Please note we received a review copy from Konami in order to do this review. Also please note that one of our site staff works for Konami; however, that staff member has had no part in the writing, editing, or posting of this review.
The Zone of The Enders franchise was an overlooked gem of the past gen lifetime. Sporting fluidic game play controls for high speed, mech combat and visuals that bled eye candy, it was easily one of the most visually impressive feats of the Playstation 2’s lifetime. Does the HD collection do the series justice, or does the series fall into an aged trap that happens to so many time favorites?
Load up the collection, and you’re instantly treated to a brand new, beautifully done anime intro. Bright colors, fast movement and high quality brushwork will make fans resonate hype and appreciation for the series automatically. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the newly animated cut scenes as every other scene is straight from the original games. For the purpose of this review, let’s look at each remake separately.
Zone Of The Enders HD –
Admittedly, the first Zone Of The Enders wasn’t as beloved as its sequel, and there’s a lot of valid reasons for it that remain in the HD version. The CGI cut scenes haven’t aged well and still look like early PS2 era graphics. Character models are very blocky and mouth movements are very generic, making the characters and story feel very distant to players. This probably would have been better if it was replaced with animated scenes to give a better experience and value to fans and new gamers alike, but this is what we get. Level designs also haven’t aged well. While the colors are now in HD, any objects in the levels look very cardboardish. To put it another way, the level designs almost feel like they should be in a darker, war fighting Paper Mario game. Another gripe from the original game remains in the remake with the world Map. This design could have been removed in the remake as Flying from one area of the map to another isn’t enjoyable, it feels more like a chore ala travel in Assassin’s Creed 1. The voice acting is still the original work and it’s still bad. A much appreciated option would have been to use the Japanese VA’s instead, but there’s still no option for that. That’s a shame, considering it wouldn’t have been that difficult to implement.
On the plus side, controls are still tight and once you get use to it, movement and combat becomes incredibly fluid. Combat is still fast and furious, especially against boss orbital frames like Viola and will make you feel like you’re playing in a high paced anime battle. This is where the ZOE series has excelled: making players feel that they’re actually mastering a powerful mech and are actually playing in an anime series. Thankfully, players will focus on this for the majority of the game so a lot of the other gripes just seem to be present, but not as overbearing.
The story from ZOE isn’t strong and will likely frustrate and annoy a lot of players. You play as Leo, a whiny teenager who doesn’t want to kill anyone, even though his home and people he knows are being decimated by an enemy army. What’s more, even when antagonists try to kill Leo, it makes him more determined not to kill his attackers. Let’s be honest, the story in ZOE has always felt like a prequel to the real enjoyable story found in Zone Of The Enders The Second Runner and continues to feel that way in the remake, and that’s bad. While that may sound harsh, just know that if you can muddle through it and at least remember the big plot points, it will make ZOE 2’s story that much more epic and satisfying.
Zone Of The Enders The Second Runner HD –
ZOE 2 has benefitted the most from the HD remake visually, using high definition cell shading in contrast to CGI in ZOE 1. ZOE 2 is where you want to go if you want eye candy bleeding from in HD across your screen. ZOE 2 genuinely feels like an interactive anime, more so than ZOE 1 ever does, and will be a visual treat for long time fans. The more fluid combat of ZOE 2 has been faithfully restored and is another reason why this is the real gem of this collection. You’ll feel like a ACE pilot if you discipline yourself with the combat controls, which won’t take that long. The addition of a multi-lock lazer attack in ZOE 2 will make players feel as though they control a God-like power on the battlefield, decimating jets and battleships at every opportunity in an instant. The epic battles feel faithfully recreated in ZOE 2, from large Dynasty Warrior like battlefields to cannon firing on an enemy battleship fleet, you will feel a sense of power, accomplishment and awe as you obliterate your enemies with graceful precision. It should be noted; however, that on the PS3 version there is considerably more slowdown in battle than on the Xbox 360 version. This feels more like a programming error that could have been solved rather than hardware limitations like in the original, so this is troubling and disappointing to feel on such powerful current gen systems. Level designs benefit from the HD cell-shading as well, feeling more interactive anime-like in comparison to ZOE 1. The battleship attack level is likely one of the most incredible level designs in the entire game, with bright colors from lasers and bullets filling the screen.
Like ZOE 1, the original VA work was used in ZOE 2, so it’s still terribly bad with poorly communicated emotions. With still no option for Japanese VA’s, it feels as though fans are a little shortchanged on the package. In addition, the anime cut scenes are from the original game as well and they look extremely dated on the HD version. It would have been nice to at least have had the anime scenes touched up a bit, but the colors look rather faded and any motion, especially from the camera motion looks extremely sluggish (slightly more so on the PS3 version). At very least, the anime cut scenes will still leave ZOE 2 as the stronger game in the collection.
ZOE 2’s story; however, still remains fairly strong even all these years later. Kojima perfectly executed the look, feel and desperation of a war being fought to liberate a planet from tyranny, with the player in Jehuty’s place giving allies that light of hope they desperately need. With the new protagonist, Dingo, not worried about killing his enemies and more concentrated on saving his allies lives (and his own), the story doesn’t suffer from the “weak protagonist” syndrome many series fall into. The mission and objective feels clear from start to finish, and ends with a satisfying, epic battle with the notorious Nohman and the deadly Anubis. The soundtrack remains spot on throughout your play through, perfectly capturing moments of triumph, despair and progression. It’s fair to say that ZOE 2 will not only satisfy the craving of nostalgia for fans, but will also prove to new comers why ZOE was a series that shouldn’t have been overlooked.
Zone of The Enders HD Collection is a love/hate relationship with two games that each perform so polar oppositely. While the ZOE 1 HD remake feels horribly mediocre and dated, ZOE 2 HD still feels like a worthy purchase for many gamers. Besides age, the lack of additional features such as different voice tracks, recreated cut scenes and new Easter eggs/treasures to find in game play leaves the Zone of The Enders HD Collection feeling rather restrained and unfulfilling.
Geek citadel gives Zone of The Enders HD Collection a C. The game play is there, but Konami could have really made this a collection worth new gamers money and time.
Recommended buy prices:
Mech/ZOE fan?: $29.99
Everyone else: $19.99
Recommended console version: Xbox 360.