Review

Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner - MARS Review

  • First Released Mar 10, 2003
    released
  • PS4

Mechanical animals.

Zone of the Enders got a bit of a bum rap as a series overall, being more famous as the game that came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo than anything else. Those with the patience, however, would discover one of the most distinct mech games of the day, with more than a heaping dollop of trademark Hideo Kojima madness therein. The 2nd Runner is an improvement on the original in many ways, to be certain, but held against modern standards, Zone of the Enders comes off awful rusty.

There is a story, but it's nigh incomprehensible, even with the caveat that Kojima's fingerprints are all over it. Having prior knowledge of the original doesn't help much either. Basically, two years after the events of the original Zone of the Enders, a miner named Dingo Egret on one of Jupiter's moons finds the frame-mech hero, Jehuty, buried beneath the surface. When the evil army BAHRAM nearly kills Dingo trying to retrieve the armor again, Jehuty is forced by a rebel spy to join with Dingo, keeping him alive using the mech's life support until they complete their mission of blasting the army straight to hell.

No Caption Provided

Ideally, you'd be able to simply barrel past the story and get to what's good, which is the mech combat, but The 2nd Runner's pacing stutters along. Every stride the game hits is interrupted to deliver more nonsensical ranting on unstoppable power, duty, and the nature of war. Soured even further by English voiceovers that are one step removed from Symphony of the Night-level broad theatrics, the story is a irritating rash all over what should be a fairly straightforward mech combat experience.

Simplicity, really, works in the game's favor. You have a sword, a laser, a rocket-assisted boost, and a shield. Each stage progresses on a fairly linear path, with tiny corridors and loading areas opening up into massive arenas where, for the most part, you're expected to kill everything that moves. Your enemies are generally either flying grunts around Jehuty's own size that go down easy, or swarms of tiny annoyances you can take down en masse by using a special missile barrage. That's generally the gameplay loop, and it only gets more exhilarating the more cannon fodder the game throws at you.

ZOE shows its age most is in its control scheme. It's not necessarily unworkable, but it involves unlearning 15 years of developers figuring out elegant ways of moving around 3D spaces. Two face buttons control elevation, while the dash button is unintuitively set to the shoulders. Despite much of Jehuty's moveset relying on dashing, and fast counter-maneuvers to get in and out of an opponent's space, the motions required to do so feel awkward, even in the new “Pro” configuration that remaps the shoulder buttons and subweapon selects.

The 4K bump in resolution and soundscape enhancements are certainly noticeable, but aside from introducing brand-new textures to the mix, ZOE was always going to wear its PS2 roots rather boldly. Honestly, the game would lose something without that trademark Kojima Productions cinematic judder during intense moments. Instead, Konami went the next step, allowing the entire game to be played in VR. It's a great idea, one that'd be a welcome experiment for a lot of older titles--there's certainly an extra level of immersion, and the aforementioned new soundscape really comes to life in VR, forcing you to use your ears more than your eyes to figure out where enemies and projectiles are coming from.

ZOE shows its age most is in its control scheme.

The control scheme still mucks things up quite a bit, however, and not being able to see your special moves as you use them is a pretty big detriment in busy stages. The game does try to mitigate this, keeping a holographic representation of your avatar as it would be in the regular game on the right-hand side of the cockpit, but taking your eyes off the action is a bad idea, especially during the game's frantic boss fights. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to; bosses have a bad habit of getting up close and personal. In a crowded area, the only thing stopping you from being cornered and slashed to death in three hits is the kind of situational awareness the VR mode doesn't inherently give you. There is a special VR difficulty mode that makes dealing with enemies easier, but it swings the game too far in the other direction towards cakewalk territory.

While Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner pushed the envelope when it first launched, it's more admirable for the ways in which it tries to inject depth into a formula that never required it to be successful. There are certainly ambitions to be appreciated, and Konami has at least put some effort into preserving the experience as it was, for better or worse. Still, those ambitions aren’t enough to fight the feeling that it hasn’t been outclassed several times over in the years since.

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The Good

  • Flashy and fun mech combat
  • VR mode is a welcome and thrilling change of pace
  • Impressive sound design enhances the experience, especially in VR

The Bad

  • Controls are unwieldy
  • Intrusive and nonsensical storyline
  • Grating voice acting

More Platform Reviews

About the Author

Justin Clark played through ZOE: 2nd Runner in about seven hours. He still has no idea what the hell the title means. A code was provided by the publisher.
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jbreez00

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5 seems a bit ridiculous, I enjoyed the first one a lot and while I did play the demo I decided the 2nd one wasn't something I wanted to dabble in at present, but certainly it's better than a 5, especially if Madden 19 is an 8.

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Thanatos2k

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Edited By Thanatos2k

I remember this game being extremely good with a few problems (optional objectives mainly). Story was gibberish sure, but it's not like I cared about the story.

I also remember loving the controls and how it let me dive up and down around enemy mechs easily being able to maneuver behind them. Yes, it takes learning. So what?

This doesn't read like a very good review to me.

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JustPlainLucas

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Maybe it's just my nostalgia glasses on, but I don't remember any problems with controls... or any of these other problems. I remember Zone 2 being a phenomenal game not just because it was so much better than the first (which isn't saying much) but because it was actually a very solid game on its own merits.... Again, maybe it's my nostalgia glasses... or maybe this reviewer is just flat out wrong.

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Leeric420

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@JustPlainLucas: Mostly just a crappy review with his supporting arguments not making much sense. The camera angles hes definitely right about though. Some issues there.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@JustPlainLucas: I used to think that about the older Armored Core games. : p

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@JustPlainLucas: It's your rose-tinted glasses.

Seriously, think about it - this is a Kojima game. "Kojima". That should have been enough to make you think twice that the problem is with the beholder (or rather, anyone who doesn't "get" Kojima's games).

Besides, when the sequel to ZoE came out, there had been plenty of other games to look at. The only reason that anyone would look at this game was because it's a Kojima game, or the sequel to one.

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Wendopolis_Bruh

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Edited By Wendopolis_Bruh

Jesus, get a reviewer who actually knew and loved the games and other media that was put out for it. Heck, get someone who understands the general direction of any Japanese game. You RARELY get the full explanation of the story from one game alone. From symphonies to live acts on stage, you get all the gaps filled in (Neir Automata was a great example of this). Only getting one major game will only give the overall story.

Did this reviewer even seriously play the first one? I can give him that the controls could be awkard to anyone who never played the originals, but personally I picked up and played and all the controls came back immediately.

I literally played this while playing Marvel's Spider-Man and it STILL kept the same great action up 16 years later. I don't see how anyone could give this a "5" unless they just weren't interested in the game from the start (Which is cool. I wish the reviewers were allowed to say this.)

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Mogan

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Edited By Mogan  Moderator

@wendopolis_bruh: Who would that review be for though? Anybody who "knew and loved the games and other media" probably doesn't need a review to know if they want to buy this remaster.

Anybody coming at ZoE fresh, or with just some vaguely remembered nostalgia probably benefits more from a review written by somebody who's in roughly the same position.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@Mogan: @wendopolis_bruh:

There's also the matter of the review being done by someone with nostalgic bias if it was someone who liked the original versions.

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Mogan

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@Gelugon_baat: Probably would have cut down on the crying here though. : p

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@Mogan: Naw man - the article wouldn't have gotten enough views. There are just so many echo chamber fan-written reviews out there for this recycled game.

That said, I do agree that this would have been a clickbait review - and it didn't have to be faked either. Just hand the review copy to someone who doesn't "get" Kojima games and there would be a lot of angry fan-fools visiting the article and giving it hits.

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Leeric420

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Lol this up there with one of the worst reviews I have ever read.

