Zone of the Enders 3 has officially been confirmed to be in development, so why not take this opportunity to go back and experience its two prequels in this Zone of the Enders HD Collection? Hideo Kojima has always impressed and missing out on this opportunity would really be a shame.
Hideo Kojima. In the best of worlds, these two words would be more than I need to convince you to play Zone of the Enders. Nonetheless, I will assume you still require convincing and tell you why you should, at the very least, know about this franchise.
In both Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, you will control Jehuty, an anthropomorphic combat mech with its built-in A.I., ADA. The first game has you impersonating Leo Stenbuck, a kid who is pretty much afraid of everything and tends to whine a lot, while the second game has you impersonating Dingo Egret, an experienced mech pilot. The games’ plot is what you expect from a Kojima offering, though not on the same level as a Metal Gear story. The story is set far in the future, at a time when mankind colonized Mars, has a colony orbiting Jupiter, and has access to some of the most powerful war machines created by men, fated to face each other: Jehuty and Anubis.
The first ZOE aged relatively well for such an old school offering, but its flaws do show through the new coat of HD that it has been granted. The gameplay shows its flaws as well with the combat getting repetitive and the only real challenge coming from the boss fights. Most missions will have you land in a zone and systematically eliminate all enemy activity, which gets redundant after a while, but the game does try to spice it up with S.O.S. missions where you must accomplish the same goal but without harming any civilian or destroying any building to achieve the best score.
Sadly, finishing the game will not take you longer than 6 hours and the lack of enemy diversity is disheartening. Also, don’t be fooled by the prospect of multiple endings; there are indeed 3 but 2 are virtually similar save for the change of soundtrack, and the third that has you go berserk and destroy everything.
Fret not, though. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner goes the distance in picking up where the first left off. The combat is more dynamic, boss fights are still a joy to experience and the story has a much better flow to it. The game life of 2nd Runner, unfortunately, is still just as small at the first game and will also take no longer than 6 hours to complete, but you will enjoy every minute of it if you let yourself indulge in its fast paced combat and its beautiful story.
The story evolves quickly with most main characters from the previous game making an appearance. The transitions are smooth with a mix of animation sequences, cut-scenes and dialogues that will feel familiar if you have ever touched a game made by Kojima. Controlling Jehuty is still a joy; they got it right in the first game and it’s only improved in this one. I don’t want to spoil much, but fighting an invisible enemy, with only ADA to guide you and assist you in finding it is a standout moment in the game. The camera control could have been better, though this does not break the game and is more of a slight annoyance
The soundtracks for both games are breathtaking and compromise some of the most beautiful pieces I have heard. They fit the theme appropriately, and I found myself spending time on the menu screen and listening to the theme music, or restarting the game just to watch the 5 minute intro cinematic for the HD collection.
If you had never heard of Zone of the Enders before, now might be a perfect time to fix that.
Zone of the Enders: HD Collection is available on PS3 (reviewed), XBOX360