I picked up Zone of Enders for two reasons: 1. It came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo. And 2. It looked like an amazing, anime inspired, mecha combat game. And having played and beaten the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, I can say for a fact that it came with ZOE. And having beaten ZOE, I can say for certain that it’s an anime inspired mecha combat game. As to whether or not it’s amazing… Well, it depends on which scale you’re judging.
Let’s go with three scales, for simplicity. First, there’s gameplay. How much fun is the game to play, how does it control, and how is the experience of beating the game? Well, it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play. The game makes controlling the Jehuty feel like second nature, and it reacts like you want it to without getting in your way. In fact, at times it didn’t even feel like I was consciously doing something, and it just happened. In fact, it’s so easy to play that I spent a couple of hours just playing old missions over and over. Alas, there were only three different kinds of enemies in the whole game (not counting bosses), so I eventually tired of just beating up drones and had to actually play some of the game. The bosses, on the other hand, were moderately interesting, and each had a little trick that had to be figured out to beat them. Unfortunately, there were only three real bosses. Fun factor: 5/5.
Next, there’s the story scale. And when it came to playing the game, I discovered the worst voice active I’ve ever heard, combined with the corniest plot I’ve ever seen and the most cliche Neon Genesis Evangelion rip off story ever. Little boy accidentally gets in big robot. Little boy kills someone. Little boy doesn’t want to kill. Little boy has to kill. I want to kill little boy and whoever his voice actor was and whoever was the voice actor of the big robot’s computer. Oh, what’s this? Hitting start skips a cut scene? Ohhh… I didn’t watch any of the story after the first 15 minutes (Which turns out to have been a pretty large portion of the game, but more on that later). Of course, it didn’t help that the missions were all totally cliche, and consisted of any one of Protect everyone, Destroy everything, or fetch item allowing you to destroy everything. And to top it all off, the game was really short. Like three hours short. Story factor: 0/5.
And finally, Graphics and Sound scale. Unfortunately, because “voice acting” falls under “Sound”, this scale break down does a huge disservice to both the Graphics and Sound Effects, so I’m going to pretend that the voice acting falls under the previous category. The graphics in this game are amazing, and the attention to detail superb. This game really shows what the PS2 is capable of doing that the PSX wasn’t. From the trails that the Jehuty will scrape into the ground if you fly too low, to the countless buildings you can destroy and the cars parked in driveways, it’s amazing. And the sound effects are nice, too. Explosions, explosions, everywhere! Graphics and Sound factor: 5/5.
My, what a dilemma we’re faced with here. Amazing game play and amazing graphics, but amazingly horrible story and voice acting. So I guess ZOE qualifies as an “amazing anime inspired mecha combat game”, as long as your definition of amazing doesn’t mean amazingly good in every possible way. Now, normally I’m the story-whore and my roommate Keith is the graphics-whore, and I would have smelled a game with a story this bad a mile away… But the gameplay and graphics are so good that, despite the stinking story, I can say that this is a game you should play. I give it a 3/5, but with all kinds of asterisks and footnotes. However, it’s also a game that you should rent and not buy, because it’s so short. In the five days Blockbuster allocates you, you’ll be able to play this game two or three times and spend plenty of time with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo while you’re at it.
But while I recommend you play this game, I urge you to remember that you can skip every cut scene by hitting start. And if you don’t believe me, you can taste the waters yourself, but… I don’t recommend that course of action, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.