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Oh, What It Could Have Been...

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Zone Of The Enders

Konami, $49.99

Rated M

It took only two-thirds of a year to make, but there is finally a Playstation 2 game that couldn’t have been made on the Sega Dreamcast. Zone of The Enders is a visual feast that will delight anyone who’s looking at it. But as I said before, graphics make not a game.

The story is ... well, the in-game story doesn’t explain much. An army of large robots (or mechs, if you will) attacks a colony outside of the planet Jupiter. A young boy named Leo runs for his life and ends up in the cockpit of a super-advanced “model,” named Jehuty. He later discovers that the Jehuty is an instrumental weapon in a rebellion of some sort, and receives instructions to deliver it to a transport ship.

Beyond that point, the game does not really explain the background story. I don’t know why I’m here, I don’t know what the Armada is after, and I don’t know what an “Ender” is, although the game frequently refers to them. Unless you check out the web site < zoe/>, you won’t know a thing about the game. And I shouldn’t have to check out a web site to get the main story; that’s what instruction manuals are for.

But when you start the game, you won’t care. The PS2 controller (finally) offers optimal play control, and allows you to travel in all three dimensions without funky camera problems or conflicting controls. And this game actually uses the right analog stick.

Everything seems to be good at first, but then the actual gameplay sets in. Basically, enter area, destroy enemy squads, get passcode, get new weapon, leave area. The battle scenes are great, but there are only seven or eight different kinds of enemies. And when you have to fight hundreds of identical mechs, that creeping feeling of boredom will grow on you very quickly. It’s a mixed blessing that the game is short (three to five hours, max).

The game has five bosses with set attack patterns, weaknesses, and taunts. In a move oddly reminiscent of StarFox, the game requires you to use the right weapon at the right time. Those moments were fun, but after you send the boss reeling, it’s back to the banal world of “passcode-hunt.”

The graphics for this game are incredible, and the models are great (not as cool as Onimusha) despite their limited variety, and the run-time screen effects are beautiful to look at. The game engine can handle multiple objects with no slowdown at 60 frames per second.

The sound helps to set up the mood. Finally, someone used techno music the way it should have been used -- in a futuristic game. The tracks are techno, but not the generic techno crud that rattles in my ears every time I play an “extreme” sports game. The combination of the music and the mood makes your playing experience totally rad to the max.

The story and vocalization was pretty terrible, though. For one thing, the voices are pretty lousy, ranging from okay to terrible. (Note: I wish Celvice would shut up. I really do. I don’t need someone congratulating me for every minor accomplishment I make.)

Another thing, if you’re going to have voices that suck that much (with no lip sync to accompany it, by the way) at least have an available Japanese soundtrack. Onimusha did it. The Bouncer did it. And both of those included a Japanese track while still being crammed with full motion video sequences, so there is no excuse. The story could have been cool, but it has so many vocalization problems.

The two player mode is practically non-existent, so it’s not even worth mentioning. This game could have been so much better, but limited gameplay and terrible localization ruins one of the greatest visual and aural treats you can find on the PS2.