Cast your mind back to the beginning of 2001. The Playstation 2 had been out for just a few months in Europe and the Dreamcast was still fighting for the limelight. It would be another eight months until one of the systems most anticipated titles – Metal Gear Solid 2 – was to be released. So, that March, a taste of the game was released with another title, a brand new IP from Hideo Kojima; Zone of the Enders. Whilst many bought it just for a taste of Snake’s next adventure, the game in itself was a surprising treat to many. Revolving around a young boy being flung into a mech, as his friends and home are being destroyed in front of his eyes, it was a graphical treat to show off the new console’s powers.
A couple of years later in 2003, with a Gameboy Advance title also under the series’ belt, a sequel came to the PS2 – The Second Runner. With a boost in graphics, scope and now with anime styled cutscenes the second was a much deeper title. Now, both of the PS2 titles have been refreshed and updated for the PS3 and 360 with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection.
Whilst both titles are fantastic mech fighters, due to their differences I can’t just talk about them as a group, I need to talk about them as individuals. So with that – Zone of the Enders. The first title has a much different art style to the second, with the first having an extremely ‘out there’ CG anime style. Large eyes, large blocky characters, it makes the title look extremely dated, thanks to the turn of the century graphics. It’s only a problem during cutscenes, with actual gameplay having a completely different look. The towns and planets don’t go for that hyper anime style; with the both your orbital frame and other mechs having a fantastic art design. The HD upgrade hasn’t done too much to the titles performance, with very few problems during gameplay. What it has done is made things ludicrously clear – Performing burst shots whilst flying overhead at a smooth frame rate is extremely satisfying, especially now when you can see pixel perfect the hit and the damage it causes.
The game isn’t long, but it certainly leaves you wanting more orbital frame action. Luckily for owners of this collection though you don’t need to wait like we did on it’s original release – instead you can just swap on over to the second title. You start out as Dingo, surveying a planet in a small LEV when the brown stuff hits the fan and you end up falling into Jehuty – much like Leo did in the first. It then takes a departure from the first and becomes a lot faster paced. Gone is area changing from the first – instead you fly to the checkpoints leading to more fights along the way. One of the first fights is against seemingly hundreds of tiny mechs whilst the fantastic score blasts through – certainly the better soundtrack of the two titles. It’s here that the HD upgrade shows the strain, though. Throughout the second title, there are many moments where the frame rate stutters and it jars, seeing how the PS2 copy didn’t have this problem. It’d disappointing to know how silky smooth it can be, but not seeing that in action.
The HD upgrade does many good things to outweigh that bad, though. Again, the graphics are ridiculously well defined with each of those hundreds of tiny specks being recognizable as an actual thing now. Also ZoE 2 has a heavy use of anime with actual animated cutscenes and small anime sections of Dingo in the cockpit. All of these have been lovingly upscaled by hand and look fantastic. Whilst ZoE 1 used anime through CG, this used it through traditional animation to give a much better look to it. ZoE 2 is also a much deeper game, so the occasional hiccups don’t hamper the title all that much. With both of the titles being Hideo Kojima produced, there are also copious amounts of cutscenes in the mix, especially in the second title. So if you wanted a pure mech title where you can just jump in and smash up foes, then that’s not ZoE, that’d be more your Armored Core type of titles.
Zone of the Enders actually had an anime series and anime film in Japan, if you were interested in further watching, so it’s very much an anime themed in all respects. Whilst many people think of Gundam as the mech king, for me playing ZoE as a kid I always thought of Jehuty as being the mech of choice. Playing them again it cements that I still love the titles and they’re still my go to game when wanting to pilot a big arse mech causing a ruckous in space.
Note should also be made on the Metal Gear Revengeance demo. As mentioned, ZoE originally came with a Metal Gear Solid 2 demo. Now, 11 years later, the game is coming with a demo for a much different Metal Gear. Whilst the MGS2 demo had Snake sneaking aboard a Tanker in the rain, the Revengenace demo has Cyborg Raiden kicking a robot dog in the face. Set after Metal Gear Solid 4, Revengeance revolves around Raiden against cyborg PMC’s with his Blade Mode mechanic, which lets you slow down time and slice up your foes with precision. With this demo it was the fourth time I’d tried the game and with each time of doing so I loved it more and more. Whilst it is a huge departure from the Metal Gear norm, it’s a spin off and angry fans wanting to burn down Platinum for ‘disrespecting the foundations of Metal Gear’ need to calm down. A lot. Whilst not every Stealth Hound will like a super smooth and super fast slash em up, many will – including me. Revengeance hits the PS3 and 360 in February 2013.
With the ZoE Collection being the only way to try Revengeance for the time being, there is an immediate pull for anyone wanting an immediate taste of the title, but bundled are two absolutely fantastic mecha titles. Sales of this collection are important. We need to make a stand and say that we love Zone of the Enders and yes, Mr. Kojima, much like Oliver – We do want more.