Review by amaravati
"Almost a perfection"
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner also known in Japan as Anubis: Zone of the Enders is the sequel to Konami's Z.O.E.: Zone of the Enders produced by Hideo Kojima. It's a fast pace mech combat game that features up to one hundred enemies on screen simultaneously. You get to play as Dingo Egret who pilots a mech (Orbital Frame) known as Jehuty. Jehuty can perform several different types of attacks and maneuvers including close-range combat using a laser blade and grappling techniques. You can also fire homing laser for a long-range attack and use various sub-weapons in this amazing game never got the recognition it deserved.
Zone of the Enders has a decent story that begins with a Dingo Egret, a miner who discovered an Orbital Frame named Jehuty. From the previous game you know that there's a conflict between the people living on Earth and those living on Mars. BAHRAM is a rogue military unit on Mars, which you will be fighting against. The way the story is being told is a bit confusing. I don't know if it is a result of poor translations or a bad script, but story will begin to unfold through game which will allow you the get a sense of the things the characters were talking about earlier in the game. The game's story is not bad, but nothing revolutionary either.
The 2nd Runner game controls will feel a bit awkward for first time players. However, you will feel more at home with the game controls as you progress through the game. The left analog stick controls Jehuty directional movements while the right analog stick controls the camera view. Alternatively the right analog stick can be used to switch targets during combat. You can ascend or descend Jehuty vertically using the triangle and the X buttons. The R1 button lets you block enemy attacks and the R2 lets you dash. The L1 button allows you to access your sub-weapons and the L2 button lets you manually lock-on to a target if you have previously disengaged the automatic lock-on, which will be explained later. The game controls for Zone of the Enders handles quite effectively, but it could use some improvements. The game has an automatic lock-on system that can automatically target enemies during combat. This is a very useful feature when you are fighting multiple enemies, which you often do through out the game. The automatic lock-on system keeps the action uninterrupted by saving you time from having to manually lock-on to individual enemies. Another thing you can do is lock-on to multiple targets simultaneously and then destroy them by firing a homing laser. However, the game controls and the automatic lock-on system can sometimes adversely affect your game-play. For example, when you are fighting multiple enemies, after you have destroyed your current target you will be automatically locked on to a target base on line of sight and not proximity, which can be bothersome if you are locked on an enemy that you can see far in the the distant then another enemy approaches you and begins attacking you from behind. The game will not automatically switch targets to the enemy that is attacking you, but you have to do it manually. It is annoying, because you usually can't respond fast enough to switch to your desire target, which you may have to scroll through other enemies on the screen before you can get to it or disengage the lock-on from the enemy far in the distant to the one that is attacking you. This kind of situation can often cost you the game especially when multiple enemies are ganging up on you. Additional problems with the game are poor camera angles that create obstructions making the situation worse especially the indoor levels that you will sometimes leave you clueless to what is happening on the screen. One last complaint I have about The 2nd Runner is the lack of game controls configuration that will allow to you switch between regular and reverse vertical axis for the camera controls. I'm a reverse type and it took me some time before I can adjust to the regular vertical axis camera controls. Even with these minor nuisances of awkward game controls, mechanics and, camera angles, Zone of the Enders plays a lot better than many games out in the market especially when many 3D action/adventure games out there are still facing camera issues if not worse than Zone of the Enders.
What makes this game fun is the variety of attacks that you can perform. Jehuty can attack by using laser blade, grappling, homing laser, burst attack (smart bomb) and twelve different types sub-weapons. You can perform combos using the laser blade to launch enemies up into the air or below you and if they hit the ceiling or the floor they will suffer extra damages. You can perform other maneuvers like grabbing an enemy then throwing it against the walls, into another enemy, or use it as a shield. Similar results can be achieved with in-game objects. You will definitely need to make use of all available attacks especially the sub-weapons. The sub-weapons are very useful and a novelty to have. The game revolves around basic puzzle solving and retrieval system combine with fast pace action. Even with the fast pace action, The 2nd Runner is more than just buttons mashing you way through the game. There are enough variations to the missions, enemies, and bosses that keep the game interesting and not too repetitive.
The graphics in this game is a huge improvement over the original. The game has one of the most gorgeous and stylish graphics I have ever seen. I believe both games use similar if not the same graphics engine as Metal Gear Solid 2, but The 2nd Runner's graphics appear to be so much more spectacular. The game definitely has its unique looks with the blend of cel-shading, particle effect, lighting techniques, and anime cut scenes. I especially enjoy the extremely smooth transitions between the in-game cut scenes to the anime cut scenes. The music of the game is heavily techno influenced, but fitting the game none the less. The English voice acting is excellent, but the lip syncing is a bit off and some of the dialogue is a bit awkward, which seems to be a result from poor translations.
Playtime/Replay Value 7/10
The main game is a bit short, about 5 to 7 hours for first time player. Most players can probably finish the game within one or two days, but after you have finished the main game you can access extra missions mode that must be unlocked by finding extra mission files hidden within the different levels. There are also other goodies like different versions of Jehuty, hidden pictures and endings. The game also has a versus mode that lets you control as Jehuty as well as other Orbital Frames that can be unlocked from the main game. In versus mode you can fight against either a computer or another human player. Both players share the same screen instead of a split screen, so it's sometimes hard and confusing to know who is who. The versus mode does have some camera and game controls issues, but it is still highly entertaining to battle another human player. Even if the length of the main game is short, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is definitely a keeper.
Zone of the Enders does have several minor flaws that make the game a bit sluggish. If Konami would have spent a bit more time on the game I am sure that they could have improved upon these flaws. However, I think Konami have tried hard to come up with an intuitive game controls and mechanics. The game controls and mechanics do work just not very well in some situations. If you like a game with fast pace action you should definitely play Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner. You may want to rent the game first if you are looking for a game with long hours of play time. Because the main game is a bit on the short side, but I fear the game may become too repetitive if Konami were to make the game longer. Even with the short length of main game, Konami definitely put efforts in trying to give the players with something extra with all the extra modes and hidden goodies. I would still recommend those who enjoy a good action game to buy this game with a decent storyline if you are lucky enough to find it, because I heard that Konami have discontinued the game production and it is a shame since Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner may be one of the most underrated and unappreciated action game of all time.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/23/04, Updated 10/17/05
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