Zone of the Enders HD Collection: review

  • Format: 360 (version reviewed), PS3
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Kojima Productions
  • Players: 1-2
  • Site:

In a departure from the Metal Gear franchise in 2001, Hideo Kojima pursued his love of giant robots with Zone of the Enders, a mech based Sci-Fi action game. Along with an anime, it also spurred a sequel two years later in the form of Zone of the Enders 2: The Second Runner. Both games have been re-released in this HD collection.

In Zone of the Enders you play as Leo, a young boy inhabiting a space station orbiting Mars which is raided by the BAHRAM group in search of two Orbital Frames it wishes to acquire. These frames are giant robotic suits created with an incredibly poor choice of cockpit location in mind. During the initial attack, Leo flees into a warehouse and accidentally ends up stuck inside the Orbital Frame Jehuty. After being forced to defend himself using the frame, he is asked to deliver it to the people it was originally meant for.

The first Z.O.E. game was a little short on plot and scope. You’re essentially on a delivery run across the space station with some obstacles thrown at you and some weak attempts at debates about killing and pacifism between Leo and ADA (Jehuty’s computer AI) feel very forced. Not only that but the game cuts off rather abruptly, perhaps because Kojima expected a sequel wouldn’t be far behind.

It can be argued that the game was more about the action, which is fair enough. It’s very easy to control Jehuty through the 3D environments and the controls largely work fine. Your distance to your locked-on target determines whether you use a wrist mounted blade or guns, which takes some getting used to. There are also a half dozen or so ‘sub-weapons’ which can heal you or fire like a machine gun and so on to give you a more controllable option in terms of attack type.

Your frame levels up as you engage ‘groups’ of enemies in each area you visit that will attack if they fly close enough to you in real time. You have to do a lot of fighting, especially if you aren’t familiar with the game and need to keep revisiting unlocked areas to find whatever newly spawned upgrade you need to progress further. This doesn’t help combat getting repetitive fairly fast, but this isn’t too much of a problem since the game only takes around four to five hours to finish on your first go and can easily be done in under two on further playthroughs. Other than replaying the campaign, Z.O.E. only offers up a versus mode for two players in terms of extras.

Set a few years after the original, you play as Dingo in Zone of Enders 2. Through a convoluted series of events he ends up in the Jehuty Orbital Frame much the same as Leo was and is blackmailed into using it to help defeat BAHRAM once and for all and stop their nonsensical super weapon from blowing up everything ever.

Z.O.E. 2 makes a lot of positive improvements on the original formula, but also manages to ruin a few things. To get the bad out the way first: Beyond horrific story, terrible acting, tedious tasks, exceptionally short, and absolutely nothing to elicit empathy towards. It actually manages to take something as bland as the plot to the first game and makes it feel superior. Thankfully, you can skip all the cutscenes.

Gameplay is vastly improved. Combat feels faster, is more visually impressive, and flows far better. You’re forced to change tactics from boss to boss and a bigger variety of sub-weapons means that you don’t just need to ram your attack button non-stop for three or four hours. There is also an attempt to give the player more to do, which is appreciated, but as we said, some of the tasks you’re given (like carrying other frames to locations) are just plain annoying.

The second game has similar unlockable extras to the first game (a VS mode for two people) but adds collectables in the form of EX Missions. These unlock bonus missions for Jehuty and also other frames and even includes a retro style space shooter.

Along with a new five minute anime intro, both games have received a reasonable graphical upgrade in terms of how sharp and detailed environments and characters are. The games have also been adapted to play in larger native resolutions without quality loss. Other than that you essentially have the same two reasonably fun, albeit pretty short, adventure games with the same extras they originally shipped with. Achievement and Trophy support has also been included for those into that sort of thing and, in an act mimicking the original release of the first Zone of Enders game, the HD collection includes an exclusive playable demo of Metal Gear: Revengeance.

The games are worth a look for fans of the mech anime style (Gundam, for example) or Kojima die-hards to be sure. For everyone else – at a reduced RRP of £24.99 – Zone of the Enders: HD Collection balances out to be a fair price for what you get, though neither game included can ever be classed as anything other than not that bad.

critical score 6

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

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