Hello again everyone, Daniel here with yet another “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” (get used to it, we’re only about halfway done with this feature). Part 16 will focus on an unfortunately short-lived series of games known as Zone of the Enders, another brainchild of the man, the legend, the genius that is Mr. Hideo Kojima. Both games in this series are rather short, but they’re lots of fun, especially the sequel. You basically control a giant flying mech and take on armies of other giant flying mechs, but don’t let that simplistic description fool you: This is fast-paced mech action at its finest. There was talk a couple of years ago of a third game being developed, but unfortunately it was cancelled (dammit). Given the recent craziness with Konami (allegedly) deciding not to continue with console gaming, as well as the fools in charge parting ways with Kojima, it’s unlikely we’ll ever get another Zone of the Enders game. Without Kojima leading the charge, I wouldn’t want one anyway. I’m just glad the first two games are part of my impressive video game collection and they will remain in it for many more years to come. Let the discussion begin.
Zone of the Enders (PS2)
The first Zone of the Enders was a game I initially ignored, but then later decided to try out since my collection of games was woefully lacking in the giant mech department. Taking place in the future and in a space colony orbiting Jupiter, an army of assholes known as BAHRAM send giant mechs called Orbital Frames to attack the space colony and acquire a couple of special targets. You take on the role of Leo Stenbuck, a young boy who lives in the space colony and is caught in the middle of all the chaos of the hostile takeover. Lucky for him, he stumbles upon the hangar of an advanced Orbital Frame called Jehuty, gets into the pilot’s seat, and begins his journey to save himself and the colony from BAHRAM’s forces.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward and the campaign is rather linear, but it’s also fun and full of variety. Aside from using Jehuty’s blade and energy attacks to destroy countless enemy Orbital Frames, you will also be accomplishing objectives like destroying shield generators, hunting specific enemies to acquire special programs/abilities, and protecting shelters full of people from enemy attacks. The boss battles are fun and different enough from each other to make them all stand out, and each boss is more challenging than the last. The high speed action in this game is unlike anything else I’ve experienced or seen in other mech games. In fact, the controls and freedom of movement in Zone of the Enders is what I wish other games possessed, particularly a couple of lousy superhero games I’ve played in the past that I will discuss at a later date.
The story was pretty good. Nothing exceptional or out of this world like in Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid series, but it gets the job done. The main character, Leo Stenbuck, is often highly disliked by most gamers who view him as a whiny little child, but I find him to be a believable and underrated character who grows and changes a bit during the game’s admittedly short narrative. I agree he is kind of whiny, but I tend to cut him some slack since he’s a young teenager who is basically forced into the role of savior of an entire space colony and has to single-handedly battle an army of giant robots all intent on ending his existence. That’s bound to stress out even a hardened veteran pilot, let alone a young boy. This is a good, solid title that you can kill a few hours with. Zone of the Enders gets a score of 83%.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PS2)
This is an awesome game. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is basically an improved version of its predecessor, superior in every way. Set two years after the first game, this one puts you in control of Dingo Egret, a former Orbital Frame pilot (or “runner”) who was hoping he had left his past behind him, only to be dragged into battle once again when he runs across the abandoned Jehuty, which is still being hunted by BAHRAM. One noticeable change with this game are the graphics. Where the first game was in full 3D and had an anime-ish appearance, this game took it a step further and featured a cel-shaded art style for the in-game graphics, while the cutscenes were fully animated like an actual anime. The story was also somewhat improved and featured higher stakes than ever before. Furthermore, the new protagonist is also more likeable since he’s a more seasoned warrior who still has a heart.
But enough of all that mumbo jumbo, let’s get to the good stuff: The gameplay. Jehuty controls the same as before, only the general freedom of movement and speed in the game is vastly improved, making the gameplay even more fast-paced than before. Jehuty has a couple of extra moves, specifically the ability to grab enemies and use them as shields to block powerful attacks, use them as makeshift bats to strike other enemies, or simply throw them at other enemies or target objectives. Enemy variety has improved, with some of them proving to be a good challenge, especially in large numbers. The bosses are also just as fun and challenging as before. Unlike in the first Zone of the Enders where the whole game takes place in a space colony with different areas that can and must be revisited throughout the campaign, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is even more linear and has you jumping from level to level.
This linearity actually doesn’t the hurt the game much at all since each level features a different mission with its own objective like fighting through waves of enemies to destroy a generator that unlocks a huge door, stopping a runaway train before it crashes into a friendly stronghold, preventing an army of spider-like robots from destroying a town full of innocent people, following detailed instructions from an ally to fly safely through an area full of mines and automated gun turrets, and even a mission where you take part in a full-scale battle with multiple enemies and allies (something you don’t normally see in non-Dynasty Warrior games). The mission variety was even greater in this game compared to the first one. Even the music in this game was more catchy and each track matched perfectly with the current situation, whether you’re fighting waves of enemies or flying through a corridor littered with the remains of destroyed ally mechs. As fun as the first game was, the sequel simply outdoes its predecessor in every way. But much like the first game, this game’s only issue is that it’s pretty short and can easily be beaten in a day or two. It still rocks though. Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner gets a score of 90%.
That’s it for the very short-lived but intensely fun Zone of the Enders series. While I honestly wouldn’t want Konami to make a third game at this point due to them no longer being associated with their main money-maker Kojima, I still wish Kojima had made a third game when he had the chance. I imagine a more open and longer Zone of the Enders game for current gen systems would have been awesome. A shame, a damn shame. But again, I’m just happy to have these two games in my collection. Come back for next week’s “D.G.M.’s Gaming Life Before Gaming Respawn” as I begin discussing the Prince of Persia series, the series of games I wish Ubisoft had put more focus on over the unnecessarily long-running Assassin’s Creed series. Check out these articles in the meantime:
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Kane has prepared a review of The Banner Saga, a game of tough decisions and harsh consequences. Find out how Kane handles the pressure by checking out his review here.
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