Zone_of_the_enders_2nd_runner.jpgIn my need to play space games until No Man’s Sky comes out, I started the Zone of the Enders Series not so long ago. Having beaten the first, I’ve moved on to the second.

The first thing that sets the 2nd Runner apart from the first Zone of the Enders is the production value. The graphics look sharper (even though I played both on the HD remake, 2nd Runner still looks better) and the cutscenes are now anime style instead of CG, which works really well for the series and the characters. There are many parts throughout the game where anime style cut-ins appear for dialogue, and they are all animated very well, bringing each character to life.

Speaking of the characters, Dingo Egret, the main character is a much better protagonist than the young Leo Stenbuck (though Leo makes a reappearance and is far more likable this time around) of the last game. That said, each character in the 2nd Runner is great. Every character is believable and voiced (relatively) well. The story is a step up from the first Zone of the Enders, taking place 2 years after the events of the first. Nohman is at it again and it’s up to Dingo who accidentally unearths Jehuty to take down BAHRAM’s evil forces hell-bent on destroying Mars, let alone the entire Solar System. Dingo is strong willed and is a kindhearted but tough-love kind of guy who has his own personal vendetta with Nohman, as Nohman shoots and nearly kills Dingo in the beginning of the story. Dingo soon learns that dealing with Nohman is bigger than just himself, and sets out to solve the issue once and for all.

The gameplay is even faster than the first, resulting in a bit of a tough learning curve if you’re coming to the second one right from the first, like I did. And speaking of tough, some of the missions can be pretty difficult and the checkpoints are brutal. Dying near the end of a sequence (unless you’re in a boss fight) typically results in having to start the entire sequence over again, sometimes 10-20 minutes of tough gameplay. That said, the missions and enemies are far more varied than the first game, resulting in a lot more variety in battles and objectives. There are many more locations to explore as well.

Zone-of-the-Enders-HD-Collection_360-PS3_June-Screenshots_Screenshot-2.jpgJehuty is equipped with all of his moves from the first game, but they also added on a number of new subweapons, including, but not limited to the super-powerful Vector Cannon and the multi-target seeking homing missiles. Coming from the first game, I was not expecting the subweapons to be as useful as they are in this game. Subweapons can make or break you and really up the replay value and fun of combat. Destroying multiple enemies with homing missiles, or smashing one off the wall with a wave of energy is very satisfying and combat is a joy, once you get the hang of things.

Boss fights are typically pretty lengthy, which can sometimes lead to some nail-biting, intense moments. You don’t really get too many chances to land a good deal of damage on bosses all at once, so your dodging skills will be put to the test as you look for an opening for a quick hit or two in the enemy. Memorizing patterns will be key in every boss battle.

Sound effects are all very satisfying and the soundtrack is not to be dismissed either, with a couple of really great electronic tunes. Characters or Jehuty’s computer system ADA will interact with Dingo, and you can even respond with the press of a button mid combat, bringing the characters to life, and sometimes even opening up extra challenges.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • High speed satisfying combat.
  • Beautiful visuals and high quality anime cutscenes.
  • Great sounds and soundtrack.
  • Good story and likable characters.

Cons

  • Short, only around 6 hours.
  • Difficult and sometimes frustrating with unforgiving checkpoints.

Final Score: 9/10

Ultimately, you’re not going to find another game like this, especially since Konami is not-so-great a company anymore. The combat is fun, the characters are likable, the presentation is great… Honestly, what’s not to love?