Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner
Review by Daavpuke
"On this note, I'll conclude Zone Of The Enders: It's just not worth it."
Let's get this out of the way: Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner (ZOE2) is everything its predecessor should've been; bigger, better, bolder. Now let's talk about its own merits.
We're still in a distant, apocalyptic future where giant robots, called Orbital Frames, are used as a military force to conquer the entire universe. A resource called Metatron is the most powerful energy to be found and it is a critical asset in the war between organizations. In this quest for domination 2 parties square off, with BAHRAM as the bad men and the Space Force as the gallant heroes.
The game starts you off with another protagonist, Diego, mining for Metatron. In a similar fashion to his predecessor, he stumbles onto the Orbital Frame "Jehuty" by mere accident and his commandeering of the vehicle is accidental. From there on you'll be thrown into the fray of world conquest with a quick tutorial as your helpful guide. And believe me, you'll need it.
When you can play, most scenes will consist of clearing screens of lesser robots. There is a large variety of critters and they each need a different approach. After you've mastered this, boss fights will try and kick it up a notch. In all, most combat is fairly challenging and you'll feel relieved once you've made it through. My fingers usually felt sore after playing for a while, so prepare for a thumb crushing experience.
A welcome addition is that you can use your grab weapon to take scenery chunks and handle them. This will be implemented in a few simple puzzles to try and switch thing up.
Visually, ZOE2 has been enhanced to such extent, this game could've been released 5 years later and still rub elbows with the big boys. Everything is now a blend of polygons, lighting and even animé, fused together with cel-shading. It's not a complete cel-shaded game and that only helps bring out more features, without compromising its integrity with more childish graphics. Even the oriental music has been touched up and sounds more amazing than before. Jaw dropping is the correct term for this game's atmosphere.
Wait a second; all this praise and yet such a score? Why so serious? Well Joker, here is where the game not only falls short, but falls through completely.
First, the game might be challenging at some points, but in cases it will become unbearable. If the camera angles don't throw you off, some of the crushing boss battles will. Most sequences will require you to luck out or go through a rigid trial and error system and that is unacceptable. In a game produced ten years earlier, I would've let this slide, but in this instance installing such a stern style only helps to frustrate gamers. Frustration will overcome your sense of accomplishment long before the game is over.
This leads us to the sad fact this game can be completed in an afternoon. In fact, it took me less than 3 hours of progressive game time to get credits! After a completion you can choose to replay in a harder mode or pursue various extra missions. You might speculate that wasting more than 10 hours replaying certain parts or watching cutscenes adds to the games length, but that would just be soothing your purchase decision.
Which conducts us to another annoyance: cutscenes. Although every clip is glorious; not only the acting in it is ridiculous, but also the amount and length of it all. Midway through, I stopped caring for any storyline and decided to time a random scene. After all was said and done, my timer showed me I had wasted 5 full minutes 39 seconds and 36 hundreds doing nothing. And that was after a minute or so "long" action sequence. Also, that wasn't even a lengthy cutscene, because another followed shortly after, and another after that, etc. It felt like every five seconds I was being cut off from playing and the game held my hand as it walked us through. More than a game, ZOE2 is an "interactive" movie.
I've struggled for weeks to decide whether or not I should score this game regarding to its predecessor or not. Because every game deserves to be measured by its own assets, but on the other hand it's a sequel for a reason. My mind was set on the fair choice to grade it as a game, which would be a 7 more or less. I decided in the end to take in account the series. Hell, I played the disappointing first game only because there was a promise that this game would be better. And you know what? Though it is a better game, it's still completely unplayable and that's a shame. They had the benefit of the doubt, but if you failed to get it right in the second installment, then you have failed as a developer. I could still recommend this game to someone wanting to have a nice cinematic experience and all, but you know what (again)? It's just not worth it.
And on this note, I'll conclude Zone Of The Enders: It's just not worth it.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 06/09/10
Game Release: Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Special Edition (EU, 09/26/03)
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