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.