Zone of the Enders Review
Please note that this review is from my playthrough of the Zone of the Enders HD Collection for PlayStation 3.
A few years back, a couple friends and I used to make Let’s Plays, and we did a big Christmas special involving games where you play as robots, mostly mechs. At that time I played a bit of Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner. I was interested in the series, but it ultimately got put on the back-burner. When I play games, I typically have to play them in chronological order, so last night, I was feeling like some (as advertised) “High Speed Robot Action”, so I popped in the Zone of the Enders HD Collection and started with the first game, simply titled, Zone of the Enders.
Zone of the Enders is an action/mech combat game that plays at a pretty high speed compared to other mech games such as Armored Core. The first thing that really caught my attention is the opening sequence before the Press Start screen. It immediately got me interested in whatever was about to come. The intro sets a great stage, and kind of reminds me of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which is a very very good thing.
Once I started up the game, however, you’re met with one of the worst protagonists imaginable. That said, he’s at least believable. His name is Leo, and he’s only a child, maybe 10 or so years old. The first cutscene shows him running away as a pinkish robot destroys another robot, falling on his tied up friends, killing them as they yell for Leo to save them. Leo runs away, terrified, right into the cockpit of the robot (which are called Orbital Frames) the enemy was seeking. Forced to fight or die, Leo boots up the Orbital Frame Jehuty, and meets Jehuty’s AI, ADA. After fighting off some enemies, a transmission comes in as he learns that Jehuty was to be transported by the “good guys” from this orbiting colony around Jupiter to Mars in preparation for a huge battle. Leo eventually agrees, but whines about everything the entire 4-5 hour story. He’s worse than Shinji in the first half of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Every other character is more interesting than Leo, and he kind of puts a damper on most of the cutscenes spread throughout the story. Right when I felt Leo had finally met with a resolve and was getting ready to enjoy the character, the story ends. I guess I’ll just have to play Second Runner to find out more. The story is by no means bad, but the main character is kind of insufferable.
The gameplay, thankfully, is far more enjoyable than Leo. Jehuty can shoot and slash with an arm-mounted laser-blade while fully controllable in a 3D environment. When close to a target and locked on, Jehuty will initiate the slash, while being far away will shoot. Jehuty can also dash around at high speeds turning his shots into homing lasers and his melee attack into a dashing stab. Finally, while standing still and pressing the dash button, Jehuty can go into burst mode, enabling a Legend of Zelda-esque spinning slash or a Dragonball Z-esque Spirit Bomb. Finally, Jehuty also has a throw, but outside of the first few missions, I found using it was more trouble than it was worth, as most enemies, especially in harder missions, are usually attacking if you’re not. Jehuty can also obtain new weapons, but I found the default weaponry to be far more useful and versatile, except in the situations where they make you use others. Jehuty also has a guard feature, which cancels damage from all but the most powerful attacks.
Combat typically involves fighting other unmanned Orbital Frames, however the variety of enemies is extremely low. You’ll fight the same 3 Frames over and over again, just at different power levels. As you defeat enemies, you’ll level up, enabling you to do more damage with your attacks. The few bosses spread throughout the story offer a nice mix up from the usual combat which usually involves closing the distance and slashing with your beam-sword until the enemy explodes. Combat sure does LOOK cool though, as enemies will often attack with their beam weapons at the same time, clashing with your own as you spin around each other, giving combat a real anime feel to it, which, again, is good. Enemies are usually just as maneuverable as Jehuty, so ranged attacks tend to be fairly ineffective, except on bosses. Even though combat is the same over and over again, I still enjoyed it, and am very excited to see what the Second Runner can bring to the table.
The missions are fun and varied enough to not get too tiresome, though most of the time it’s easier to just destroy all of the enemies, then scout the area for items or whatever you’re looking for. The missions are kind of level-based, as you’ll fly around the overworld and enter different parts of the colony with limited area to explore, like a level. Some enemies within will hold passcodes enabling your new subweapons or other information required to progress. There are also optional protect missions which involve you destroying all enemies while trying to avoid damage to the surroundings, especially the buildings with survivors in them. This is harder than it sounds, as the buildings are incredibly fragile, and just one or two stray shots will level an entire building.
The Bottom Line
- Fun, “High Speed Robot Action”
- Good story and characters, minus 1
- Fun and varied missions/objectives
- Insufferable main character
- Combat is the same thing repeatedly with few unique enemies
- Story ends just as things are getting good.
Final Score: 8/10
Even though it has its flaws, I still really enjoyed Zone of the Enders. Maybe drop it to a 7 if you can’t handle the flaws. Not many games can deliver high-speed anime-style robot combat quite the same. I’m very excited to start on the Second Runner.