Zone of the Enders or ZoE was originally released on the PlayStation 2 by Konami over 10 years ago and is probably most notably remembered for something either than its commercial success or even the Hideo Kojima and Yoji Shinkawa connection. Yes, the original Zone of the Enders was packaged with a playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2 and it seems Konami has recycled that strategy with Zone of the Enders HD Collection by including a demo for Metal Gear Rising: Revengance. Perhaps that’s a sign Konami isn’t quite that confident in the HD redux, but we won’t hold it against ZoE.
The story revolves around two Oribital Frames; Jehuty & Anubis which were created as key components of the Aumaan Project. In the original Zone of the Enders you take on the role of a young orphan boy named Leo. After witnessing the destruction of his home city he accidentally comes across an orbital frame called Jehuty. Naturally Anubis ends up in the hands of the antagonist group, BAHRAM. Jehuty happens to come equipped with a particularly advanced, female AI and with her help Leo stops the city’s attackers and the story eventually culminates with a showdown between Jehuty and Anubis.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner sees you take control of former BAHRAM pilot, Dingo Egret. Working as a miner on one of Jupiter’s moons Dingo comes across the Jehuty frame, after which he is attacked and killed by the antagonist Nohman and his band of merry BAHRAM troops. He’s then brought back to life by being wired into Jehuty’s life-support system. With the constant threat that his life could end in an instant if he tries to leave or refuses orders as his life-support systems will be cut, Dingo is forced to get involved. It’s not long before he realises just how important the Jehuty is and its ability to stop what’s coming.
In ZoE there is the ability to explore the world map, find areas to clear out enemies or save survivors. You also have the ability to level up the Jehuty and find extra items and weapons to use. ZoE. The 2nd Runner isn’t as open as the first, which is to say that it’s much more story focused compared to the first. In the first you can backtrack as much as you want; in the second game there’s zero backtracking: once you clear an area you move on and are unable to go back. It’s still as hard as ever and no matter what you do you’re going to die, a lot. Which isn’t a bad thing by any means, it just results in a lot of grinding through countless waves of robots across similar combat zones.
Still one of the best things about the ZoE series is the combat. Reagardless of today’s standard, its combat system remains mostly unchanged and is still some of the best mech combat ever. Strategizing your melee and ranged ability is an integral part of every battle. The controls are easy to pick up with a pleasing mix of button mashing battles and all out wars of combat with bosses. It’s moments like these where you boost, dodge, block and attack when there’s an opening, making encounters intense, challenging and quite lengthy.
Both of the PS2 classics stay true to their roots in this HD upgrade and fans of the series will be pleased to know the sharper picture, vibrant colours and detailed environments look incredible. As far as HD remakes go this is up there with the best of them, paying homage to the artistic talent of Konjima. One unfortunate side effect is the lack of work done on the CGI cut scenes of the original ZoE, seeing as they were replaced by an anime style; in The 2nd Runner things feel much better.
In terms of staying true to form ZoEHDC takes the cake. There’s been no inclusion of gimmicky game modes or other features, with the exception of trophy support. True fans of the series will be pleased to know there is no change in gameplay and everything pretty much feels the same to play. There is one unwavering issue, however. The framerate, it appears that both games in ZoEHDC move consistently slower than its PS2 predecessor. The side effect of this of couse is the feeling of a slightly slower pace than the originals and likely is the one gripe of long-time fans. Some have mentioned the Xbox 360 version running at a more consistent rate than the PS3, but isn’t something I’ve personally tested. Regardless, neither run at the originally stated 60FPS by ZoEHDC’s UK site and actually operate closer to 30-40FPS range.
Overall both titles clean up pretty well after 10 years with The 2nd Runner being the clear favourite. Replayability takes a slight hit with no new features but fans of the series will love this remastered edition even with the framerate flaws. It’s still one of the best mech games of all time and the fact that it still has the ability to compete with today’s games really says something. If you missed Zone of the Enders all those years ago or you’re new to the genre, it’s worth a play.
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