Crossfire. It'll make all nearby soldiers focus on the target you want them to take out.

So for no readily apparent reason, Aya has a psychic link with all soldiers in an area. If we stop firing and just focus on an enemy for roughly five or so seconds, a meter called Linkage will fill up. Once that is fully juiced, Aya can order all soldiers with line of sight with the enemy to dump their entire magazine into the linked Twisted. Since that’s how military chain of command works. Some dude on the roof starts rolling around like an idiot and screams for you to focus fire, you’d best fall in line.

Crossfire is pretty much what we’ll be doing constantly during battles with allies since there is almost no case where dumping on an enemy will output more damage than waiting for Crossfire and then dumping on an enemy. Especially since enemies getting bombarded by a Crossfire are stun-locked during the duration. And there’s another key ability Crossfire links to…

But what about Aya's condition?
Just do it.
I have authorized the use of Overdive Kill. Don’t make me repeat myself.
Overdive Kill is a powerful attack that allows you to dive into an enemy and implode it from inside. Catch the enemy off guard and you'll do massive damage.

So when an enemy is stunned, like say from Crossfire, an orange triangle will appear over their body. Hitting… well… triangle (aka the Overdive button) will allow Aya to Overdive into the targeted Twisted’s body and I guess… like shoulder-check their souls? Maybe it’s more of a Soul Psycho Crusher. I dunno the specifics of how it works. But it does a ton of damage proportional to Aya’s current level. So it gets even stronger as the game progresses.

Aya is briefly stunned for a couple seconds when she returns to her host body following the psychic head butt. But other than that, there are no drawbacks to Overdrive Kills. So again, spamming that constantly is pretty much a go-to attack. Even if it is somewhat disorienting and slightly seizure inducing.

A couple dozen dead Twisted later…

Rendezvous with the troops and keep going.

Her vitals are irregular. We need to get her back.
No, keep going. Changing the past might change the outcome of future battles. You got it, Aya?

Good to know Hyde has our best interests at heart. Keep shooting monsters and psychic head-butting dudes. Maybe something will happen! I dunno. Time travel is weird. Nobody seems entirely overly concerned about fucking with the past as much as they ought to be in this game.

Down an alleyway we come to the final map of the prologue. It’s already lousy with National Guard soldiers and Twisted. Aya jumps right in to receive her final tutorial.

Guess there's no other option.
Liberation eradicates anything withholding your powers while greatly improving your reflexes.
But there's a huge risk involved. It drains your energy, so if you're attacked when it's over, you won't have the strength to...
You can do this.

Liberation is the bar below our meat puppet’s health bar. It fills as we damage enemies. Using Overdive Kills or concentrated fire will greatly fill the meter up. When it’s maxed out, we can pop Liberation Mode by hitting Triangle + Circle. In Parasite Eve 1, Liberate was the ultimate magic attack. There, Aya turned into a kung-fu angel and beat the shit out of a target for several thousand damage at the cost of most of her MP. Here?

Aya gains a second pistol out of thin air and flips out shooting akimbo fireball shots and instantly gaining access to powered-up Overdrive Kills as well as turning invincible and gaining super speed. It’s honestly kind of a visual clusterfuck of flashing lights and explosions with enemies quickly dying.

We also no longer walk. Aya instead ninja flips and backflips like a lunatic for the duration of Liberation. No fellow soldiers make any comment about how Rodrigo Grosheim just Hadokened the five Twisted to death or Dejohn Nakamura slide flipping fifteen feet while dual firing pistols like Neo. Everyone was clearly too busy fighting the uhh… mutants? Aliens? Demons? I’m not entirely clear what the Twisted have been classified as here beyond baddies.

The tutorial lets us play around with Liberation for a bit by automatically refilling the gauge constantly until the battle is concluded. Liberation can be used while possessing a dying soldier to revive them/Aya with a sliver of health after it concludes. So it can be used as an emergency bugging out method to get to safety and find a healthier host away from danger. Though, when Liberation concludes, much like Overdive Kills, Aya is stunned for a few seconds. But, when you can ninja flip 20 feet and speed dash half a football field length in five seconds when it’s on, that shouldn’t be an issue.

After the battle, this random barricade at the far end of the street will signal the end of the mission.

We are treated to the sounds of a fierce battle off-screen. You’ll have to use your imagination.

Aya has had a rough day possessing many men to go fight monsters better than they previously had or… whatever the actual purpose of our mission entailed.

But her trial is not quite over, as a warp distortion fills the alley she’s decided to take a breather down.

See, now this thing I could understand being called “The Twisted”. But that lame sickle armed shambling thing? Or the fireball spitting ball? Not seeing it, The 3rd Birthday.

Aya opens fire on the new creature. But Hyde knows that battling a monster that appears at a mission end cutscene is a fool’s errand and is pulling the plug on our excursion.

Just before Aya gets torn asunder by a ten foot scythe in a rather anticlimactic ending to her story…

…her consciousness bugs on back to the future. Man that National Guard grunt is going to have a really confusing two seconds before his head is sliced in two. Sucks to be that guy! Later, nerd!

And that concludes Episode 0 – Sacrifice. Also… Operation Rainbow Dust…? Umm… sure! My time sucked since I listened to all the tutorial dialogue and played around. I didn’t die in the tutorial, so that’s good. Two soldiers died, not counting that one we left for dead in the cutscene. Apparently they all originally died, so I am not going to feel guilty about that. They shouldn’t have stood slack jawed in front of Wad spit. And finally, I get a D ranking for having the audacity to only play on Normal. Sorry, I didn’t replay the game twice to unlock the two highest difficulties. Nor am I ever going to do so!

Lastly, I got a special commendation for “preventing damage to gear”. What does that mean? Remember how we’re technically just possessing folks to do battle and the visual of Aya Brea is just for the player’s benefit. Aya herself is sitting in that space chair in the Overdive Room back at CTI Headquarters. The physical body engaged in battle is just some faceless soldier in a balaclava and combat dress. Right?

Yes, well despite that stated fact, if Aya’s hosts take too much damage in battle, Aya’s clothes will begin getting shredded. Well… even more shredded, in the case of her jeans. What kind of sense does that make? Absolutely none! What does that do to effect gameplay wise? Absolutely nothing!

Take enough damage and Aya will pretty much be left with boots, some scraps of cloth, and her bra and panties. All of the unlockables in The 3rd Birthday are increasingly skimpy fanservicey outfits. All of them also possess the shredding clothes mechanic. The 3rd Birthday is one classy game, folks.

You can probably trace all of this back to Motomu Toriyama. Lightning and Aya share the same Japanese voice actress, Maaya Sakamoto. And she puts on different cutesy voices for all the alternate costumes when taking damage. Also, one of the outfits is a Lightning Costume and Toriyama was stoked that you could see where Lighting's L’Cie brand (I’m not looking up if that was the right term) was if it got shredded. Something you couldn’t see in Final Fantasy XIII! Spoiler: It’s on top of her breast. Again, classy. The 3rd Birthday was pretty much a dry run for Toriyama's personal Lightning Dress Up and Wank in Lightning Returns a couple years later.

Welp. That’s one episode down. Only six to go! How bad could it be…?

Video: Part 2 Highlight Reel

Slacker Concept Art – Put some shoes on, ya lousy bum!

Wad Concept Art - Wad...? Really...? You're going with that?