Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Konami
Developer
Konami
Genre
Mech Action
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence, Blood and Gore
 
Grade
The Good

• Great anime-style mech action
• Varied combat, enemies and objectives
• Game looks great

The Bad

• Too story heavy
• Lock-on and camera issues during combat

 
Grade
A-

Set a couple years after the first game, The 2nd Runner begins with the ex-BAHRAM soldier Dingo finding the orbital frame (another name for mech) Jehuty buried in a metatron mine on Callisto. Just as he finds the spectacular robot, the mine comes under attack by BAHRAM, forcing Dingo to use Jehuty to defend his comrades. After a near fatal encounter with Dingo's former commander, the soldier is forced to stop BAHRAM.

Set up in a linear fashion, ZOE2 presents players with stages in which they must reach certain objectives while coming under enemy fire. Rather than giving the player stage after stage of enemies to wipe out, you'll find yourself having to transport and defend other characters or defending settlements while trying to minimize the amount of damage. Jehuty's controls are sharp and well handled as the player can move around with use of the left analog stick while using the Triangle and X buttons to climb or descend. The right analog stick can also be used to adjust the camera, but getting this to work in tandem with the left analog stick takes a little effort.

Players also have a variety of weapons and techniques at their disposal. The Square button performs your basic attacks, be it laser blasts from a distance or sword attacks up close. The R2 button is multipurpose in that it allows you to boost in the direction you're moving, but it can also be used to target multiple enemies or even charge up a larger laser blast. The R1 button is used for blocking and when you grab enemies or items in the area, you can also use them to block attacks. The Circle button uses a subweapon (which can be set on the fly with the L1 button). To start the game, you'll have the "Grab" subweapon, but will gain new subweapons throughout the game, most of which are essential to beating new enemies and some of the more challenging boss fights. Using the subweapons and boost attacks will drain on your subweapon gauge, which refills when you destroy enemies. Throw in Dash and Burst attacks and the player has more than enough weapons at their disposal.

Visually, this game provides an impressive package. People familiar with Metal Gear Solid 2 will recognize the main color scheme and basic design elements of this game. The world of ZOE2 is built in grays, greens, browns and tans, but is accented well with a lot of impressively colorful fireworks when the heat of battle is on. One of the nicest touches is that a lot of the elements of the game, most noticeably the orbital frames and the plumes of smoke and dust, are done in a partial cel-shading that really lends an anime-strong tone to the design of the game. Cutscenes are done in a mix of anime and real-time that works well to move the story along with a cinematic flair. There are some conversations played out from inside Jehuty's cockpit with two separate videoscreens (much like the Codec sequences of MGS2).

The music for ZOE2 is strong and exceptionally varied, lending an emotional quality to the on-screen action. Thankfully, the music never seems to get repetitive. The voice acting is decent, on par with most anime, but it tends to be hampered by what can only be determined to be a poor translation. Some of the lines barely make sense or are just poorly delivered. In all, though, the voice acting doesn't take much away from the game itself, but it could have used a little more polish.

There are a few things I wish had been handled differently in ZOE2. Firstly, the in-game camera can really act up during the heat of battle, leaving you with a less than perfect view of your combat. This seems to be more of an issue in tighter locations. On top of that is a lock-on that sometimes takes additional effort just to lock on to the right target. Also, I wish Konami had throw in a option to invert the right analog stick's camera controls. None of these complaints are wholly detrimental to the game, but they could have made ZOE2 and much more complete package.

For those who complained about games like MGS2 being too story driven, ZOE2 may be a bit of a problem. The game is very story-heavy and linear because of the heavy focus on story. Outside of that, though, the game is a vast improvement over the previous game. Almost everything that held the original down has been addressed - both combat and enemies are varied and will keep the game from getting repetitive. Throw in a versus mode and anyone who wished for more from the first game should be pleased. ZOE2 manages to capture the hectic anime-influenced mech combat well.

- - Vane

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