Who doesn’t love giant robots? On one hand, it’s a huge vehicle, while on the other, it’s like playing a giant super hero with a ton of weapons. Anime has given us tons of iconic and beloved robots – from Mazinger Z and Voltron to Gundam and Evangelion. And when video game auteur Hideo Kojima produced and released Zone of the Enders in March of 2001, gamers were given a treat. He then followed it up with a sequel in 2003, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner. Both games were released on Playstation 2, and remain cult hits to this day. And since it’s Thanksgiving weekend, I figure I’m allowed to double up on a dose of good leftovers from the last generation of video games. So, let’s take a look at the best giant robot simulator on the PS2.
Set in the 22nd century on the space colony Antilia, orbiting Jupiter, the term ‘Enders’ is a slur used on people living far from Earth. Earthlings call Mars-born people Enders, and they do the same to the people living near Jupiter. Mars is in the midst of a revolution against Earth, due to the machinations of the enigmatic Nohman, who is currently leading the military force BAHRAM, and their dangerous mechs known as Orbital Frames. Leo Stenbuck, a young boy who is emotionally withdrawn and constantly bullied, watches in horror as BAHRAM attacks the colony, and does nothing as some bullies that were ridiculing him die in the crossfire. He then finds himself in control of the Orbital Frame, Jehuty. Drawn into the conflict and trying to save as many people as he can, Leo has to rely on his AI partner ADA as he tries to find out what it is he will fight for, all the while being hunted by Nohman’s best agent, the insane, death-seeking pilot Viola.
The game’s format consists of piloting Jehuty through different sections of the colony, battling the various mechs. Along the way, ADA fills you in on the technology of this world such as the plot device/energy ore Metatron and the idea behind a Vector Trap and how it allows you to pull large weapons seemingly out of thin air. You fly through what seems to be an open world, completing story missions as well as extra rescue missions. Your mech will level up and gain more unique weapons, and you’ll battle some truly gigantic epic bosses. And before I forget, the combat is awesome. Alternating between long distance energy blasting and up-close sword clashing, this is everything an awesome game should be. And with Kojima involved, you know there’s a story worth hearing. This game initially was packaged with a demo of Metal Gear Solid 2, which lots of people bought this game for and never actually played Zone of the Enders, with a lot of copies going back to the stores as used. Just goes to show, not everyone knows a gem when they have it.
And then came the sequel, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner…
Yes, that is the intro video that loads up everytime you start the game. Best way to start off a game in my opinion.
At the end of the previous game, Jehuty found itself face to face with Nohman and the mech’s superior twin, Anubis. The battle could not be won, and you had to escape. The second game picks up a while afterwards as a new hero, ex-pilot Dingo Egret (dumbest name in the history of mankind, by the way), finds Jehuty.”. After finding himself beaten by Anubis, Dingo finds himself thrust back into the battlefield, his life now dependent on Jehuty. With ADA in tow, Dingo must lead the free people of Earth and Mars in an epic struggle to stop Project Aumaan, destroy Anubis, and stop Nohman, whose sanity is now gone.
ZOE2 is the ultimate example of the “bigger and better” sequel. The use of cell-shading for the graphics during gameplay, the use of anime in the cutscenes to further create that feeling of playing a giant robot anime, more weapons, and bigger bosses. Then there were the set pieces – like fighting a small army of mechs to keep a city safe, or taking on a fleet of warships by yourself, and my all-time favorite video game moment, leading an army of mechs into a battle that was as epic as anything from films like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. And if you managed to beat it, there were new versions of Jehuty to play through the game with.
Zone of the Enders is such a major achievement for Kojima that he keeps hinting that he’ll return to the franchise when he finishes all he wants to do with Metal Gear. I eagerly await the chance to climb back on board Jehuty and fly into high speed battle once more.