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May 2019

Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner - M∀RS

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Sept. 4, 2018 (US), Sept. 6, 2018 (EU)


PS4 Review - 'Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner - Mars'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 9, 2018 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

Become Jehuty in Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner - M∀RS, both fully remastered 4K and with newly created first-person VR gameplay!

Buy Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner - Mars

It might be hard to believe, but it's tough to make a good giant robot game. There are a lot of things that go into making a mechanical giant feel distinctive, especially if you're aiming for the Japanese-style robots instead of the lumbering tanks from something like Mechwarrior. As such, there are precious few robot games that are good on their own merits. That's probably why Zone of the Enders 2 stands out to this day. It's the model of what a mecha game should be, and Zone of the Enders 2: MARS is easily the best version to date.

Zone of the Enders 2 is set in the distant future. Mars has been long oppressed by the Earth government. A radical group of Martians known as BAHRAM rise up against Earth by using powerful giant robots known as Orbital Frames, but BAHRAM's soldiers are ruthless. Thrust into the middle of this war is Dingo Igret, a former BAHRAM soldier who retired to work as a miner on one of Jupiter's moons. A routine mining expedition leads him to discover Jehuty, an incredibly powerful Orbital Frame that BAHRAM and the Earth are both seeking. Forced to pilot the machine to save his own life, Dingo and Jehuty's AI (Ada) must find a way to end the war before it claims both of their lives.

The plot is a basic story, but the translation is genuinely awful. Character dialogue is frequently incoherent and fails to convey even the basics. Despite the plot being standard, it comes across as bizarre and weird because of the pieces of dialogue that fail to come together well. This is one area where MARS fails as a remaster. Zone of the Enders 2 needed a new translation and a new dub — not due to changed standards but because the original was in extremely bad shape.

Zone of the Enders 2 is held up as the pinnacle of giant robot games. Even more than the games that actually bear the name, ZotE2 is the closest that any video game has come to accurately capturing the fast-paced, frenetic anime styling of shows like "Mobile Suit Gundam." You have a free-flying mecha that can go anywhere on-screen, with the triangle and X buttons moving it up and down, respectively. You have a single attack button that is context-sensitive, and it performs melee attacks when you're within proximity, and it shoots lasers during ranged battles. Each attack can be modified by your current actions. Attack while dashing, and Jehuty will shoot homing lasers. Hold the Burst button, and Jehuty performs a powerful charge attack.

You also have a tremendously wide selection of subweapons for different combat options. Each one is distinctive , and learning how to properly use them can make certain fights much easier — or harder. For example, Geyser does little damage but holds enemies in place over a wide area, and that can be useful when defending allies. Gauntlet has a huge knock-back, which is great in enclosed areas because it smashes foes against walls. Homing Missiles are useful against fast-moving foes, while the slow Halberd can burn through enemy HP. Each subweapon draws from a shared energy bar, but as long as you're properly mixing up attacks, you'll have more than enough to use them freely.

The controls might seem odd to a modern gamer, but they're very deliberate and well-designed. Once you understand how all of the abilities flow together, it becomes ridiculously easy to tear through foes in some of the most cinematic and exciting combat on the market. Smash one enemy into a wall and grab another to use as a shield against oncoming bullets, followed by sending off a giant burst of lasers to tear apart your unlucky robot foe. It helps that the game's enemies are well-designed and enjoyable to fight, and combat soon becomes second nature.

What really helps ZotE2 shine is its variety. You're never doing the same thing for very long. You'll go from battling high-speed enemies to chasing a runaway train before you fight an enemy in pitch darkness to take down an invading fleet of carriers. You're constantly given new weapons and abilities, which make the potentially button-mashy combat feet better, and there are a few exciting boss fights. The game itself isn't too long — 6-8 hours at most — but never feels old, and there are a lot of bonus missions and hidden collectibles if you're looking for something to extend your playtime.

ZotE2's variety is also one of its bigger flaws. When the game is on, it's on, but it also has some genuinely tedious and unenjoyable segments. The most damning of these is an overly long game of "hot and cold," where you have to slowly navigate an invisible minefield guided only your co-pilot's vague instructions. Fortunately, these areas are few and far between, but they represent some of the lowest points of the game. Almost universally, they're segments where the game tries to do something besides fighting. The game is at its best when it's leaning into the fast-paced, robot-fighting action, and it's at its worst when it thinks I want to spend five minutes slowly wandering around a warehouse while trying to find the right box.

Zone of the Enders 2 was one of the better-looking PS2 games, and MARS really emphasizes this. The cel-shaded, mostly mechanical visuals have aged wonderfully, and the HD remastering helps it to pop. The game looks incredible, and for once, it isn't choking to death on all of the particle effects and lasers flying everywhere. Even to this day, it may be one of the best-looking giant robot games to date.

Zone of the Enders 2's voicework is a mixed bag. The actors do their best (more or less) with the material given, and some do good jobs. However, it's clear that a lot of actors lacked context for their lines, so some of the dialogue sounded strange. Even a great voice actor can't salvage the awkwardly translated dialogue. The result is some occasional good voice work that's drowned out by lower-quality everything else. It's a shame because the rest of the audio is incredible. The soundtrack is fantastic and helps with the pulse-pounding excitement of fast-paced robot battles.

MARS big new feature is VR support, which… to be honest, is strictly average. It's there, and it's kind of neat for a short period of time, but it doesn't add much to the game, and it clearly wasn't designed for it. Due to the rapid movement and constant spinning, the game isn't putting you in the cockpit, but you'll get a first-person view and a holographic projection of the robot. It adds a tiny bit of immersion, but that's about it, and fans will likely prefer the original third-person camera.

All in all, Zone of the Enders 2: MARS is a noteworthy port of an excellent game. It has flaws, but almost all of them are also part of the original game. There is more they could have done (including a retranslation and redub), but the visual updates and silky-smooth frame rate alone make it a far better port than the lamentable PS3 Zone of the Enders Collection. Fans of giant robots or fast-paced action should consider Zone of the Enders 2: MARS as a must-buy, and those who loved the original can consider this to be the definitive version.

Score: 8.0/10

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