The Let's Play Archive

The 3rd Birthday

by The Dark Id

Part 18: One Night in Neo Kobe

Time to get Operation Red Fog underway as we dive into Sergeant Bobby of Delta Force nearly two years ago in Grand Central Terminal for one of only two actual landmarks The 3rd Birthday will hit up as we tour mid-apocalyptic Manhattan.

New Music: Dive Into Cause

Sorry, no grandiose CGI scene again this time. They only had the budget for the concert mission and the shower scene. Heck, there isn’t even a grainy in-game captured cutscene of Aya jumping into her host in the past. We are just unceremoniously dumped into the mission. Grand Central Station at least looks neat with the massive alien root occupying the center of the main lobby.

Seeing as we’re in a new chapter, we have a new set of Feats offered up. It seems this mission is dedicated to all those cyberpunks who fight against injustice and corruption every day of their lives. Tch… If only. So for 3-1, we’ve got to avoid fighting Rovers because those guys suck. Kill all the Snatchers… whatever those are… And be diligent about checking the whole 2-3 corners of the 90% linear map for extra grenades and ammo recharges. We’ll get to the first two in my detail in a bit. Just assume I picked up all the ammo crates on the way, ya?

Anyway, let’s head out onto the ground floor of the station, shall we?

[I don't think you have it in you to kill them off. Just avoid their attacks and keep moving forward.]

So Mission #3 is rather on the short side. But it is just jam packed with gimmicky enemy encounters, which makes it a less than stellar ride. Right off the bat, Aya is attacked by another invincible Reaper she must escape from immediately.

Luckily, the Reaper is easily evaded by just blowing past it, firing an explosive at the Orb directly ahead, and touching the stairs. Reapers simply cannot handle stairs and will warp away in terror at the first sight of someone climbing ‘em. Or Reapers have really clunky AI and the game de-spawns them if Aya reaches an area where they cannot fight back.

[First, you'll want to find Captain Danny Russo of the Delta Force. He was a friend of Cray's.]

So if you were not paying close attention or have simply forgotten, both acceptable when dealing with The 3rd Birthday’s plotting, our mission here is to link up with the supposedly real badass (until they all fucked up and died horribly this mission) Russo Squad lead by Captain Russo. Also destroying the Big Orb in the area and seeing if that shakes out anything with timeline shenanigans.

Aya proceeds out of the iconic main lobby of the Grand Central Terminal and off into a side hall, at which point the level designers are free to depict the area as any generic American terminal they’ve seen in movies. In this hallway, Aya comes upon a ghostly floating anomaly in the distance. If we approach it, Blank will chime in.

New Music: Human Seekers

[They're the Rover's detectors.]
[If you set it off, the Rovers will attack.]

So remember when I mentioned gimmicky encounters? This is a major one. Meet the Rover detectors. They are a black pool of writhing tentacles that will quickly dart around a (usually tight quarters) chunk of real estate in Aya’s path. While they do have a set pattern of sorts for patrolling a hallway, their movement is quite erratic so they’re not entirely easy to evade. Additionally, the game really likes to just spawn ‘em a couple feet ahead of Aya out of nowhere, giving her all of a couple seconds to roll out of the way or be detected.

Should Aya come into contact with a Detector, she’ll receive an electric shock and topple to the ground stunned for a few seconds. The glowing anomaly floating above the area will then take form as a Rover and begin its work attacking Aya. While Aya’s arsenal has upgraded substantially since the opening bit of Episode 2, Rovers are still giant bullet sponges that hit like a truck and even everything she has wouldn’t be enough to take one down. Additionally, the rest of our Delta Force teammates decided to secure the main hall, leaving Aya alone to fend for herself. So one screw up means she’ll be diving into an early grave next.

So the best course of action is to just avoid the detectors in the first place. After all, avoiding a battle with the Rovers is one of the chapter’s Feats.

Aya proceeds into one of the stations…

[A civilian? Secure her!]
[It's the Delta Force transmission!]
[Aya, get in touch with Captain Russo.]
Right. Do… Do I act like myself or do I stay in character as the person I am diving into?

