Update: Read the full review here
Initially overshadowed by the MGS2 hype at E3, Konami's other flagship PS2 title's expectations have been rising rapidly. Recent information and interviews have revealed Zone of the Enders to be a title with impressive ambition and an excellent pedigree. To begin with, ZOE's creative team is unmatched. Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear Solid is producing and overseeing the project, Yoji Shinkawa designed the mechanical look of Metal Gear Solid and ZOE's detail and environment are already displaying his touch. The design team also includes several members with experience in Japanese animation including Nobuyoshi Nishimura who designed mechs for the legendary Gundam series. The unique design of ZOE's Orbital Frames, which meld mechanical and organic design shows Nishimura's expertise and creativity very much in evidence. The game's creator is one of Kojima's proteges, Noriaki Okamura who worked with him on several games and is also well-known as the ZOE collaborator most famous for his emotionally moving scrpits for Policenauts and the Tokimeki Drama Series. With these legendary members at the core of the team, ZOE should be quite special and memorable.
Zone of the Enders takes place on the Antilia space colony which is a United Nations outpost. Antila's inhabitants are called Enders because they are seen as living at the end of the world. The colony is under attack from a group of Martian terrorists known as the ZOE. This formerly peaceful outpost must be defended with one of the Orbital Frames. Our hero is a reluctant 14-year old Ender named Leo Stenbuck. Leo is an introverted young man, who mostly keeps to himself until his colony is attacked, and his friends are killed right before his eyes. Leo is filled with doubt and blames himself for their deaths. While compelled to fight for the colony's freedom in his Orbital frame, the Jehuty, Leo's internal struggles should serve as an involving part of the game.
The interesting thing here is that instead of mindlessly fighting the terrorists' orbital frames, Leo has to keep in mind how he uses his power. Unlike in most other games, you are responsible for the well-being of the population and thus have to keep in balance between attacking an enemy and causing unnecessary destruction on the space colony. Given what Leo has witnessed in the past, how careful players are in causing damage will play a big part in how ZOE's plot unfolds. This is truly unique, and if it's done right should give the game an emotional resonance that's rarely been attempted, though the ambition of the design as it's been revealed is only outmatched by a few, very select games, including unsurprisingly, MGS2.
There is always the concern of making a mech title feel right, and ZOE is no exception. Kojima and company have expended a great deal of effort to make sure the title looks ad plays incredibly well. Expect the camera movements and presentation to feel very much like an anime movie. ZOE will showcase the PS2's graphics power through the use of some incredible light-sourcing and textures. Impressive, expansive in-game environments will also feature huge amounts of detail and allow plenty of free movement. It's camera will also automatically lock on to opposing Orbital frames. The design of ZOE itself is already looking to be quite special, with the Mechs themselves really standing out as some of the most original, innovative and creative robot designs seen in quite some time, mixing both organic and mechanical elements. They have an intricacy and beauty to them that is almost lyrical, with their brilliant imaginative lines and humanoid forms creating an exotic, futuristic aesthetic reminiscent of a both classic anime and the designs of H.R. Giger (Alien).
During play, you should see huge explosions and richly detailed space environments along with some spectacular effects such as blurring and weapons power-ups. ZOE's controls are also looking to be quite innovative, allowing for both simple controls and deep strategic play at once. ZOE's interface should be a simple one, utilizing both of PS2's analog pads and only 2 buttons. Its battle sequences should remind players of Virtual On and Armored Core, but the game will also mix in some exploration elements. All of this will be tied together with seamless cinematic sequences making for a title that reaches far beyond what it's inspirations ever dreamed of. Zone of the Enders promises to be much more than just the standard mech sim, but a complete world that gamers can fully explore and experience, more like a simulated Anime movie.
With top creators from both the animation and game worlds collaborating, Zone of the Enders should be one of the most innovative, best-looking and original playing titles for the PS2. Zone of the Enders promises to be one of the most innovative mech titles ever created - going far beyond the standard issue mech conventions. To sum up, the game should be unequaled in all aspects upon release. To add even more fire to the massive anticipation surrounding ZOE, rumor has it that Konami will also include a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2 creating an additional impetus to purchase the game. With the way Zone of the Enders is shaping up, it hardly sounds like it'll need the extra help when it comes out stateside sometime next year.
> Michael Palisano
ZOE's Orbital Frames display an intricate beauty, mixing
Zone of the Enders promotional Art
Click below for larger views of Konami's Zone of the Enders flyer passed out at E3.