Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/03/02 | Genre: Strategy RPG
So you have played through Advance Wars and are ready to continue with another Strategy title. One quick look around will tell you that there isn't a lot to choose from out there for the Game Boy Advance. Fortunately, Konami has developed the second title in their Zone of the Enders series. In Z.O.E.: The Fist of Mars, things aren't quite the same as in the earlier Playstation 2 title. Fist of all, there is no demo of Metal Gear Solid to make people go out and buy this title. Despite this, whether or not you liked the original Z.O.E., The Fist of Mars is fun and different enough to warrant a look.
While players will control many characters in The Fist of Mars, the main character is Cage. At the beginning of the title the ship you are on is attacked. Cage ends up with a girl named Myonain a Mech/Robt--known as an LEV. Soon after arriving at Mars, you join up with a so called terrorist group called BIS. Of course, you aren't really a part of a real terrorist group. In fact, you are trying to save the people of Mars and try to stop those who would harm them.
Gameplay takes place in an overhead perspective. During your turn, you can take as much time as you want positioning your characters, using special skills or attacking. Once you choose to attack, the game has you confirm the attack and then moves to a Fist person perspective. You have control over crosshairs on the screen and you must put them on top of your enemy and hit the A button. If you miss the enemy completely, you won't register a hit. However, if you are successful, then you will damage the enemy. Each enemy also has a weak spot. If you are fortunate enough to get the crosshairs on top of the weak spot, then you will damage the enemy with a critical blow.
Each of the characters you control has a variety of different abilities and attack skills. After you complete a mission, you will then have an opportunity to take the money you have earned in battle to upgrade your weapons, health, and their power and defensive skills. This allows for an almost endless amount of customizing you can do to the game. However, I found that customizing didn't seem to make much of a difference in battle. While it is fun, you may wish to quickly upgrade your health and most powerful weapons and go on.
One of the most annoying features of Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars is the story. Not that the story is horrible--just the way it is told can get frustrating. During the beginning of each level and end of each level, boxes with hand-drawn anime characters will be shown. Most of the time, two boxes will be on the screen at once. When one character is talking, the other is grayed out. At times, these conversations can go on for so long, that you wonder if they will ever let you start playing the actual level. Worse yet, after you defeat a level, you have to sit through these sequences until you are given an opportunity to save the game. If you just went through a really long level and are ready to save and take a break, it becomes very frustrating to pay attention to the story that takes place after the combat portion of the level. Fortunately, Konami threw in a save for when you are in the middle of the level. So if you do find the need to take a break and you are already battling the "baddies," just choose save from the menu.
The graphics and sound isn't very good in The Fist of Mars. While the music can be enjoyable, I found that all of the sound effects become extremely annoying. Graphically, everything is just bland looking--lacking all the flash and charm that the graphics in Advance Wars brought to the table. Fortunately, the gameplay is good enough to keep you hooked.
While Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars is not a very challenging title and lacks the depth of Advance Wars, it is a fun and entertaining Strategy title that will keep you hooked until the end. (And you will be playing for many, many hours trying to beat this one). If you find yourself itching for a Strategy title but have already mastered Advance Wars--look no further than Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars.