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Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PlayStation 3) artwork

Zone of the Enders HD Collection (PlayStation 3) review

"Can we all agree that all future HD compilations from every company should be handled by Bluepoint?"

Oh, High Voltage Software. What happened to you? Remember The Conduit? Remember how you managed to get that game to run on the Wii so nicely? Getting a PS2 game to run smoothly on a much more powerful console should be easy in comparison.

Thatís not what happened in the case of Zone of the Enders HD Collection, however. What resulted instead is a bad port of two good games.

When Zone of the Enders was released in 2001, it was mostly known as ďthat robot game that came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demoĒ (amusingly, this collection comes with a demo of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Raidenís second shot at a starring role in a Metal Gear game). Anyone who bothered to pop the Zone of the Enders disc into their PS2 back in the day found a decent and fun robot game, one that took some very obvious inspiration from any number of mecha anime titles. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner was better received than its predecessor was, thanks to the new far-less-annoying main character and greater variety in both environments and enemies.

The first game takes place on a space colony orbiting Jupiter, which is under attack by an organization called BAHRAM. A young boy named Leo is caught up in the attack and finds himself inside of an ďorbital frameĒ (a giant battle robot) called Jehuty. With support from with the frameís AI, named ADA, Leo grudgingly agrees to deliver Jehuty to its rightful owners.

Zone of the Enders is one of those rare games thatís both simple and flashy. Despite there only being three regular enemies, combat is fun thanks to the super-tight controls. Jehuty can dash or charge up to augment its attacks, meaning thereís a move for any situation. The boss battles are where the combat really shines, though, with one-on-one duels with similar frames, and skyscraper-sized foes that employ unrelenting barrages of attacks for you to dodge and counter.

ZoE 1 has a few flaws that bring the experience down, though, and they did so even before this port added new ones (more on that later). Most environments are overly similar, and there are many points in the story where youíll find yourself wandering around, looking for a specific weapon or doohickey, without any hint as to where it could be. The adventure is also very short, and can be finished in just a couple of hours.

The 2nd Runner improves upon ZoE 1 in many ways. Leo is out as the protagonist and an actual grown man, named Dingo, is in. Some time after the events portrayed in Zone of the Enders, Dingo stumbles upon Jehuty on Callisto, one of Jupiterís moons. Then he gets shot and canít leave Jehuty or heíll die. Or something. Honestly, The 2nd Runner suffers from a much more obtuse story than its prequel, and both games are full of lines of dialogue that would never be spoken by an actual human being. Sometimes it seems as though the real robots are the characters sitting in the cockpits.

Other than the story, though, The 2nd Runner is a step up in just about every way. The cel shading makes the whole experience feel even more like a mecha anime than before. Human characters are traditionally animated, leaving the terrifying 3D pumpkin heads of the first game behind. There are more weapons to wield, more enemies to fight, and more varied locations in which to fight, from canyons to cities to trippy space dimensions. Boss battles are even better, and thereís more variety within mission types (even the escort missions arenít that bad).

So whatís with the low score? The answer is that while these are legitimately good games at their core, this port is far from exemplary. There are small problems all over the place. Mouths disappear during conversations between characters. Light effects go insane and block your view. The most glaring flaw, though, is the framerate. The game slows down whenever too many enemies or effects are on-screen at once. A charged projectile attack from Jehuty in the first ZoE will cause slowdown more often than it wonít. Boss battles, which should be the highlight of both games, are affected the most. One boss battle in Zone of the Enders basically runs in slow motion from beginning to end. Itís an even bigger problem in Zone of the Enders 2, both because it happens even more frequently, and because of the new ability to end a combo different ways for different effects. The slowdown actually makes timing those final blows much more difficult than the original development team ever intended. The 2nd Runner also has many battles with large numbers of small enemies on screen, and more complicated visual effects that completely destroy the framerate.

This collection should not have been released in this state. These problems could all hypothetically be fixed with a patch, but so far, that hasnít happened. The prettied up graphics and new opening cutscene certainly donít make up for the new problems introduced in this version of the duology. Avoid this collection, and play these games on a PS2 instead. They run better than they do on PS3, which is kind of pathetic when you think about it.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (November 16, 2012)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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