On the face of it, Zone of the Enders for Playstation 2 seemed awesome. I was like, “So you mean I can be a robot? And I can fight other robots? And I’m in space!? I’m sold.” This enthusiasm stayed with me all through the opening montage of the game and actually increased in magnitude once I reached the title screen and heard this song:
I sat listening to it, not even wanting to select New Game, that’s how beautiful it was.
I should have stayed at the title screen. The opening movie was actually pretty cool, right up to the point where Leo, the main character, finds Jehuty, the robot (or Orbital Frame, to use the game’s lingo), and climbs into what I can only describe as the genital region of the robot. Why the game designers thought that it would be a good idea to make the pilot’s seat in the penis of the robot I will never know, especially considering how the main character is a young boy. But I suppose it does bring a new meaning to the word cockpit.
From there, the game rapidly declined. The attacks are limited to two defaults for each long range and close up engagements, plus two additional burst attacks. Even the addition of secondary weapons falls flat as I often found myself opting for the default attacks which were both quicker and more powerful. The enemy robots have only two types, one skinny and one fat, which means that before long the battles become very formulaic.
The basic premise of the game is that you, Leo, seek refuge in a giant robot whilst your home colony in orbit around Jupiter is attacked by more giant robots. You quickly come ot terms with the controls of the robot with the help of ADA, an artificial intelligence designed to help the pilot of Jehuty, and then spend the rest of the game trying to reunite Jehuty with its rightful owners. The ‘world map’ (it’s pretty small) consists of numerous battle environments which you need to descend into and, once there, fulfill various mission objectives.
The battle environments are mostly uninteresting and very limited. What’s worse is that you are forced to travel back to several of them in order to complete your mission objectives. The environments do not become more exciting the second time around. There were some optional S.O.S. missions that you could engage in between mission objectives, during which you are supposed to clear the environment of enemy robots who are intent upon destroying the occupied buildings there. After getting a couple of 80% fatality rates in these, I decided it would probably be better for everyone if I didn’t do those missions anymore. I think at one point Leo’s girlfriend Celvice – whom we rescue at a point early in the game from outside of a church in a scene that for some reason gave me flashbacks of Final Fantasy VII – even says “Let’s not go to the towns anymore, okay Leo”.
But I stuck with the game, traipsing back and forth between uninteresting environments looking for weapons or passcodes or whatever I needed to get me past a certain objective. I’m glad that I did though, because during the last hour or so of the game it really steps up a gear and becomes the game that I wanted it to be from the very start.
Even though the combat system is very limited, the boss battles are pretty good. There’s only a few of them, and most of them are in the final hour of the game, but once you get to them Zone of the Enders becomes very fun, very quickly. Unlike the rest of the battles, the boss battles require strategy, skill and timing. Often you are facing up against enemies many times your size with huge arrays of long range weapons. Because of this you will have to clear yourself enough space to launch off a charged attack. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but I found these battles to be very long requiring patience and testing endurance – which is what good boss battles are about, right? During these battles, I would have to find small windows of opportunity in which to chip-away at the huge health of these giant robots, before being rewarded with a lightshow as they exploded into a thousand pieces. In the final hour or so, there are three of these boss-battles pretty much back-to-back.
Up until the final hour of the game there is very little storyline. There is some character development, but not really enough to hold your interest during the first five hours. Then, all of a sudden, the storyline of the game becomes very dramatic, and as the moral structures out of which both Leo and the main enemy Viola are laid bare the story culminates in a climatic sequence that was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed in a video game. I won’t tell you exactly what happens, but I’ll just say that both Leo and Viola have had a lot of pain in their pasts, and they have become very different people because of it. Their distinct beliefs, although equally valid, are incompatible and it is within this gap between these two systems that the drama of the story unfolds.
And then the game ends. After nothing really happening for almost the entire length of the game, loads happens all at once, and then the game ends. Strangest of all, another villain is introduced right at the very end which leads to nothing. Because of this, I was left with the feeling that this game was almost like a intro, or even a demo, to a bigger and better game. Like the choice of location for the pilot seat in Jehuty, it seems as though some wrong decisions were made in putting this game together. There is a great game in there and we glimpse it only at the very end, but the rest of the game seemed like a wasted time. For example, I would have liked to have seen more character interactions, more boss battles, and a levelling system where you can actually upgrade things, perhaps. The feeling I take away from Zone of the Enders is that it was rushed, perhaps the guys at Konami had other things to do, I see on the back of the box that some game called ‘Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty’ was released at around the same time, I wonder what that’s like?
Oh, and one final thing, is it just me or is the design for Viola’s Orbital Frame, Neith, very similar to that of Face Nemesis from Xenoblade Chronicles?
See what you think and maybe leave a reply below:
Neith from Zone of the Enders