Zone of the Enders HD Collection review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1
Online: No

HD reissues are starting to be the new ?hot? thing, and if the game is a classic I?m all for it.  The only thing that disappoints me is the companies are taking the old games, shaking the dust off them, fixing frame rates and sharpening them up to run pretty on an HDTV, but where I would hope these companies would go is where Capcom went with Resident Evil 1.  They completely remade the game with a better graphical engine without sacrificing what made the game a classic in the first place.  While I know all these games being given a facelift have is a wish and a prayer, if I were the developer, I?d at least give it a go.

The latest in the HD trend is a Konami classic called Zone of the Enders parts 1 and 2 (2nd Runner). It?s no secret that the first game was a mild success mostly due to the fact it came with a Metal Gear Demo that fans were going gaga for, so much in fact they would pay 50 bucks to play it.  Due to the overwhelming success in sales it lead to a sequel that took a remotely basic and repetitive game and gave it some depth and honestly was exactly what I?m certain the developers were shooting for in the first game, but with more development time and funds were able to achieve.  There?s no doubt the series has a serious fan base and it?s why we have this collection due to popular demand, and the good news, it retains everything you loved about the series with a new shiny coat of paint.

This third person shooter/melee mech title takes a bit of anime flavor drawing from inspiration like Evangelion, and has you playing fast and powerful mechs known as Orbital Frames to blast your enemies into oblivion.  It?s part sci-fi, part mythology all in the fight for good vs. evil.  While the first game relies heavily on a cheesy plot and even more hokey voice acting, it had enough charm to keep you entertained, with a level design that managed to differentiate itself just enough.  It wasn?t until ZOE 2nd Runner where Kojima showed his true genius.  The levels are more diverse, action filled and most importantly fun and interesting.  The characters are more mature and have some serious depth to the storylines that are more personable and emotional that draws you in.  While the combat of the second game mimics the style and simplicity of the first, you?ll find that the longer levels and a faster pace lead to an overall better game.  What?s more, the 2nd game provides a greater sense of a 3D feel allowing you to strafe and fly about with a more modern and less constrictive feeling that the stifling and crowded styling?s of ZOE 1.

Visually the game is greatly cleaned up and the frame rate is noticeably better, especially in areas where there is a lot going on.  The added and updated anime cut scenes really pop and provide slicker personality than what was offered originally.  The soundtrack was always a great one, using a well orchestrated score and providing that perfect amount of emotion that keeps things riveting throughout your journey.  The aforementioned voice acting isn?t great by any measure and really pales in comparison to Kojima?s Metal Gear series, but in the end it?s always better than just reading subtitles, right?

It?s nice to see that Konami hasn?t forgotten this series or their fans 10 years later, and whether it was on purpose and a homage to the first title, or just a great way to introduce gamers to the next great Kojima project, they have included a Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance demo to give gamers a bit of new to go with their old.  All in all, I can?t say that this series is ready to be reinvented to find a new audience, but like anything nostalgic, fans who loved the game a decade ago will welcome its new paint job with open arms.  The best part of the package certainly comes in the form of the vastly superior second game, but even if you have to play a few rounds of subpar gaming to get there from the first game, at least you get the whole story. In the end, this feels like a love letter aimed at a very specific group of fans, and I?m sure those fans are thankful for a chance to remember this oft forgotten franchise.

Grade: B-