With any new title, gamers want something worthwhile and revolutionary. Granted, this doesn't mean the entire game requires ultimate perfection to warrant a purchase, but surprises always enhance experiences. When playing compilation titles, it's important to decide whether or not gameplay mechanics from last decade remain relevant, or if added improvements justify the modern price.
Recently, Konami and Kojima Studios released Zone of the Enders HD Collection; this compilation features both Zone of the Enders PlayStation 2 titles with improved graphics, enhanced aspect ratios, achievement/trophy support, and an all new animated introduction. Oh yeah, there’s also a fully functional demo of Metal Gear Rising.
In the first Zone of the Enders, you play as Leo Stenbuck, a child from the space colony Antilia who accidentally acquires a giant robot (or Orbital Frame) known as Jehuty. As an Orbital Frame runner, you'll defeat other robotic enemies, escape dangerous conditions, and even save fellow space colony citizens -- that is, if you want to. Your primary mission is to deliver the Orbital Frame to Mars via the Atlantis starship. Unfortunately, Colonel Nohman and his BAHRAM forces will do anything they can to stop you. In The 2nd Runner, the battle continues with former BAHRAM operative Dingo Egret as the orbital frame’s second pilot (who also acquires it by accident). Once again, you’ll face the infamous BAHRAM military organization, but this time with more assistance from a rebellious space faction.
With the assistance of ADA, an artificial intelligence within Jehuty, you’ll spend both games flying through space colonies, starships and other sci-fi combat zones while destroying other giant robots. Oh, and don't forget, these games contain giant robots.
It’s been over a decade since the initial release of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Keeping this in mind, one would think enhancements from Kojima Studios would include more than some minor touch-ups and a new opening sequence. Visuals seem weaker than they should for a high definition game -- especially in the original Zone of the Enders. Most backdrops and effects in the first title don't show much of an improvement from the PlayStation 2 days.
In terms of gameplay mechanics, repetitive presentations also causes problems in the first game; you'll basically fight the same exact Orbital Frames until finally arriving at bosses. When it comes to solving “puzzles,” strategies consist of revisiting areas you already cleared out and either rematching or running from similar enemy types. When it comes to replay value and depth, these kind of mechanics simply don’t hold up.
Hands down, The 2nd Runner delivers much more satisfaction than its predecessor. Each game progresses early on, but the second title gets right to the point, and with much smoother UI presentations and battle effects. Combat executions in The 2nd Runner -- specifically burst attacks -- remain superior. There’s also a greater variety of robotic enemies, including shielded spider robots and entire swarms of locust-like drones.
Combat conditions in both titles consist of both long and short-ranged attacks against miscellaneous Orbital Frames, both manned and unmanned. Though long-ranged attacks (especially dash and burst attacks) become superior in The 2nd Runner, short-range melee maneuvers usually inflict more damage. You're also given additional subweapons as you acquire battle data from obtainable programs, though many of the subweapons in the first game seem either useless or don't last long. There's a good chance you'll spend more time focusing on your regular attacks, while only using subweapons when missions absolutely call for them.
Though both games feature playable control schemes, the overall experience still requires improvement. For instance, camera angles in the first game run at a much slower rate than the second, and both titles feature erratic mishaps when experiencing battles in tight areas. Why couldn’t implementations in the first game be as smooth as the second? It doesn't make any sense.
Again, the same goes for graphics. Since they’re already undergoing a facelift, why not make them both equal at this point? Aside from the lack of potential already displayed, each game runs slower on an HD console than any game like this should. Yes, we have more complex graphics than we did back then. However, the fact that graphics don’t reach their full potential is an insult to both returning fans and HD console owners alike.
For $39.99, Zone of the Enders HD Collection is a fair buy for anyone asleep during the PS2 years. Unfortunately, adding these games to your library for the sake of augmented features won't give you much more. Unless you’re really looking forward to experiencing these games in a 16:9 aspect ratio, you might as well hook your PS2 up to your old tube TV and experience these titles as you remember them. Now when it comes to an honest continuation of the series, we can only hope that Kojima delivers with the last rumored project.