Replay Value: 8
Ever since the triumphant release of Metal Gear Solid, Hideo Kojima has become a household name among millions of PSOne/PS2 owners worldwide, all thanks to one Playstation game that made him what he is today. Easily the most recognized game creator out there, earlier last year Hideo Kojima said that he wanted to develop something different than Metal Gear Solid. What could it possibly be? What is gaming's most known producer up to? More importantly can it be the next Metal Gear of its kind? Those were the questions which were easily answered by Konami and Kojima himself. Hideo was in development of a mech based adventure game, where the main character is a 12-year-old boy, and the setting is Jupiter. Sounds wicked huh? The title of the game is Zone of the Enders, or ZOE for short. Because Hideo Kojima produced it, much anticipation began surrounding the title, and on top of that a Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo was included along with every single copy of ZOE. Now ZOE was sure to be a hit, instead of getting one Hideo production, you get two! Even though the second is a demo, gamers have made it official that they were willing to spend $50 just for it, shallow but true. Although I must admit playing MGS2 was the first thing on my mind, I wanted to play ZOE just as bad. Well now I have completed the game, and am ready to give you the full scoop on how this puppy plays and looks.
Up until now, Playstation 2 has brought us gorgeous games like Madden NFL 2001, FIFA 2001, The Bouncer, Onimusha, Star Wars: Starfighter, Tekken Tag Tournament, SSX, ATV: Offroad Fury, and Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore. To be added to the list of gorgeous games is Zone of the Enders, easily one of the best looking PS2 games, if not the best looking game. ZOE would reside somewhere around the first or second placement in terms of visuals, it's really a coin-toss between Onimusha and ZOE. On one hand Onimusha has pre-rendered backgrounds, while on the other hand ZOE has real-time, which I prefer over pre-renders. Albeit the awesome real-time backdrops, there are draw in issues with them. While it's not quite annoying, let me make note that if you don't see an enemy the enemy does not see you, so don't worry about getting cheated by the draw-in. Another note is that this is not pop-up, the textures form in a ghostly manner, and don't 'pop' out of nowhere. They appear from being covered by black shade, sort to speak, but believe me when I tell you they don't affect the gameplay one bit.
ZOE sits on top of the pyramid with its first class character detail. Onimusha may have an impressive 10,000 polygons in its main character, but ZOE definitely sports more than that number. The Jehuty, which is the mech that young Leo controls, looks absolutely gorgeous. It seems that Hideo and the rest of the staff over at Konami truly understand PS2's capabilities. Their track record of wonderful looking games easily proves it: Shadow of Destiny, Ring of Red, and ESPN-X Games Snowboarding. We can now add Zone of the Enders and Metal Gear Solid 2 to that list as well, even though MGS2 has only been released in demo form. I'm entirely in love with the character detail in ZOE. Each and every character looks downright beautiful, the enemies in particular have more detail in them, than enemies in other games, and like I said the Jehuty is effortlessly the best looking main character in a videogame to date. The detail has no comparison, but Onimusha does come incredibly close though.
Now that we've got the character detail out of the way, let's talk environments. Zone of the Enders isn't vulnerable here at all. Aside from the draw-in issue, ZOE's backgrounds look great, everything from detailed churches, to big office buildings with lights on in some windows, to a giant satellite dish, ZOE's got it all, and it's fantastic. In ZOE you will be exploring many vast areas, they will feature multiple levels of exploration, some may even feature certain inside places that need to be entered for mission clearing. Some of the stages will be forest like, others will be city like, and others will be completely sci-fi, which gives this game excellent variation in the environments. I should also mention that the texture quality is also some of the best to be found in a videogame, ZOE got plenty of textures and they all look amazing. Overall Zone of the Enders is currently the best looking Playstation 2 game yet, it's just slightly ahead of Onimusha: Warlords, this is how all PS2 games should look.
