Zone of the Enders was originally released in 2001 and was followed in 2003 by its sequel Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. Both games received good reviews, averaging around an 8/10 from most major reviewers.
These games were created by the famed Hideo Kojima, best known for his Metal Gear series. This review is for the HD Collection that debuted in 2012 with the 1st and 2nd game on one. Both games include trophy support so that is really cool if you are looking for some easy trophies on a few short games. I will review each game separately below.
Zone of the Enders HD
The story for the first game revolves around a military attack on a colony on Jupiter. During the attack a young boy named Leo stumbles into a giant fighting robot called an “Orbital Frame” and is then tasked with returning it to the Space Force. He turns out to be a better pilot or “runner” than was expected and ends up saving many civilians along the way. The story starts out a little slow and does not explain things very well to the player, but eventually picks up and becomes much more interesting as you progress through the campaign.
The graphics are nothing to get excited about in this game. They are largely an unappealing reminder that this was a game made in 2001. The HD upgrade helps tremendously when you compare it to its original standard definition version. This, however, does not change the fact that there was very little detail in any of the environments. The cutscenes in the game looked like they were from an original PlayStation game. This can be explained because this game came out at the beginning of the PlayStation 2 life cycle and developers were not used to the system yet. Despite all of this, the Orbital Frames look great for a game that is over a decade old.
The gameplay in this game is not exactly good, but it is definitely not bad. I would describe it as fun only because the game is not very long. Had the game been any longer I would have grown extremely bored of it. The game is a hack and slash game where you are just killing thousands of little enemy Orbital Frames and unmanned robots. They do manage to switch it up by adding different “sub-weapons” like missile launchers and different types of lasers. This adds a little extra to the fun level of the game because you don’t only have to hack and slash. For those of you who love hack and slash games, you will probably have no problems with this game.
As a friend pointed out to me, I have strong opinions about what makes good voice acting and bad voice acting in a video game because I’ve played many story-driven games in the past. About 95% of the voice actors in this game were superb, especially when you consider this game was made in a time when voice acting was not very common in video games yet. The main character was played by a kid and you could certainly tell he had little experience in acting. His voice was terrible, and when combined with the terrible writing for his character, he easily became the most annoying character in the entire game.
The Verdict: 7.0 out of 10
This game was fun. That is all it really has going for it. It was not super pretty; there wasn’t a superb storyline; and it did not have the best style of gameplay. When the whole package comes together though, it is simply a fun game worth experiencing. If you like hack and slash games then you should definitely pick this game up. If you like Hideo Kojima games, then you should definitely pick this game up. If neither of those applies, then this game might be worth skipping.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner HD
The second game starts off in a very similar way as the first one did, except this time with a different character. Without giving any spoilers, you will not find out what happened to the first game’s main character until a few hours into the game. This story seemed to be much stronger than the first one, however. I really enjoyed trying to get to the next level to discover what was going to happen next. The characters were all much more likable than those in the first game. The only problem I had with the story in this game is that occasionally they would throw in a boss character that was loosely connected to the main character in a way that was poorly explained/not easily discernible. It was almost as if they needed a boss for a level so they just quickly threw together a story.
The graphics in this game are greatly improved from the first. In just two years, they were able to improve their graphics exponentially, which made the game much more enjoyable to play. The Orbital Frames looked stunning and the environment was significantly improved. Although the environment was better, it still lacked anything exciting that stands out. Nevertheless, this is acceptable for a game with a release date in 2003. The HD upgrade made the game look great, a huge improvement over what it was 10 years ago. The 2nd Runner went a different route with its cutscenes than the first game did; instead of PS1 styled graphics it used animated cutscenes. This is a huge improvement because it allowed them to show much more detail in what was going on. I very much enjoyed the cutscenes in this game compared to the first.
The gameplay is very similar to the first game. The only changes they made are the addition of a few more subweapons that make it a little more unique and the way these weapons can be accessed. Again, it was fun because the game is not very long. It took me a little over 5 hours to beat and if it had taken any longer, the hack and slash repetitiveness would have gotten on my nerves.
The voice acting in this game is significantly better than the first game. All of the characters seemed to be seasoned actors. Again, the only real problem I had was the main character. This time, however, I believe it had nothing to do with the writing because he was a likable character. He just did not seem like a good actor at all. There were times when he was supposed to get angry or happy and you just couldn’t hear genuine emotion in his voice. When you play a game, you normally cannot tell that each of the actors record their dialogue individually without the others in the room, because they are good at what they do. With this game however, you can definitely tell that the main character’s voice actor was alone; otherwise he would have had more genuine reactions.
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
This game improves on just about everything from the first game and makes it a much more enjoyable experience. At the end of the day I would say this game is worth a play even if you aren’t a fan of hack and slash style games. In all honesty, you can skip the first game and the second one will still make sense, although it is much better to have the first game’s knowledge when playing it. Although, if you decide you are going to play this one, then I highly recommend playing the first one just to get the story element of it.
HD Collection Verdict: 7.5 out of 10
Who doesn’t like a crazy giant robot war in space? Go play them. They are good games with an interesting storyline.