In this discussion, we talked about Zone of the Enders: Second Runner, Mars VR, a major re-release of another classic Kojima game. But with this, comes many questions along with it, because of the history of the game. Do some remasters matter? Does VR actually enhance anything? Should a game get released with a demo for another game? And what constitutes a rail shooter? As usual, we will talk about #onlythefacts.
An Old Mech Game Given The Present of New Life By Future Tech
In a landscape nearly devoid of mech-based adventures, Konami (the company best known for being terrible) dug deep into its bag of old games and gave Zone of the Enders a second life. The irony behind Konami remastering another amazing series by the great Hideo Kojima is pretty amazing, but enough politics. Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner Remastered is a third-person action adventure set in a futuristic world where humans inhabitant both Earth and Mars and war is fought in space. Released for the Playstation 4 and PC on September 6th, 2018, the remaster was developed by Konami and Cygames. Does Zone of the Enders deserve to exist alongside the rest of the recent remasters?
More importantly, how does Zone of the Enders work in VR?
(Note: VR Review does not impact the overall score of the game because it is not the originally designed experience.)
There should absolutely be a standard for allowing companies to use the term “Remastered” for any future game release. Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner treads the line between just better than the craptastic Shenmue remakes that Sega released and the absolutely stunning Yakuza remakes that Sega released. One major advantage for Zone of the Enders is the great way that the game was originally designed to not look hyperrealistic. The visuals paired with the level of fun the game carries makes it very possible to kick back and look beyond the broken character models. Without ever having been to Mars, its safe to assume that Zone of the Enders did a great job recreating exactly what the surface of the red planet looks like.
“Developers truly benefit from the skill of using cartoonish art styles and Zone of the Enders wins heavily thanks to its anime style.“
VR: The game looks worst. The real question here is: was anyone expecting any other response? When playing in first-person through VR the game doesn’t look bad but it definitely doesn’t feel immersive. Think about this one thing for a second. When playing in third-person all of the lasers and explosions are happening, visually at least, in front of the character. When playing in VR the player can look at all the angles of this lighting special effect that was designed to be viewed head-on. Boom, worst, not entirely immersive but not bad. Shenmue was still worse and it wasn’t even in VR.
For anyone who has not played the first Zone of the Enders, STOP. There will be spoilers ahead because Zone of The Enders: 2nd Runner is a direct sequel. With that said, it’s been damn near 15 years, so get over it. Ready? Let’s go. The game takes place two years after the events of the original game. Playing as Dingo Egret, a miner working on the planet Callisto who comes across the all-powerful orbital frame, Jehuty. That is literally the last part of simplicity this game has until the very end credits. From that point it goes into true Kojima mode with main characters dying and being revived, past significantly important characters appearing then suddenly deciding they want absolutely no part of the new story, and a world-destroying battle between two superweapons on the brink that falls on poor Dingo’s shoulders to be smack dab in the middle of.
Anyone who has ever been a fan of Gundam, Metal Gear or any mech-based anime will absolutely love this. Anyone who read that last sentence and thought what the f*ck is a Gundam, maybe stay away.
VR: Same story. Really not sure what anyone expected to see here.
Sound effects help to drive the validity of any game’s atmosphere and Zone of the Enders sounds like a robot war. Nailed it; not a beat missed. Lasers flying by sound way more dangerous than they look. Explosions are short-lived, but in the moment they sound very great. The voice acting and dialogue is great even though it doesn’t seem like any of it was updated for the remaster. It was just really great from the source. The menu sound effects sound exactly like the sounds from Metal Gear Solid 1-3 so super fans should be prepared for some nostalgia. Some excellent nostalgia. Damn Konami why you do Kojima so bad.
VR: Sound is the most critical aspect of VR. If the game sounds right the player can get fully immersed in the experience. Zone of the Enders takes place in space and space is, by most accounts, pretty quiet. That empty atmosphere is great as long as there are no other sounds in the outside world. Most people can’t afford to play their VR in an isolated perfect environment but everything else sounding great is definitely a VR experience.
Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner Re-Mastered is a remastered PS2 game, and it definitely shows. The control schemes are extremely dated and very light on motor control demands. There are only a handful of buttons used from the entire DualShock remote. Even with the highly bragged about adjustment of the way the secondary weapons button works it still feels super dated. The biggest issue with the controls for the game is found in the lock-on system. For whatever reason, the lock-on system locks on to whatever target that it wants to and when changing targets, probably due to the fast-paced gameplay, the thing goes bonkers. Rather than simply pushing the analog stick towards the closest target to lock on, the game just cycles randomly through all the targets on screen. That’s a really bad thing to happen when playing what is essentially an on-rails shooter.
VR: Probably the best VR experience available to date. The entire game is playable in VR and it feels amazing. Jumping into the cockpit of the super mech known as Jehuty is everything most people want from a VR experience. This is a VR Experience that should not be missed. With better visuals, it would be the epitome of VR gaming. It still suffers from most of the things that made the non-VR version hard to play but in VR those are well worth the pain.
Wooooooooooohoooooooooo. Playing Mech games is arguably always fun. Anyone who disagrees is entitled to their opinion but is completely wrong. Outside of the frustration of losing a battle due to a faulty lock-on system, it’s very easy to let time fly by as Jehuty flies or slides all around the surface of Mars, the interior of a massive space battleship. It’s an on-the-rails shooter for the most part in the vein of a super modernized Gradius, but who didn’t like throwing quarters in those old arcade machines? The other issue with the game that hinders its fun levels just a tad is that the save system doesn’t play entirely nice with pick up and play gamers. Fortunately, the PS4 rest mode is a nice workaround for this objective-based issue.
VR: How do you make a fun game more fun? Add the latest technology to its tool belt. Playing Zone of the Enders 2nd Runner in VR mode feels like the way it was meant to be played. Zipping around Mars in first person perspective could only be more exciting in a Sword Art Online style full dive mechanism that doesn’t exist yet. Just to reiterate, everyone should play Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner in VR Mode at least once. It is truly an experience.
Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner is a remaster like no other. Sure, a ton of remasters exist that look a million times better, but Zone brings a brand new element to the game that hadn’t existed previously. Hideo Kojima must have shattered at least three or four rooms’ worth of valuable merchandise when he saw what Konami was able to accomplish with one of his crazy ideas. Honestly, it’s a bit confusing as to why Konami didn’t make the VR mode a more significant marketing push for the game. Priced at only $29.99 brand new, this is a must-have experience for anyone interested in VR.
Scratch that, anyone with a PSVR or PC-based VR system needs to get their hands on Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner today. Especially since the evil monsters at Konami published the game, so we never know what to expect. This last good review pushed them to start making pachinko versions of the game.