Zone Of The Enders HD Collection Review
Hideo Kojima’s Zone Of The Enders series is the very definition of a cult classic. The original game came bundled with the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, and though it went on to receive middling reviews, its story and gameplay captured a devoted audience.
Kojima’s game told the story of a young boy who unwittingly falls into an advanced battle mech called Jehuty. It melded a Flight Of The Navigator narrative with some slick, combat-focused gameplay whose mission statement may have read: ‘Make it look like an anime.’
It was bold, different, and looking at it in HD, it’s easy to see that it hasn’t aged particularly well.
We’ve been treated to a number of different kinds of HD clean-ups to old games over the last year or so, from the highly successful ports of Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series to 343 Industries’ inconsistent overhaul of the original Halo.
It’s obvious that some games can come out of the process worse off if the HD-ing up of the visuals goes wrong.
What’s interesting about Zone Of The Enders HD Collection is that it just about manages to stay on the right side of sprucing up the game’s rough edges without making for an experience that’s too far removed from the original game. This works well for Zone Of The Enders and absolutely brilliantly for its much-improved sequel.
So much action, and it never stops. You won’t be bored watching someone played ZOE HD.
The original is certainly showing its age. It has the customary reliance on CGI cut-scenes, which have thankfully also been given some work, and suffers from Kojima’s love for overly long cinematic interludes, but it’s a product of its time and it’s fascinating to go back and play a game that was trying something different.
After young Leo falls into Jehuty, players are treated to a level structure that sees them flying over the city and choosing areas to visit as the pair try to get the mech back to its rightful owners and off to a mission on Mars.
It’s in these areas that Jehuty shows just how powerful it is. Though the draw distance remains as limited as it originally was, the game’s combat is just as slick as we remember it, and it’s curious that no one has tried to replicate its style since.
Locking on to enemies, Jehuty has a range of attacks that are so fast that anyone watching you play will wonder how you’re able to keep up with the action.
The same issues that reviewers complained about on its release are still prevalent, though. The camera’s awkward in the large open levels and a total nightmare indoors.
The visuals, though unique and obviously looking their best here, are hampered by the technical limitations of the day, but ultimately Zone Of The Enders feels like the warm-up act to the true experience, and that is its sequel, The 2nd Runner.
The original game has a great visual style to it, but the limitations of its tech show up far more than the second game.
Kojima’s original game, when compared to its sequel, looks like a proof of concept. With a HD gloss, The 2nd Runner is the real reason why Konami’s pack deserves attention, no matter how nostalgic we feel towards the quirky, flawed original game.
This time its Dingo’s turn to stumble into Jehuty. A miner with a dark past, he finds Jehuty buried in the ice on Mars, presumably where it has remained dormant after the battle Leo was helping deliver it to.
To say that lessons were learnt and applied to Zone Of The Enders’ sequel is putting things lightly – this is a better game in every conceivable way.
Kojima passed the development torch to Shuyo Murata, who was given the task of making The 2nd Runner appear like it was running a console generation ahead of the first game.
A tall order and one he achieved by giving The 2nd Runner a cel-shaded visual style, far grander levels freed of the limited draw distance, and full-blown anime cut-scenes instead of the CG of the first game.
The visual leap is incredible and the new style helped launch the series’ Japanese TV show, but it’s the special effects during battle that, when shown off in HD, are really impressive.
The camera can be a pain in closer areas like this.
It’s amazing to think the PS2 could handle such spectacle. High Voltage Software, which has handled the port, has done the right thing and let the HD visuals speak for themselves and, as we’ve said before, that’s the most respectful way of preserving the older generation of games.
That’s not to say that this pack is without its issues even beyond the original criticisms of the games themselves.
There’s a slight issue with the frame rate on each game, which stutters during the busier moments. Long-standing fans might find this unacceptable, but witnessing Zone Of The Enders brought to life in glorious HD is reason enough to let such occasional irritations slide.
It’s a joy to see such games given a new lease on life. There’s really no excuse to see frame rate issues spoil what is very nearly a perfect conversion, but it’s a price worth paying to see Jehuty fly again.
Version Tested: Xbox 360