Zone Of The Enders
Otherwise known as Z.O.E, Hideo Kojima's (of MGS fame) mech adventure game remains shrouded in mystery, but that hasn't stopped us from hunting down some new shots and skinning them like possums.
String 'em up! Now we're seeing human character models in the lineup as well. With Z.O.E and MGS2 in the pipeline, Konami should emerge as one of the PS2 publishers to watch when the games ship sometime in 2001.
Download Zone Of The Enders
Leo Stenbuck is an Ender, a human living at the end of civilization. He lives aboard a satellite orbiting Jupiter, to be precise, and living so far in the anime future as Leo is, obviously there are tons of large robots (named Orbital Frames), waging a war throughout the station. Leo, after losing some friends in a very emotionally scarring fashion, happens upon a fancy Orbital Frame called Jehuty and sets off on an action packed ride/mission throughout the space station.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
There have been a plethora (yes, I know what it means) of different mech fighting games made, from the simulation style of MechWarrior, to the strategy heavy , to the RPG Xenogears. It is refreshing to finally have a pure action, adrenaline pumping, giant robot game. For fans of anime like Gundam, it could easily be a dream come true. At its best, Zone of the Enders (ZOE) plays like a super-addictive arcade game. Believe it or not, I actually let out a shout of joy when I finally beat one of the more challenging bosses. The controls are excellent as you dive, slash, and dash your way in true three-dimensional aerial dogfights. I could go on and on about the excellent control scheme, but suffice to say it just makes sense right from the start.
Some of the other design decisions, on the other hand don't make nearly as much sense. First of all, you only have three different types of mechs to fight against, with two of these looking a lot like each other. The bosses are very cool and fun to go up against, but there are only a couple of them. SMALL SPOILER ALERT And you can't even beat the last bad guy! END OF SMALL SPOILER ALERT. By the end of the game you'll start to get bored of seeing the same couple of guys over and over and over again, with only their difficulty being bumped up little by little.
Speaking of endings, this brings me to my next negative; the ending comes up way to soon. I know that this isn't an RPG, so I wasn't expecting 40-80 hours of gameplay, but you know, at least 10 would have been nice. My final time was a little less than five hours. Granted, this was on the easiest level, but it was including the optional side missions. It is really just too short of a game, padded with a simple multiplayer mode (which can be unlocked by playing the game through once) and a lot of cinema scenes.
Let me correct that, a lot of really bad cinema scenes. If you are one of the wacky people that buy a game for the high-quality cut-scenes, you will be immediately disappointed with the generally sub-par voice acting, the hokey story that generates very little emotions, and the whiny main character who, instead of inspiring you, makes you want to drive Jehuty into the Sun. If you generally skip through the cinema scenes, the game is going to be even more incredibly short for you than it already is.
If they had stripped away the cut-scenes and doubled the number of areas in the game, I think ZOE would have been a fantastic action game. But, well, you've got what you've got.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a one-on-one Orbital Frame battle you can unlock if you beat the game once, and then unlock a couple extra characters and playing fields if you beat it again. While the multiplayer mode is fun a couple of times, and probably increases the longevity of the game by another few hours, it isn't enough to warrant buying it for the multiplayer experience.
Okay, here's where I gush for a bit. The lighting! The particle effects! The incredible amount of frames per second! The realistic level design! The beauty! The wonder! Yes, ZOE looks incredible. Everything happens so fast it's sometimes hard to notice how incredible the game graphics are, so let me help you out with a little sightseeing tour:
Watch as Jehuty skids along the surface of the ground, igniting sparks at his feet! See the amazing city backgrounds on each level! Gasp in awe at the accidental fires that break out from the aerial battles! Sit in stunned amazement at the lack of slowdown, even with several mechs on the screen at one time! Yes, truly a wonder of our modern times!
Once more, most of the voice acting is very bad (not bad enough to be enjoyable, but just bad enough to be annoying), but the sound effects and music are well done. While not as stunning as the graphics, the music does a good job of getting you in the action game mood, with a couple of songs sung in Japanese, but mainly a lot of techno beat stuff.
I have purposely ignored mentioning the packaged Metal Gear Solid 2 demo that comes with ZOE, for I feel $50 is too much to pay for any demo, no matter the quality. But, sticking to the game, I have bittersweet memories of my short time playing through Zone of the Enders. The graphics were amazing and the smooth controls made me really feel like I was in control of a very agile, very large machine, but the poor voice acting, the annoying main character, and the very short length of the game takes this out of the realm of a must-buy. A must-rent is more like it and, for these reasons, it scores a 79.
P.S. I just needed to mention that although ZOE is rated M for Mature, I couldn't find anything, outside of a few semi-intense cinema scenes, that would move the rating outside of the E for Everyone criteria, let alone Teen. Go figure!