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   Zone of Enders: Fist of Mars - Reader Retroview  

Mars Attacks
by JuMeSyn

Click here for game information
PLATFORM
GBA
BATTLE SYSTEM
4
INTERACTION
5
ORIGINALITY
4
STORY
4
MUSIC & SOUND
3
VISUALS
1
CHALLENGE
Miniscule
COMPLETION TIME
Around 20 Hours
OVERALL
3.0/5
Click here for scoring definitions 

   If I had the inclination, I could stitch together amazing similarities between Zone of the Enders: the Fist of Mars and Total Recall. Both take place mostly on Mars (Total Recall features a lot of people getting blown apart on Earth, but The Fist of Mars features a ship traveling to the planet from Earth being blown apart in the opening sequence - COINCIDENCE???) The plots of both detail attempts by Martian underground movements to free the planet. Copious numbers of innocent people die and much destruction of the Martian landscape is achieved by both. A thoughtful, intelligent performance by the male lead is to be found in both... wait, Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't deliver? Well, Cage doesn't really succeed at feeling like a hero in The Fist of Mars so... the similarities are breaking down. Cage doesn't even arrive on Mars courtesy of his own alter ego intoning 'Get your ass to Mars.'

    Zone of the Enders: the Fist of Mars finds the aforementioned Cage and a young woman named Myona forcibly removed from the transport vessel they were immigrating to Mars via thanks to its destruction, and Cage discovering an affinity for a certain robot by the moniker of Pharsti. With this unexpectedly powerful robot able to be controlled only by him the small forces intent upon resisting Earth's discriminatory rules enlist his aid. This is a fairly dense plot, with plenty of behind-the-scenes machinations as the Earthlings attempt to bring the 'Enders' (those living beyond the ends of Earth) to heel and the Martian resistance turns out to have a rather colorful cast ready to blast the enemy apart. Fortunately the English script is well-written and keeps things interesting.

    When the talk turns to action in The Fist of Mars, Cage and allies board their mechanical extensions and engage in tactical turn-based combat with a twist. Outside of the actual battling, there is little distinctive in this title's battles. The player's turn begins, the enemy's turn is arrived at when the player chooses so. Attacking enemies nets experience for the player's forces and defeating enemies nets money. So far this is perfectly standard.

    The twist in The Fist of Mars occurs when the player initiates an attack or when the enemy attacks. If the player is the one attacking, suddenly the enemy's unit will be seen moving against a background that brings early-90's Virtual Reality efforts to mind. The player will be able to move a crosshairs icon about the screen, and upon getting a bit of the enemy in the crosshairs will score a hit. When the enemy initiates the attack, the player will have a small icon that must be maneuvered around the same style of background screen to avoid the enemy's effort to lock-on. Successfully avoiding the enemy's searching crosshairs avoids the attack.

    Post-battle intermissions allow the usage of funds and the equipping of items. Some robots gain statistic increases merely by leveling up, others need to have their weapon strength and armor/HP increased by means of adjustments that cost money. These are also the only units that can equip items, though that is an annoyance given the abundance of items that are awarded. Improving and equipping certain vehicles or changing options around; these are the only real things to do outside of battle and conversation. Thankfully the paucity of options means these things are easy to accomplish.

    When it comes to challenge, The Fist of Mars is totally dependent upon the player's skill with the IAS (Interactive Aiming System). Without too much effort the player will have every attack hit regardless of its calculated odds (lower percentage hit chance means a smaller crosshair, but the enemy moves in predictable patterns and is not fast enough to easily escape). The player will need a bit of hand-eye coordination to ensure that enemy attacks do not hit, but even if the enemy has 100% accuracy it is still possible to evade thanks to IAS. With a firm grasp of the system no RPGamer will lose. RPGamers who choose can turn the IAS off, and this will make the game very hard indeed. But it need not be so.

    Visually Zone of the Enders: the Fist of Mars is very unimpressive. Outside of battle a series of backdrops with character portraits are shown - this could have been done on a Genesis. The battle map would again have been easily doable by the Sega Genesis, or even the NES - most of Mars consists of the same boring ground. And the IAS segments are again highly unimpressive, partly thanks to a paucity of enemy types, partly thanks to the enemy never moving during the aiming portions, partly thanks to the player's units only being seen when they launch attacks that do not visually connect with the opponent. Nothing here pushes the GBA in any way, and considering this game was released after Golden Sun it must accordingly be deemed most unimpressive visually. Its audio is not very memorable but manages to be reasonably catchy and is certainly not awful.

    The only form of replay incentive in this title comes from something that will not be apparent to first-time players; midway through comes a battle that, if played in a certain way, will alter the entire second half of the game. Using this method could add hours to the playing time. Otherwise The Fist of Mars should be completed in about 20 hours (possibly less if one rushed) and the player will have seen everything; there are no other hidden parts.

    The central problem of Zone of the Enders: the Fist of Mars comes from repetition in combat, since it becomes annoying to circle the player's targeting crosshairs repeatedly to dodge every enemy's attack. The game has a pretty good story and is rather gripping, it simply gets to be monotonous during long stretches (this is also thanks to a dearth of new enemy units until the last few battles). The final battles do become more interesting thanks to a profusion of new enemy unit types and some interesting tactical objectives. Worth playing by tactical RPGamers seeking something new, but not a stand-out title and not one to return to repeatedly.

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