GAME NAME: Zone of the Enders HD Collection
DEVELOPER(S): Kojima Productions
RELEASE DATE(S): 30 November 2012
The name Hideo Kojima is and always will be – for better or for worse – synonymous with the Metal Gear Solid franchise. Being both blessed and burdened with the success of the Metal Gear brand comes with its own set of restrictions, but during the PS2 era Kojima managed to find the time to spend some of his creative juices on two games that would later become cult classics.
What better way to introduce those games to fresh new audiences than to repackage them as a remastered HD collection? The games are Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner and while these may not hold up quite as favourably as one would have hoped there’s enough here to quench your thirst for some hyper-kinetic-giant-mecha-action, granted you don’t take off those rose-tinted glasses of yours.
The ZotE HD Collection is very much what one might call a bare-bones port. Apart from the redone anime opening sequences there are no additional features, no extra razzle-dazzle. These are simply two PlayStation 2 games – now displayed at a higher resolution – that will now also work on your PS3 or 360. Those familiar with the original games will know exactly what to expect: two action games featuring giant mecha robots duking it out with one another with above-average gameplay.
They’ll also be familiar with the extremely short running time (criminally short for the first game at around 3 hours), poor pacing and shoddy voice acting. All these things are obviously still present and no less endearing this time around, but the upscaled visuals during gameplay manage to look remarkably impressive and actually hold up very well considering the age of the products. The cut-scenes fare less well though and their jagged edges and slightly blurry resolution only serve to jarringly take you out of the experience every so often.
The original game does feel a bit like a tech-demo or an introduction to the world and characters of ZotE, while The 2nd Runner fares considerably better in all regards. Longer running time, arguably better narrative with superior gameplay, it really can be seen as the main course to a rather middling appetizer. And as far as robot vs robot action goes The 2nd Runner delivers a satisfying bout of fast, frenetic mecha fights, underpinned by an interesting if slightly underexplained narrative. Versus mode ensures that there’s at least some couch co-op action to look forward to once the campaigns are finished, even though the variety of mechas available mean you’ll get limited mileage out of the experience.
At the price though, it’s easy to recommend the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. It’s not a perfect port and strangely enough even suffers from some frame rate problems, but these are games that offer a glimpse of what a mecha-action game can be when helmed by someone as talented as Kojima.
Both games clearly did not have the time or budget associated with Konami’s big hitting franchise but both are completely worth experiencing, even though you get the feeling that both could have been so much more given the appropriate amount of finance and development. And who knows, hopefully it will pave the way for the franchise to finally get the rumoured sequel it so richly deserves.