The Let's Play Archive

The 3rd Birthday

by The Dark Id

Part 11: Mixed Signals

Alright, it’s time for Mission 2: Operation Black Storm!

You’re really going with that mission name for the scenario where we’re leaping back in time to save the only black member of the cast, huh? Sure... Whatever. Let’s do this thing.

New Music: Ruin

No elaborate cutscene of Aya spiriting back in time or a big CGI massacre introduction. Aya simply leaps into the body of SWAT Member Tomas Araya. Please pay no attention to the fact we’re standing in a completely different position from the short introduction clip. Or that our fellow SWAT member has either been vaporized by Aya’s arrival or transmogrified into a van.

Before we begin, the team has a bit to say to Aya.

[Then, dive into Gabrielle's body for your mission.]
[Gabby was on a sniping mission three days ago. If you succeed, the situation will be completely different. We'll try to find a strategy to destroy the Babel while checking up on Cray.]

Hey, let’s just focus on the task at hand before we go mucking up the timeline too badly, eh? Before we proceed, let’s take a look at what Feats we have for this first leg of the journey.

Welp. I guess we’ll finally be seeing some new ill-named enemies in this outing. Roller and Rover sound like sub-bosses of a Sonic the Hedgehog stage. We’ll be getting to that later. Of these three Feats, one is nearly impossible not to do if we’re even the least bit competent. One is slightly tricky since it is dealing with a new enemy type. And one is literally impossible to do until New Game Plus, unless there is some massive exploit I am unaware of here.

If we take a look around the area, those goofball Slackers are hanging upside-down on lamp posts along the street. They like to have fun when not trying to murder Aya or any generic armed man type for the particular mission SWAT members.

By the way Tomas, before your partner was time-vaporized by Aya, what the heck were you doing wandering alone in the middle of Spanish Harlem? I’m no expert, but generally SWAT Team members are sticking together. You’re boning up the tactics part of your title.

New Music: Arise Within You -for The 3rd Birthday-
(Hey, it’s the Parasite Eve random battle theme!)

Thanks to the generous amount of Impact upgrades I dumped into Aya’s new SWAT rifle, standard Slackers from mid-range will almost always become stunned after Aya dumps about half a mag into their fac—err… front side? Whatever you’d call their anatomy susceptible to eating bullets. As such, it’s incredibly easy to perform Overdive kills.

Aya needs to perform eight Overdive kills to get the first feat of the chapter and there’s a good 15 Slackers just chilling out on the first street of Spanish Harlem. Easy money.

With our first Feat grinding session completed, Aya is free to follow a rather dense blood trail down a side alley. Up ahead, we’ll be faced with a new foe.

Or should I say “new” foe. Meet the Roller brand Twisted. It’s hard to tell from just looking at screenshots or short video clips, since all of the Twisted are a bit of a visual mess. But this thing is just a scaled down Reaper that has been recolored orange and had the spikey bits of its shell filed off. Also it’s not invincible. That’s a rather important distinction.

Now I’m not going to be unfair to The 3rd Birthday, even though I really shouldn’t show mercy. But despite the third reoccurring enemy introduced being a palette swap and that being an early sign of lazy design. The game doesn’t actually pull the Final Fantasy X thing of pretending six different recolored versions of the same enemy are different foes. This is really the only major instance of that. There are palette shifted versions of enemies. But they’re just upgrades of earlier enemy types.

You’d think they would hold back the mid-boss downgrade to common enemy thing until after… you know… the mid-boss wasn’t still treated as a major threat. But this game plays by its own poorly done rules.

The Roller only really has two attacks. It has a tail swipe similar to the Reaper. Just far less deadly, since it just has a hard carapace butt instead of a spike covered ass. Makes a huge difference in damage scale, you see.

And secondly, there is its titular rolling. Which it… doesn’t actually do. It does roll onto its back, sure. But then its attacking is done by spinning several yards in its target’s direction. It’s more of a spinner. Not sure why the eggheads that named it didn’t just go with spinner. I mean… Twisted… Spinning… It just makes sense. But I am not the one naming these things, am I?

