Review

Zone Of The Enders HD Collection Review (Xbox360)

For those of us who enjoy giant robots beating the crap out of each other, the two Zone of the Enders games were a perfect breath of fresh air for anyone not quite satisfied what few decent Gundam offerings made it out of Japan. An original IP, epic mecha-eh-mecha battles, and developed by the genius behind Metal Gear Solid no less, Zone of the Enders had a lot going for it (It even got an Anime and a fairly decent GBA game), but sadly it never really took off. You could attribute many reasons for that, but personally I blame the success of Metal Gear Solid. From a business perspective there really wasn’t much point focusing on anything else.

Of course, the first title didn’t exactly give the series a great start: The first Zone of the Enders was yet another game that fell afoul of tight release schedules, and possibly limited budgets. To say that it was only half made is a bit of an understatement – even though Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner was given slightly more time and was a little bit better put together, it was still criminally short as well. Suffice to say, sales weren’t great. Ten years later though, in the absence of a third title (which is supposed to be underway again now that Revengeance is more or less finished) Kojima has seen fit to grace us with a HD collection of both games. It’s more of a HD ‘port’ then a remake – there isn’t even a Halo: Anniversary-like visual overhaul, the two games have basically just been upscaled and fiddled with to make sure they work on larger and higher-res television sets.

Autobots, Rollo- wait. Wrong franchise

On the surface, this is can almost seem disappointing as it appears not a lot of effort has gone into making this particular collection, but considering how short both games are, it would probably make matters worse to give them pretty graphics. And, to be fair, both games seem to have scaled pretty well to the higher resolutions, with the only iffy part we noticed so far is the CG cutscenes of the first game, which is funny because the first game is, in our mind, the one that seems to have aged the best. Perhaps it’s the relative simplicity of the game – there are only a handful of battle environments, and the main environment is a very simple ‘world map’ view of part of the colony. The most ‘defined’ elements of the game are of course the Orbital Frames themselves, and even on a 40 inch HD TV they look (comparatively) as good as they did back then. It’s important to bear in mind though that this game is short – horribly short. We did a playthrough in just over four hours, and that included getting stuck on some sections. Worse than that, it feels like the rest of the game is ‘missing’, as once you complete the ‘first’ (and we use that term as we assume a more completed game would have had several) area the world map is done with, you just fight through a series of boss battles and other transitory scenes, and then it ends. Shame really.

The second game doesn’t appear to transfer over as well, but that’s probably more to do with the art style more than anything – it’s no less crisp and defined, but whilst ZOE ‘1’ was more sharp, with vivid blues, The 2nd Runner is a bit more… muddy? Lighter textures, that sort of thing. Weirdly, despite being technically ‘better’ graphics, it doesn’t look as good as the first one does, but that’s separate to the HD porting. The second game also doesn’t use the ‘world map’ that the first game uses, so instead you go through an almost endless series of boss battles, transitory stages (yay), and dialogue/cutscenes before you reach the finale. It really messes with the pacing of the game, and is a lot more stop/start than the first one but again, separate issues. Plus, the voice acting Is a bit naff (even if Dingo is less of a whiny-face than Leo). As already mentioned, the second game is also a bit shorter than it needed to be, but it doesn’t feel like elements are missing like the first game does.

Boss battles typically involve figuring out the pattern or just repeating a fiddly series of moves in order to slowly weaken them over time. It gets annoying after a while

It’s a shame there wasn’t some online functionality added into the game – one of the biggest draws for Zone of the Enders 1 & 2 was that, once the campaign was well and truly done, you could get some of your mates together and duke it out in Versus mode. The second game’s iteration was slightly more interesting because it had a wider variety of ‘real’ Orbital Frames to choose from, but they’re both a good laugh and a great hark back to the good old days of local co-op and split-screens. Again though, the drawbacks these modes always had was that, really, there was only one or two mechs really worth using, along with a couple that had some really cheap moves available to them… but what can you do. It’s the same with Tekken or Street Fighter… it was still a good distraction from the main game.

Considering backwards compatibility has now been removed from the PlayStation 3, anyone who remembered these games with fondness wouldn’t go far wrong by picking these up again. Who knows, it might help fund the third game. Those of you who never owned the PlayStation 2 and were more of an Xbox person, then now is also a perfect time to catch up on something you might have missed, plus there’s the PS Vita version for those who want to go mobile, however we haven’t reviewed that version so we don’t know how it stacks up. Zone of the Enders ultimately doesn’t offer much, but then it didn’t really promise much either – it’s a great, if short ride for any mech fans, and even those who just enjoy fast paced action games should get a good kick out of this as well. Here’s to Zone of the Enders 3.

Top Game Moment: Re-living all the good bits you remember from when you played them first time around. That big set-piece in the second game is especially great to experience again. You know the one I mean.

Platform Played: PlayStation 3

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