Version Tested: Xbox 360 (Also available on PlayStation 3).
In March of 2001, Konami unleashed a new type of game on the world with Zone of the Enders. It was a completely different take on the Mech action genre and hailed as one of the very best the industry had seen. Zone of the Enders was developed by an in-house team at Konami, led by legendary game designer Hideo Kojima. In this version of the game, Zone of the Enders HD features both entries of the original Playstation 2 hits: Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner. Each of these games contain frantic action and great story telling.
But, is Zone of the Enders HD worth your pickup?
To start, Zone of the Enders is probably one of the most frantic games that Kojima’s team has done. It’s a fast paced slice and dice action game with high intensity action. In Zone of the Enders, you play as the young Leo Stenbuck, who has been tasked with delivering a battle mech to a military power fighting a force that may match the power of the Empire and the Sith: BAHRAM. Their leader is a man name Nohman, who is the equivalent of Darth Vader. This is a man that does not feel remorse for his actions.
Stenbuck takes control of Jehuty, a Metal Gear Solid influenced mech with hovering and flying capabilities. Stenbuck is involved in pretty sad story in which he watches his friends die right in front of him during an attack on their colony, Antilia. As Stenbuck was running away from his eventual captors, he found a factory which was housing the mech, Jehuty.
While controlling Jehuty, you move with style and grace as you figure out the mechanics. However, I found that looking around with Jehuty was a bit counter-intiuitive, since using the right analog stick is sluggish. Moving around with Jehuty can also be a pain at times as well, as the camera doesn’t consistently want to focus behind Jehuty and will sometimes make you move in the wrong direction. This problem unfortunately occurs with both Zone of the Enders and 2nd Runner, which is kind of disappointing to see. Combat with Jehuty is among some of the most high paced action I have seen in a video game.
You can attack with Jehuty in a few ways. You have a melee based attack where you you use a sword-like weapon to destroy your opponent and this is where the game’s frantic nature comes into play. You can dash around your opponent and then swoop into them with a devastating rush attack. This is the best way to attack in the game as your long range shots are usually bounced back and don’t do enough damage. Jehuty is also equipped with other sub-weapons and abilities. One weapon called Phlanax is a high velocity weapon that shoots many rounds of energy at your opponent. It’s very good for enemies that like to stand still, but not so much for when they are going all over the place. Another cool ability is the fact that you can create a digital copy of yourself and make your enemies confused, leaving them open to be attacked. These are just some of the many abilities Jehuty has in its arsenal and there are a lot of cool ones to be used (especially in Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner).
The original Zone of the Enders is notoriously short. If you ignored a ton of the side missions (see: All of them), then the game can last up to an hour and a half (even shorter if you skip cutscenes). The side missions are an okay distraction, but do not really add anything to the story or the game until the end of the game.
Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner is the better game of the two. Not only does it have a more fleshed-out story, but it also last longer than 4 hours. Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner doesn’t have the side missions, but does make up for it with an intense action storyline with a focus on Dingo Egret, a former BAHRAM soldier who worked directly under Nohman. While on a mission on one of the moons of Mars, Dingo and his team of soldiers were doing routine training when they were ambushed by BAHRAM. After finding a strange container, Dingo went to check it out and discovered Jehuty. After finding Jehuty and fighting some of the forces of BAHRAM, Dingo once again meets his adversarial boss: Nohman.
After a scuffle, Dingo was shot and almost killed when a person inside helped him regain his life. During this time he was outfitted with Jehuty and was only alive because a team of scientists made Dingo become one with Jehuty. This in turn begins the journey of Dingo and Jehuty on a quest to stop Nohman and the rest of BAHRAM.
While 2nd Runner is the the better game of the series, there are some minor problems with the HD version of the game. Surprisingly, the camera problems from the first Zone of the Enders returns and that’s a shame. With the fast action, I was hoping that the upgrades would include some sort of camera fix. Another problem, which is even worse for an HD remake, is how the frame rate drops during frantic action. This did not appear in Zone of the Enders and it’s mind-boggling that it appears in 2nd Runner. Regardless, this only happens in certain parts of the game and it’s not deal breaker.
The one aspect of the game that remains unchanged is the gameplay. 2nd Runner plays identical to the earlier iteration. There is not one aspect of the control scheme that has changed. Aside from new weapons, the game plays and feels like the original and this is not a bad thing. The developers kept the changes minimal which was a great thing for 2nd Runner. The only downsides of course were the camera issues that persisted in the first game.
Zone of the Enders HD is a beautiful franchise. It has a beatiful, yet dystopian type of feel, from the cool particle effects to the great voice acting and music. If you’re in the mood for a crazy action game with loads of mechs and a great narrative, then you should really do yourself a favor and pick this one up.