STAFF REVIEW of Zone of the Enders: HD Collection (Xbox 360)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012.
by Adam Dileva

Zone of the Enders: HD Collection Box art Hideo Kojima may most famously be known for the Metal Gear series, but aside from that series, any fan will probably tell you that Zone of the Enders ranks right up there with some of the greatest that were on PS2 back in the day. With Zone of the Enders releasing in 2001 and its sequel in 2003, has these PS2 greats ages well with time or is this HD upgrade a simple cash in on a great brand? I’m glad to announce that not only does this HD Collection upgrade do the series justice, but that the games themselves actually hold up quite well after a decade.

The original Zone of the Enders tells a story about a boy named Leo that’s thrust into an impossible situation when feeling from the destructive BAHRAM forces. He manages to escape into a nearby hanger and stumbles upon a pilotable mech specifically named Jehuty. As it turns out, Jehuty has a built in AI named A.D.A. and helps Leo along the way. Leo is contacted by the resistance, since he wasn’t the true proper pilot for Jehuty, and is then tasked with returning and transporting Jehuty off the colony and to a station on Mars. As Leo fends off BAHRAM forces and becomes better acquainted with Jehuty and A.D.A., he must also save civilians and his friends while also defending the colony. It concludes with an emotional ending that truly shows how far his and A.D.A.’s “friendship” has come since the day he accidently found Jehuty.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is the sequel to the fantastic first outing that had awesome visuals, story, and gameplay. The main protagonist this time around is no longer Leo, but a man named Dingo that happens to stumble upon a hidden away Jehuty once being attacked by BAHRAM forces. This is the same Jehuty that Leo piloted in the first game, though he hid it away for no one else to ever find again. Now that Dingo has found it and is piloting it, Leo will make a return in the story in an impactful way, but not as a playable character. Eventually Dingo becomes critically injured and the only way to save him is to place him inside Jehuty and keep him on life support while in the mech. Leo doesn’t like this as he thinks Jehuty belongs to him but abandons this plight once he realizes dingo can’t leave jehuty without dying. While both games are quite short to complete, the stories are engaging and interesting enough to keep you motivated to keep pushing forward.

For being a launch title for PS2, the original Zone of the Enders had some great visuals for the time and the gameplay was quite engaging with some solid battle mechanics. As you do battle against other mechs around the colony you’ll have the ability to lock onto enemies from afar. From a distance you’re able to use Jehuty’s blasters to shoot from a distance though the bulk of your gameplay will come from up close and personal sword melee. Leo (and Dingo in the second game) also has the ability to dash in any direction to avoid attacks or even charge up a powerful attack against the BAHRAM forces.

Missions you’re given will send you to different towns and cities across the colony. Each section of the colony is its own internal small map that can be entered where you’ll fight other mechs and level up for doing so. You’ll find upgrades and ammo for your secondary special weapons (after they’ve been unlocked) from defeating enemies, clearing areas, and saving survivors (which are like side missions).

While the first Zone of the Enders mostly took place in urban areas with destructible environments, the second game had a much more industrial feel to it and a sleeker presentation. Before each mission A.D.A. will quickly brief you on your current task at hand and there would be some banter back between Leo and ‘her’. In the second game it’s done in a more visual manner, where you can see Dingo’s face on the side of the screen, as if Jehuty has gotten upgrades during the time after the first game ended.

The 2nd Runner improves on almost every aspect from the first game. Visuals are greatly enhanced (especially the special effects and particles), the UI is much cleaner and the anime visuals are more readily shown. Combat seems to be much more fluid and combining melee attacks is much simpler this time around with Dingo at the helm. While I enjoyed Leo and the story from the first game much more, the gameplay and visuals from the second were so improved that it makes it a toss-up to decide which one I would rather suggest.

Instead of placing scoring weight on game mechanics, I’m more focusing on the HD upgrade the two games are receiving, as it’s not truly fair to judge a game that is over a decade old on its mechanics when compared to games of today; That being said, the HD visual upgrade is simply fantastic. Text is no longer muddled and textures have much more detail and are very sharp. Frame rates have doubled since the 30fps on ps2 to double that to 60 along with the standard definition to high definition wide screen. The anime drawn cutscenes are preserved and look much cleaner and as a whole package it’s done exceptionally well.

If you’ve not experienced these gems on the PS2 a decade ago, this is your chance to do so in full HD glory. While I really loved the first Zone of Enders on the PS2, I never got around to playing the sequel until now. I’m happy that I did as I finally got to see how improved the sequel was and most surprising though is how well the games have held up over the past ten years. Sure there are some minor camera issues and the voice acting in 2nd Runner is less than desirable but this HD Collection as a whole package can’t be beat for the price to experience two of the best games the PS2 ever had. And while Kojima may be more known for the Metal Gear series, any Zone of the Enders fan will tell you they are extremely excited for the eventual Zone of the Enders 3 one day.

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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