Zone of Enders: HD Collection Review
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 3
We all miss releases now and again, due to the sheer volume of games hitting the market at any given time. In fact, it’s so hard to keep up, that we sometimes completely miss titles we could really fall in love with. Thankfully, Konami re-mastered and re-released two of their favourite games, and brought us a box set called Zone of the Enders: HD Collection that not only includes the original Zone of the Enders (Z.O.E.) game and the sequel The 2nd Runner, but also a brand new demo of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With so many games bundled into one package, what could go wrong? A box set is a great way to encourage players (who have not yet been exposed to Z.O.E.) to experience a classic game, and catch up on the storyline before playing the sequel, all in one place.
In the 22nd century, mankind developed colonies on (and around) Mars and Jupiter. This ‘branching out’ of humanoid habitats was fuelled by a new discovery found on Callisto (Jupiter IV): a type of ore called Metatron, which can be converted into energy and is used to fuel newly developed technology, including Orbital Frames. Orbital Frames are mechanical suits supported by an onboard AI and navigational system that are humanoid-looking in nature, and mainly utilized by a military organization called BAHRAM. ‘Enders’ is a derogatory term coined by the people living on Earth to describe those living on the end of civilization via colonies on Mars and Jupiter. A divide between those on Earth and the Enders begins to erupt into full out war due to heavy taxation and laws forced upon the Enders by Earth’s government, with military operations such as BAHRAM at the heart of the action and innocent colonists being caught in the crossfire.
For those of you who have not yet immersed yourselves in the Z.O.E. stories (via the manga, anime, or games in general), a brief synopsis of the Z.O.E. games (and some of the manga) is in order. The protagonist of the original game Z.O.E. is a little boy named Leo Stenbuck, resident of Antilia, a space colony orbiting Europa (Jupiter II). BAHRAM invades Antilia, and in the middle of the chaos Leo encounters an Orbital Frame called Jehuty which he then uses to fend off BAHRAM units pursuing him. When he first gets inside the suit, ADA (the tactical AI of Jehuty), introduces herself and then helps Leo adapt to Jehuty’s control scheme, and also provides him with tactical advice during his fight. By defending himself, it becomes quite clear that although he may be very young, Leo is a natural when it comes to handling Jehuty’s mechanics, almost as if it was built for him. A resistance officer named Elena Weinberg notices his remarkable talent and contacts Leo via video communication in Jehuty itself. She reveals to him that this Orbital Frame is the key to winning the war against BAHRAM, and that since the original pilot is presumed dead, he must get Jehuty to Mars as soon as possible so that more innocent lives do not have to be lost. The rest of the story should not be ruined, and should especially be played through by those intending on trying The 2nd Runner.
In The 2nd Runner, the narrative’s focal point is an ice miner, Dingo Egret, working away peacefully on the moons orbiting Jupiter. Dingo was a former BAHRAM pilot, and during his excavations, he stumbles upon none other than the Orbital Frame Jehuty. As soon as he discovers this, BAHRAM troops surround Dingo and launch a massive assault against him and everyone on the moon’s surface. Though Dingo fends them off, as they retreat he decides to quickly sneak onto their airship and destroy them from the inside. This is where the story really begins for us adventurers, so let us stop there and you can intertwine yourself with the characters – without spoilers.
When either game begins you have the option of choosing your difficulty: Easy, Normal, Hard, or Very Hard. The Very Hard option is not available in The 2nd Runner; only Z.O.E. gives you this opportunity. The difficulty simply adds to the number of mobs and their ability to dodge your attacks; there are no extra missions or handicaps that I ran into. As you fight your way through mobs and complete your objectives, you will notice a directional arrow in the shape of white square blocks will appear, directing you toward your next goal. On several occasions in Z.O.E., however, it isn’t clear where you need to go next, only what you need to do next. Most of the time you will find that the directional arrow will not appear, or somehow is not available, and you will have to exit different areas and go searching from spot to spot on the map for clues to determine your next location.
