Get In The Zone
Zone of the Enders is a peculiar cult classic series ripped straight from the anime-loving head of Hideo Kojima. Combining elements of shooters, action games, and flight sims with a story that feels like what you would get if Gundam and Neon Genesis Evangelion had a shameful love baby, Zone of the Enders was a magnificently fun and artistic series that had only a short run on the PS2. As obsessed as the series’ following is, it’s never been able to expand beyond its cult classic status. Zone of the Enders has, unfortunately, gone undiscovered by much of the gaming populace even to this day. Fortunately, Konami is giving us a second chance to get acquainted with the Orbital Frame Jehuty and its pilots with Zone of the Enders HD collection.
Zone of the Enders HD collection is a pretty barebones HD remake. You won’t find extra content or characters or options here that you didn’t find in the original release. It includes both Zone of the Enders and its sequel, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. However, the version of The 2nd Runner that is included is actually the Special Edition version that was previously unreleased in North America. The version includes new cutscenes, difficulty settings, missions, and a lot more that American gamers haven’t seen before unless they managed to snag an import. That alone is probably worth the purchase for some ZOE fans out there. Unfortunately, ZOE 1 doesn’t get any additional bells and whistles to speak of.
This means that a solid half of Zone of the Enders HD is phenomenal, while the other half is merely just good. Zone of the Enders 1 is the latter, as it hasn’t aged nearly as well as The 2nd Runner. While both of the games have gotten an HD facelift, Zone of the Enders 1 was the less graphically impressive game to start with. It hadn’t yet realized the ZOE partial cel-shaded graphical style. It moves slower, has less of a sense of pacing, and, while it’s more open, it tends to hold your interest less than its sequel. In addition, the polygonal FMVs look outdated and awkward, which was true even when the game first came out.
The 2nd Runner, on the other hand, benefits greatly from its HD facelift. The cel-shaded style looks even better in HD, so much so that you could potentially mistake this for a current-generation title. The game’s notorious slowdowns are fewer now, allowing the fast-paced giant robot action to feel exactly as hectic as it should. Not only that, but the game’s liberal use of anime cutscenes to tell the story is far better than the outdated in-game and FMV graphics that the first game used. While Zone of the Enders 1 is a pretty fun play in its HD remake form, The 2nd Runner is an HD masterpiece.
For those of you who have never played a Zone of the Enders title before, this is essentially an anime giant robot flight simulator. Except these giant robots aren’t the slow, lumbering kind. These robots zip around outer-space at lightning speed, clashing beam swords like giant metal samurai. You can also lock on to enemies and fire lasers, which do far less damage but light up the sky with a fireworks show of explosions. Most of the game involves comboing these two abilities, along with shields and dodges, in order to get past enemy defenses while still destroying all of their easily dispatched peons along the way.
You’ll also come across a variety of secondary weapons to tack on to your giant robot. Many of these weapons have limited usefulness, though a couple can be integrated into your fighting style. As a whole, the weapons from The 2nd Runner are more useful than the ones in Zone of the Enders 1, which get routinely trumped by your simple sword and gun combo.
Some stages are linear and some stages are open and free-roaming. Where ZOE 1 has far more free-roaming stages than its sequel, ZOE 2 has better crafted set pieces. In fact, the openness of ZOE 1 can sometimes feel like a slog, while the fast-paced encounters of ZOE 2 make it feel like you are flying through the story.
Oh, and speaking of story, ZOE 2 has a better story than ZOE 1 as well. ZOE 1 is pretty saturated with anime tropes, following the whole “spikey-haired, idealistic, brooding youth saves the world by accident” plotline. ZOE 2, on the other hand, has a far darker plot. Its characters are more mature, its war is more serious, and the threat of death feels far more real.
When it comes to HD remakes, any reviewer has to ask this question: Who is this game for? Fortunately, Zone of the Enders HD answers that question in many different ways. This is one of the few franchises whose second game was more popular than its first. ZOE HD allows everyone who came in with ZOE 2 to finally get to play ZOE 1. It also gives everyone in America a chance to play The Second Runner’s Special Edition. Secondly, it’s a perfect value for any gamer who hasn’t played either of the original games, as the HD graphics and lack of slowdown make the game easier to play. Finally, there is one type of fan that this game seems perfectly marked for: Xbox owners. The original Zone of the enders was a PS2 exclusive. Now, Xbox 360 owners can finally see what all the giant robot fuss is about.
If there was ever a series that deserves an HD remake, it’s Zone of the Enders. It may not be Metal Gear, but it’s still one of Kojima’s best works, and this is a great way to experience it all over again. Not only that, but it’s worth picking up the game with the hope that sales will finally push Kojima to make Zone of the Enders 3.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.1 Graphics
The graphics in ZOE 1 aren’t the best, but ZOE 2 looks great. 3.8 Control
The controls don’t feel as responsive as they used to, but that’s just a function of the game’s age. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voice acting has a bit of a feeling of late-1990s anime to it, but the music is still great. 4.5 Play Value
Zone of the Enders is still an amazing series to this day. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|