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Geeky Game Review: Zone of the Enders HD Collection

Ahhh nostalgia, such a fickle beast. It can can do all sorts of things to one’s memories, it make bad things seem good, good things seem great and great things seem mega epic awesome. I’m a sucker for it as I may have inadvertently had rosy red lenses installed in my eye sockets. I’ve amassed a nice sized pile of HD collection releases to replay last gen’s hits and grab some achievements or trophies in the mean time.

Konami recently sent me over a copy of Zone of the Enders HD Collection for the Xbox 360, which perked me right up. I have fond memories playing the first Z.O.E. for the fresh and new PlayStation 2. Truthfully, as a drooling Metal Gear fanboy, I dropped the cheddar down on the game so I could play the included Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo. To convince my wife I didn’t just blow $50 on a demo (yikes!) I showed her I indeed did play the game. And I did play it. Jetting around in a sleek mech, slapping the snot out of baddies and stomping a mud hole in wicked boss ‘bots was actually fun.

Never did I get around to the sequel, The 2nd Runner, because I was swamped with so many other games. I heard mixed reviews about it so it always stayed in the back of my mind. Now here we are, both games sitting in front of me. Did I fall prey to wistful memories or did I relive a kick ass series? Hit the break and find out!

The first Z.O.E. was indeed a fun sized blast. Hopping in Jehuty for the first time brought back that giddy excitement that any kid gets when giant robots are involved. The gameplay felt more responsive when blasting away at the baddies but it still suffers from that horrible camera design. The camera was built with a mind of its own, it was meant to be smarter so you could focus on the action. In today’s age of being able to move the viewpoint practically anywhere, this idea falls very flat. The lock on is still fairly adaptive and you can switch foes but once you disengage, expect some frustrating moments. Controlling the Orbital Frame is still simple, even with the camera. Players can ascend, descend, move forward, back, left and right easily. Which is why I was still able to enjoy the game. I could flit around, laser blasting far away villains or burst in close and slash their robotic guts out.

The 2nd Runner was a mess of combat. I never once felt like I was in control of Jehuty, not once. There is an early boss battle where you can not get in close to do damage and your ranged weapons don’t help. The only way to defeat her is to grab objects lying around and throw them at her. In thirty minutes, I was able to effectively grab five beams and toss at her but not defeat her. Because the camera locks in on her, you can’t move around to see the debris. Can’t see it, can’t grab it, can’t throw it. So I threw something else instead – the towel. Not being in control of your on-screen persona is unacceptable today.

Konami went with the deluxe remaster treatment by completely redoing the opening cinematics for both games as well as a beautifully rendered movie for the beginning. The polish extended to the actual gameplay graphics, it looked closer to a current gen game than a last gen one. The 2nd Runner was beginning to feel more like an interactive anime with all the cut scenes, maybe that’s why combat fell so far from the original.

If you’re a Hideo Kojima fan and never had a chance to see some of the things he did while not working on MGS, check out the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. Z.O.E itself should provide you plenty of entertainment while you wait for more Metal Gear goodness. Plus it does come with a demo for Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance!

Thanks again to our peeps at Konami for the review copy of the game!