The mechanics remain relatively the same between Z.O.E. and The 2nd Runner, adding only a few more perks as you level up in both. Thankfully, at the beginning ADA will walk you through the controls so you aren’t blindly fending for yourself, as the environment is truly 3-Dimensional and relies on defeating your enemies from every possible angle. You begin with a basic blaster and mechanical blade to fight against your enemies, and other weapons such as a Sniper Rifle are introduced as you progress. The actual in-game fighting is incredible once you get used to it, and though it is simplistic in nature, it is extremely enjoyable.
As fun as the gameplay is, there is still a certain level of aggravation to Z.O.E. in that aside from the boss fights, you will encounter the same enemy types for most of the game. One enemy model looks almost like a praying mantis-humanoid hybrid that uses melee attacks on you. The other is a pear-shaped robot whose main attack (if you don’t interrupt it) is a dual beam of orange fire-energy that is unblockable. Some new enemies (and bosses) are introduced further on, but the staple of this game relies on these two enemies being defeated over and over on every level. The amount of grinding needed to level up can get a little silly, and leave the player feeling bored to tears. To be fair, these foes become harder to beat and grow in number as you advance, so it does become more of a challenge, but the overall lack of variety in enemies still detracts from the experience.
The art is a major part of the draw to these games, and. Z.O.E. tried to mix up the genres graphically as the in-game cutscenes are in a 3D virtual graphics reminiscent of the old TV show Reboot, but the opening scene is done in classic anime style. As opposed to its predecessor, The 2nd Runner has the traditional anime for its in-game content. Both games are visually appealing, though The 2nd Runner is less distracting as it sticks to one genre in its cutscenes. To accurately judge these games, however, you have to take into consideration when they were originally created. In 2001 (when Z.O.E. was originally released), being able to make more realistic virtual graphics was very popular, and gives some credence to the direction Konami took in the first game of the series. In Z.O.E., the colonies are darkly shaded with an almost yellowish hue, and little bits of colour (like a bright red truck in a driveway) popping out to catch your eye. In The 2nd Runner, the layout is slightly more sophisticated, with less attention paid to artistic licensing and more detail used in creating realistic scenery such as bright white and snowy mountaintops, or the cold, steely inside of a warship.
The music for both Zone of the Enders games is very cleverly written. The theme song used for both games has a wonderful mix of violin, piano, and vocal background to it that build up separately throughout the song, and the music in-game follows the same lead, usually adding synthesizers in fast-paced tones during the battles. The voice acting for both is cheesy, but wonderfully delivered. The best way to describe ADA’s character and voice-acting would be that ADA is the original GLaDOS (from the game Portal). Unfortunately, ADA can get very annoying by repeating the same “we have shot down the enemy” after every individual kill, along with many other repetitive catchphrases, which might give you the sudden urge to pour water on Jehuty’s console just to make her shut up. On the flipside, my favourite part of this game is ADA’s monotone responses – as many of them are bang-on what an emotionless AI would say – and the way that the human characters become so disturbed or disgruntled in response. An example that stands out would be when little Leo asks why not leave someone alive after they have already disabled their Orbital Frame, to which ADA replies that there are 17 possible reasons, and asks if Leo would like to hear them. This back-and-forth dialogue between ADA and Leo, and even later between ADA, Dingo, and a slightly older Leo who returns in The 2nd Runner as an NPC, makes the game thoroughly enjoyable.
Whether you just want to play the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance Demo, are a fan of the manga, or you really just want something that isn’t your run-of-the-mill shooting game, Zone of the Enders: HD Collection measures up to its price and gives you more than your money’s worth. The redundancy of the enemies, conversational pieces, and the lack of direction towards your next missions in Z.O.E. can leave the player feeling frustrated and may deter them from trying The 2nd Runner altogether, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t! The issues that existed in Z.O.E. are simply not present in The 2nd Runner, making is a more complete and enjoyable playthrough. As for a review of the new Metal Gear Demo, you’ll just have to buy it yourself and try it out, my lips are sealed!
Zone of the Enders: HD Collection receives a 4.25/5.0
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