"There are a lot of very well-done features in this game, which should not be overlooked, but also enough cons to lessen the pack of it's punch a great deal."
Every gamers knows that giant-robot action games are a dime-a-dozen. It was games like Mechwarrior that started the whole sub-genre, and along the way, we've seen some great efforts and contributions, such as Omega Boost(PSX) and Project Eden (PS2). But frankly, when I hear about the next giant-robot game coming out, it doesn't excite me a whole lot. And that's how it remained with ZOE, for a long time, until finally, I figured I'd give it a shot. And it wasn't a total loss, either. The game managed to impress me in many ways, but also left a lot to be desired in a few key areas. It doesn't break the cliched giant-robo trend, but it doesn't put it to shame, either.
It can't be denied that ZOElooks great, even for a fairly early PS2 game. It has all the detail you'd hope for, some great robot designs, and it's framerate is always steady. As you're playing the game, the screen will light up with dazzing special effects, explosions, and some nicely done cutscenes. The game also moves very, very fast, especially during battles, which is a nice thing to have, because even when there are 5 robots on screen at once, the game never suffers from slowdown. The only real problem with the visuals is that they lack variety. Most of the battlefields all look very similar, as do the robots. Sure, everything looks good, but it could've done with some variety. Nonetheless, the graphics have almost everything I look for in a game.
Ok, this is the area that counts most, and unfortunately, this is where ZOE suffers most. You control a giant robot, and you basically just go to a bunch of different areas, and destroy all the enemies in the area. The areas have very unoriginal and boring names such as ''city 1'', ''town 2'', etc... And, as similar as all the names are, so are the areas themselves. They all look roughly the same, and are all roughly the same size.
Battles are all very similar. You can pretty much use the same strategy for every battle other than boss battles, and you'll be running into only a few different kinds of enemies. One area where there is some cool variety, though, is in the whole battle department. You can do several things: move, dash, dash attack (close and long), attack (close and long), use a weapon, lock on, or throw. Now, just as a sidenote, all battles take place in real-time, and you are allowed to move freely wherever you want to. After each battle, you do gainexperience points, which ultimately contribute to your player level. However, I would still say that this is NOT an RPG, even if it sounds similar in some parts. ZOE is more an action game than anything else, with a design of play not unlike strategy-RPG's such as Vandal Hearts and FFT. However, when it comes down to it, battling is fun, but after a while, it gets extremely boring, and far too repetitive.
It's shame Konami didn't just add in some variety, such as more enemies, more variant area design, more unique missions and more depth overall, because those factors could have made the game a whole lot more enjoyable.
It's kind of a mixed bag when it comes to sound. First off, the bad; voice acting. The American voice-overs in ZOE are definitely sub-par. Most of the voices just sound very unrealistic and badly acted, particularly the main character's. On the other hand, the music is quite well-done. Enjoy energetic techno tracks as you battle your way through the game, along with some kind of corny, but impressive heartfelt, sappy music in the emotional parts. Overall, the sound isn't a bad thing at all, but the voice-acting definitely should have been left in Japanese.
You play the role of Leo, a young boy who climbed into a giant robot he found whilst his town was being attacked. From there, he gets himself into a bunch of missions where he has to save a bunch of people and complete numerous tasks which all seem the same anyway. I won't spoil any more for you, but if I did, I honestly wouldn't be spoiling much. The plot is, basically, just plain old bad. If a good storyline is the main reason why you play a game, ZOE probably won't be your first choice.
This is another area where Konami did a great job. The game controls very well, despite it's complex button-scheme and numerous combinations. Basically, you use every button on the controller in this game. The left analog controls where you go, on a flat plane, triangle makes you ascend, X makes you descend, circle makes you attack, square uses a weapon, L2 engages you in dash mode, or burst mode, and... Well, I could go on, but it would be fairly pointless. The idea is, ZOE manages to juggle a whole lot of different commands and buttons with the playstation controller, while still having it be easy to use. Few games are successful at doing this, and Konami deserves a hand for their efforts.
Not only is ZOE short, but it also doesn't have a whole lot of replay value. Sure, there are multiple endings, but because of the game's flawed storyline, chances are, most games won't feel like uncovering all of them. However, there is two-player mode, which isn't fantastic, but can be very fun and rewarding in small doses. The game handles it very well, especially for a game like this. It's not every day you find a giant-robot action title with a two-player vs. mode in it. But, in the end, the game is just too short, and there isn't enough to do. It's a very linear adventure, and when it's over, I doubt you'll want to play through it again.
Zone of the Enders is one of those games that just misses the mark in several key aspects, and, in turn, is that much less of a gaming experience. There is a lot of good stuff here; good graphics, good sound, good control scheme, even some good gameplay, but overall, it lacks variety and innovation in terms of storyline, graphics, gameplay and overall presentation. It's definitely not a terrible game, and is worth playing, but due to it's short length and unsatisfactory end-result, I'd just recommend everyone to rent it. There are a lot of very well-done features in this game, which should not be overlooked, but also enough cons to lessen the pack of it's punch a great deal.
Staff review by James Gordon (Date unavailable)
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