Konami showed a playable version of Z.O.E. 2173: Testament for the Game Boy Advance at Nintendo's annual Space World show this week in Tokyo, and we took the game for a spin. The PlayStation 2 version of Z.O.E. was a futuristic action-adventure game featuring large mechs, but the handheld version falls into the strategy genre.
The gameplay flow in Z.O.E. 2173 is similar to that found in most turn-based strategy games. You begin your turn on a map grid, where enemy units are shown scattered throughout the landscape. During the course of the game, you will be able to control tanks, trucks, and large mechs called LEVs. The first step is to move your unit into position to attack an enemy. The number of blocks your unit can move with each turn is dependent upon its level. Once you've moved your unit, the game switches to a command screen, where you choose which attack you wish to execute. After the attack has been selected, it switches to a first-person battle screen complete with a heads-up display and an aiming reticle. The rival unit will fly about the screen, and it's the player's job to line up the aiming reticle with the enemy and let the ammunition fly. There's a limited amount of time available to fire your weapons, and if you fail to fire it before the timer expires, your turn is lost. Once the shot has been fired, the screen switches to a view of your unit launching the attack.
Your mech is rated in seven categories and acquires experience points as it wins battles. As your mech accumulates experience points, its level will increase--allowing you to distribute points for improved attributes and more attacks. Like most turn-based strategy games, Testament is a plot-driven game. Similar to the PlayStation 2 version of Z.O.E., you play as a young boy named Cage who accidentally stumbles upon a mech and takes on the task of defending his Martian community against a military invasion.
In its current state, Z.O.E. 2173 isn't one of the better-looking Game Boy Advance games. But there is a healthy variety of mechs and other units included in the game, and plenty of still shots showing the pilots in varying degrees of emotion. Like Konami's other Game Boy Advance game, Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, the aural experience found in Testament is excellent. The sounds of weapons being fired and finding their mark are both convincing and varied, and its ambient techno music falls into line with that of the PlayStation 2 incarnation.
Z.O.E. 2173: Testament for the Game Boy Advance will be released in North America in the first quarter of 2002. We'll have more information on the game when it surfaces.