Zone of the Enders

-Konami (2001)




This is a story of a whiny little kid who finds a giant mech and battles to save the colony (hmm, this story sounds very familiar).

My Thoughts:

Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind the great Metal Gear Solid, presents gamers with a fresh look on how mech combat should be done. The results are staggeringly good, but a little disappointing at the same time. 

The designs of the orbital frames (called mechs in other series) are very cool and look quite amazing, although the cockpit is placed in an interesting area, which was the first thing I you'll notice about the game. For most mech designs we’re used to seeing the pilot ride in the head or a chest cavity, but many of the mechs featured in Z.O.E. have a phallic cockpit protruding right from the crotch. It’s certainly an original idea for mecha designs, having the cockpit truly be the “cockpit,” but it looks a little odd at first.

You won’t have any time to worry about where the pilot is located as the combat is very fast. Making split-second decisions in combat is crucial, but it is incredibly easy thanks to some of the most perfect controls in a video game. The controls quickly become second nature and combat is smooth and satisfying. The controls give you complete control over Jehuty (the frame you pilot) and his aerobic fighting moves. Sometimes you’ll be simply amazed at what you’re seeing on screen, but it really is you who is performing all those sleek and quick moves. The camera only enhances the gameplay with its perfect placement at any given time.  It follows Jehuty around while flying about the cities but combat is where it shines. The camera locks onto the enemy mech letting you do your stylish fighting moves. 

The visuals of Z.O.E. are breathtaking. You’ll find some delicious graphics and lighting effects on the PS2 in Z.O.E. Everything from the orbital frames (the mechs) to the backgrounds is a feast of great beauty and outstanding detail. The amount of detail that permeates the frames is just incredible, with so many subtle touches in the panels and armor. The explosions look fantastic as enemy mechs explode and buildings burst and crumble.   

Unfortunately, perfection comes at a price. The story, while very good, is all too common for the most part. I’m disappointed that the developers couldn't come up with anything better than this clichéd story idea of a young teenager finding a giant mech and being forced to fight like a real battle-trained soldier. This type of story has been way overdone in anime. We’ve seen this in many of the Gundam series, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and just about every other giant robot series from Japan. Leo, our young protagonist actually seems younger than most of these giant robot piloting kids. The story is also a hefty tale of morality. This kid has to be one of the most annoying main characters in any game. 

The game is also short, very short. My first time through was a little less than five hours and I always watch the cut-scenes. There is also no climactic end boss battle. You are merely forced to survive the attacks of the mighty Anubis frame because Jehuty is not yet capable of defeating it. The whole game really feels like just the first few chapters in a much larger, grander story.

When you do “beat” the game you unlock a rather unique two-player mode. There is no split-screen involved, it’s still a single, full screen.  In this versus mode one player is in the foreground while the other is somewhat in the background. The battle proceeds like any other battle in the game and the frames get switched out between the back and foreground. It may sound like this wouldn’t work, but it actually does. With your performance in certain stages of the game you can unlock more frames to play as in this mode, which helps boost the length a little bit.

Even though it has its problems with the length and the main character, Zone of the Enders is still such an incredible game and I absolutely love it. The positives of the designs, battle system, and perfect camera far outshine the negatives, making it well worth the short amount of time to put into it and being played through again.                                          

Score: 8.0

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty – Trial Edition, AKA the real reason people bought Z.O.E.

Zone of the Enders includes a demo of some game called Metal Gear Solid 2. Many joked that Z.O.E. was really a $50 MGS2 demo with a free game and it is because of the demo that Z.O.E. sold so well. The demo is roughly only an hour of gameplay, but what an hour. There is so much to do, so many things to see, it just serves to increase people’s anticipation for the final game. The voices in this Trial Edition are in Japanese, so it’s nice to see how a few of the Japanese actors’ performances are. Although the previous trailers aren't included, I can’t help but love every minute of this preview of a great game.          

Score for MGS2 Demo: 9.0