Game Description: The humans living on Antilia, a colony orbiting the planet Jupiter, think of themselves as Enders, as they're essentially at the end, or furthest reach, of human civilization. After a sudden attack by a fanatical Martian military regime known as the Z.O.E., Ender Leo Stenbuck finds himself with access to the one weapon that can save Antilia: a mechanized attack vehicle called an orbital frame. In Zone of the Enders, you'll command the orbital frame against several robotic opponents. The game features agile 3-D movement, both in the air and on land, and smart camera work that keeps your opponent in view during the most intense, furious battles. The game also comes with a playable demo of Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
Have you ever seen that episode of The Twilight Zone where this criminal dies and thinks he's gone to heaven? At first it seems like he's living in a perfect world where he can do no wrong. But, of course, with the traditionally creepy Rod Sterling twist, the criminal realizes that everything is perfect to a boring fault and that he's actually trapped in purgatory. That's what the experience of playing Zone Of The Enders is like. At first it seems like an anime fan-boys wet dream made into an interactive reality. But by the end of the game, it's more of a despairing nightmare.
Player control in Enders centers around a socially and emotionally dejected boy named Leo. Under a set of extraordinary circumstances, Leo comes into contact with an experimental Orbital Frame, or a flying giant robot for you civilians. The Orbital Frame is named Jehuty and Leo becomes its unwilling pilot in an effort to foil a band of malcontents stirring up trouble on Leo's home space colony. Those familiar with the giant robot genre in Japanese animation (or anime) will instantly recognize the clichés and plot devices designed to give younger audiences a vicarious and fantastic sense of empowerment.
Regardless of the unoriginal premise, its still more than serviceable and, by all early indications, Enders seemed to be another seminal masterpiece under the watchful eye of videogame auteur, Hideo Kojima, who served as the title's producer.
Visually, Enders is an anime world brilliantly realized in full 3D graphics. The wide-eyed and multi-hued hairstyles are in full effect and while the mechanical designs aren't memorable enough to place them alongside the pantheon of legendary robots that preceded it, they will still invoke that trademark anime sense of style and cool. Rounding out the presentation is a soundtrack made up of classic 1980s-sounding J-pop tunes with squeaky pitched female vocals and the requisite poorly "dubbed" English voices.
The movement controls of Jehuty are also very remarkable. Rather than taking a slow and complex "simulator" approach to piloting an Orbital Frame, the developers came up with a surprisingly simple and approachable system. This allows players to duel with enemy Orbital Frames with uncanny ferocity and dexterity that distinctly resembles what one might see when watching an anime on the same subject. The zero-gravity lock-on control scheme is most unique for its universal usability despite the frenetic action and dramatic shifts in camera orientation.
The developers have done an admirable job of initially making players feel as though they are actual citizens in an anime world filled with giant robots, cute girls, and melodramatic villains. However, the world of Enders eventually unravels because the robotic combat action—while exciting at first—gets repetitiously stale within hours. The latter half of the game degenerated to the point where I turned my brain off and practically cruised through on autopilot with a basic button-mashing technique. By the end, I felt that the gameplay was intolerably dull and disconnected from the first half of the game. The developers either thought there was enough content to hold a gamer's interest for 10-plus hours or they just ran out of ideas on how to keep the gameplay flowing and refreshing.
The cornball script, countless sci-fi rip-offs in the storyline, and unresolved ending only served to be the final nails in the coffin. Enders got off to a wonderful start, showed flashes of innovation and potential, but at last it ends up sinking under the weight of its own monotonous gameplay. It's not enough for Enders to only resemble an anime. It would have truly benefited from being more of a game.
Its funny that Chi started off his review by telling readers what Zone Of The Enders reminded him of. Actually, I had a similar experience. After spending some time with the game, I was reminded of nothing more than a cocktail napkin.
Why a cocktail napkin? Because after seeing what Zone Of The Enders had to offer, I had trouble rationalizing the existence of the game. In my effort to make sense of this bare-bones snorefest, I imagined that Hideo Kojima was sitting in a dark and smoky bar after hes knocked back a couple. Hes got a pen out and hes jotting down ideas on a cocktail napkin. Hes loose, hes feeling good. His thoughts are flowing and hes telling Metal Gear jokes to the understudy developers seated around him who hang on his every word. Somehow, he goes off on a giant mecha tangent and scribbles out the loose outline of a Big Robot Game. A few basic nuggets take form on the napkin and they are only the most rudimentary structural plans for the games content. Kojima polishes off something cold with an olive in it and then he has a sudden brainstorm for a three-dimensional control scheme. "This has potential," he thinks to himself. After covering one side of this cocktail napkin with smudged ink, he laughs, crumples it up, and tosses it over by some crushed cigarette butts while ordering another round.
