[show_hide title="Zone of Enders: HD Collection"]
Publisher(s) By: Konami
Rated: “M” for Mature
Release Date: October 30th
Platform(s): Xbox 360 & PlayStation 3[/show_hide]
Looks like Konami is at it again, bringing back two more their PS2 Kojima Production classics and giving them a good deal of polish. However, with this series, considered a pair of the PS2’s better early games, did giving them an overhaul help or hurt the games? Let’s suit up and find out.
Zone of the Enders was one of Konami’s first new original series when the first game launched on PS2 and the first game originally came out in 2001, and the first game’s main draw for many players was a demo for Metal Gear Solid 2. In the game itself we find a story practically ripped straight from classic Gundam in that you play as the angst-filled teen boy Leo Stenbuck who accidentally falls into the cockpit of an advanced fighting machine, or Orbital Frame as the game calls them, called Jehuty and meets its advanced pilot, or runner, assistance AI known as ADA during an attack on the space station colony that Leo calls home, Antilia, by an enemy force, BAHRAM, As the game progresses, you will be tasked by ADA to do various tasks, such as destroying the source of a microwave field that blocks your progress towards the ship that Leo needs to deliver Jehuty to in order for it to carry out its proscribed task. As the story progresses, more of why Leo is so willing to do all of this for people he barely knows. The game does have a bit of a twist at the end, which I will leave a surprise for those who still want to play this.
The second game, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, originally released in 2003, takes place two years after the original game. Somehow Jehuty has been dumped on the surface of Calisto, a moon of Jupiter, and forgotten. Once again, BAHRAM forces attack, this time striking out at a small mining operation looking for the valuable mineral Metatron. The person stumbling across Jehuty and ADA this time is not an angst-ridden teen, but a seasoned veteran runner known as Dingo Egret who uses Jehuty to try to save his friends in the mining outfit. As things turn out, he also happens to have a bit of a history with BAHRAM and its leader, Nohman. After some unsavory circumstances, Dingo is essentially tethered to Jehuty via a life-support suit and told to carry out the missions he is given if he wants to be able to live outside of the mech. This will eventually lead to a showdown between Dingo and Nohman for the fate of all mankind, but how that comes to pass, I will leave that for you to find out.
The controls for both games are practically identical in that the left stick moves Jehuty around, the right stick moves the camera, face buttons control attacks and vertical movement, and the shoulder buttons control lock-on and boosting. For the most part, the controls are pretty tight, just pretty button-mash happy since only one button controls most of your standard attacks in both games. My main complaint is with the camera controls in both games in that there is no way to invert the Y-axis (even though your Frame is flying most of the time) and the camera controls are very slow to move the camera around, making it very hard to see what may be attacking you from behind before you get your butt handed to you. This is almost negated by a lock-on system that can have the target changed on the fly. Also, there is no changing the default controls, the only things that can be changed from the options menu is subtitles.
The graphics are where the game has been massively improved from the original. Don’t get me wrong, the original versions had excellent graphics for their time, this version just kicks it up about 15 notches to give almost every part of the graphics in the games that extra bit of shininess that practically makes them sing. The reason I say “almost” is that, for some reason, the people at High Voltage software (the people behind the remakes) decided not to make the crummy CG cutscenes of the first ZOE look better or replace them with hand drawn animation as was originally used in the second game. They did, at least, add a new opening video sequence, made in association with SUNSHINE, for the compilation.
The music of the games also makes you feel like you are playing through an entire Gundam series with its upbeat movements during the battle sequences and mood fitting incidental music outside of the intense battles. The sound effects fit the actions on-screen perfectly, making you almost feel bad as you make the bad guys explode under the impact of your blade and energy shots. The voice acting in the first game is a mixed bag, since we have to suffer through an actor trying to make a convincing case for a brooding teenager onscreen determined to save a space colony full of people who could care less that he even existed just minutes before he started piloting Jehuty. The acting got a lot more convincing in the second game since we didn’t need to suffer through the whiny angst any longer and we were dealing with grown adults that just wanted nothing more than to kill each other.
I can certainly see why these games are a bit polarizing to a lot of players, with tight action sequences and epic boss battles broken up by sometimes lengthy meta-commentary cutscenes that do little more than act as a way for the character to explain why they whine so damned much or try to preach some twisted sense of morality about how even an AI should be treated the same as a person. Overall though, since you can skip most of these cheesy bits, the game certainly delivers on the action that one can come to expect from a Kojima production while also delivering the sate of morality speeches we also can tend to expect from Kojima and Co.