alex9234’s Sunday Review
Ah, it’s that time once again. Time for another Sunday Review, the segment where I review games that are unique and a fresh change of pace from the same old. Today we’re going to look at one of the most obscure and underrated games in the Game Boy Advance’s library. I’d be willing to bet that some of you didn’t even know that this game even existed! Well, don’t worry, this is real. The game we’re looking at today is Sunrise’s take on the Zone of the Enders franchise, Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, which came out on the Game Boy Advance in 2002. As of 2019, The Fist of Mars is the only ZoE game to come out on a Nintendo platform.
The Fist of Mars takes place between the events of the original Zone of the Enders and The 2nd Runner. It takes place in 2173, and mankind, in search of the valuable Metatron resource, has expanded it’s reach to Mars and Jupiter’s moons, and colonies have been established. However, Earth has strictly ruled over the colonials, who are known by the term “Enders”, and discrimination is frequent. Food supplies are limited, movement of citizens is controlled, the media is controlled and constantly spews propaganda, and there have been many rebellions against Earth’s rule, however, most have been crushed.
The game follows 17-year old Cage Midwell, a worker on the shuttle “Bonaparte III”, with his friend Ares Enduwa. While on a journey to Mars, Cage catches a girl sneaking into the cargo hold, and chases her down. Then, the ship is attacked by a powerful and mysterious black Orbital Frame. Cage, and the girl, who introduces herself as Myona Alderan, take a mysterious LEV in the cargo hold and escape. After a battle with the black Frame, Cage and Myona crash-land on Mars. The two of them are then captured by the UNSF (United Nations Space Force). Cage then discovers that he has been set up and has been blamed for the destruction of the Bonaparte. Also, Myona has been suffering from amnesia and has lost her memory. However, the two of them are freed by Deckson Geyse, the leader of a resistance group called BIS (Born In Space). Cage eventually decides to join BIS, and gets caught up in the escalating conflict between Earth and Mars…
The Fist of Mars is drastically different from the original game and 2nd Runner. Instead, it is more like Front Mission – part Visual Novel, part Strategy RPG. The game is structured to resemble a TV anime series, with 26 episodes, with each containing one gameplay segment. Each episode consists of a series of Visual Novel-like scenes, followed by a battle segment, and then ending with another Visual Novel segment. There are also multiple endings, and your actions in certain missions can impact the course of the story.
In between each episode, you can purchase equipment and upgrades for your character’s mechs, as well as save the game. You can also save during battles as well.
Again, gameplay is strategy RPG-based. Each mecha has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, and different attacks and statistics that allows them to perform different tasks. You also have a variety of different mission objectives, such as protecting or rescuing targets to destroying certain enemy units. If one of your units’ HP reaches zero, they are removed from battle until the next episode. There is no permadeath, so don’t freak out about losing characters in battle too much. However, you can get a game over if Cage’s frame gets destroyed.
Attacks are made, as well as evaded in the IAS (Interactive Attack System), where you attack or evade the enemy from a 1st person perspective
Cage Midwell – Age: 17- Cage is the main character of The Fist of Mars. He was a worker on the ship “Bonaparte III”, until he met Myona and escaped with her on an LEV to Mars. After being set up for the destruction of the Bonaparte, he joins BIS and plays a major role in the future of Mars.
Ares Enduwa – Age: 17 – Ares is a very good friend of Cage. Like Cage, he also worked on the Bonaparte III ship before it was destroyed. Cage always looks up to him and views him as a role model and an older brother figure. He also joins BIS along with Cage after the destruction of the Bonaparte, however, the other members of BIS grow suspicious of him throughout the events of the game.
Myona Alderan – Age: 17- Myona is the mysterious girl that Cage encounters before the destruction of the Bonaparte. She suffers from a severe case of amnesia, and Cage and the other BIS members try to help Myona regain her memory throughout the events of the game. She also becomes attracted to Cage, and a love triangle can develop between Cage, Myona and one other character depending on certain actions you take halfway through the game.
Deckson Geyse – Age: 42 – Deckson is the leader of BIS, and is also a major part in the Mars Resistance movement, though he is unaware of how much influence he has in the movement. He rescues Cage from the UNSF, and allows him, Myona, as well as Ares into BIS.
Semyl Shambrow – Age: 16 – Semyl is the youngest member of BIS. She has a strong hatred for Earthlings, as she experienced much discrimination from them when she was younger, which led her to join BIS. She is very assertive-aggressive, and often gets into arguments with other members.
Razma Cascade Jr. – Age: 19 – Razma is a sniper for BIS, and a highly skilled one as well, as he can notice certain details that other snipers can’t. He has a love-hate relationship with Semyl, and likes to hit on pretty much every female character in the game.
Mebius K. Lylekraft – Age: 26 – Mebius is a member of BIS, and a highly skilled Orbital Frame user who specializes in long-range attacks. She has a motherly role towards the younger BIS pilots, which is due to the trauma of losing her own child. Her eyes are often closed, though they are open when she’s angry.
Tadamichi E. Yukito – Age: 24 – Yukito is another member of BIS. He is this game’s “Otacon”, as he is a major fan of old school sci-fi movies, as well as 20th and 21st century anime series, which are rather antique tastes as he was born in the 22nd century. He joined BIS instead of working for the family business.
Warren Lumenlux – Age: 33 – Warren is the second-in-command of BIS, and he also pilots an Orbital Frame. He was a former mercenary, and is often very cautious and serious. He seems to be attracted to Mebius, but he states that he has no plans of getting into a serious relationship with her, and only wishes to work alongside her. Near the midpoint of the game, he gets very wary of Ares, and fears that he is a mole planed by an unknown organization.
After playing 2nd Runner, I decided to check out this game, though I had my expectations set low. However, I was shocked to see that this game was far better than I thought it would be. The graphics are very good for a GBA game, Sunrise’s character designs are excellent, and the gameplay, though not perfect, is also very well done and easy to get used to. The story is also superb, and it leaves you guessing and on the edge of your seat the whole way through. The characters are great as well, and a lot of them are very likeable. Though it’s not perfect. The upgrades cost a lot more than necessary, the controls in the IAS are a bit slippery and takes time getting used to, the long-range units can’t attack after moving, and the game is surprisingly easy, even for beginners. I only suffered one game over, and I lost just one unit in battle while playing through this game. The soundtrack doesn’t have much in terms of variety, and the toned down script for the English version just doesn’t blend well with the overall violent theme of the game.
But overall, Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars, the only game in the series to come out on a Nintendo platform, is an excellent game, and one of the GBA’s hidden gems. I wouldn’t mind seeing another ZoE game in this style from Sunrise on the 3DS or Nintendo’s next handheld. Though it is very unlikely. Stranger things have happened though…
My score: 8.25/10