How history repeats itself. More than eleven years ago, Konami introduced Zone of the Enders to the world, but its main selling point wasn’t the fast-paced gameplay the game became known for or the attachment of Metal Gear Solid stalwarts Hideo Kojima and the series’ art director Yoji Shinkawa to a mech robot game.
But, famously, it was the addition of a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and the first-half of the game’s Tanker portion. The trick seemingly worked with decent enough sales and Jehuty was back in action for a sequel three years later with Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Unfortunately, lightning didn’t strike twice. While it performed well enough critically, the sales weren’t there.
Kojima, who had a producer role on both games, admitted that himself in 2009.[drop]Yet, there was still a devoted fanbase for the ZoE series despite the disappointing sales of the second game. And with that said fanbase – you can count myself as among them – rabid for a sequel, Konami has seen fit to release Zone of the Enders HD Collection.
And that history repeating itself? The collection comes with a demo for Platinum’s upcoming Metal Gear Rising – but rather than bring up Raiden’s post-MGS4 adventures, let’s talk Jehuty-based shop, shall we?
The task of converting both games into the HD era didn’t fall into the hands of Bluepoint Games, who did such an excellent job on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and the Team ICO HD Pack. Instead that privilege went to High Voltage Software of The Conduit fame.
Previous form from Konami HD collections have been mixed. As I said, Bluepoint’s work on MGS was excellent, but the efforts from Hijinx Studios on redoing Silent Hill 2 and 3 into HD was massively panned by fans of the series and critics alike. So here’s the news: High Voltage definitely hasn’t pulled a Silent Hill here, but hold the phone. It’s not quite Metal Gear standards neither. But we’ll get to that in more detail in a bit.
Zone of the Enders 1, where as a young Leo Stenbuck you have to pilot a mech – or Orbital Frame – known as Jehuty and its onboard AI ADA off a colony surrounding Jupiter invaded by the forces of BAHRAM, looks and feels dated once you get to it. It’s an 11 year old game, after all, and came out whilst the PlayStation 2 was in its infancy. The gameplay, for the most part, still holds up, but even in this HD Collection, it hasn’t graphically aged well in either the gameplay or cut-scene department. It’s not exactly a long game either. I clocked in just under six hours once I had finished it in about two or three sittings.
Zone of the Enders 2, however, is a much more fleshed out game compared to what was pretty much a proof of concept original. I mean that in every possible avenue: gameplay feels a lot better than ZoE1 and is an absolute joy in comparison (the boss fight against Vic Viper exemplifies that).
Meanwhile the story – you’re back in Jehuty’s cockpit as Dingo Egrett to take on BAHRAM from the first game and its leader Nohman in the control of Jehuty’s opposite Orbital Frame in Anubis, though Leo from the first game plays a major part – is much longer (I finished it in around ten hours) and it is seemingly a more challenging game on normal than the original on the same difficulty.
While the anime cut-scenes have aged just a bit from the game’s release in 2004, it’s not as bad as that of Zone of the Enders 1. In fact, besides the slightly-aged cut-scenes, which look slightly rougher when compared to the new anime intro made by Sunshine just for the collection to the sound of The 2nd Runner’s theme tune, you could even mistake ZoE2 as a very recently-released game, suiting the cel-shaded look a lot better than the realistic take of the first game.[drop2]But as a HD Collection, it’s a mixed bag. As I said, Zone of the Enders 1 hasn’t aged well in the past decade, while Zone of the Enders 2 still looks fresh in the graphics department for the most part. ZoE2 also seems to suffer from some framerate issues at times (the Armada segment and some of the boss fights in the game is where it seemed to have a big dip).
Reports suggest the PS3 version of the game has it a lot worse than the 360 version, though I’ve only been able to play the pack on 360, so I can’t verify this first hand – you can probably search for comparison videos on YouTube. Unlike Silent Hill, it’s not a game-breaker, but it does put a bit of a sour spot for what is meant to be a fast-paced game.
But even despite that and a few otherwise tiny issues, I actually hugely recommend picking up Zone of the Enders HD Collection. ZoE2 is worth the price of admission alone just for being a fantastic standalone action mech game (and that’s not including the extras included within like the special missions), though ZoE1 is a decent introduction to the series if you really want to invest yourself into the series and the backstory.
- Gameplay still holds up in both games
- Zone of the Enders 2 still feels like a recent release after eight years in all aspects
- The collection is worth the price just for ZoE2 alone
- Framerate in ZoE2 can be scatterbrain at times
- Both games show their age despite the HD bump in respective ways, with ZoE1 receiving the brunt of it
- Camera issues don’t help Zone of the Enders 1’s case
And while this is a message that most of the Zone of the Enders fanbase will have already taken heed of, it’s very likely that each sale of the Collection will go a long way in having the Fox Engine-powered Enders Project/Zone of the Enders 3 go into production a lot sooner than later.
Even if you are in the market just for the Rising demo.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.