Zone of the Enders HD
Developer: High Voltage Software
Price: $40
Platform: PS3 & Xbox 360
A PS3 copy of Zone of the Enders HD was supplied to us

Eleven years ago a neat little game called Zone of the Enders released and while it sold decently enough, many people believe the only reason it did was because it came with the highly anticipated demo for Metal Gear Solid 2. This time around Konami is giving both games the HD treatment and just as before, are bundling the demo for the highly anticipated Metal Gear Rising. Some people have probably joked this will only sell because of the MGR demo and they’d be half right; the first game is pretty rough around the edges but ZOE2 is definitely worth picking this up.

Zone of the Enders opens up with Leo discovering the Jehuty orbital frame while his colony is being attacked by BAHRAM who are searching for the Jehuty and Anubis frames. The story doesn’t really go anywhere else after that with each interaction amounting to “Leo go here” or “Leo please just go here and stop crying” and it really starts to wear out its welcome quick. I just found myself skipping many of the end game discussions because they wouldn’t discuss anything worth listening to besides the final fight against Viola. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner improves upon the story by actually having a pretty solid story and the voice acting never had me cringing like the first did.

So both games play pretty similarly in terms of controlling Jehuty. You’ll use the top and bottom face buttons to fly up or down, the left/right face buttons are your main and secondary attack, left trigger controls locking on, and the right trigger is your boost. Everything feels pretty damn smooth and it makes me wonder why nobody has made a high speed robot action game like this after these games came out. Seriously, somebody just go out and steal this control scheme and make an awesome game with it. The camera can be an issue for different people since the game goes incredibly fast. As long as you’re locked onto an enemy it will instantly snap focus to them and when you’re fighting multiple opponents (like you usually will), expect to have your view quickly shifting all over the place. I had no issue with it but I could see why some people might be a bit put off by it. Both games work on this close combat and distant combat system where you’ll attack only with your sword when you’re up close to an enemy and only with your gun when at a distance. It really works well when you realize that you’ll never want to use a sword when you’re trying to keep your distance and you’d never want to use your blaster when you get in close. It’s something neat that I really hope other games of the same style try to incorporate. Second Runner steps its game up by including actual combos for your sword, the grab system is improved, you can now interact with the environment by picking up pipes or pieces of walls, and everything just feels so much better. Besides your main attack you’ll also collect sub-weapons that you can use against enemies. In the first game you’ll need to replenish each weapon with ammo while all of them pull from the same unified ammo pool in Second Runner that’s refilled by killing enemies.

Zone of the Enders is unfortunately the weaker half of the package and ends up feeling like a tech demo for the second title. It opens up with promise by giving you that high speed combat and it even has a slight open world to “explore”, but it doesn’t live up to those promises. You’ll go through the same areas over and over while fighting the same three enemies with the occasional boss fight. I didn’t even like the boss fights much besides the Viola fight. Viola actually felt like a fight while the others were more traditional “run around until the boss opens up for an attack” styled. The Second Runner improves upon this with some variety, but it ends up axing the exploration for a more linear experience. Personally I didn’t really care for the pseudo open world in the first game and had a better time going through the second game. The controls and overall gameplay is also greatly improved upon the first in Second Runner which just continues to make the first game seem worse in comparison to the second. Second Runner is also longer than the four or five hours it’ll take you to breeze through the first game.

One of my favorite small details is that when you go into a game, you can still back out to the main menu to go into the other game. It’s something that should be in all HD collections but is strangely absent in most. Both games have a versus mode but it’s ultimately just a neat distraction from the main game.

Unfortunately neither game runs at 60fps like Konami advertised; if anything it plays at well under 60fps. Thankfully it doesn’t dip too low to make it noticeable besides in a few boss fights. I’m not sure if this issue can be fixed with a patch, but it’s a huge slap in the face when your game has “High Speed Robot Action” on its cover and that you’ve advertised 60fps since it was announced. I don’t think that just because your game can hit 60fps every once in a while you should be allowed to advertise it as so; either lock it at 60 or don’t bother implying you did.

Visually the game looks a hell of a lot better than it used to but everything just looks pretty dull overall. I suppose the graphics were kept low to keep that high frame rate on the PS2 so it’s understandable. The animated cutscenes in the second game have gotten a noticeable touch up as well and those can look fantastic at times.

The Final Word
Zone of the Enders is a neat game with potential and that potential is given life in The Second Runner. My main issues with the package all come from the first game with the frame rate being the only common complaint so it’s up to you to decide if you really want to revisit ZOE. I’d say go ahead since ZOE2 clearly shows the developers learned from their mistakes in the first and I can’t imagine how amazing the third game will be if this sells well enough. You also get to try out Metal Gear Rising which is pretty damn fun too.

- MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair