Zone of the Enders is a bit of a niche property, though it's spanned major
console releases, handheld endeavors, and even anime features. It never did
receive its proper dues as an exemplary exercise in giant mech combat, whether
tactical or real time, however, and that's quite unfortunate.
Previously, tackling Hideo Kojima's two PlayStation 2 releases Zone of the
Enders and The 2nd Runner required a traipse to GameStop bargain bins and the
upscale rarer PS3 gem shelves. Fast forward to 2012, and these classics have
been lovingly recast in glorious high-definition and re-released for Xbox 360
and PlayStation 3 users to see what all the fuss was about in Konami's
Zone of Enders HD Collection. The verdict? It's just as you remember, or may
have only heard about, horrible voice-acting and all. Seriously, that
voice-acting is downright appalling.
But that shouldn't keep you from checking it out. In fact, in a twisted kind
of way it enhances the experiences, stepping aside from the weighty narrative
and adding some unintentional hilarity to the grueling sagas. Zone of the Enders
follows giant orbital frames and those who pilot them. These massive mechs are
equipped with deliciously destructive cannons, lasers, and a glut of other
armaments for use in the tight land and aerial combat sprinkled throughout both
campaigns. There's nothing even remotely realistic about those robot battles
like other popular PlayStation 2 titles from the same era, but none of that is
necessary with such an abundance of intriguing character interaction, battles,
and melodrama. But of course, what else would you expect from a Kojima
Where Zone of the Enders truly excels are the ephemeral, fleeting moments in
mech combat where you're floating high above the battlefield, unleashing all
sorts of hell down onto your opponents, who range from everything from
Anubis-inspired behemoths to hulking robo giants who'd have your head on a
platter. It's all got a very Xenogears-eque feel to it.
Largely, the first game, the original Zone of the Enders, rocks memorable
combat, but The 2nd Runner completely amps things up in nearly every department,
improving graphics, the overly preachy (and grating) protagonist of the first
game, and even enemy tactics. It's an engrossing journey from
bland-with-potential to excellence, a thrill ride seen usually only in
trilogies. A third game would certainly excite longtime fans, so it's a bit
strange Kojima hasn't yet revisited the series, despite some tantalizing
promises to remedy that.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection is a masterful return to
form that shouldn't be missed, especially for those who may have missed piloting
Hideo Kojima's non-Metal Gear classics from the PlayStation 2-era. The graphics
have been updated to beautiful high-definition, and while the voice-acting is as
atrocious as ever, I'm sure the hardcore fans wouldn't have it be any other way.
Those of you who've been hankering for more tasty mech combat after a steady
diet of shooters and ne'er-do-wells, now's the time to suit up and take action.
Jehuty is waiting. It's up to you to hop inside and get to work.