To remaster a hit game that was intended for the release of the PlayStation 2 seems to be good idea at this time in gaming. Redoing old favourites, such as Xbox flagship franchise Halo Combat Evolved with the Anniversary Edition that came to Xbox 360 last year, give some new life to old games. Sometimes though, I find myself wondering whether remaking these games is anything other than a waste of time and energy. Zone of the Enders: HD Collection is exactly one of those games that gets me thinking this.
Zone of the Enders HD is filled to the brim with references to ancient Egyptian mythology, featuring both Zone of the Enders (Z.o.E) and Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner (Z.o.E 2). The games are typical Japanese Anime, with long sections of dialogue that have deep and provocative flashbacks that in the end have little impact on plot. The motive is nonsensical, but that isn’t the point. The collection looks great and plays well, although the dialogue is cheesy and outdated.
Z.o.E’s third-person combat based romp puts you in the place of Leo Stenbuck, a young boy who lives on a colony of Jupiter and accidentally comes across the Orbital Frame – Jehuty. It sets you about traversing through different areas of the Jupiter Colony fighting and destroying the invading forces using an array of weapons ranging from your close combat energy sword to a long-range burst attack. Combat is fast and frantic as you lock on to different enemy Frames and rain down fire upon them. This portion of the game is vastly repetitive, becoming very dull after the first 20 minutes.
As you rid one area of enemies, you just have to move to the next area and do nearly exactly the same thing. What breaks this up however, are the very fun and very fluid boss battles. These are challenging on even the easiest difficulty and are probably the best part of the game. Zipping around the arena, avoiding the boss’ specific attacks, and dealing as much damage as possible before flying away, is a frantic and exhilarating experience.
It’s unfortunate that there is very little that is positive to say about Z.o.E, a game that simply wasn’t that great when it first came out. This take on Z.o.E is still pretty awful now, despite graphical improvements, and the cut-scenes are almost laughably poor. However, it lays the ground work for the much superior sequel; Z.o.E 2. Here we find a better looking game with a passable storyline and a lot more action. Z.o.E 2 places you with more adult characters with whom you can relate to better than the slightly creepy Leo Stenbuck.
The HD graphics are gorgeous, ranging from the icy, snow-covered opening, to the bright and frantic ending; the second instalment looks and feels amazing to play. There is just much more diversity in gameplay; be it weapons you use or enemies you face, you will not be bored with playing through this relatively short campaign. I first powered through this on easy in just over four hours and even that was still quite challenging. As you ramp up the difficulty however, the game gets far more interesting. Enemies are a lot more tactically minded, doing more damage with each shot. You actually have to use the space around you to destroy the other robots, utilising the vertical aspect of the game much more in Z.o.E 2, as you dodge attacks and dropping down upon enemies.
The combat system is very good, or would be back in the PS2 days, but just doesn’t keep you going for that long a time. Whilst Z.o.E 2 is a spectacular game, it still becomes just another repetitive killing scenario after a while. Once again the boss battles are the highlight of Z.o.E 2; they are much more diverse and fun to complete, as well as being difficult and rewarding.
There is a message to be taken from Zone of the Enders: HD Collection: bringing back games from the past is not always the best of plans. Yes there is treasured relic here, but the time spent on making this could have been better spent. I would have much rather seen a whole new game that boasts what Z.o.E 2 contains and more, instead of having to play a completely average Z.o.E so that I can play Z.o.E 2, another game that was made for the PS2.
Saying that, Zone Of The Enders: HD collection is a collection that is worth purchasing solely for Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner. What has let publisher Konami down here is that the original game that just doesn’t need to be on the disc. It is such an average game that I can see no reason why anyone would want to remake it. If you have ever played either console version of Zone of the Enders and enjoyed it, or you simply like Japanese anime games/fast-paced combat games, I would recommend Zone of the Enders: HD Collection. Just be aware that you’d need to struggle through the first game, just so you can have the joy of experiencing the second.