Game Review: Zone Of The Enders HD Collection

Jonathan Szafran delivers his verdict on the new high-definition compilation of Hideo Kojima’s sci-fi action series, out now in the US and on November 30th in the UK for PS3 and Xbox360 (reviewed).

HD collections are like a dime-a-dozen these days. It seems a new one is being announced every week, and while a lot of these collections package some pretty great games together, unless you are Mr. Moneybags you can’t expect to buy them all. Konami’s latest HD collection brings together the two Zone of the Enders games that were previously only available on the PlayStation 2. But is it worth your hard earned cash, or should you pass on it this crowded holiday season?

Two crucial factors for any HD Collection is firstly how well the older games stand the test of time, and secondly if any extra fan service has been included. This is where Zone of the Enders HD Collection struggles. The first game was, and still is, a mess – thanks to its repetitive gameplay and dull story. However, Konami made an excellent sequel, and Zone of the Enders: Second Runner is definitely the best reason to own this HD Collection.

Mixing together third-person melee combat and anime that’s highly influenced by Evangelion, Zone of the Enders was birthed from the mind of Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. Controlling a robot suit called a Jehuty to defend your friends and city from other mechs, ZOE was a strange release for its time but garnered a small, loyal fan base that still to this day cry out for a new sequel.

Unfortunately, Zone of the Enders does not hold up well after all these years. The poor dialogue is dragged down even further by archaic 3D cutscenes that made me look away from the TV screen in disgust. Going from one area to another, clearing the area of enemies to get a passcode that unlocks a new ability that you’ll need in the next area, becomes tedious real quick. Progression in the first game is slow and you are forced to backtrack too many times.

The combat is where these games succeed, and although it is nowhere near as strong as today’s standards, it still feels fun to move around in a mech annihilating other metal foes. Deciding how to tackle each encounter comes down to ranged and melee attacks, and both are needed to take down everything from small grunts to the gigantic bosses.

Flanking enemies while charging up a swarm shot controls well even on a modern day Xbox 360 controller. Melee combat is really nothing more than your standard hack-and-slash, but hit that boost button while hacking away at an enemy and you will rip them to shreds in seconds flat. Sadly, between bad enemy AI and the fact that there aren’t that many combatants onscreen at any given time, the combat system doesn’t leave you any real challenges to face.

Konami have pretty much shrugged-off the original Zone of the Enders in promoting the HD Collection, and opted to showcase superior sequel The 2nd Runner instead.

It’s easy to understand why. The sequel has a more mature story, characters that aren’t laughable, and some outstanding effects that play up just how awesome it is to be inside a Jehuty during battle.

Everything in the sequel has been given such care and attention-to-detail. Colors are more vibrant, and environments are more open yet filled with character. These are not the same boring cityscapes the first game tried to flaunt. Combat remains mostly unchanged from the first Zone of the Enders, both in terms of its simplicity and variety, but fighting enemies feels so much faster and more involved.

The 2nd Runner has certainly cleaned up well and really shines in its HD makeover. The PS2 games had significant frame rate slowdown, especially during encounters with large groups of enemies, but those mishaps have been more than taken care of with the added power of modern day consoles. That said, long load times are still frequent, and will test anyone’s patience while waiting to move into a new battle arena.

Konami have also made a limited edition of this HD collection, and it would have been nice if they made that the only version. The limited edition includes a 100-page artbook as well as a soundtrack CD, while the standard edition is a bare bones collection with added fanfare.

I thoroughly enjoyed these games when they were first released on the PS2, and even though the original ZOE does not hold up I still had fun with this trip down memory lane. If you were a fan of these games back in the day then this purchase is a no-brainer – but newcomers may also find The 2nd Runner worth the price of admission alone.

 

FMV Rating: ***

 

 



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