As far as dealing with the Roller goes, grenades are Aya’s best friend. Chucking a single grenade will instantly flip the Roller on its back stunning it for an Overdive kill, as well as revealing its weaker underside while it writhes from the blast.

If Aya can run up, lob a grenade, Overdive attack, and unload 3-4 shots with her magnum, the first Roller can easily be felled in under thirty seconds and the second Feat will be in the bag. Easy pickings.

With the Roller out of the way, the path further into the alley will reveal itself. As soon as we turn the corner and transition to another map, the support team back at CTI will chime in again.

[Yeah, out of the blue! It wasn't fair!]
[Gabrielle failed, but I know you can do it, Aya.]
[Sir, that's a bit harsh.]
[You can never be too careful... if you want to stay alive. Aya, I can't emphasize how careful you have to be.]
[You must take the utmost care in being careful for this carefully planned mission. Is that understood, Aya?]

The winding alley we’ve been traveling down eventually ends at a football field sized open lot. You know how common those massive abandoned lot nexus of alleyways are in Manhattan.

Unsurprisingly, this is the site of a massive arena battle. I hope you are strapped in Rizzo and Zurbaran. Cramer is going to need all the help he can get.

We’ve got one tiny orb to take down at the far end of the area. This will constantly spit out Wads unless dealt with ASAP. Though, about five Wads warp into the area as soon as the battle begins. And destroying the Orb results in…

…Rollers joining the party. Only one Roller enters the fray at a time otherwise the framerate might chug thankfully. But there is still three to deal with total. Alongside a good 8-10 Wads, depending on how long it took to destroy the Orb.

New Music: Human Seeker –Battle Side-

Once the Roller-Wad rumble is dealt with, the real star of the show arrives, apparently dropped from orbit. As the Twisted occasionally like to do for dramatic effect. Meet the Rover.

Our mission for the duration of this battle is to defend ourselves until back-up arrives. That’s because early game Aya with basic ass weaponry has zero chance of defeating this creature before back-up arrives. Even if Aya had a full Liberation bar and unloaded everything she has on it, it would only be possible to maybe deplete 2/3rds of its health bar. It’s first health bar. Of six.

This new Twisted is an electricity based monster. An omnipresent sphere of electricity follows the Rover wherever it goes. This serves two functions. The first is to just spam bolts of lightning across the field. These do minimal damage and aren’t a big worry.

The second attack, however, is far more dangerous. This one produces an energy spike from the ground that will rotate several feet around the Rover in a counter-clockwise circle.

Should this energy beam strike Aya, she’ll be stunned for several seconds (while, of course, screaming constantly for that taste of refreshing vulnerability) before toppling to the ground in a continued stunned state. During this stunned period, the Rover will make its way to Aya or any other stunned soldier and prepare a strike with its claw that will do about 2/3rds of a health bar of damage if it connects.

Despite being electrocuted, Aya can still Overdrive into another body during any point of the stunned period. It’s just her body that’s getting wracked with electricity, not her weird disembodied soul. And it’s a fairly good idea to leap to another vessel, since getting a death blow while on the ground is pretty much a death sentence. There’s no prolonged death animation for Aya if she gets aced while on the floor. She just flops over dead and has a good second or two to jump before the Game Over screen pops up. It’s a bad scene if Aya gets stunned and she only has the one host.

The last attack in the Rover’s arsenal is to release a cluster of energy orbs straight across the arena in Aya’s direction. There’s a good five second lag time from the orb spam to the actual attack, where the orbs all violently explode. While not as damaging as the stun-stab combo earlier, it’s still not great to be in the middle of a Twisted carpet bombing. I wish someone would tell that to the NPC’s AI. They’re not great at avoiding this one.

Beyond that, after enough time passes or the Rover gets particularly ornery, it will up its stun-rod game from one rotating energy pillar to a half-dozen and run around swiftly trying to sun everyone in the area at once.

