When the original Zone of the Enders first came out it was well received for several reason, firstly it had Hideo Kojimas name associated with it and having just created the first blockbuster Metal Gear Solid game on the Original Playstation it seemed that he could do no wrong. Secondly, it perceived giant flying robots in a way that hadn’t really been used in video games before. These robots were fast, sleek and dripping with anime charm but most importantly the original Zone of the Enders came bundled with an advance demo disc for Metal Gear Solid 2 – I know that’s why I contemplated buying it. Unfortunately back in 2001 I was 16 and broke and eventually Zone of the Enders passed from my short term memory so it’s a real honour then to be able to go back in time with the recent HD version of both Z.O.E games and play through the games which some of my friends and peers still hold aloft with such admiration and favour.
The original Zone of the Enders game plays out almost entirely on the space colony Antillia which orbits Jupiter. When attacked by the enemy forces of BAHRAM, our plucky teenage protagonist Leo Stenbuck finds himself running for his life and stumbling into the cockpit of a giant flying robot (called an Orbital Frame) codenamed ‘Jehuty’
As I play through the original Z.O.E I can’t help but feel that the entire game (and it’s not a very long game at all) was created as a bit of an experiment – a conceptual technical demo to be released with a Metal Gear demo to ensure sales it almost feels like KCEJ were just testing the waters to see if a fully fleshed out Zone of the Enders game would prove popular.
Releasing two years later, the second Z.O.E game “The 2nd Runner” feels very much like the title you have paid your money for with this HD collection. With Z.O.E 1 playing more like a prelude than a first chapter, you are introduced to the world of Z.O.E whereas Z.O.E 2 offers much more content at the minor cost of some gameplay and audio issues.
Yes that’s right folks, it wouldn’t be a Konami HD release with some niggles and nit-picks! For anyone unaware of what I’m referring to, Konami recently re-released a HD collection of the original Silent Hill games which had several glaring bugs, errors and graphical inconsistencies which has soured peoples relationship with the term ‘HD remake’
But it’s not all doom and gloom with Zone of the Enders! With the exception of a few (a fair few, mind) instances where the FPS rate seemed to drop through the floor and made me feel like I’d broken my XBox 360 the game plays pretty smoothly throughout. The noticeable differences in the slightly lack-lustre voice acting in The 2nd Runner seemed to be consistent with the original from what I’ve seen and been told.
Through both Zone of the Enders games you control your Orbital Frame using the analogue sticks, manipulating them in different ways for different effects: pressing the fire button whilst dashing for example releases a barrage of streaming missiles and timing your physical attacks right can result in a satisfying exchange of blows with a nearby enemy.
Whilst Zone of the Enders might not have aged particularly well over the years it’s still a very playable and enjoyable game. Playing an original copy of the now super-rare Z.O.E 2 and playing the HD re-release still offers you that exciting atmosphere of giant anime robot epicness that you must have felt playing it back in 2003.
The differences between the first and second Zone of the Enders is quite startling unfortunately, lending evidence to my theory that the original was more a concept exercise than a full retail release. There’s no world map in Z.O.E 2 which I found disappointing, no moments when you can pretend you are some type of enormous robot Superman flying around looking for innocent civilians to save. Z.O.E 2 takes you through a series of consecutive stages as you battle your way through. The action is much smoother than the first Z.O.E instalment despite the sometimes horrendous frame rate.
So in conclusion, Zone of the Enders HD Collection isn’t what I’d call a spectacular triumph but as far as a polished up port of an old PS2 video game goes? It’s not terrible! And has me well and truly salivating over the prospect of a Zone of the Enders 3.
Konami provided Slimgamer.com with a review copy of Zone of the Enders to review