Hereís something a bit different this week. A strategy sequel to an action/mech game. As you probably know, Zone of the Enders and its sequel, Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner were both fairly popular games for Konami. The blistering fast action coupled with an anime-esqe storyline made for some quick sales, especially when the first game came with a preview disk of Metal Gear Solid 2 for PS2. However, what you may not know is that Zone of the Enders is a fairly fleshed-out world with a good sized anime series and a third game, Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars. I personally picked this game up not knowing quite what to expect. I loved the other ZOE games and knew it was a strategy game, but thatís about all I knew. Little did I know what a treat was in storeÖ
Zone of the Enders: Fist of Mars is a beautifully crafted game. Simplicity is the keyword here as everything is user-friendly and fairly simple. The story focuses on a group of resistance fighters taking on the entrenched regime on Mars, a plot similar to the other ZOE games, but far more political this time. The characters are fairly deep and complex and there are a ton of cut scenes. So many in fact that youíll be hankering to get to the gameplay. But donít skip, as the story is quite good! Once you get through the storyline, the game really gets hopping...for a strategy game. You have a standard square based map, and are issued units from the forces of your team. You canít really buy new units, but you can upgrade the ones you have with money that you earn from your sorties. As per standard, each skirmish advances the storyline and all sorts of enemies lie in wait for you.
However, whatís unique about ZOE: Fist of Mars is the battle system. Instead of your standard menu system to select shots and whatnot as per the norm in strategy games, you instead have a targeting system. The screen pops up with a large crosshair and a countdown timer. You must then instantly fight the enemy mechs by lining them up in the center of your crosshair and firing. The closer to dead center you get, the more damage you can deal, but the enemy targets you at the same time and if you let them lock on, youíre going to take a beating for sure! There is an option in the game for automated battles based on statistics as well, and you can even turn off the battle animations, as the game is very customizable, but I found that if youíre fast, you can beat the statistics and virtually obliterate the enemy without them scoring any hits by using the manual battle system. The targeting really adds a feeling of depth to what would otherwise be a much lesser game.
For music, ZOE: Fist of Mars is pretty standard, and the graphics arenít super-spectacular, but there are some neat effects with the mechs in the cutscenes. Ultimately, this is one game you play for the story above all and the strategy as a close second. As for finding a copy, well, it shouldnít be too hard. Best Buy, Circuit City, Future Shop and Toys R Us all clearanced it out at $9.99 last year. There are a bunch on eBay now for $11.99 + shipping, so you wonít have any trouble. I suspect ZOE: Fist of Mars may jump in value in a couple years when people realize exactly what it is and how good of a game it is. If you can get a nice copy, donít wait...snap it up! Viva la strategy!