When the original Zone of the Enders was released on PS2, many people referred to it as the “Metal Gear Solid 2 demo with the free game.” Fortunately, while that was the primary reason I picked it up, ZOE ended up being a surprisingly quality game.
Years later, Zone of the Enders 2 proved to trump the sequel in pretty much every way possible. The recently released Zone of the Enders HD contains both of these classics, and not much else — so as you can imagine, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Pretty much everything is how you remember it, outside of a simple, short, new HD intro. This is a simple collection of the two games in the series, and not much more. The original ZOE, while fairly revolutionary and beautiful at the time, isn’t much to marvel at today.
The new HD sheen isn’t really that much of an upgrade, and the pacing can be fairly slow at times (repetition will set in) — plus before you know it, the game is pretty much over — cliffhanger and all. Sadly, it just hasn’t aged that well; end of story.
Zone of the Enders 2 on the other hand, is easily the highlight of the package. Even today, the sleek anime cutscenes and cel-shaded graphics still hold up, to the point where I consider it “required reading” for action fans — it’s just that good.
The pacing, acting, and action are all very well done, and after completing the game, you can easily see why people are pining over a Zone of the Enders 3. The environments are much more varied, you actually care about a fair few of the characters, and Jehuty’s upgraded abilities allow for more complex gameplay options. Make no mistake — if you haven’t already played it, you need to experience ZOE 2.
The only problem is, this new HD version of ZOE 2 in particular has frame-rate issues at high octane moments that the original didn’t have. It’s a rather odd situation to say the least, and not the first time Konami has injected extra problems into an HD re-release.
Another negative in the entire package is the lack solid online functionality, which, while not required in my mind, would have been a nice ancillary addition to the package. Expansive leaderboards, advanced online play options, and any other extras would have made this a great double or triple-dip for previous owners.
As it stands, it’s hard to recommend this to people who already own both games. There is some good news however, as the HD edition does include a few extra missions and difficulty levels that were exclusive to the Eastern release of the game — so if you’re a hardcore ZOE junkie, you’ll probably want the chance to take a crack at the new difficulties.
The packed-in Metal Gear Rising demo (which is a separate disc), while not worth the price of entry alone, is easily worth checking out. It’s fairly meaty (about an hour of content with a few deaths), and gives you a decent look at what the game will offer in 2013 — sadly, you can’t play it on hard mode, which detracts greatly from the prospect of multiple playthroughs.
At the end of the day, you may be better off just getting Zone of the Enders II on the cheap for PS2 if you can find it. Although I will always cherish the original ZOE, I wouldn’t heartily recommend it to everyone today, and the lack of extras in the HD edition of the game is fairly disheartening.
This review is based on a physical copy of Zone of the Enders HD for the Xbox 360.