Z.O.E The Fist of Mars is the direct sequel to the Playstation 2 Zone of The Enders. Konami however shifted it from a free roaming shooter, into the Strategy/RPG that makes up Z.O.E The Fist of Mars’ gameplay.
Originally entitled Z.O.E. 2173 Testament, the game’s story takes place a year after the first game, this time on Mars. The story begins on the Bonaparte 3, a cargo and passenger ship bound for Mars. Cage works on the Bonaparte 3, and he gets into no end of trouble, but is always bailed out by his silver-haired friend, Ares. During one of his routine checks, he stumbles across a mysterious girl by the name of Myona in the cargo room, and in the traditional style of most games, the Bonaparte 3 come under attack. Myona leads Cage to a mysterious LEV (a standard type of robot), and they bail out, only to be attacked by an equally mysterious Black Frame. The story starts in earnest when Cage and Myona crash lands on Mars, and are subsequently rescued by members of B.I.S (Born In Space), a resistance group on Mars, battling against the unjust actions of the people of Earth. The story holds a lot of plot twists and also ties up and makes more ends meet than in the first game’s story.
Z.O.E The Fist of Mars’ gameplay is relatively simple enough. The game is advanced through Scenes, with some story scenes before and after the battle scenes. The game so far seems to boast 2 distinctively different routes, one that leads to a somewhat semi-tragic ending, and another that leads to a happier one. All in all, there are 25-28 Scenes to conquer, depending on the route the player eventually falls upon. During each Scene’s intermission, the player can upgrade LEV weapons and fortify them, Save the game and view various statuses before proceeding to the next Scene.
The game’s battles take place on a grid field. Characters are moved across this field according to their movement. The battle order is also phase based, meaning players will end their phase when their turn is up and vice versa for the enemy. Battles are rather simple once players get used to the IFAs system. When attacking, players will enter a sort of targeting mini-game, where they will have to maneuver their targeting cursor onto the enemy’s vehicle and hit them by pressing a button. The enemies also have weak spots, which are represented by red dots on their bodies, hitting them will result in a Critical attack.
When evading an enemy’s attack, players will again enter the targeting mini-game, but this time, they will have to maneuver their cursor to avoid the enemy’s targeting cursors, successfully evading all of the enemy’s cursors will result in a Dodge. This system is very easy to get used to, and with sufficient practice, a skilled player can get through the entire game without being hit even once! This of course, takes out the Strategy of the game, but it is innovative. This system can also get repetitive, and fortunately can be turned off, just prepare to be hit a lot.
During battles, in addition to preset normal attacks, players also have access to powerful special attacks. These moves require a certain amount of EP [Endurance] to execute or have a limited quantity. They can be used only after the character’s Spirit has reached a certain level. Destroying enemies increases Spirit. Special attacks, as well as normal attacks, are all represented by brief attack animations after the IFAs mini-game. Though they are limited, Special attacks are painfully damaging and if a character is strong enough, easily take out weaker enemies in a single blow!
Control wise, the only time players will have to seriously work their thumb on the D-Pad is during the IFAs scenes in battle. The controls are responsive enough, and dodging and aiming is relatively easy. Menus are easy enough to excess and the in-battle saving allows for emergency saves, making this game highly portable.
Graphically, this game boasts a very pretty anime-style to its design in characters and robots, and fans of Anime will love the characters a lot. The designs for the LEVs and Ofs are very detailed and impressive, though they are just moving stills in the IFAs, their animations during attacks are quite fun to watch. The characters in the game are represented by well-drawn portraits, which are effective in representing their emotions. The game also boasts some pretty anime still scenes to further important events in the plot.
Aurally, the game has some simple music that adds some sense of mood, depending on the mission. If the mission is time based and urgent, the music used allows the feeling of urgency. The sounds in the game are simple as well, firing lasers and missiles are all represented by their respective sounds, and explosions are loud enough as they come. This game doesn’t provide much sound-wise, but the fact that it is clear enough on the GBA’s speaker is good enough.
Overall, Z.O.E The Fist of Mars boast a very rich story which will really keep players wanting to know more, interesting LEV and OF designs, and a certain level of replayability. This game can get a little easy Strategy-wise, but still offers a fun and entertaining portable game nonetheless. Fans of the first Zone of the Enders also have the incentive this game, even though almost no reference of the first game’s hero, Leo, is made. Still, Z.O.E The Fist of Mars offers a more fixed story base for more sequels, as fans of this series will undoubtedly want more. A worthwhile buy for fans of the series, and RPG fans that like simple games.