Zone of the Enders (ZOE) will forever live in the dark shadow of the Metal Gear Solid series. The initial ZOE was birthed into game shops with a demo for Metal Gear Solid 2 attached to every copy like a life-giving umbilical cord. I preordered the game and picked up ZOE not for its spectacular robot-on-robot action, but for the tactical espionage demo. Who could resist destroying watermelons and sneaking around a tanker as everyone’s favorite Snake?
I played the Metal Gear Solid 2 much more than ZOE. At one point, I was even at the top of the demo’s leader boards. Once I snooped around every inch of the tanker, taking out every guard, and maxing out Snake’s pull-up skill, I got around to playing ZOE. And hey, robots on robots, what could go wrong?
Now, Zone of the Enders 1 and 2 has been re-released in HD. With the game, of course, comes a demo for the hyped up Metal Gear Rising. While some things never change, for once this package is worth buying for the games, and not the just the demo.
A Robot To Call My Own
ZOE was great back then – it scratched my robot itch at a time when I was fascinated by Gundam and would give anything to own one myself. I’d clean it every day, take it out for walks, and make sure it got its oil changed, I swear. But ZOE was as close as I could get to robot companionship. And it was a pretty great simulation. Experimental as it was, I didn’t find too much meat on those robotic bones, but it was the first of its kind which counted for something.
Going back to the first ZOE today is a bit rough – it’s very linear and the replay value is staunch. The game looks great in HD, so much that it could easily pass for a PS3 game. That’s mostly due to the futuristic look, bright lights, and fast action. Jehuty, the robot/mech this game centers around, never looked better.
ZOE’s story is marred by a crying kid and a bit too much melodrama. In hindsight, visiting ZOE doesn’t make sense when its superior-in-every-way sequel is being released in the same package. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is the true gem, making the original almost obsolete.
I passed on 2nd Runner the first time around because a) it didn’t come with a demo I was crawling out of my skin to play and b) ZOE was a paltry experience. I made a huge mistake. 2nd Runner rights all of ZOE’s wrongs and takes mech combat to the next spectacular level.
I was hesitant to turn on 2nd Runner, expecting the same drama, but was happy to see the main character was a gruff soldier, Dingo, who wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Not that I can relate (I am neither gruff, nor a solider), but it’s a welcome change of pace. Combine this with an upgrade system, new weapons, a reason to replay the campaign, and expanded roster of enemies and you have a game that can stand on its own two legs, triple A demo be damned.
2nd Runner is the logical evolution of ZOE when the ideas and mechanics are given time to gestate and grow. It expands on the story, gameplay in a way that’s satisfying and worth investing time into.
Zone of the Enders HD Collection deserves a spot on any gamer’s shelf. Well, half of the collection does. I’m shocked how easy it is to control this mech in a 3D space without the controls becoming overly complex. If you can nab the collection on the cheap, go for it. If you’re jonesing to play Metal Gear Rising, well, at least you’ll have Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner to satisfy your fast-action robot simulation when you’ve exhausted the demo.