Review: Zone Of The Enders HD Collection [360, PS3]

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.

What’s good:

  • 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

What’s bad:

  • 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.

Score: 8/10

A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review.



  1. As someone who doesn’t know anything about the ZoE franchise besides playing ZoE on my GBA way back when, I would have liked the review to mention what the gameplay actually consists of.
    Right now it feels more like a comparison between the originals and the HD remakes with a score at the end than an actual review.

    • I’m afraid I have to agree.

      For the record, it’s a flashy looking action game where big robots fight each other in the air and there’s a big focus on boss fights ;)

  2. ZONE OF THE ENDERS — Hop into the cockpit of futuristic fighting mechs in the high-flying warfare of Zone of the Enders. Developer Konami and famed Metal Gear Solid mastermind Hideo Kojima bring the fast-action, nerve-blasting airborne combat directly into your living room. Save the population of the Jupiter moon Europa from destruction as you blast your enemies into oblivion with the awesome firepower and slicing swords of your Orbital Frame mechs.

    ZONE OF THE ENDERS 2 — Players are once again thrown into an interplanetary conflict in this ZOE sequel, but this time the stakes are even higher, as the fate of Jupiter and Mars are held in the balance. Players will find a host of new gameplay features to help balance the odds. Exhilarating new maneuvers enable players to swing around enemies, target and destroy swarms of enemy fighters, tear down walls to use as shields or as a weapon, and even teleport out of danger. There are also more sub-weapons that support basic attacks and enhance strategic play during combat.

    These aerial brawlers cleaned up nicely ten years later. Both Zone of the Enders titles do interesting things, but The 2nd Runner is a forgotten classic that holds up unquestionably better than the first game in the series. In that respect, the package value takes a hit overall – commit to this for one great game hoping you’ll enjoy both.

  3. As someone who watched Gundam, DO, Orguss etc, I wanted ZOE so bad when I was younger and when I finally got a copy of it I was completely let down. I felt it was near unplayable because of the camera angles, speed and mobility issues.

    I’m fairly certain that this will still be the case, if only the good points of ZOE and Armored Core were mixed together I reckon a great game could be made.

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