Habboi's Blog of Games Design and All Things Awesome!

A Blog made of Awesome and Kittens. ;-)

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Zone of the Enders 2: The Second Runner Review

Ok, let’s cut to the chase. You're here because you love mechs; you imagine piloting one and saving the world in a massive mech fighting spree in front of your friends. Well stop no further because in this day and age this game is the closest you'll ever get to doing these actions in front of your friends (hopefully your friends appreciate your love for mechs).



ZOE 2 is obviously a sequel and happens to be the child of ZOE 1 which some may remember when all they cared about was getting the ‘Metal Gear Solid 2’ demo which came with ZOE 1. From what I have seen ZOE 1 didn’t receive as much love as it should have and was a very well put together game. Without turning this review into a ZOE 1 review I’ll move on and state that obviously ZOE 2 was an improvement...However I think improvement isn't the right word as you will soon read...

Story


Players take on the role of Dingo Egret, a middle aged man working at a mining facility on Callisto (Jupiter’s moon). After detecting a strange reading he goes to investigate only for trouble to soon follow. Dingo then discovers the strange reading came from an Orbital Frame that had crashed in the snow. Soon after discovering the Orbital Frame a force known as BAHRAM attack the surface of Callisto and a shocked Dingo is forced to climb aboard the mysterious frame. After an impressive introduction Dingo is forced to fight a small batch of enemy frames with no instructions on what the controls are. This may concern some players but I found that the controls were pretty easy to guess first hand and after killing the small batch of enemy’s players are offered VR training similar to the one in MGS2. After learning the controls the player has to fight through enemy after enemy until they reach the first boss. The atmosphere and music really set the mood (I’ll talk about them further down) and make the first boss fight truly unique. It’s hard to describe what makes it unique but I certainly haven’t experienced this sort of boss in any other game. I suggest you watch this video to see what I mean:

(Source: str00py -http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Dgsn_ZrB9lM - Date used - 29th March 2008)

Since the game was directed by Hideo Kojima players will recognise his signature styles within the storyline. The first few things you notice is the way cutscenes are done. The cutscene camera changes every now and then and matches the style of Metal Gear Solid 2. It makes the game that little bit more impressive when the action and the different camera angles are combined. Also some scenes are situated inside the cockpit (which is located in the Orbital Frames ahem ‘cockpit’ area, a joke known full too well by the developer team) and has two camera windows showing the perception from both sides aka Metal Gear Solids COMM conversations.

Returning to the story Dingo finds himself forced to board the enemy ship and find out who is behind the attack. In the end he encounters Jehuty’s brother – Anubis which is the twin brother of Jehuty however it can move at sub - light speed which makes it more powerful. Dingo loses and is spared by the runner Nohman who offers Dingo a chance to join BAHRAM (again). After refusing the offer Nohman ends up shooting Dingo and the story follows on from there with revenge as the main aim with many other sub plots that form the story of ZOE 2.

Overall the storyline in general is deep with lots of background information on the ZOE universe and the discovery of a new metal ore called 'Metatron' which allowed humans to create better weaponry.

Visuals

The game was made from scratch with a nice new engine and a whole new art style. The first thing you will notice is they replaced the 3D animated cut scenes with a more anime approach. Second Jehuty (the name of the ‘Orbital Frame’ you pilot) has improved visually with some minor colour changes and extra texture details. The designers also went for a realistic approach mixed with cel shading to outline explosions and the orbital frames themselves.

The sub-weapons and explosions are something else. The massive explosions and artistic lasers really make the player feel destructive and powerful. (That is until you face Anubis for the first time.)

The levels are designed more like battlefields and are still quite detailed despite the large amount of enemies, effects and the high detailed player model. The levels are believable with many structures to destroy as the player fights in the air.

Overall Konami really pushed the limits of the PS2 with this game. At some points the game will lag briefly but that can be ignored because it looks like slow mo was triggered which adds a ‘cool’ moment when you’re slashing the blade around.

As an extra note I absolutely love the designs of the Orbital Frames especially the part where the lines on the frames glow green, yellow or red depending on their health.

Sound

Ah yes sound. My belief is sound is what can make and break a game and this is no different with ZOE 2. The game is literally soaked in music as almost every area has its own music or a remix of the ‘whole area’ song.