[This is Aya Brea of the CTI. Captain Danny Russo, your coordinates, sir?]
[CTI? What do you want?]
[Hmm… You sound an awfully lot like my man Ellsworth. This better not be some stunt, soldier!]
[My little sister is lost.]
[Of all the things I expected to hear! Looking for a lost civilian in battle. Unheard of. Alright, come on.]
[We’ll go fish out her remains if she’s around here.
[She’s dead. Do you have any idea where we are? This is ground zero of those freak’s spawning ground. Anyone here that isn’t a trained soldier is INCREDIBLY dead already. Even then it’s dicey. Goddamn. You’d have better chances looking for your lost cat.]
No. She is… special. I’m sure she’s still alive.
[Mhm. I’ll be in touch]

Well, I hope you enjoyed your time visiting one of the largest railway platform hubs in the world, whose in-game appearance would fit in a storeroom of Club Sacrifice. Now it’s onward to spelunking in the tunnels of the NYC Metro for the remainder of the mission. Hmph… At least it’s not a sewer level, I suppose…

[The girl... Her face... She's a Twisted!]
[Wait, hold your fire. I don't see anyone.]
[She's gone.]

New Music: Pain of Assault

Now then. It’s time for a new Twisted to rear its assorted spindly appendages and hard to identify orb bits. Meet the Snatchers. Sorry, they’re not Japanese knock-off Terminators with heavy investments in sun block. Instead, we’re greeted with one of the more annoying enemy types in the game.

Like just about every enemy in the game, Snatchers start out their attack routine by lobbing nondescript arcs of energy at Aya and any other unfortunate soldier in the area. These are about on par with damage as the Wad’s standard shots. Not too threatening and there is no homing ability on ‘em.

Far more dangerous are the orb mines the Snatcher will shoot onto the ground. This shot comes in duos and while coming into contact with it is fairly damaging, more pressing is the proximity mine like effect it emits when Aya or anyone else approaches the glob of Resident Evil 5 black spaghetti looking gunk left behind. Spikes will shoot every which way from it with a larger than it appears hitbox. Getting stuck by this will take nearly 50% of Aya’s health off. Best to avoid.

The Snatchers themselves are thankfully not particularly resilient. A full magazine from Aya’s rifle is almost certainly enough to either take out or stun it in order to perform an Overdive kill. The real trouble is that there only being a pair of Snatchers at a time is a rarity. As we’ll see shortly.

Aya dispatches the pair of Snatchers...

[They're such a pain! You don't want to know what'll happen if they catch you!]
[Keep your eyes open.]

I’m surprised they didn’t put an electrified third rail in the tunnels that Aya would have to roll over or get her Overdived body one-shot. That would be a terrible fate for poor Omari Ziehfreund.

Sheesh. We’re just coming on the half-way point of the game and I’m already at the “well… I mean it could have been worse” train of thought.

Proceeding farther into the rail tunnels and into a large, open offshoot service tunnel, we come upon a spider-like Snatcher Nest. If you were wondering why they’re named “Snatchers” or what Blank was talking about earlier, this encounter shows the normal encounter with Snatchers.

Normally, Snatchers are fought in tight quarters with about 4-5 (with more warping in on occasion.) Should any of the numerous ceiling mounted enemies, in this game with a camera that has difficulty pointing upward, detach from their vantage point and touch Aya, their limbs will wrap around and immobilize her.

At this point, Aya’s host body is completely helpless. There is no way for her to break out of the Snatcher’s grasp. They do live up to their names, after all. That aside, each Snatcher nest has a large open portal in the corner of the room. The Snatcher will claim its prize and slowly make its way up towards said portal.

Should Aya be yanked into the portal, she presumably gets turned into a human slushy like the concert goers in the opening mission and the result is an instant Game Over.

Thankfully, there is seldom an encounter with Snatchers that lack allies fighting with Aya. So, should she be immobilized by a Snatcher, she can just Overdive into another body and leave that poor fellow to their fate. Or we can attempt to kill the Snatcher before it abducts the ensnarled soldier. As I said, they are pretty weak enemies.

Regardless of soldier abduction, slaying all the Snatchers in this tunnel and subsequent nest will be enough to qualify for completion of this chapter’s Snatcher destruction Feat. So… it’s essentially impossible to avoid this, since the nest is a mandatory encounter that only ends when all the Snatchers are dead and why would you run past two new enemies earlier?

Aya’s radio crackles on again as soon as the Snatchers are disposed of. Also I keep wanting to type Stalker and it is kind of driving me nuts…

[We're heading down the subway tracks. I'm not waiting around for you! Pick up the pace!]
Could I get clarification of which tunnel? I’ve linked up with more of your men but I want to be sure.
[The one with all the Twisted. Over.]