I then visualized one of his more ambitious, yet less talented assistants picking up the napkin and heading back to the Konami development offices with the goal of turning this slightly soggy, half-completed thread of an idea into a full-scale game.
Of course, the scene I just described is total fantasy on my part, but its pretty much the only scenario I can think of that accounts for the underwhelming and overrated experience that is Zone Of The Enders.
I cant think of another game in recent memory that received so many praises and so much hype while being so completely undeserving. Its rather disgusting, actually. Id be willing to bet that if Hideo Kojimas name hadnt been attached to this project, it would have been cast aside as yet another shallow visual orgy to avoid buying at full price. Instead, it was hailed as a work of near-genius from virtually all sources without much justification for these claims besides the 3D combat engine.
To give credit where credit is due, I have no problems admitting that the game does shine with respect to the control scheme and fighting. Its fast, smooth, and actually does come closer than other mech games have in capturing the way a hyperkinetic anime film moves and feels. Regardless of which direction youre facing in three-dimensional space, its always easy to zoom in on enemies and get where you need to go. This in itself is an advance for the Big Robot genre and one that is definitely appreciated because despite all the aerobatic maneuvers, you never feel like you're fighting the controls.
However, is this one piece of technical achievement enough to base an entire game on? No, no, a thousand times-- NO. In looking at all of the other components that actually make a game "a game", Zone Of The Enders is woefully lacking.
In regards to the story, I definitely agree with Chi that its total cliché and quite unimaginative. It is serviceable enough, or would be, if the main hero wasnt such an annoying milksop. Many of the games interludes between the pilot and the Jehuty were so predictable and preachy that it made some of the long, drawn-out speeches in Metal Gear Solid seem worthy of a Pulitzer. The dialogue is nowhere near as engaging or creative as Id expect from something with Kojimas involvement, but I suppose even the best and brightest stumble once in a while.
In addition to the completely droll plot, I was surprised at how shallow and repetitive the game is, in complete contrast to Kojimas other works. There are only three enemy types in the entire game (not counting boss battles), and once you figure out how to take each of them down, you mindlessly repeat the process for the rest of the games playtime. To add insult to injury, most of the enemies can be taken down quite handily using the moves available from the very start of the gamenot much more than tap-tap-tapping one button, which basically allows you to ignore the assortment of worthless bonus weapons.
Besides the unimpressive enemies, the missions and goals are so completely simplistic that youll grow bored of them before even getting halfway through the disc. The bulk of them are nothing more complicated than a series of basic, infantile fetch-quests, with one item or another being needed to move on to the next area. The end result is that youll fly back and forth between the games areas far more than is entertaining or reasonable, and kill the same three enemy types countless times in between boss battles. This is not exactly my ideal way to spend an afternoon. Wheres the fresh, innovative gameplay? Wheres the sophistication? I dont see enough actual content on the disc to occupy more than an hour or two before it all becomes one huge exercise in redundancy.
Basically, Im left with the feeling that Zone Of The Enders is little more than the skeleton of a game and of something that could have and should have been worlds better. Sleep-inducing repetition, uncreative structure, and huge amounts of boredom suggest to me that the game should have spent more time in the design phases for everything besides the 3D engine.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Animated Blood, Animated Violence
Parents, this game is rated "mature," but there isnt much to warrant the rating outside of a few cases of characters bleeding through their clothes. Theres nothing sexual or profane in the gameplay or storyline so you can rest assured that if your child likes giant robots, Enders's simple and repetitive gameplay might be a good choice.
Anime fans, remember the old saying, "be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it?" Well Enders starts off like a fan-boys dream come true only to come crashing down from the reality that the principles that go into making a good anime arent the same as those that go into making a good game. This is a game that seriously needs more variety and interactivity. However, if you cant get enough the robot dueling action that Enders offers, this still might be the title for you.
Fans of serious giant robot simulators like Mechwarrior or even Armored Core should probably beware of this title. Theres no sense of customization and feature upgrades are rather insignificant. The streamlined controls are ideal for fast and furious action, but offers very little in the way of depth.