Over a decade ago, Metal Gear mastermind Hideo Kojima stepped out of the stealth action genre and into the action adventure genre, creating the Zone of the Enders, one of the most genuine mecha experiences in gaming. As time passed, though other games have become dated, both in their design and technical prowess. Kojima’s other titles in the Metal Gear series have held their own well, but that only begs the question of how well Zone of the Enders would do after a full decade.
The collection includes two games, Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders 2, which follow Leo Steinbeck and Dingo Egret respectively as they pilot Jehuty. However, the similarities between the two titles’ stories end there, with the predecessor featuring a young protagonist who is dumped into fighting in fully populated civilian settings and a war-hardened veteran in the sequel, blasting his surroundings to smithereens without a second thought. The real robot genre and Kojima’s influence can definitely be seen in the first Zone of the Enders, where the protagonist is learning the cruel nature of warfare, making it worth any player’s attention. Its successor’s story, along with the series itself, shows growth and maturity, dealing with more complex and adult themes.
The defining factor of mecha anime is their high speed action and (previously described) explosions, and Zone of the Enders captures that to the most minute detail. With a simple lock on system and a mech that flies at mind-blowing speeds, even the most fledgling of gamers will be able to control and wipe out squads of enemies in minutes. While the learning curve is a breeze, players who mistake their high mobility for an indestructible robot will find out the hard way that they will need to be constantly juking and swerving in order to dodge the onslaught of attacks from entire hoards of enemies. Though reckless engagements may be tempting with a mobile monster like the Jehuty, they hardly pay off. Rather, the game calls for strategic advances. Once players pierce through enemy formations, they’ll see enough explosions to rival even the most action packed mecha anime.
The two titles included may both have their merits in their stories, but the sequel steals the spotlight by far. With a slew of items at players’ disposal and constant upgrades that only serve to substantially upgrade Jehuty’s killing power, the game becomes increasingly complex and players truly feel like they’re becoming an ace pilot. If the normal difficulties aren’t enough for players, surely the extra difficulty levels, previously included only in the European release, will give even the most experienced players a run for their money. With the addition of extra orbital frames included in the versus mode, even owners of the originally coveted PS2 Zone of the Enders 2 will have to yield and give the HD collection a go.
As expected of any HD collection, the graphics have been generously upgraded to be more appealing in the eyes of today’s gamers. The in game models may be par for the course, but Zone of the Enders 2‘s animated segments practically outdoes any other game in this generation’s market even, looking almost redrawn to the undiscerning eye. Sadly, there were a couple of missed opportunities here, most notably a chance to fix the original title’s constant frame rate drops and include the original Japanese voice acting. It’s maddening how slow the game can get and puzzling why we can’t have dual audio in an age of Blu-Ray discs and DLC.
Over a decade since its original release, both Zone of the Enders title can still hold their own as action games and deservedly claim its right as a “high speed robot action” title. No other title on the market can match it in terms of speed or action, making it a worthy title for any fan of robot action whether they experienced it the first time around or not. A few flaws mar the title from being perfect, but gamers would only be doing themselves a disservice by not checking this (and its included demo of Metal Gear Rising) out.
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360; Publisher: Konami; Developer: Kojima Productions/High Voltage Software; Players: 1 – 2; Released: October 30, 2012; ESRB: Mature; MSRP: $39.99; Official Site
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.