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Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review

Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review

When 2001 came around, players around the world purchased Zone of the Enders; not because they knew what the game was about, but because what the game came with. Packaged with every copy of Hideo Kojima's High Speed Robot Action title, players were given a demo to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. I remember reading a review in a magazine back when it came out, saying something along the lines of "I paid 50 dollars for a demo, and got a pretty good game as well." That basically sums up my original view on the first game.

It was a pleasant surprise to play a mecha-based game where the controls were tight, fluid, fast and chaotic. Then in 2003, KCEJ along with Hideo Kojima, who was still acting as producer, released the sequel Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner. It was exactly how a sequel should be: it looked better, played better, fixed some of the issues its predecessor had and was a much better package on its own. It didn't even need a demo for 2004's Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater!

Almost a decade since that happened, Konami has released an HD collection of both games. It's designed for fans and veterans of the series and hopefully for newcomers that missed the opportunity last generation. HD collections can and have been pretty hit and miss, with some that clearly show a great deal of care, while others clearly show a lack of effort. That being said, where does this collection lie? In truth, it is a solid effort by the team at High Voltage; however it's not without its faults.

The first ZoE plays from the perspective of young Leo Stenbuck, an incredibly whiny brat who's had his whole world turned upside down once BAHRAM invaders attacked his colony on Antillia – a satellite orbiting the planet Jupiter. BAHRAM, led by the enigmatic Nohman, sought to harness the power of Metatron – an energy source that powers Orbital Frames – the name given to the series' mechas. Leo accidentally stumbles upon an Orbital Frame named Jehuty, and in a hasty decision, steps into what has become an entirely new meaning of the word 'cockpit.

Leo is then guided through sectioned portions of Antillia to fend off the remaining BAHRAM forces with the help of Jehuty's AI, ADA. You also have help from a woman named Elena on the Atlantis, a large ship from Earth which went to Jupiter to prevent Nohman from obtaining both Jehuty and Anubis. While the nod to Egyptian Mythology is intriguing (Djehuti and Anubis), the story itself is fairly simplistic and incredibly short, clocking in at a generous 5 hours. Leo is almost entirely unlikable due to childish naivety and ignorance of the world around him. Now, I understand he's made to be this way – he is a kid after all, but some of the dialogue will surely have even the thickest skin cringing. That being said, any and all complaints I have with him are completely irrelevant since I am playing as him, piloting Jehuty – the true star of the game.

Jehuty can move, fly and hover in three dimensions, and use booster jets to dash for short bursts of speed. Its basic commands are ranged attacks that allow you to shoot at enemies, or come in close for melee/blade combat. My opinion on the controls now are exactly the same as they were back in 2001, and that is that this might be the best control system for a mecha-based video game. It offers a fine degree of control without feeling clunky or, if you'll forgive the pun, robotic. The original ZoE's drawback was its lock-on function. The camera would at times try to fight with you and your lock-on ranged dashing attack wouldn't always hit. The draw distance for your attacks also has some problems with it; some enemies, notably bosses, can have attacks that take the entire length of the screen, whereas you need to be within the fixed range or else your attacks will simply disappear.

The visuals for ZoE definitely show the game's age with the cutscenes, but High Voltage should be commended for doing a good job cleaning up what they could with the actual gameplay. Unfortunately, it's not perfect. There are instances where the game's frame rate dips significantly. This can be a little irritating, especially when the game relies on a sense of fluidity when in combat. But as a whole, the game looks much better than the original.

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