The 3rd Birthday definitely isn’t your typical RPG from Square Enix. It’s fairly straight forward, there are difficulty settings, and your main character has a gun instead of a sword (it’s not even a gun sword!). It’s also short, which was evident to me as soon as the guide arrived on my doorstep. I’ve never, NEVER seen a Square Enix RPG strategy guide so thin.
However, beyond this appearance of simplicity, The 3rd Birthday actually has a lot of hidden gems for players to unlock–from secret endings to powerful armor–and the guide covers all of these flawlessly.
I honestly finished the game weeks ago, but I’ve had the hardest time sitting down to write a review for the guide because it was perfect. All I want to say is just that: it’s perfect. Perfect design, perfect advice, perfect organization. It’s really hard to elaborate on that, hence why it has taken me so long to write more than five words about it.
Every guide should follow The 3rd Birthday strategy guide’s structure. The first page of each mission has maps of the areas Aya will explore, all clearly marked with items, enemies, and exits. Each map is labeled as “Area #”, and then consequently in the walkthrough, each section marks which area Aya is in. It’s plainly easy to find exactly where you are at any given time. Also on this front page are a list of the mission’s Feats, which are sort of like the game’s Trophies–if the PSP had any Trophy support. The Feats are also mentioned again when the best time (or only time) Aya can accomplish them, and they are placed in clear, callout boxes so there is no risk of missing them.
All of the screenshots are clear, concise, and all serve a purpose. Large screenshots usually depict what Aya should be looking for or what direction she should be heading. For boss fights, they show her most optimal position for survival as well. Smaller screenshots are used to show sequences of actions, such as how to achieve a certain Feat or how to survive a sticky situation.
Put in simpler terms: I never had trouble quickly finding where I was in the game and guide and how to do what I needed to do.
The appendices relist all of the Feats and how to obtain them, and all of the hidden gems one would never expect this game to have. The 3rd Birthday is so short so that players will play it again and again, thereby unlocking additional weapons, costumes for Aya, and even secret endings and hidden scenes. When you finish the game the first time, you receive a new costume for Aya, so you become instantly aware that there may be others, but that’s the only unlockable that is obvious. I never would had fathomed most of the others.
As this is a Square Enix game, and it has a plethora of what Square Enix does best–cut scenes–there is an extensive amount of art in the strategy guide as well. Where so many guides try to combine art with the walkthroughs, The 3rd Birthday strategy guide handles its art as all guides should: outside of the walkthroughs. The front pages have plenty of art, and of course the back has some art samples, the pages with the walkthroughs are art-free aside from the screenshots. This is how it should be done, as now the writing and the screenshots don’t appear to take second fiddle to artwork.
So yes, I find The 3rd Birthday strategy guide to be perfect. None of the strategies led me astray, it was very easy to access and find information, and it still found a place for all of that gorgeous Square Enix artwork any fan of the developer would expect a guide to have.