Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner originally released on the PS2 well over a decade ago and was eventually updated, along with the first game in the franchise. This update manifested itself in the form of an HD collection on both PS3 and Xbox 360 sporting high quality HD visuals. Konami have decided to do the same again but they’ve dropped the first game and instead focused on bumping up the visual fidelity of the second quite significantly. They’ve also opted for a PS4 and PC release via Steam this time around.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars features 4K 60 frames per second graphics and surprisingly, PSVR support. Thankfully the game has remained relatively unchanged from the past except for the graphical enhancements however, this is both a blessing and a curse. While undoubtedly groundbreaking at the time of release way back in 2003, the game has not aged well in terms of modern game design.
As the titular second runner (i.e: Pilot) of orbital frame (Giant mech) Jehuty, Dingo Egret is thrown into a melodramatic space opera involving a war between Earth’s Space Force and a Mars based faction known as BAHRAM. BAHRAM already holds a key orbital frame unit and requires Jehuty for their nefarious plans to succeed. Dingo however is having none of that and joins up with the resistance to put an end to BAHRAM’s tyranny on Mars.
The story of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars is not exactly stellar but it drives the plot forward and serves its purpose quite well. The real shining star here is the game’s actual mecha gameplay. Players will be able to control Jehuty to do glorious battle with other orbital frames and enemy forces in what can only be described as a perfect fusion of close range sword duelling and long range gunplay.
Jehuty has access to a range of subweapons which players will acquire throughout the story. These subweapons are incredibly important to surviving in the game. The subweapons are also key to winning specific battles and for progressing throughout the game. Jehuty’s energy sword is used for engaging in close range battles and players will be able to perform sword slash combos with ease. The game is not exactly hard but players will definitely have to earn their victories on normal difficulty mode.
The gameplay as previously mentioned is great but the manner in which the story progresses has not held up to modern standards. Linear levels abound so if you’re expecting an open-world to explore, you won’t find that here. What worked almost 20 years ago is not as prevalent in our current generation of games so newcomers to the franchise may be put off by the limited scope of the title. The camera controls can also be quite annoying at times so be prepared to tackle weird angles throughout the game.
Graphically, Konami have enhanced the visuals immensely. The orbital frames and flashy effects look downright gorgeous. The game is dripping with stylistic eye candy which is slightly marred by the rather bland environments. While staying true to the original game, the environments are lacklustre and empty at times. The game also features numerous anime cutscenes and these have not been re-done to match 2018’s anime standards unfortunately. Thankfully, the in-game conversation scenes do feature updated visuals and these are as visually crisp as the orbital frames themselves.
The soundtrack to the game is as great as ever but perplexingly Konami opted to not include a Japanese voice track for the game. Players will have to be satisfied with the English voice acting cast for the 8 hour long story.
Overall, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – Mars is a welcome addition to the franchise. It brings an old game to a modern audience of fans and newcomers and looks absolutely stunning. The addition of VR gameplay is welcome and while there’s still some issues present with the game, it’s well worth picking up and playing through at least once in your lifetime.