To get a sense of the music here is an example from within the enemy ship:

(Source: Merhawk102 - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=vKMBeYKhcFg - Date used: 29th March 2008)

So you noticed it has a techno style...I’m not a big fan of techno but if a song is used correctly then it can work really well. That is why I believe this genre of music really makes the game work. Obviously the game is set in the future and revolves around flying ‘mechs’ or ‘robots’ so a soundtrack full of sci-fi techno sounds is the right choice.

As for the sound effects you will notice again similar elements to MGS2 with the menu select noise and some explosions. However ZOE2 has a unique set of sounds that really make the game stand out. The quality is top notch and I personally give it thumbs up!

Lastly the voice acting - A lot of reviewers say the voice acting was mediocre and sometimes 'rubbish' but I felt Konami (Europe) did a good job dubbing despite the odd lips still moving a second after the voice clips end. I thought Dingo had a strong voice and Nohman was truly evil thanks to his voice actor. My only complaint is when you first meet Ken she screams at you for no good reason and it is obvious in the Japanese version that she says something rather than scream.

Gameplay

The gameplay however may disappoint a few players. Since the game was made in Japan it has a lot of Japanese influences that may put off some players. This is also why a lot of Japanese games don’t make it over here in Europe because they’re either too weird for our market or too complicated.

Back to gameplay – The game uses a lock on system where the nearest enemy is targeted and the screen focuses on that enemy. The player can fly 360 degrees around the enemy with ease but focusing the camera on a single enemy can sometimes clog up the screen. However most players will get used to the lock on system and it will eventually feel natural. The game is also very fast paced and may give some people headaches.

The controls are straightforward and make the game enjoyable. The player moves Jehuty with the left analog stick, bursts with R2 (makes Jehuty move faster), slash / fire with square, grab with circle, block with R1 and fly up and down with triangle and X. The most impressive moves can be done with the press of a button.

The game tends to work in a certain fashion:

Storyline Cutscene --> Fight small batches of enemy’s --> Fight Boss --> Rewarded with more storyline.

Although rather repetitive I found that ZOE 2 is split up with unique sections. For example at the start you face normal enemies and fight a boss but later on you fight a fleet of ships, have a super tense sub-light speed battle with Anubis, fight a boss in complete darkness while being guided by the AI etc...

Overall the game can be repetitive but mixes things up with unique bosses and missions and rewards the players hard work with more story.



Replayability

As for replayability I think because the game is short...(Took me 4 hours the first time) you feel like you have to play it again. After finishing the game you can start again with the more powerful versions of Jehuty which then lets you go to places you could not go to before. The reason you go to these places is to unlock Orbital Frames for versus mode which is great fun with your friends.

Konami also added an extras area where you can replay certain missions, fight bosses and test how good you are at the game by choosing the European Extreme difficulty. (I couldn't even get past the second level!)

And lastly they added a mini game based on the Gradius series as character designer 'Yoji Shinkawa' loved the old Gradius games and the team felt like chucking it in.

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If you own a PS2 I highly suggest you rent the game at least. You may have trouble finding a copy because the game wasn't as popular as it should have been!

Overall Score: 8.8/10

+Good Controls
+Very Good Visuals
+Deep Story
+Lots Of Extras
+Short But Sweet!
-Gameplay is a little repetitive but the games shortness makes it go by quickly.
-Dubbing was good but that one scene with Ken made it lose points. (I am being a little picky)


I leave you with this rather good ZOE 2 AMV I found a few days ago. It emphasises the best part of the game. "DESTRUCTION! DESTRUCTION TO END ALL!" (Nohman 'ZOE 2')




(Source: MuSyX - http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=u_cUacE3eGU - Date used: 29th March 08)
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Blog Post No. 2

Today I rebuilt the blog and used a custom template mixed with my own graphics such as the banner and background.

As of now I am still updating the design and to be honest this post is also just a test to see how the blog looks with 2 posts.
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My First Blog Entry

Welcome to my Blog - Habboi's Blog. I decided to replace my old, boring website with a more interesting blog where I can update readers on my life, my passion for games and all things awesome.

I hope you find interest in my blog as this will certainly be a unique journey.
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