Narrative in Video Games #11: Zone of the Enders

Much has been made about the controversy between Hideo Kojima and former employer Konami that I won’t go into here, but their relationship wasn’t always so toxic. Following the breakout success of Metal Gear Solid in 1998, work began on a sequel that wouldn’t be released until late 2001. In the interim, Kojima worked on another series with an anime tie-in titled Zone of the Enders. Today we’ll be looking at the 2012 re-release included in the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. 

Zone of the Enders takes place on Antilia, a colony orbiting Jupiter, when it’s attacked by BAHRAM forces searching for the Orbital Frames Jehuty and Anubis. A young boy named Leo stumbles upon Jehuty while fleeing the assault and is subsequently tasked by Jehuty’s artificial intelligence, ADA, and Elena, commander of the civilian transport vessel Atlantis, to deliver Jehuty to the United Nations Space Force in lieu of the deceased original pilot. This is a solid setup for a climactic escape mission, but it’s potential is squandered by uneven pacing and some questionable design decisions.

Gameplay consists flying to a level via the world map and piloting Jehuty to fight enemy squads. During certain points in the game a rescue mission will appear in which the player must defeat all enemies while minimizing damage to the civilian population and surrounding buildings. These missions are optional, but with Leo’s aversion to killing and the post-game ranking determined by your performance during these sequences, completing them is highly encouraged. With location names like FACTORY.1, CITY.2, and TOWN.3, however, the game makes it readily apparent that the player is essentially doing busy work until the plot kicks in again.

The game is back-loaded with plot points and boss battles with the middle portions consisting almost entirely of filler to lengthen game time. A particularly sloppy scene is near the midpoint when ADA offhandedly mentions the factory where Jehuty was created mere moments before the system is infected by a virus that necessitates taking a detour to said factory. The battle with Anubis fares better with the player merely trying to survive against an enemy they have no hope of defeating yet, but that narrative buildup takes place just before the credits roll. Combined with the overall lack of content throughout, it creates the impression that this game is more of a proof of concept than a fully fleshed out experience; the prologue to a satisfying experience rather than a satisfying experience in its own right, and for a new IP that’s a disappointment.


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