Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review
The Zone of the Enders gaming series is a mecha combat series produced and associated with Hideo Kojima and designer Yoji Shinkawa. The first game in the series is probably most well know for including the original Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo. The first game spawned a sequel called "Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner" which greatly expanded on the action that the first game established. Now both games are available in a Zone of the Enders HD collection for both PS3 and Xbox 360.
The original title Zone of the Enders (ZOE) follows the story of a boy named Leo Stenbeck. Leo's Jupiter colony of Antilia is attacked by a group of rebels known as BAHRAM. Leo escapes capture from BAHRAM and manages to get aboard an orbital frame that BAHRAM seeks to capture known as "Jehuty". Jehuty has a built-in AI known as "ADA" that helps Leo control Jehuty and fight the BAHRAM forces. Leo is forced into fulfilling the mission bestowed upon Jehuty from Earth forces that seek to control the frame to use it against BAHRAM's military base known as "Aumaan".
The first game plays much like an action rpg. The player has a world map to navigate through different locations and enter a battlefield with several enemy mechs that can fight the main character whenever Jehuty gets in close range to them. The combat is fast and fluid. The gameplay is a mixture of shooter and melee combat. The targeting system works much like Ocarina of Time's Z-targeting allowing for 3-D movements around an enemy with Jehuty. Jehuty can lock-on to an enemy and players can fly around the enemy and fire at it from long range then hit it with a sword beam attacks from close range. Players can find enhancements such as extra weapons and other key items that open up new areas. The game has a few boss fights with big mechs. The first game is only about 4 hours long even for a player that takes their time on the first playthrough. The first ZOE is basically a prologue game and only sets up characters that are explored in the second game.
ZOE: 2nd Runner continues the story that was setup in the first game and adds much more to depth to its characters. The second game has a new cast with a few returning characters. The main story still follow the mech Jehuty and its AI (ADA) but it has a new pilot known as Dingo Egret. Leo appears once again and the story gets much more climactic and events that were hinted at in the first game such as Nohman, and his orbital frame "Anubis", Aumaan and Jehuty's overall mission are finally shown in much more detail. ZOE 2nd Runner is easily one of the most memorable PS2 games that I ever played back on the PS2 console for many reasons.
The story to both games explores the importance of human life and asks the question of whether feelings can exist between an AI and an actual human. The story is pure Hideo Kojima in every way. The presentation for the story in both games is truly brought to life with the voice acting and overall fantastic use of sound. The voice acting in both games fits extremely well, but the English dubbing is still off from character lip movements most of the time like it was in the original games. Even with this flaw, the series still has a very impressive story and cast of characters throughout both games.
The first game sets up the characters and the basic gameplay and the second game truly goes the distance by improving upon everything established in the original title. 2nd Runner has more of an anime style to its overall look and character design. The game is presented with cell-shaded 3D graphics and has much more environmental detail than the first game. 2nd Runner has several large-scale battles in it - both boss battles and huge enemy force battles. The second game is linear in its stage setup when compared to the first game. Jehuty gains many extra moves, such as grabbing enemies and objects and attacking with them, which makes the combat much more satisfying in 2nd Runner. 2nd Runner is overall harder and much longer than the original title. In the original ZOE, I could get by with spamming one button for the majority of all battles, in 2nd Runner, I have to learn the controls more closely or suffer several deaths from enemies.
The original ZOE and 2nd Runner both look fantastic in HD! The graphics are so smooth. The game has a new intro movie sequence that shows events from both games in a new anime style that closely resembles the style used in 2nd Runner. Both games have slowdown that wasn't present in the original titles on PS2. The first game has some slight slowdown that is not too noticeable but 2nd Runner can has more noticeable slowdown during some battles. 2nd Runner's framerate can slow down quite a bit when too much is happening on the screen. This doesn't detract that much from playing the game, but it is noticeable when the game ran so very smooth on the original PS2 version.
Both games are definitely worth the $40 asking price for any gamer that is a fan of Hideo Kojima and his cutscene and storyline style. If you enjoy Metal Gear Solid, I'm sure you will enjoy Zone of the Enders just as much. The games are now in HD and even with some slight slowdown in both games, they still play great. The game collection also includes the demo for Metal Gear Rising. If you've never tried either Zone of the Enders games then now is the perfect time to give them a shot. 2nd Runner is worth the $40 price alone.
+ Great story that spans over two games
+ Addicting gameplay that is taken to the extreme in 2nd Runner
+ Easy controls and fluid combat in both games
- Slowdown in both games that wasn't present in the original
Final Rating: 84%. Zone of the Enders HD collection features high-speed robot action with a great overall story - oh, and it has another Metal Gear demo too!