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3rd Birthday boss: "I don't believe survival horror is dying"

The 3rd Birthday director Hajime Tabata speaks from Tokyo on the evolution of the Parasite Eve sequel from mobile to PSP, future plans for the series, Aya’s sexy image and the decline of survival horror.

It was at E3 2010 when gamers finally got a glimpse at Square Enix’s long-awaited third Parasite Eve game, The 3rd Birthday.

The title had dropped its series branding and come back as a new IP, with Square Enix pushing The 3rd Birthday as a new franchise revolving around Parasite Eve's protagonist, Aya Brea.

We spoke to director Hajime Tabata in Japan recently about Square's latest stab at horror.

VG247: What the main reasoning to bring Aya Brea from Parasite Eve back, and why the PSP?

Hajime Tabata: Parasite Eve 2 finished the story for Parasite Eve, so we couldn’t do a Parasite Eve 3. We really thought Aya was such an attractive protagonist, so we didn’t want to just leave her alone. We wanted to resurrect her in hope to make an Aya Brea series our next big franchise.

Why PSP? Well, when we evaluated the size of the game we felt that PSP would be most appropriate. We are very much aware of the fact that the PSP is not currently the most attractive or popular console in Europe, but we’ll have to deal with that depressing fact. [Laughs] We should have made the game for PS3, really.

"In a sense, making Aya look sexy was not our intention."

Why not take it to PS3? It is purely just because of the size of the game you had set out to create and the popularity of the PSP in Japan, or that there was just no ambition to bring it to home consoles?

Game size was the main the reason when we thought about the features and aspects we wanted to achieve. As you may know, this game was originally for mobile, which wasn’t enough. The PSP has memory that was just about right for what we wanted. We are hoping to see this franchise grow bigger and become more established. This entry will be our first step into showing off the franchise; hopefully there will be more to come.

Is The 3rd Birthday becoming the title for the franchise or just for this game in particular?

We haven’t really made our minds up yet. We’d like to wait and see how the game is received by fans, so we can see what the name should be, what should be improved and what the series should be. What challenges we should overcome.

Aya Brea’s character has changed quite a lot from the Parasite Eve series. She previously had a very strong and wilful presence, but this time around appears more apprehensive and fragile. What was the reason for the change in character, and why are all her suddenly clothes coming off?

There are a few different reasons, but they are explained in the story as you play through the game. It's explained as to why she has become so fragile and timid. The answer is to be found in the story.

The other reason is at the moment we are trying to establish the real emotion of a female character. We wanted to depict Aya more realistically as a female character and with more femininity.

Watch on YouTube

An official trailer. Cover your ears.

And the clothes? Aya Brea was a great character for female gamers to relate to. It’s a little shocking to see her even more over-sexualised than normal.

There are several reasons. Rather than sexual innuendo or for sexual reasons, we show her in torn clothes because we want to communicate the feeling of a fierce battleground. The tension and fierceness of what actually goes on on the battlefield was very important to us. That’s what we want to depict her with the damaged clothes rather than try making her sexy.

In a sense, making her look sexy was not our intention. There was a lot of talk on the internet about her sexy design, and if there was going to be a shower scene. We would not have thought that many other game heroines would have attracted so much attention. She has got an epic quality. There is more than just the sexy side to her, but the sexiness is just a part of the whole package.

The protagonist we want to establish is someone who can be liked by both men and women while keeping her sexiness at the same time.

Gameplay in the Parasive Eve games changed dramatically from title to title, the first one being more of an action-RPG and the second a survival horror game. Will the Aya Brea series carry on this trend, or will we be seeing the same type of gameplay in future games?

We may actually change the genre in the future, but we also may not. After considering what the market wants, we want to make something that will go down well as engaging and exciting gameplay.

What won’t be changed is that you’ll still be Aya, using a gun and shooting at very powerful and huge monsters. As long as I’m involved in the project these things will not be changed.

"I do not particularly believe that survival horror is dying as a genre."

Parasite Eve 2 was a survival horror game and now we see Resident Evil 5 has evolved into more of an action game. Do you think survival horror is dying?

I do not particularly believe that survival horror is dying as a genre. This time around, that kind of flavour is something we wanted to do without for the 3rd Birthday. This is more like a tense battleground where either you kill or be killed.

If we discuss the possibility of expanding the franchise to PS3 or Xbox 360 in the future, that kind of flavour might actually be reemployed in the future. It’s something you have to decide each time: whether or not you want that kind of flavour in your game. This time it was something we didn’t want.

What kind of changes will we expect to see in Aya’s abilities now that Parasite Energy is not being used?

There will be no elemental energies like fire or wind this time, but Aya has other abilities that you unlock throughout the game. This is like a character improvement system. When you use the Overdrive system then you can collect DNA chips. These chips allow you to modify your DNA to acquire new abilities and upgrade your stats.

The 3rd Birthday is an absolutely stunning looking game. What is a real challenge pushing the PSP to its limits or has the process become easier?

[Laughs] You can’t even imagine how hard it was. At one point, I was seriously considering that we had opted for the wrong platform. So, we have shaped up the kind of game that is more interesting to experience if we could play it on the big screen. It had a kind of quality that could be enjoyed on a PS3 or Xbox 360 but as we had already made the decision to put it on PSP, we had to stick by it. We had to squash it down to a smaller screen, and that was extremely difficult.

It was very challenging and difficult for us, but that left us with a very polished and interesting game that we're proud of.

The 3rd Birthday releases for PSP on March 29 in the US. There's no date for Europe other than "spring".

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