Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner was originally released back in 2003 for the PlayStation 4. Since its release a decade and a half ago, it has been ported to the last generation of consoles, and later this year, it will be finding a new home on PlayStation 4 and PC. I got the opportunity to sit down and demo the latest port, Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS.
The game opened up with the main character needing to save his comrade. The combat started off with dozens of small, easy enemies. During this time, the tutorial taught me how to use homing missiles, melee attacks, multiple firing modes, dodging, and special attacks. It also introduced the fact that I was piloting a mech, which felt rad. The first two areas of the level were relatively easy, with the enemies not really doing any damage. In the next area, new enemies sprang up, and they were a little harder to kill. They would move around more sporadically, would deal slightly more damage, and took several hits to kill.
As the level progressed, more and more harder enemies began to pile up, but it was still relatively easy fights. Then, as we approached our comrade, he was attacked by another character in a mech suit. After a short cutscene of the main character destroying her volley of ranged attacks, a boss battle started. The fight itself felt great. What was really cool was that the cutscene from earlier gave me an idea of what to do during one of her attacks, so things just came naturally. You would have to wait for her to use her volley attack, and then yo could deal massive damage to her with the right attack combo.
After the boss had been defeated, she escaped onto a space ship, and we gave chase to her. While on the ship, more enemy types were introduced, and the game started to become a bit more difficult. Now, you had to focus on throwing weapons and one particular enemy from spawning more enemies, and you also had to deal with stronger enemies trying to kill you. The use of dashing was used a lot more to avoid dealing damage.
As you progress through the ship, little bits of story are sprinkled in. Unfortunately, I am not knowledgeable with the Zone of the Enders lore, so I was lost. There were mentions of characters and events that I can only assume veterans of the series would understand. I can see someone new to the series being very lost with the story, but at the very least, the gameplay itself was pretty straight forward and easy to pick up and play.
Moving on from a little story dialogue, we were trapped in a room on the space ship. As the character looked around, another mech user descended, and another boss fight continued. As I tried to attack the boss, all of my attacks were repelled. In order to damage the mech unit, I had to grab ahold of weapons, much like the enemies beforehand.
One really neat thing worth mentioning is how gameplay acts as a tutorial for the boss battles. The enemies prior to the bosses teach and show mechanics that are then re-used later on, so the boss battle bring together all the lessons learned from previous enemies. It is honestly a smart and intuitive way to design a boss.
As I impaled the boss to a wall, it was revealed that our character knew the mech user we had just killed. Apparently she was an AI, and the actual person our character knew had been dead for quite some time.
Moving on to the next part of the stage, there was yet another boss battle. This boss was difficult, and I could barely land any hits, and I would get hit for massive damage. It turned out that this was one of those boss fights that you were supposed to lose. After being defeated, a cutscene plays out where our character is being crushed, but then, the mech we had just impaled from the last room emerged. She ended up impaling us as well, and after a short moment of silence, the demo promptly ended.
The gameplay was pretty fun, and I could see myself playing this game for long bursts just because of the fluidity and fast pace of the combat. Flying around as a mech and being able to do a bunch of stuff at once while in the air was quite possible the most anime thing I have ever done in a video game. Also, while I do not know how the original game looked, these graphics were actually quite nice to look at, and I can image that they are a huge upgrade over the PlayStation 2 version.
While there will also be a VR version of the game, I did not play it. However, I did get the chance to observe someone else play it. While in VR, you still use a controller, but your view is from the cockpit of the mech. You can still dash, shoot, and slash as normal, but you are instead controlling the action in a first-person perspective. The other difference between the regular and VR demo version was the addition of more cutscenes. While in a cutscene, you can actually look around as the actions unfold.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS will be available for PlayStation 4 and PC with full 4K resolution support on September 4 for North America, and September 6 for Europe. Those who pre-order the game will also receive a holo game case along with their purchase.