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Zone of the Enders (PlayStation 2)

79
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.5
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  diglot.net (28)
Written on  :  Jun 16, 2005
Rating  :  3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars3.43 Stars

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Summary

Good game. Annoying antagonist. *long*

The Good

Zone Of the Enders (ZOE) is the new franchise conceived by none other than Metal Gear's creator Hideo Kojima. ZOE places the player in the shoes of Leo Stenbuck, a kid from Atilla who tragically witnessed the deaths of his friends from an unknowing invasion of his home were attacked by highly powered mechas known as Orbital Frames. Leo then runs for his life, hides in a hanger of all places and accidentally falls into the ultimate Orbital Frame named Jehuty - which happens to be the very reason why the enemies have attacked his home in the first place. Unwillingly, Leo finds himself battling the enemy Orbital Frames to some degree and somehow, with the help of the Orbital Frame's computer ADA, finds a way to save himself. And so begins the story...

The premise of ZOE doesn't stray far from other stories of this type. In fact, it borrows alot from the stories of a classic anime called Mobile Suit Gundam. If you are familiar with the story of Amuro Ray and the original Mobile Suit folklore, ZOE's story will not surprise you. At least ZOE's style of storytelling is much better than the story itself. Part of good stylish storytelling is integrating the player into it. In this case, ZOE has done a great job getting the player involved with the Orbital Frame via the ADA tutorial. The tutorial is brief but concise when it comes to educating the player. The control of your Frame and its weapon use are just as amuzing to use when demonstrating it in the tutorial's virtual arena. Aside from the tutorial, what impressed me alot was the 3rd person HUD and the default control setup. After playing a couple of hours, you feel like the placement of the weapons, movement, and defense actions on the controller were very natural and easily manageable. Emphasis was placed on the control of Jehuty and its 'extended' functions. In ZOE, Leo becomes more familiar with Jehuty's strengths and learns more about its programs including some hints on how to unlock them. This is where ZOE delves into the city 'map' where Jehuty transforms and navigates from city to city completing unique missions and/or finding links and downloads for the ADA computer so that the Orbital Frame's mysterious abilities become discovered and unlocked throughout the game. Trying out the new abilities are always a blast but what is very interesting is actually utilizing Jehuty's new weapons and systems on the missions that you have already completed just so you can whoop ass on the now seemingly weaker enemies. In ZOE, the game gives you the ability to roam different parts of Atilla which may or may not trigger action sequences or a cutscene. When a cutscene does occur, prepare for some cheesy dialogue. Some progress will be made within the game and in some cases you will encounter a boss. When that happens, your character (Leo) will continue to act like a spaz but for some reason, he comes to his senses and actually tries to fight the boss. ZOE's bosses come in a variety of shapes and sizes but, just like Metal Gear, the boss attacks are also a puzzle in itself. Recognizing attack patterns, weapon use, and timing your assaults are key defeating them. Much like the regular foes you come in contact with, the boss fights demonstrate a good array of weapon effects. Most of them are dodging grand-cannon-style lasers or engaging in spectacular sword fights. ZOE also compliments these conflicts with a good music soundtrack that gives a visceral feel to most of the fights.

From beginning to end, the in-game gameplay and graphics are top notch but the game needs to wrap those core foundations with two other things: story and characters. ZOE is primarily a single player game that has a head-to-head fighting component added as a teeny bonus. Because it is a single player game, expectation of the story and characters needs some attention. In this regard, ZOE's character and mecha designs seem broken or inconsistent. In the game you control these incredibly articulate orbital frames that have neat glowing outlines, impressive armor, and pretty exhaust ports. Inside these Frames you have a circle or bubble head with textured anime eyes and hair. The human characters look amateurish and kiddy and the subpar voice acting of these characters (especially the antagonist) doesn't help the player attach to them either. In most cases, you'll want to just to get into controlling the Frame and hope your antagonist doesn't wail like he usually does in some of the fights. At least some of the whinning goes away as you get further through the game.

Of all the characters in the game, the most intruiging and least annoying is ADA (Jehuty's AI computer). When you are a character that does not physically appear in this game, it helps ease into ZOE's story.

As you get farther in the game, you may get tired of the few enemy varieties. Most of them are your standard fare mecha. Some of them look like they came from a Quake game. Some have shields and pose little threat as long as you grab them and use them as cover. Sure some of them look different but their attack patterns are similar to other mecha from another city or planet. The only time you're in a bind is when you are fighting a number of them that use beam weapons. Part of it is due to its simplistic AI.

As you also learn more about discovering Jehuty's hidden abilities through each mission you maybe suprised by some of its underpowered weapons. One weapon lacks punch, while another weapon is downright unpractical in most situations you're in. You are supposed to be in the Jehuty - the Ultimate Orbital Frame of Orbital Frames so packing in a couple of good flashy weapons would be great. In ZOE, you are mostly clinching and clashing with other enemies a la Evangelion so the Orbital Frame

Other good points include: *Many references to other Konami games

*The design of the Orbital Frame is calculated and deliberate

*Controlling the Orbital Frame vie the tutorial is very well designed and tightly integrated into the story.

*Camera panning and direction of the scenes give a similar feel to Kojima's Metal Gear series but the game breaks most of those similarities by integrating the CG action sequences with the in-game scenes.

*The missions are varied

*Encounters with the boss are overwhelming enough to provide an adequate adrenaline rush.

*Special graphic effects are put to good use. The weapon effects are also a nice added touch

*The soundtrack gives an epic feel to the game

The Bad

The game can have its sappy moments but for what it's worth the game did have a couple of bad yet negligible points.

Other bad cues include: *Variety of the enemies are somewhat lacking including its AI

*The story is nothing new. Leo Stenbuck loses his friends right before his eyes.

*The character designs are uninspired and do not match with the scenes of articulate mecha and cities well.

*The subpar voice acting adds to the circular designs of the characters

*The characters are very thin except for ADA

*Not all of the weapons that you unlock in your Orbital Frame reflect the power of the Jehuty.

*Some of them are downright useless and less impressive than the standard laser attack.

*The map that Jehuty browses around breaks the pacing of the game's fast action

*Mission design is too varied for this style of game.

*There are missions where you are mostly flying around in stealth.

*The game is extremely short

The Bottom Line

The game delivers a solid experience of the flashbang mecha wizardry that you'd typically see in japanese anime.