Developers: Konami, High Voltage Software (port)
Release Date: October 30, 2012
System: Xbox 360, PS3
It’s hard to judge the games that come with an HD collection when you have never experienced them before. The idea of most HD collections is to bring them into the next generation with crispier graphics while retaining the game play that made people enjoy them to begin with. In some cases, it gains the series new fans. Such was the case with the Jak and Daxter collection that came out this year – I loved every second and felt like I was really experiencing something new. Unfortunately, I can’t really say the same for ZoE Collection, a pair of games that, though not without their charms, aren’t really worth checking out if this is your first time experiencing the series.
I’ll just say it right off the bat – the first Zone of The Enders is not really worth playing through, unless you have a strong nostalgic connection to the game. The story is fairly generic anime fair – boy sees friends killed, stumbles upon some type of power-enhancing device, sets out to make things right and save others. The characters are forgettable, primarily due to the poor script and worse voice acting. Sure, the combat is fast and responsive, but the action takes place in such monotonous environments cluttered with samey enemies. It does help, however, that the frame-rate issues the game initially suffered in the last generation have been fixed. Once you fall into an attack pattern, the game gives you little reason to switch things up all that much, making the five-or-so hour campaign only really worth playing through for those feeling nostalgic.
Thankfully, the second game is a far better experience. For one, the story is much better than the first game’s – there is less cheese in the dialog, more mature characters, and a narrative that is a little more ambitious in scope. The combat, too, has a little more depth. There is far more verticality to the encounters. Combat truly feels like it is taking place mid-air, with enemies attacking from all angles. The game over all felt more like a mech-fighting title than the first game, with the Orbital Frames feeling more nimble and deadly than ever. The inclusion of the previously European and Asia-only additional difficulty levels, extra missions, and VR Training rooms also sweetens the deal. Despite the improved gameplay, incredible animation on display in the cutscenes, and additional features, though, the game suffers a considerable amount of frame-rate slowdown – a puzzling step backwards from the original release that was addressed with the first game.
As it stands, this is one of my shorter reviews because there isn’t a whole lot to say about these games. The combat is simplistic, narrative nothing to write home about, and really only serve to fill the mech-sized hole in this generation. I wrote this review through the lens of someone who never played these games upon their initial release, and it provides plenty of evidence to support the idea that these games were remastered for those who experienced them on the PS2 and wanted to see what they would look like in HD. To that end – job well done. Everyone else need not apply.