So, as I said on the stream on Sunday, I went into this week’s retro gaming showcase with very good memories of the game in question. You see, I originally bought Zone of the Enders pretty much on release and played it to death!
It looked like a Gundam game, and I’m a huge Gundam fan (as this post will probably explain). So, when I saw Zone of the Enders (or ZOE) sitting on the shelf at my local GAME, I just had to have it. It helped, admittedly, that it came with a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty… But I’ll be honest with you, it was the Gundam style visuals that really intrigued me.
The reason I am telling you this is so that you know I came into this week’s showcase stream with positive thoughts about the game already. However, I’ll still be open and honest with the game here. So let’s get into this!
Well, I guess I can’t really call them “first impressions”, but as it had been years since I played Zone of the Enders, it was very interesting to see the game again from a more adult perspective. Instantly, I was surprised at how dark the game is, for example.
As a young teenager, the tone of the events in Zone of the Enders never really registered with me. It was just another “war” game, but this time it had giant mecha. So yeah, at that time, I was just too excited to play something that resembled Gundam. Going back to it now; that opening cutscene is horrifying!
In the very opening of the game, you see your character’s “friends” (who are children) get crushed to death by a falling mecha. From there, you get side missions where you have to destroy the enemy mecha without damaging the surroundings in order to save civilians. So, as you are fighting the enemies, there is a percentage counter to show how many civilians are still alive for that mission. This is a nice mechanic for the storyline, but adds so much more depth to the sheer darkness of the game. How?
Because as you are trying to win a battle, you see that percentage drop. At that moment, you realise that your actions in battle have just lead to the death of an unknown number of helpless people. As a 14 or 15-year-old, that never really clicked, but going back to it now, it’s pretty horrifying to think about.
Moving on from that, the speed of the game took a bit of getting used to since Zone of the Enders is actually a pretty fast game. But we’re getting into gameplay elements now, so it’s probably time to move to that section of this article.
As mentioned, the first thing to know when getting into Zone of the Enders is that it is a fast game. The combat, if you don’t entirely rely on ranged weapons, involved a lot of darting around and dodging as quickly as possible. That does mean that it can be hard to keep track of movement when there are multiple enemies on screen, but it also makes for very exhilarating combat.
When it comes to armaments, you get two main types; ranged and close combat. The ranged weapons vary between the likes of energy guns to sniper rifles and a whole lot more, whilst close combat is basically just your sword. Due to this variation, you do get to develop your own fighting style for the game… However, it is important to note that there are certain points where you need to use specific weapons in order to proceed. Thankfully, these are usually very short puzzles more than actual combat-related sections. One example is when you need to progress beyond the first “stage” and have to snipe points on a rotating pillar.
Now, you may have noticed that I’m talking about combat a lot right now, and there is a reason for that. Zone of the Enders is almost entirely focused on combat. Storyline events are told through cutscenes that intersect combat scenes and locations. Aside from those, you will be flying around, gathering resources from boxes and fighting enemies. It’s a pretty simple formula, really.
That said, it is still very fun due to the speed of the combat and the soundtrack that plays throughout the game. That soundtrack, as well as the menus, will instantly let you know that Zone of the Enders is a Hideo Kojima game, in the best possible way. The music is phenomenal, fitting the anime aesthetic and giant mecha themes perfectly.
The switch between music styles when you go in and out of combat is great too. It builds up the adrenaline as you fight, but then calms you swiftly as soon as you are out of combat.
That leads us nicely onto the entertainment value of Zone of the Enders. After all, music can have a really strong effect on how enjoyable a game is to actually play. Bad music can ruin a great game whilst amazing music can make a bad game more playable. With Zone of the Enders, we get a reasonable video game with great music.
On top of this, the darkness of the storyline is very intriguing if you don’t know what is coming next. Mix this with the exciting combat and you have a video good little game that is entertaining and a joy to play, even now.
It’s a shame that many people probably bought the game for the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo and didn’t really give Zone of the Enders a second look. Each one of those people has missed out on a very good game, even if it is very short.
However, I have to admit that the game is bogged down by the typical late-90’s and early 00’s Hideo Kojima design choice of seemingly never-ending cutscenes. These are probably the biggest annoyance to the game, which is odd since I love story in games. That said, it isn’t the plot that is the issue (although it is pretty generic for a game that harkens back to the likes of Gundam). Instead, it is the pace and length of the cutscenes compared to the rest of the game.
Considering we have already discussed how the game feels very fast-paced and hectic (in a really good way) when you are playing it, suddenly having to stop and waiting in one place whilst the game vomits more tutorials or dialogue on you can be tedious. That is definitely the biggest issue that Zone of the Ender has.
However, considering the rest of the game is so much fun to play, you can largely overlook and forgive these intrusions.
And That’s All Folks
In the end, going back to Zone of the Enders was an interesting moment. The combat was as good as I remembered, whilst the music was actually better. However, the relative linearity of the game, coupled with the short length of it, means that it really doesn’t get to do much with the story. For me, personally, that’s a bit of a negative.
I would recommend Zone of the Enders to any Hideo Kojima or Real Robot Mecha genre fans, just because it played like a game based upon Gundam. However, if you’re not a fan of either, this game may not be right for you. It’ll still be enjoyable, but not at the same level.
Have you played Zone of the Enders before? What did you think about it? Let me know in the comments below!