Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (2003 Video Game)
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Zone of the Enders is a mech action game, not to be confused with simulations like Armored Core. Similar games, such as Virtual On Marz, don't even come close to this one. The action is fast and chaotic, but there is a method to the madness as each enemy demands a specific strategy. Some enemies will defend themselves with shields, some like to rush in swinging, others will stay back and slam you with laser beams.
Jehuty comes equipped with lasers which can be charged up into a seething ball of death, or fired in a huge barrage at multiple targets. If an enemy gets too close, Jehuty's standard attack switches to a sword swipe (which can be charged up to destroy forcefields). You can also grab an enemy, slam them into others nearby or use them as a shield. Players can pilot the mech up and down and in all directions.
As players progress through the game they'll earn a dozen sub-weapons which enhance Jehuty's stock arsenal of lasers and mêlée weapons, as well as add extra functions which keep things exciting.
When it comes to graphics, ZOE2 is arguably the best looking PS2 game out there. Yoji Shinkawa (famed character designer for the Metal Gear Solid series) delivers his unique brand of mecha, called Orbital Frames. His beautiful designs are loosely based on Egyptian gods and look nothing like the boxy contraptions seen elsewhere. Among my favourite details are the energy conduits coursing over the body, pulsing with life. Fans of Konami's Gradius series will be thrilled by the unforgettable appearance of the Vic Viper, an ingenious addition to the ZOE universe.
The designers really went to town on the particle effects. Lasers, sparks, electricity, and cel-shaded plumes of smoke fill the screen. An army of enemies take to the air, often a dozen at a time. In one stage taking a cue from Dynasty Warriors, your radar nearly fills up with red dots representing enemies. While slowdown rears its ugly head in some parts, it is forgivable given the incredible amount of action on screen. The environments range from the icy plains of Europa and desert canyons on Mars, to the futuristic interiors of interstellar craft. Often there are interactive elements in the environment which can be ripped off to use as a shield or projectile.
The visuals are only outdone by the music, scored by no less than 3 composers. Its feeling is similar in tone to the Matrix, mixing electronica with symphonic suites, perfectly matching both the kinetic action and epic storyline.
Unfortunately, the voice acting isn't quite up to the standards set by Metal Gear. Lines are stilted and poorly written, distracting from the situation at hand, but they generally suit the characters OK. It's not nearly as grating as in the original, so at least improvements were made.
ZOE2 features time trials, survival modes, a 2-player fighting game, and several options for future playthroughs. There's even a 3d mini game called Zoradius based on the first level of Gradius, complete with the classic Konami debug code. Players unfamiliar with the events of the first game can watch a short compilation of important events and dialogue. All in all, ZOE2 is a finely tuned action game with a great storyline and memorable characters. The game can be beaten in one sitting on easy mode, so do yourself a favour and play it on normal or hard mode.
First and foremost, its obvious that many people would say, Mech Warrior, when the Mech-gaming trivia is questioned, and its sad to say that most of them has not heard of the, Zone of the Enders series. That's not cool...at all. Cause' the Zone of the Enders definitely blows away ANY of those Mech Warrior or Armored Core games. I don't intend to brag here, but let me give you the simple low-downs here.
Gameplay-wise, ZoE is the winner here. Although some would say that comparing ZoE and Mech Warrior is like comparing apples and oranges, and both games do have their own pros and cons concerning the setting of their respective plays, I believe ZoE is better since it allows the player to experience such vast control over the robot, and especially the FREEDOM ZoE has. Although the only thing some people might not like about ZoE is that it doesn't have a multi-player feature like Mech Warrior does. So what if this is only a single-player game? ZoE definitely makes it up for its gameplay, graphics, replay value, and sound/music.
As mentioned above, the overall satisfaction you experience in ZoE: 2nd Runner is the feeling of freedom. Unlike Mech Warrior, you take charge of a gigantic high-speed mech/robot equipped with unique and powerful arsenals (not anything lame you'd find in the Mech Warrior series); some you can gain after you defeat stage bosses. Oh yeah, did I mention that your robot has infinite flight boosters? yup, 99% of the time, you'll fight air-borne instead of fighting on-ground with very slow-paced robots huh. Your Orbital Frame (the robot that you take control of) can dash, burst, fire long-range, and a very powerful-effective saber when in close-ranged battle scenario, and as well as a defensive force shield when there are multiple attackers on your face all at once. And...if you still don't know what a, 'Zero-Shift', does for you in this game, you'll come to an agreement with me that ZoE: 2nd Runner blows away ANY mech games out there. So look out for this sub-weapon the, ZERO-SHIFT. There's A LOT going on in this game (especially when you play in Hard mode) whether you're fighting under water, outer space, inside a mothership; the myriad of enemies incoming and attacking you all at the same time...yet there's no slowdown, none at all.
The graphics and overall visuals of ZoE: 2nd Runner is beautifully designed. the backgrounds, the in-game anime cut-scenes, they're all top-notch on the PS2's graphics processor. the robot designs aren't as stupid-looking like the robots you'll see on Mech Warrior. the Orbital Frames are designed in a vague and orphic way similar to how mechs would be in the realm of anime. the sound/music of ZoE: 2nd Runner is a good recommendation if you like collecting game soundtracks by the way. the battle and drama themes perfectly suits certain situations happening in the game that connects the player to the game's mood. the theme song of the game, "Beyond the Bounds", is a very beautiful-yet-esoteric song with lyrics inscribes what in the hell's been going on in the world of the Zone of the Enders saga. I totally dig the words in this song. I also think that everyone (in real-life) can relate to it, and the song itself could be talking about current events in the world today. The narration and voice-overs are also very good, especially ADA's. (we gotta give, Cynthia Marcucci, our many thanks for doing the part of ADA ^_^')
The story picks up right after where the first Zone of the Enders left. While on a mining mission named, Dingo Egret, accidentally sees a giant-sized storage container, he accidentally awakens a very powerful Orbital Frame (Jehuty) as the brigade of Bahram unit arrives to take it into their custody. Dingo, now fearing that the Bahram organization will come after his friends (who has nothing to do with his inadvertent discovery of Jehuty) if he doesn't stop them. Little does he know, he's really gotten himself into a door with demons from his past coming back to haunt him, and an opportunity to finally set things straight with a former associate...that is if he can manage to stay alive till the end.
Overall, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is a DEFINITE RECOMMENDATION here. it doesn't matter whether you're an anime fan, a mech gamer, or just someone who's looking for a different kind of mech-game, this game IS for you.
Presentation: 8/10 | Story: 7/10 | Gameplay: 10/10 | Graphics/Visuals: 8.5/10 | Audio/Sound: 7.5/10 | Replay value: 8/10 | Overall: 8/10