Exiting the Snatcher nest will also complete the requirements for the Rover avoidance Feat. I think the Rover Detectors in that tunnel were bugged. Since I’ve played through that area twice recently and hell if I ever saw a single Detector. Not that I’m complaining.

As First Lieutenant McDonald says, the terrain ahead is a mess of Babel roots and crashed subway cars. But as luck would have it, apparently there was a cache of explosive canisters in a nearby collapsed building, toppling its highly volatile contents all over any paths that might obstruct Aya. Lobbing a grenade at any of these will detonate the blue barrel and clear the path for Aya to proceed.

Music: Reaper

But all is not in Aya’s favor today, since as soon as she enters the area, another Reaper decides to show up and be a big fat jerk. Aya has no choice but to flee atop the crashed train cars to safety. And… she actually is quite safe up there. The Reaper technically has an attack animation where it will mount the train car and slash at Aya. But, it has a remarkable amount of trouble handling the janky geometry and I’ve only seen it do the attack once and could not replicate it.

So, while this sequence is technically supposed to be Aya quickly fleeing and clearing the wreckage all while dodging the Reaper’s attacks, she can instead just… hang out for the safety of the cars and spam grenades to clear the path ahead of time, turning the entire encounter into a joke.

Aya still needs to run the course of the subway car mini-maze, since she is utterly incapable of leaping off any of the train cars and can only mount and dismount from specific ladders (which she can immediately dismount like she leapt from the top anyway.) But still. No big deal. Adios, Reaper. Until the day the game will inevitably decide Aya must fight and destroy you, instead of running away constantly.

[…fight these monsters or not!? Where the hell are you?]
[Did you contact us from Staten Island? Jesus, get a move on, soldier!]

New Music: Dive Into Cause

Following the tunnel a ways, we come to a command center safe zone the Delta Force has set up in the middle of a connecting tunnel. I’m sure the elite Delta Force members have their shit together far better than those National Guard or SWAT jerks, right?

Kids... another dream that's never gonna come true.

They don't leave corpses... What are these things, and where did they come from?
Might be aliens. Might be the product of toxic waste.
I heard they might be created by some kind of time crash by a magic girl back in 2010.

…That’s the stupidest goddamn thing I’ve heard.
Yeah. Shut up, Grosheim.

I'd still rather do this than kill humans.
Yeah. Don't have to work at hating these guys. It just comes naturally.
“Hopeless” isn't in Russo's vocabulary. Ready to go into the breach, buddy? I'm a soldier. I'm more than prepared to die in the line of duty.

Damn, I just lost a buddy in a trap! We're here fighting monsters! We only use traps when we're fighting people!

You know, I’d personally take shooting people over pan-dimensional creatures that come with portals to the blender dimension. But that’s just me! Anyway, the Delta Force has come equipped with the usual laptop to the future.

Good thing it’s only 2013 in present day. I’d hate to see what would happen if Aya was browsing the web to splice her genes through time and suddenly got a forced Windows 10 update mid-connection. As far as our upgrades go, Aya got Critical Shot as a new ability. Which is kind of useless. It makes it so the standard pistol will very rarely do a fireball shot like Aya does in Liberation mode. The trouble being that the infinite ammo pistol stopped being remotely useful after Episode 1 completed and we started getting real weapons. But eh. Better than nothing and we need to level up slots to swap ‘em out with better abilities anyway.

The AC-54 rifle the Delta Force has unlocked as an option for Aya. This rifle offers better stopping power in exchange for having kind of crappy Impact. It’s a matter of taste. But we’ll just stick with our upgraded rifle from the previous chapter for now, seeing as this chapter is short and full of specialized enemies.

Logging off the future and heading to the outskirts of the safe haven, the command team contacts Aya once again before she heads out…

[…have infrared lights.]
[A present from the Delta Force, huh?]
[Touching the light will set off the explosives. They have to be carefully avoided to proceed. Let's hope the Twisted don't attack...]
[Just keep moving.]

Sure enough, as soon as we head out of the safe room and enter Chapter 3-2, Aya is immediately faced with an array of lasers signifying a trap. That’s how infrared lasers work, right? Just a big mess of red lines jutting out of the geometry all willy-nilly. Military tactics.

This being a new chapter, we’ve got new Feats to contend with here… More Snatchers are up ahead and this time we cannot let Aya just fuck up and flee capture by leaving her old body to the meat grinder. Also avoiding the extremely obvious laser traps and destroying Orbs along the way. What was Square-Enix’s obsession with orbs during the ‘00s decade?

