Beyond the Bounds

If you’ve known me long enough, you’ll know that Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is a game that I hold in the biggest regard. It’s a game that has been a mainstay in my top five games of all time since I first played it in 2004. Its predecessor was a game I had already played beforehand and whilst I game I liked, in hindsight, can see it was essentially a elevator pitch in a sense and a foundation for a much, much better sequel. The fact it was produced by Hideo Kojima and came with the demo for MGS2 helped sales and greenlight said sequel.

The fact said sequel, again produced by Kojima, didn’t sell in the bazillions…didn’t help.

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner has seen a rerelease before in 2012 as part of a dedicated HD Collection for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, a release that was meant to test the waters for a third Enders game called ‘Enders Project’, announced in 2012 as a pre-production project that would go back to the origins of the Orbital Frames (the mechs) and the Egyptian-based lore and background to the series.

But a year after it was announced, the project was canned with sales of the HD Collection disappointing and all hands on deck at the then Konami-owned Kojima Productions for the two Metal Gear Solid 5 games.

It didn’t help that High Voltage Games, developer of the collection, essentially butchered both Enders 1 and 2 on both platforms with Konami having to bring in HexaDrive from Korea to do an update. And even then, it was just for The 2nd Runner. And it was only made available for the PlayStation 3 version. Now, to its credit, that update now only made the game a lot more playable, but in fact, made the game much better than its PS2 counterpart.

Now, approaching six years after that collection, Konami are going to dip their toes for a third time and re-release The 2nd Runner, this time for PlayStation 4 and – for the first time ever – on PC.

A demo released last week on the PS Store allowed players, old and new, to see what improvements have been made to the game, including the addition of VR (I’ll get to that below) and the addition of a pro control scheme. I’ve yet to play the demo using that scheme for full disclosure, but playing the classic control scheme, it literally felt like I was riding a bike again. I’ve not played anything in relation to Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner in at least five years, but playing it again felt like second nature. The fast-paced nature of it, the smooth and silky combat. Everything was as it was fifteen years ago on PS2 and even on PS3 with the HD Collection.

For those coming in to the universe for the first time, Enders 2 takes place two years after the events of the first game, where the group BAHRAM (the big bad) effectively destroyed a satelite colony of Jupiter to try and find Jehuty, a big mechanised robot (with, lets be honest, a massive mecha dick) known as an Orbital Frame and own the two most powerful frames, Jehuty and another named Anubis, controlled by BAHRAM’s head Nohman. Two years on, Jehuty has been unearthed on Callisto, the second biggest moon around the orbit of Jupiter, by miner Dingo Egret, and is being hunted again by BAHRAM as Nohman looks to complete his collection.

The demo starts just after the beginning events of the game as the game gets to wipe our two or three waves of BAHRAM minions before letting you loose on the first boss fight of the game, Ardjet and pilot Ken Marinaris. And if somehow the fast-paced gameplay and combat somehow didn’t get your attention at the start of the demo, it will with the first real boss fight. It is legitimately a showcase to help players for some of the game’s latter fights which will be challenging, including and especially the final fight.

CyGames’ punt at bringing it into the current-gen cycle seems to have done wonders too on a graphical level. The game has never looked so good in 4K and does the game’s cel-shaded art style justice. But the same can’t be said for VR. Sort of.

VR support will be included for the full game with full PlayStation VR and SteamVR support, allowing you to play the game from start to finish in VR with the demo also including PSVR support. But it feels like VR could be a mixed bag for the game. From a pure gameplay perspective, it is the dream VR game. It feels like you are in control of Jehuty within its cockpit and actually suits the flash from one spot to another control movement seen in most VR games.

I’m not a fan of that usually, I’m someone who wants to control the character in 360 degrees and in real time, but it makes sense for Enders with the boost button effectively doing that and doing it well (you can also control it in real time and go everywhere with it). The immersion is just top notch…within gameplay at least.

But when it breaks out to communications between Dingo and others, those scenes not only feel imposed onto a black background, but actually breaks off moving around whilst that is happening. This ruins the immersion of the VR experience and is hopefully something that can be somehow rectified by CyGames before.

The other thing on the graphical side that could be seen as a negative against it is the anime cutscenes. They’ve definitely dated a lot since 2003 and show it in 4K. But… I like that. It makes it look like its coming from the late 80s/early 90s after being aired late night on Japanese TV.

But Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS is still something I am something so, so excited for. It’s a game I wear on my heart ridiculously and something I hold in the biggest of standards. With the exception of some of the VR stuff, CyGames looks like it’ll do justice to the game. Lets just hope it actually does the business sales wise this time. Maybe then, we’ll look at a third Enders game that, whilst not under Kojima’s eye this time, can be done justice.

Say… what is Platinum Games up to besides Bayonetta 3?

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner – M∀RS launches September 6 on PlayStation 4 and PC via Steam. These impressions are based off both the EU and JP PS4 demos (because I had to listen to Ken scream ‘HAIDARA!’) with both standard gameplay from a PlayStation 4 Pro and 4K TV as well as PlayStation VR.

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