Mention the words Hideo Kojima to any hardcore gamer and you're likely to get some sort of response related to "Metal Gear". After all, he is responsible for the popular franchise and all its subsequent sequels, including the forthcoming Ground Zeroes. But that's not all he's worked on over the past decade. He's also dabbled in an interesting robot combat series on PlayStation 2 titled Zone of the Enders, consisting of the original game and its follow-up The 2nd Runner, both of which are in pretty high demand on eBay.
If you missed out on those original releases and don't really feel up to bidding a heavy amount on the PS2 copies, fret not. Konami, as part of their recent run of high-definition compilation releases, is putting together Zone of the Enders HD Collection for release in late October for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The collection includes both the original game that started the series with the special European edition of The 2nd Runner, packing a few more robots and surprises.
Now don't go confusing Zone of the Enders with other robot rock-em-sock-em titles, like Virtual On. There's actually a bit of finesse to these games, mainly revolving around a storyline with interesting characters and tactics that involve both moves from near and afar. Whichever robot you end up controlling, you'll have a vast number of techniques at your fingertips, whether it's striking an opponent with your blades or letting them have it with whatever guns you have mounted on your Laborious Extra-Orbital Vehicle (LEV). And sometimes knowing when to strike close or far away is the best tactic, depending on what your foe has up his or her sleeve with their own LEV of choice.
What's more, the gameplay actually gives you more range to do some damage with your mecha than comparative games. You have a lot more space to run around and try to avoid incoming attacks than you would in an Virtual On-type enclosed arena and also plot your attack and move the story forward once you conquer your enemy. There's some style here and it really feels like Kojima all the way, even if it's different from Snake's sneaky stealth in Metal Gear, the influence is definitely there.
Rather than just taking the quickie route as they did with their Silent Hill HD Collection (still breaks our hearts what they did to that one), Konami went a step further with its treatment of Zone of the Enders. It's called upon legendary animation house Sunrise for a new opening animation to the series, giving it fresh polish, as well as an introduction that both fans and newcomers alike will appreciate. Combining that with the touch-ups they're providing through the visuals, it will certainly make both the original game and The 2nd Runner appear more contemporary than their PS2 counterparts.
From what we've seen so far in the demo, Zone of the Enders HD Collection shines in its presentation. The graphics are fantastic, whether you're battling in indoor environments or roaming around outside through the vivid sci-fi worlds. What's more, each LEV seems to move with some form of personality, rather than just lumbering around like mindless trash cans. You almost feel a certain level of character as you battle each one, even while bettering your own LEV and becoming a force to be reckoned with. It almost makes us wish the game had some sort of online multiplayer – but maybe that'll roll around with that future ZOE installment we're hoping for. Fingers crossed.
Along with a price that's rather affordable for HD collections (set to be around $40 or so, maybe even a little less), Zone of the Enders will also come packaged with a playable demo for Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, the long-awaited Platinum Games project that's rolling out next February. Though the demo hasn't been detailed, it's likely to be the tutorial mission where Raiden learns his "cut at will" skill with utmost precision, later facing off against a variety of enemies including an attack helicopter. Considering this demo isn't likely to release on its own until early next year, this HD Collection is the only way to get hands-on with it. Consider it a cherry on top of an already likable, yet destructive, sundae.
Zone of the Enders has been a cult hit series for years, and Konami now seems primed and ready to give it the HD debut that it's been due. Be sure to check it out when it blasts its way to store shelves on October 30th for both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Mecha enthusiasts will be pleased, as will fans of Kojima.