Review: Jump Back Into Your Orbital Frame With 'Zone of the Enders HD Collection'

It's been very easy lately for publishers to pump out HD remakes of some of their classic games and play on nostalgia for some quick sales. The sad fact, though, is that a lot of games from a decade ago simply don't play the way we're accustomed to. Jet Set Radio was and remains a ground-breaking game, but man was it a slog to actually revisit with SEGA's recent re-release, for instance.

That's not really the case with Zone of the Enders HD Collection, which still feels fresh as far as its core mech combat games goes. Konami/Kojima Productions have lovingly reproduced both Zone of the Enders and Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner on a single disc for new and old fans of these Mars-set action games.

In Zone of the Enders, players take on the role of Jupiter colonist Leo as he fights off the villainous forces of BAHRAM while in 2003's Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner, the action heads to Mars with new protagonist Dingo Egret. Both games' stories offer the usual Konami overload of characters and subplots, but you're probably just here to unload a missile swarm on your enemies.

Both games offer third-person action, allowing you to dash towards enemies, hit them with light attacks, throw, them, and generally make a nuisance of yourself while making repairs using the elusive power source Metatron.

With the 2001 Zone of the Enders, original cutscenes are stretched to fit high definition displays with some small amount of blurring. Konami and the team at High Voltage might not have put this PS2-era favorite through a total visual reinvention, but it's received enough of a polish that it deserves a second look. Textures are sharp (if not overly-complex) and the "name" Orbital Frame models have received a visual upgrade with added detail, working well with very clean animations.

The audio has gotten a nice bump, it seems, with an impressive surround mix, dispersing the VO, weapon, and combat sounds among multiple audio channels (I have to assume the first game was at least in stereo on the PS2).

Zone of the Enders still controls fluidly, with smooth, gliding flight and action. It's weird that there's no force feedback, however, giving it a less tactile feel as a result.

Comparing it with its original release, the improvements to The Second Runner are less dramatic--it was a great-looking title to start, using the same engine as MGS 2 (if memory serves). Like Zone of the Enders, Second Runner has received added detail for in-game models as well as more of that unfortunate screen stretching for the original cutscenes, but the way the sort of dreamy haze of that era of Konami PS2 games is still intact, giving the lighting an odd-beautiful haze.

Both games have received a new opening animation which is really more of an attract video. Also, if you're looking for any other special features--maybe some clips from the Idolo animated series or something, you're out of luck. But otherwise, this is a well-produced package that does good by both games.

Zone of the Enders HD Collection is available now for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

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