When Zone of the Enders first appeared on the PlayStation 2, it stole the hearts of many. A couple years later Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner was released and set a new standard for mech games. Now, if you missed them the first time around you can snap up these classics in one HD collection. But, should players hop in the cockpit of Jehuty again or has time made it obsolete?
Taking on the role of a young orphan boy named Leo in the original Zone of the Enders. You witness the death of his friends during the destruction of his home city and he, rather luckily, stumbles upon an orbital frame called Jehuty. With the help of the Jehuty’s on board A.I., ADA, Leo stops the city’s attackers and saves what is left of the metropolis while learning exactly how grave the situation is. As he progresses through his journey he sets out to save civilian lives and stop the spread of destruction.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner places you in control of the once amazing pilot Dingo. After craving the simple life and then being killed by the antagonist Nohman, he’s brought back to life and wired into the Jehuty’s system – as you do. His only driving force is the threat that his life could end once again if he tries to leave or refuse orders as his life support systems will be cut. Just like the knowledge of certain death vs uncertain death fuelled the Russian’s desire to win World War II, Dingo is forced to get involved. It’s here that he realises just how important the Jehuty is and its ability to stop what’s coming.
In the first Z.O.E you have room to explore the area via world map. From here you can select certain areas to either clear out enemies, find certain items/things, or save survivors. As you play you level up the Jehuty and find extra weapons to use. Now, ZoE. The 2nd Runner isn’t as open as the first. That’s not to say that there aren’t open parts – there are plenty of them – it’s just that it’s much more story focused compared to the first. E.g. in ZoE you revisit areas over and over, backtracking as much as you want; in the second game there’s not one ounce of backtracking: once you clear an area you move on to the next, unable to go back. The 2nd Runner does still include the leveling up and alternate weapons adding more variety to combat.
One of the best things about the ZoE series is the combat. Its combat system is still some of the best mech combat to ever grace the genre. It has everything from swords for getting up close to guns distance fighting. It’s also easy to pick up, but pleasingly hard to master. You can go into one area an button mash, thinking you’re a complete badass, only to move on to the next and get completely dominated by a certain enemy or boss. It’s moments like these where you realise you need to boost, dodge, block and attack when there’s an opening. Doing this means you’ll have the best experience with the ZoE. series.
Both of these instant classics have remained true to form, and fans will be pleased to know that ZoE looks fantastic in HD. The sharper picture and vibrancy really emphasises the glorious art style of Kojima’s series, and could give some games release now a run for their money. It’s easily one of the better looking HD Collections, up there with the Team ICO Collection. Rather irritatingly, they didn’t touch up the CGI cutscenes found in the first game, so you can really see how badly things have dated and it jars against the sleek HD gameplay – which is a real shame. Thanks to the sequel having anime cut-scenes instead of CGI ones, things look and feel a lot better in The 2nd Runner.
As this is a HD upgrade and has no inclusion of new gimmicks or features besides Trophy support, fans will be pleased to know that there’s been no temptation to wade in and change gameplay, and so everything feels the same to play. That high-speed, crazy and sometimes chaotic, gameplay is back and it’s still as fun as ever. If you’ve never played before you may be surprised at how fast the combat really is as you tear though the air shooting, slashing, grabbing and utilizing upgrades to destroy groups of enemies. This is a little double edged though: because gameplay hasn’t changed it also means the niggles and faults are still present. Lock on was my biggest gripe, working fine in small groups but becoming clunky and confused when dealing with anything more. It’s another side that shows the game’s age, as newer titles would have a better system implemented.
ZoE is still as hard as it’s ever been, regardless of the small niggle that was lock-on. No matter what you do, you’re going to die – a lot. This is good though, it makes you feel accomplished upon finishing a level. You can be suck on an area for hours, only to dominate it with a huge grin on your face and a sense of pride.
In terms of replay value there isn’t really much beyond the chance to experience them once more. Both of these games tell one hell of a story that for those who experienced it during the P2 era will want to do it all over again, and those that haven’t yet really need to. These two games are extremely hard to find in their original guise, but thankfully they’re brought to you in one collection for a really good price.
All in all the Z.O.E. HD collection is a great purchase. Now in HD, they clearly show just how beautiful the game was upon release and compare it to the other mech games available. It’s still able to blow some of them away with crazy fast action and an amazing story. Just the fact that these games can still compete with some of the newer games released today is really saying something after all of these years.
Audio/Visual – 4/5: Both of these games look great, this is how the game was supposed to look.
Gameplay – 4.5/5: Combat is as fast and as intense as ever but the lock on can get a little clunky at times.
Innovation -3/5: Nothing has really changed, which isn’t a bad thing as these games were great to begin with and they are great still.
Value – 4/5: These games don’t have a whole lot of replay value, the only main reason would be to revisit the story, which is something you shouldn’t miss. It also has a demo for the upcoming MGS Rising.
Final Score: 4/5