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A look back at Zone of the Enders

Konami is a company well known for housing an assortment of legendary game franchises: Castlevania, Metal Gear, Silent Hill, and the list goes on. Though there's one Konami series which has never truly gotten the recognition it deserves, a thrilling science-fiction epic featuring some of the most thrilling giant robot action ever seen: Zone of the Enders. With the Zone of the Enders HD Collection  just a few days away, we're taking a quick look back at this fantastic series, seeing what it is makes these cult-classics so deserving of a re-mastering.

It all started with a demo.

Konami's Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty was perhaps the most-anticipated game of its time. Slated for a 2001 holiday release,  this sequel to the wildly successful PlayStation title was anticipated to be the PlayStation 2's first blockbuster hit. Until it released however, gamers were stuck playing the mundane collection of launch titles available, the decent titles (Dynasty Warriors 2, TimeSplitters) outweighed by stacks of crap (Evergrace, X-Squad). So, when Konami announced that their new giant robot game was not only being produced by Metal Gear's creator Hideo Kojima, but would also come bundled with an extensive demo of Metal Gear Solid 2, the pre-orders started flooding in.

zone of the enders

The original Zone of the Enders introduces series character Leo Stenbuck, a young "Ender" (space colonist) who finds his home colony under attack by a group of terrorists. While fleeing the destruction, he stumbles across the Orbital Frame 'Jehuty' (see: giant robot). After befriending the robot's A.I. program A.D.A., Leo takes it upon himself to pilot the Orbital Frame and saving his home colony from BAHRAM, the military organization which seeks to dominate the universe under the guise of Martian independence.

Critical reactions to the game were mixed, though most reviewers agreed that the combat mechanics were the star. Jehuty controlled like an absolute dream whether on land or air, dashing around the 3D environments while letting loose with barrages of cannon fire, or getting in close for impressive slashes of the frame's laser sword. Then there were the graphics, Zone of the Enders being perhaps the first PS2 game which really showed what the new hardware was capable of. Sparks flying off of Jehuty's sword blows, buildings crumbling on impact, robots engulfed in brilliant fireballs of destruction. In summary the game both looked fantastic and played like a dream, it's only faults being some repetitive mission types and the short runtime, many gamers beating ZOE in just four hours.

So, though many gamers dismissed the first ZOE outing as "that game that came with the MGS2 demo," it was truly more than that. Thankfully Konami recognized this, pushing forward on the first sequel...

Not so super robot wars

After a decade of dominating the handheld console market with their original 8-bit Game Boy, Nintendo finally decided it was time for an upgrade, releasing the Game Boy Advance in 2001. Gamers were thrilled by the console's ability to display more than four colors, and happily plunked down full retail price for lazy ports of classic Mario games.

zone of the endersKonami was a major supporter of the Game Boy Advance, and plenty of their titles would go on to be remembered as some of the GBA's best (including a trio of fantastic Castlevania titles). One of their earliest releases though was Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars. This tactical RPG was helmed by the same team responsible for the Super Robot Wars series, a wildly successful franchise in Japan. Interestingly, rather than letting the computer handle combat math (like most Tactics games), the game actually made each battle a minor minigame, on offense letting players try and target their fast-moving foes, and on defense having them attempt to escape the enemy's crosshairs.

This idea was actually pretty cool, until players realized that every single attack in the game could be easily dodged just by moving the d-pad in a circle, the A.I. enemies unable to process this daring act of maneuverability. With the core game mechanic completely broken, the title became a rather strange affair. Do you stand still and let the enemies shoot at you for the sake of fairness, or take advantage of the crappy A.I. and plow your way through this side-story's intriguing plotline.

Point is, the game was not loved by Western critics, and remains more a novelty than a true ZOE title (which justifies its non-inclusion in this HD collection). It does however feature a rather fantastic soundtrack, with the title theme standing out as a true winner.

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Vito Gesualdi GameZone.com Senior Editor, DraftMagic.com Editor-in-Chief, NoNoComedy.com Contributor, and the hardest working man in show business. King of video walkthroughs for new games. Follow me on the twitters @VitoGesualdi.
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