Music Ends.

After around 90 seconds of struggling to survive against the Rover pass, Aya and the rest of the SWAT team will get captured in the Rover’s stun rays regardless of her efforts in the gameplay. Oh… and I guess Aya decided to wear a jacket for this mission in cutscenes. Thanks for telling me, game.

Meanwhile up above…

Everyone's scared of those eyes that can see into your soul. But I know who those eyes belong to - a lost little girl who was left behind. So I decided something.

Alright, I’m not going to tell you how to do your job (goddammit, I cannot believe you wearing that outfit to your sniping mission) but maybe don’t point your rifle at Aya’s head. Also, refer back to the narrative conceit where you’re supposed to see Aya as a generic SWAT member she’s jumping into. Would it kill you to remain consistent, game?

Alright, that’s better. Aim for that monster’s umm… Err… Central spikey mass…? Christ, these things are such visual messes.

Nice shot, Gabby. I… I think? I mean, you hit it. Lord knows if that was the equivalent of a head shot or a Hollywood no-big-deal shot in the shoulder.

Regardless, Aya is freed from her electricity entanglement. Which again, Gabrielle shouldn’t know this is Aya down here. Cuz Aya is going back in time and should just look like some nobody police officer. But hey, details.

In any case, Aya is just going to pop out of her old body and possess Gabrielle. Since… umm…

[I don't want any wounds or scars!]

Music: Arise Within You -for The 3rd Birthday-

Hey you know how the game has been bashing us over the head that Aya totally sucks at everything, is a terrible shot, and is a barely trained rookie? And that Gabrielle is a crack shot and the most physically fit person in all of CTI? Hey, what sense does it make for Aya to be possessing her here? You’d think it would make more sense for her to be providing support on her own. But, honestly none of this makes a whole lot of sense.

[Aim the sniper rifle by using the scope.]

Sounds good. Just give Aya a second to magic that into her hand and we’ll get to sniping. Ms. Monsigny was nice enough to pack her infinite ammo PMR-1 GB rifle today. How thoughtful.

The sniper rifle works differently from the rest of Aya’s weaponry. Chiefly, instead of locking on automatically to enemies, it will go into a first-person scope view. And boy does Aya aim rifles slowly. I included sniping in the highlight reel video just to show off how painfully slow the sights move.

Shots from the rifle itself will take off an entire health bar from the Rover. So it will take about six shots in all to down the thing. The annoying bit about this sequence is Gabrielle’s rifle only has two shots before needing to be reloaded. Excuse me? What kind of strange rifle set-up only has two shots? No wonder Gabrielle was ineffective in this mission.

Rifle loadout anomalies aside, there is zero threat to Aya while she’s sniping the Rover. She can take all the time in the world if she wanted. But there is suddenly an endless supply of SWAT members throwing themselves into the grinder down below. So the quicker Aya can down the Twisted mid-boss, the better who ranking will be with the whole preventing ally deaths stat.

[We're going to attack the Babel. There's a SWAT team waiting for you. Dive, Aya.]

Music Ends…

Alright, let's go. Move out.
Yes, sir!

The SWAT Team members run off, ignoring one of their members has lingered behind and is talking on the radio to an unknown third party…

[Aya, can you hear me? Good luck.]

I hear you were able to convince the boss into letting us try and help Cray.
[Of course. He's family.]
*gasp* What did you—?
Aya, what did he say? I can't hear him.

Wait… Are we having this conversation in the present or here in the past?

Huh, and here I thought he was an eternal bachelor.

Later Gabrielle. Try to decide on what time period you’re speaking from before showing up again. Or just commit to be fully unstuck from time due to resurrection or something. You're confusing the shit out of everyone. Beyond that, tune in next time for the rise of the nefarious Stinkers. It’s not for the faint of heart…

Video: Part 10 Highlight Reel

Roller – Good to see we’re two missions in and have already hit a palette swap enemy type. It’s like Final Fantasy X never ended.