In regards to the Delta Force traps, should Aya decide to throw caution to the wind and dash into the neon red laser array, she’ll immediately be blown to bits and instantly killed. They distinctly said to avoid the traps. Sheesh!

New Music: Pain of Assault

Beyond the laser traps, this tunnel reveals that Beans are also occupying the tunnels. They’re quite obnoxious in this area since their girth makes avoiding them impossible and a few spawn outside of the range of Aya’s grenades for an easy kill.

But once we get past the train wreckage and Bean obstructions, Aya finds herself in another train station. If it feels like these screenshots are jumping around wildly and kind of hard to follow Aya’s progress through the mission, that’s not on me! That’s actually just how the game presents itself! Check the darkness at the end of the screenshot with the Beans? This is what immediately loads up as soon as Aya penetrates that load barrier.

This new train station is just lousy with Stalkers, Orbs that are producing Stalkers, and Russo squad’s explosive traps.

Indeed, we cannot even progress down the station without Overdiving into another body further past the explosives. It’s worth mentioning that the tunnel does collapse behind Aya at regular spots as we enter new maps of this mission. Kind of a dick move stranding all those guys in the safe room behind a sea of traps, Russo.

Given the clusterfuck of Snatchers in the area, the orbs producing even more Snatchers, and the explosive traps that will one-shot Aya and any fellow soldiers nearby, this area is quite tricky. Unless we pull out a trump card and make it trivial.

Hey, remember that Inferno ability I mentioned Aya gaining the last update? You know? The one that turns Aya’s host body into a suicide bomb? I said that it wasn’t that great and more of a novelty at best. Except… it is actually incredibly good for wrecking Snatcher nests like this set-up.

So we’ll just go ahead and detonate Eddie Hopkins here in the middle of the station. Which will in one shot annihilate all the Orbs and the Snatchers in the area, clearing the entire encounter in just a couple seconds. Shame about Captain Hopkins being turned into a stain on the ground. But hey! He didn’t get captured by a Snatcher. So we’re still well on the way to clearing that Feat! Indeed… just getting all the soldiers killed before they can be Snatched is also technically good enough to earn that Feat, if Aya is feeling like being a dick.

Regardless, with the Snatchers and Orbs sorted out, Aya is free to head through the rest of the station (avoiding a few Rover Detectors along the way) and head back into the tunnels.

[I haven't seen her, but I saw some guy.]
[I couldn't tell, but I saw him casually dodging the Twisted. And then he disappeared up ahead.]
[Gonna be real mad if I ever see anyone pulling a stunt like that again.]

There is some chatter over the radio during the course of the mission about men seeing a girl with the face of a Twisted. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.

As we depart from the station and back onto the subway tracks, our Feat of avoiding all of the Russo squad traps is accomplished. Yep. That gimmick existed for exactly two rooms and never comes up again.

In the next tunnel, we come upon the upgraded Slackers. Much like the palette-swap enemies of Final Fantasy X, these new blue Slackers come with boosted HP, damage output, and absolutely nothing else. Their stretchy claw arm has a bit of a cancerous growth on it but that’s the extent of its alterations. They are fought exactly like the rest we’ve encountered.

[Don't see her.]
[Captain Russo! A little girl is headed your way!]

The rest of the tunnel is full of Beans and more upgraded Slackers. It’s not important. What is of note here is Firmin Hannawald. I don’t know if the NPC names are a localization thing or if they were that ridiculously multinational in the original text. Regardless, I love them and they are one of the only good things in the game. Never stop ridiculous name generator. Never stop.

As Aya heads through this tunnel, she hears the sound of a train engine coming to a halt further down. Following the wreckage to its end, we find an intact train stopped with what I’m sure is a standard issue big red emergency ladder up to its roof. For maintenance purposes, no doubt.

Aya finds herself compelled to climb the ladder and welp…

Hmph. Turns out the ladders aren’t actually bright red. Aya just has Runner Vision turned on. Oh yes, and the train starts up and peels off down the tracks.

Tune in next time for Aya’s incredibly dangerous train surfing stunt video, some more exploding soldiers, and maybe an orbital cannon or two as we finish up the gameplay of Chapter 3. We’re not going to be so lucky on the cutscene front… Buckle up. If you thought the story was disjointed before, we’re about to have two script drafts collide into a mess of questionable coherence. It’ll be a… thing!

Video: Part 18 Highlight Reel
(I mean Aya explodes a dude.)

Snatcher – I wonder at what stage the design went from weird flesh cage in the center to just a big blue ball.