This being a Hideo production and all, I would expect nothing but the best, and that's exactly what Kojima and Konami delivered. ZOE is at the peak of its game, it could be summed up as the best mech fighter on the market, or the best action game in quite a long time. ZOE takes place in the year 2162 AD, on a colony of the planet Jupiter, called Antilia. This colony is where our young 12-year-old hero Leo lives. The game opens up with a sad story, opposing forces are invading the colony, destroying everything in their path, harming and killing many people, few of which were in relation to Leo. The CG opening is a sad one, as Leo sees people die in front of his own eyes, he eventually stumbles into a hangar of some sort where the Jehuty lies. He trips and falls backwards -not knowing of what was behind him- falling into the pilot seat of the Jehuty, and here on the game begins.
ZOE will take you through many stages of action, as your eyes will witness huge explosions, amazing special effects and most importantly sweet boss fights. The primary mission of the whole game in general is to return the Jehuty to Mars, all the way from Jupiter, so that enemy forces do not get a hold of it, because its powers far exceed any other mech out there. Your accompanying voice will be a program called ADA, this voice will remind you of your objectives and tell you where to go. ZOE is also an extremely quick game, the controls are exceptionally precise, therefore putting the lightning fast action into your hands, with no strings attached. As Jehuty you will be required to collect various forms of data, from key weapons to key drivers that will allow your mech to achieve certain tasks. To obtain these collectives, password keys will be necessary for each item, they can either be found in an item box or by destroying an enemy. The Jehuty is a mech of many abilities, it can charge a huge electric sphere and shoot it at you, it can thrust its sword into an enemy, it can spin its sword to damage nearby enemies, it can grab an opponent and punch it away and the list goes on and on.
Zone of the Enders will allow gamers to pull off many moves that will be quite handy in the game. Some attacks will be necessary to avoid certain damage on surroundings, while other attacks may be required to avoid damage on yourself. Believe it or not, some tactical roles do play out in the game, even though most of it is mindless action. Throughout the game Leo will ponder whether or not his father survived the horrible rampage that occurred in the beginning of the game, to accompany the thoughts, Konami added voice acting to the package. While ZOE will last for about a couple of hours or so, depending on experience, you will still be given a two-player mode for completing the game, and that provides some fun. Without the two-player mode, I would've given the replay value a 6.5 to 7.0.
With tons of voiced dialogue (as well as text), and an amazing soundtrack, Zone of the Enders deserves the nine rating for the sound category. While it's not perfect, the sound is certainly excellent. The voice-overs for each character are matched well, the response timing is damn near perfect. The actors respond flawlessly with no hesitation, the dialogue streams smoothly off of the DVD-Rom. As for the game's music, I must say that the audio staff did a great job of creating a wonderful techno-esque soundtrack with plenty of "sci-fi" beats, it really brings out the atmosphere. The game's sound effects finish it off, great sounding explosions and a sweet neo-sword slicing sound are two of the best features in the sound effect category. Top-notch voice acting, great sound effects and a first class techno soundtrack, ZOE's audio really makes you feel as if you're in the sci-fi world.
As I described prior in the review, ZOE controls fast, very fast. Thankfully getting accustomed to the controls takes little to no time, as the button layout is incredibly well planned out. The analog sticks both function, one (right) as camera/aim control, the other (left) as movement control. In order to pull off certain moves, you will have to use the speed up button (R2) and another button to finish off the trick. Your mech can perform many different moves, all of which are pretty easy to pull off. The Dual Shock is pretty strong, and the digital buttons are pressure sensitive which just makes the points keep on coming and coming.
In the end, contrary to what you may have heard about ZOE, it is indeed an amazing game worth all of your money, and not just for the MGS2 demo. Hideo Kojima and his staff must have spent many sleepless days and nights trying to make ZOE one of the best action games on a console to date. It is definitely one of the quickest games I have ever played, and most certainly one of the most exciting. The game's visuals are like no other, sporting near perfect character detail and polished looking environments, with might I add no aliasing or flickering issues, ZOE is currently the best looking PS2 game. Make sure you go buy ZOE, not just because it has the MGS2 demo with it, but it also has a 'phat' DVD case, with a memory card holder and much better CD tray, exactly like the Japanese cases. Okay, okay, I'm kidding, don't get ZOE for MGS2 or the DVD case, get it for what it's worth, and after all a two-player mode is unlocked after completing the game.