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Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review (X360)

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Zone of the Enders HD Collection Review (X360)
Konami
The Zone of the Enders HD Collection brings Hideo Kojima's fantastic giant robot action titles to Xbox for the first time in a nicely polished package of two fantastic games for just $40. With fantastic presentation and fun, fast paced gameplay, these games have held up surprisingly well despite being originally released on the PS2 in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Whether you're a ZoE veteran or playing them for the first time, the Zone of the Enders HD Collection is definitely worth a look.
Game Details

  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: High Voltage Software
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Action
  • Pros: Great value; nice presentation; fast paced giant robot gameplay; ZoE2 is still fantastic
  • Cons: Awful cutscenes in ZoE1; ZoE1 is pretty simplistic; framerate issues in ZoE2

The Zone of the Enders HD Collection packs HD remasters of Zone of the Enders 1, and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Unfortunately, the series is probably best known because ZoE1 included a demo disc for Metal Gear Solid 2, which a lot of gamers likely spent more time with than ZoE1 itself, while ZoE2 had a smaller print run and, despite being a far better game than the original, didn't garner nearly the attention that the first game did and has gotten increasingly hard to find as the years have gone on. Now, thankfully, we can give both of these games the attention they deserve with the ZoE HD Collection.

Or, of course, you could buy it "just" for the Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo included in the collection in a not so subtle nod to the original release. But you really should play ZoE 1 and 2.

Gameplay

Konami
The Zone of the Enders games are, to put it simply, as close to replicating the fast paced, over the top, crazy battles in giant robot anime as videogames have ever been (WarTech: Senko No Ronde and Dynasty Warriors Gundam 3 are the only ones to come close). You play in a third-person perspective and have melee attacks, projectiles, special weapons of all sorts, and can fly and boost all over the place at high speed. The games are fast and exciting, but surprisingly intuitive, and the best battles really do rival the best giant robot fights anime has to offer.

Zone of the Enders

The core gameplay of the two games is basically the same, but the mission design and story presentation are radically different. Zone of the Enders 1 is shockingly repetitive in terms of missions where there are only a handful of areas to explore and your only real objective is to go back and forth between them, kill all of the enemies to earn some new passcode or weapon, and then backtrack to some other area to use your new ability to open the next path. It was kind of mind numbing even in 2001 when it first came out (and, remember, people paid $50 just for it (and MGS2 demo)), so it was kind of a disappointment. Also disappointing about ZoE1 were the awful cutscenes that featured what amount to 3D models of anime characters, so they look terrible. The protagonist of ZoE1 is also rather obnoxious as he fits the Shinji Ikari (of "Evangelion") whiny reluctant protagonist archetype to the letter. Zone of the Enders is also very short, clocking in at just over 4 hours. It is still worth playing through once, though, because it makes ZoE2's quality stand out even more. Plus it has lots of easy Achievements.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, is an improvement over ZoE1 in just about every way. The gameplay is roughly the same, but the mission designs are vastly improved where there is a ton of environmental variety, better enemy variety, and you actually get to move forward instead of constantly going on fetch quests and backtracking. The story presentation is also greatly improved with anime cutscenes replacing the awful 3D ones from ZoE1 and the protagonist isn't a whiny brat. While ZoE1 was a sort of proof of concept for the core gameplay ideas, ZoE2 is a fully fleshed out and great game on its own that stands as one of the truly great under-appreciated classics from the PS2 era. The HD Collection version of ZoE2 is the special edition version that was never released in the U.S. on PS2, and includes extra missions and difficulty levels as well as VR training missions.

Graphics & Sound

The overall presentation of the collection is very well done. The in-game visuals for ZoE1 and ZoE2 have cleaned up exceptionally well and look really nice in HD. The performance isn't quite up to snuff, however. Side-by-side comparisons show that ZoE1 actually moves a tick slower than the original PS2 game, but we played through the whole thing and didn't really notice, so that isn't much of a problem. A bigger issue is that ZoE2 has some more significant framerate slowdowns in hectic battles (which is basically every battle considering the huge jump in the number of enemies you fight at once compared to the original) that you'll definitely notice. The framerate drops don't make the game unplayable or anything, but it is kind of odd that the much more powerful Xbox 360 (and PS3) struggle with these games ten years after the PS2 handled them without breaking a sweat. Again, it isn't a huge problem that ruins the game or anything, but something you'll notice.

The sound is also well done overall. The voice acting is only so-so, but sound effects for the giant robots are excellent and the soundtrack is really phenomenally good.

Bottom Line

Konami
All in all, the Zone of the Enders HD Collection is solid and worth a look for giant robot and action game fans. The games have held up remarkably well and the visuals are actually really quite impressive even today. The gameplay is fast and furious and really quite fun. Slight performance issues do drag the experience down a bit, but the games are still quite playable. The Zone of the Enders HD Collection is highly recommended for a purchase, particularly if you never got a chance to play them on PS2, but even if you did the visual improvements here are enough to make them worth playing all over again.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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