Back on the PlayStation 2, a series from Konami was released called Zone of the Enders. They featured mecha battles and action, along with anime-styled characters and story. Years later, a high definition collection came out on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 with crisp, HD models, all while being able to unlock trophies and achievements.
Konami has decided to give it one more remaster, only this time they have released ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS on the PC and PlayStation 4 with 4k visuals as well as full VR support. The question is, does it still stand up well or is this a cockpit to eject from?
The story takes place a few years after the original with our protagonist this time being Dingo Egret. Whilst working in the mines, he comes across Jehuty, a giant mech with advanced fighting capabilities. BAHRAM forces storm in and try to claim the unit, but Dingo won’t stand by and let that happen. When confronted by BAHAM’s leader, an offer is made for Dingo to join them in exchange for his life, when he rejects, they shoot him! Dingo is kept alive by Jehuty and together, they’re all set for revenge.
There’s a lot of action going on throughout ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS, more so than the first Zone of the Enders game. An early tutorial for the battle mechanics and the simple controls make for an easy to grasp experience. Your mech can destroy the opposition by either firing missiles or melee attacking the onslaught of enemies, all whilst flying through the air. I can’t count how many times the screen was literally jam-packed with action due to the number of enemies in the area! Thankfully though, the combat isn’t too difficult and you can overcome whatever your foes throw at you quite easily.
Each new chapter is pretty linear in terms of its objectives, so the players aren’t left scratching their heads on what to do next. The minimap also indicates where to go next and what to do, which is great as it means less time trying to figure out where the next waypoint is. As you progress, you’re granted new abilities for your mecha unit which gives you a bit of a variety via new skill sets which ultimately spices up the gameplay. Aside from completing the main campaign, there are also ‘EX Mode’ Missions and a ‘Versus Mode’ for players to engage with.
When you’re not flying around shooting the crap out of everything, the game presents anime-styled pop-ups with characters exchanging dialogue. If there’s an important moment, the game cuts away to an anime segment that contains great looking character art and memorable personalities. The anime approach is further enhanced by the influenced musical tracks which accompany the scenes. I find that the soundtracks in Konami games always deliver and this was no exception.
Though it may be another port for the series, its only new feature, other than the boost to 4k, is the new VR mode. The idea sounds perfect to be in a headset piloting a mech, and the thought of it sounds like a dream come true for fans of the genre. Unfortunately, this dream can turn into a nightmare at times and I personally opted to play the game without the PSVR headset. Why? The game is consisted of a lot of anime segments and cutscenes, as mentioned above, and these are displayed as a ‘virtual cinema’ style, rather than in true VR. Also, when the action picks up and the area becomes infested with hordes of enemies, the constant flipping from one enemy to the next as you target each of them one by one becomes rather uncomfortable and visually a bit of a mess. The VR mode is a nice addition, but I wouldn’t recommend you play the whole game within this virtual world if you don’t want to throw up.
It could be due to ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS being a remaster of a HD remaster of a PlayStation 2 game for the reason the VR doesn’t work very well, but that doesn’t excuse the cutscenes. The artwork looks great during them, except that it’s blurry most of the time and looks really awkward. I’m guessing they didn’t have access to the original masters for these scenes as they look like they are the original PlayStation 2 ones which technically looked great on a CRT but not modern HDTVs.
The scenes do sometimes become clear and sharp which really shows how great the character designs look. It’s just a shame that they couldn’t have at least touched them up and remastered all of the scenes so they appeared more presentable on HDTVs. Sadly, the awkward dub is also still in place with Dingo often sounding very off and weird.
ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS is a great experience for gamers who want a good story mixed with mecha features. It gives the original fans a chance to replay the game for the nostalgic experience as well as the ability to obtain some new trophies. New fans can pick this up and play with no knowledge of the previous game, which is always great when only one part of a series is re-released or remastered.
However, gamers looking to pick this up for the VR experience may be disappointed with the ‘cinema mode’ cutscenes and the nauseatingly fast movements. Although, you can play through the whole game in full-VR, should you wish to and you have an iron stomach!
ZONE OF THE ENDERS: The 2nd Runner - M∀RS£24.99
- Graphical improvement over previous HD edition on last gen consoles
- PlayStation VR support
- Easy to pick up and play mechanics
- VR experience was basic, bland, and nauseating
- The anime cutscenes haven't been touched up to fit the correct aspect ratio of HDTVs and most of them appear quite blurry