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Kalbent

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Originally it got an 8.5 but the remake is given a 5 because the reviewer didn't like the controls? Why is he reviewing this in the first place?

If you played the original, loved it and for whatever reason lost the disc... pick this up.

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mari3k

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"He still has no idea what the hell the title means" --> nuff said

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Redblaze27

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"Beloved classic" = 5/10

k

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Pierce_Sparrow

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Zone of the Enders remains one of the best anime based mecha series to come out of it's era. I've yet to find a mecha games that combines good story, character, and gameplay the way this game did. While reviewers opinions are fine, this clearly isn't a genre that you're attuned to. The story isn't really that hard to grasp and the gameplay is excellent: finely tuned, easy to grasp, and with plenty of options for play style. What was so hard about the story exactly? Sure, you really should play the first game to understand this one thoroughly, but it's a fairly straight forward story of evil empire versus good guy. Granted, I haven't played this version of it, and likely never will as it's a VR game, but I do remember playing the HD collection and thinking how smooth it was to once again start playing the game. It couldn't be that big of a leap from the HD collection to this one if nothing has really changed.

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Wendopolis_Bruh

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Edited By Wendopolis_Bruh

@Pierce_Sparrow: I said the same thing. This reviewer must not have played the first game, let alone watch the anime (which went into the backstory of the first runner and the prototype Jehuty). I played the demo and it's still a great game.

BTW, the VR is just an option. You can play it normally (I play the demo normally).

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deactivated-5c56012aaa167

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@Pierce_Sparrow: I think that the VR is optional though.(And they also updated the game with 4K textures)

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deactivated-5c56012aaa167

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What the ? I've seen much more positive reviews of this remaster.(The majority of the complains were for lack of Japanese voices)

It currently has very positive reviews on steam.(And in the forums that I search most players liked it.)

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JustTheTip

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This game blows.

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Edited By Derpalon

I'm not aware of any mech game that outclasses ZOE2, let alone "several times over". I get that all reviews are ultimately just a reflection of the critic's opinion, but I can't help but be particularly annoyed by this one anyway. The ZOE series has struggled to be recognized over the years, and it didn't help that they botched the first HD re-release on PS3. While I found the harsh reviews fair and understandable that time, in this case we've been given about the best package you could hope for but it still gets pegged with a mediocre score. This port isn't mired by technical issues like the previous, and even comes with glorious 4K textures that further enhance the visuals. ZOE2's controls are also hardly difficult or frustrating to manage; unconventional perhaps, but not difficult. That it still gets slapped with a 5/10 in spite of its quality is pretty aggravating, as it will just further turn away potential buyers from a breathtaking mech game that deserves a larger audience. I hate to use the "git gud" defense on this one but it kind of applies here if the critic seriously thinks this game's controls are cumbersome.

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Thanatos2k

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Edited By Thanatos2k

@Derpalon: When a reviewer babbles about how others games did things better they sure as hell better be listing those games, what they did better, and why.

This review does nothing of the sort, docking points for invisible concerns.

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Wendopolis_Bruh

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@Derpalon: I totally agree. This reviewer just didn't like the game and was forced to review it. By far the best mech game on a whole. I bet this reviewer is the same type of "sheep" person who likes whatever he thinks he should and doesn't have any type of original taste off the beaten path.

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Aah. Good old times from the PS2 era and still the best mecha game in my book.

Of course KONAMI is going to milk this to infinity.

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Shunten

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I understand the reviewer didn't like the game, but as a fan of the game already, I only need the port to be good.

The only thing I would have liked them to add is a Japanese voice-over since the English voice acting/localization is pretty poor.

An amazing game to this day, there is simply nothing like it out there.

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Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner

First Released Mar 10, 2003
released
  • PC
  • PlayStation 2
  • PlayStation 3
  • PlayStation 4

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is what the original Zone of the Enders should have been.

8.5
Great

Average Rating

2895 Rating(s)

9.1

Published by:

Genre(s):

Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Blood and Gore, Violence