Full Review: A Dingo ate my Leo!
Say what you will about Zone of the Enders...I happen to think the game was genius. The rich storyline, the fast flying combat system, the 3D anime visuals of a different caliber, and especially the emotional sound work done all were perfect examples of why Konami's unique release should have been praised instead of shunned by the masses in favor of the Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty demo that was packaged and played by millions two years ago. In an effort to capitalize the Zone of the Enders franchise of its own excellence (and obviously to further the storyline), Konami has gone and entered a second Zone in the fray: The one, the only, Zone of the Enders 2: The 2nd Runner.
Time has come to pass since Jehuty's one encounter with Anubis -- both being an orbital frame each containing equally awesome power (what you'd call a massive robot capable of internal human control), and both destined to share a similar fate as these two titans of metal are the counterpart of its other half. BAHRAM, a domineering militaristic force, is after one goal: to destroy everything and everyone around them. Nohman, Anubis' runner (pilot), has been seeking Jehuty ever since the original runner of the machine, Leo Stenbuck, went into hiding along with the prized possession. It's been two years too long since then, but a lot happens over the wearing of an elongated duration. When regular guy Dingo Egret stumbles upon a signal of Metatron Ore -- the year 2174's main power source of machinery, he uncovers the missing Orbital Frame Jehuty whilst BAHRAM droves invade the snowy Jupiter's landscape surrounding him and his miner pals. When push comes to shove and Dingo ends up as an ex-BAHRAM soldier who has no heart or lungs and no option but to remain artificially confined within Jehuty's innards, Dingo sets out for revenge on the one man whose taken so much from him and everyone he's crushed under his thumb...Nohman!
At the time of its debut, Zone of the Enders acted far beyond the boundaries of any other mech based game. Fitted with a movie-esque storyline and a unique battle system that would flip the wig off your head it was so quick, it's a shame the game was viewed otherwise by most of its owners. Not to duplicate their attempts in creating one finely genuine release title though, Konami went ahead and improved the Zone of the Enders status it once held into something that almost anyone could pop into and enjoy within moments. You could have called Zone of the Enders as a slightly open-ended experience in some respects, as what glued the game together in many areas was its option to enter upon varied locations of your choice to come to the aid of distress signals sent from Mars' colonies that were being thrashed by small groups of enemy Orbital Frames for you to rescue them from total annihilation. Zone of the Enders 2 pretty much forgets about grading you on whether or not you preserve the future's buildings from peril, because the game instead tries something else -- it incorporates the storyline right into every possible fighting scenario it can in a linear fashion. What's even better is that no one point in the game is ever really closely related to another, since the game has you moving from one area to the next usually locked in combat. And really, many of the game's brawls are innovations preceding one another with for example Jehuty having to save buildings from being crushed by one robotic force, while removing a second, evil spider-like army out of the picture. Once that's done with, you're onto soaring through a train tunnel making sure the train carrying enemies doesn't make it through to the other end of the track before the timer runs out (and with the press of the Start button, you can open up the game's level map for always being in the know of where to head to next). The marvelous originality of these instances are ever so significant as to make the game memorable in every lasting wink as it ends up defining.
Without a handful of new goodies to please the newcomers of this sequel, well...it wouldn't be much a sequel at all. Turning up the enemy volume is where the key to Enders 2 shines strongest, proving that Jehuty can do much more than a few graceful twists and turns -- that this machine can in fact erase massive mechanical onslaughts. Comparison rates show that the original Zone of the Enders is the condescending factor of its successor, when looking upon both in-game slugfests side by side. When I say more enemies are in the second game, I don't mean just one or two. Try more like fifty as opposed to maybe ten at the most from the first. Before the AI was made up of mainly weak robots that could harm you with forceful rays or close-up jabs. You'll get that in this game too, only with more types to handle -- including ones that can seize you in a locked position for periods of a time, ones that frequently block incoming hits, and even ones that are commanded by a leader, grouping in sophisticated and devastating attack patterns until their master is wiped out. Giving Jehuty the ability to lock on to as many enemies as needs be however, it's possible to fire large rains of energy blasts all in one distant shot. Or if you're more of the close and up front type, you can step into the face of adversity and shatter enemy fleets one at a time with destructibility quick blows.
See, the Zone of the Enders series plays based on close or distant ranges. Jehuty is a giant robot. It can fly, it can beat things up, it can shoots lasers from its ass...well, maybe not that, but still. It's the whole anime package here! The difference between Jehuty being distant or near its enemies is that when you're not a heart beat away from your opponents, Jehuty is capable of entering eliminate mode with its power to fire an assortment of laser energy (big or small blasts). Approach the enemy though, and the operation works differently. Slash (using a sword, Jehuty can make quick work of any other Frame's life bar), combo (you can now enable Jehuty to knockout foes with upward or downward punches), and grab attacks (clinging to an enemy's mass, Jehuty can then proceed to swing enemies around in a circle and slam their carcass at hard surfaces such as walls or other Frames) are the main pathway to defeat's purpose here, as Jehuty can once more perform it all.
Further modifications of the sequel lie within the stream of battle. Like in the first game, Jehuty can grab onto an enemy and continue to toss them at other nuisances. To redefine this measurement, Konami has made it possible so that you can even use enemies as shields for a certain period of time. Not enough? Try on wielding or guarding with large chunks of steel pole or metal plates extracted from the environment on for size. Utilizing torn objects from certain areas will help to succeed in a win for some enemies, and in most cases it's a necessity for putting a boss character in his or her place. In the first game, implementing some of Jehuty's special functions like ravaging enemy Frames with machine gun fire or envisioning invisible enemies were integral and enjoyable segments to the storyline, yet here the wholly improved Sub-Weapon gauge is more of a rush with lots of more devices to place into tactics. ADA, Jehuty's onboard computer, will often mention the best strategy to terminating boss figures or otherwise. Such enhancements include reeling enemies towards Jehuty from a distance, readying Jehuty to pack a powerhouse of one enormous energy-efficient punch, and my favorite, instantly zapping Jehuty in front or behind enemies for swift striking blows. Of course, all Sub-Weapon drivers cannot materialize without the Sub-Weapon gauge: a blue meter that loses its potency the more Jehuty concludes the life of opponents with special functions like these, and that can only be restored by collecting Metatron Ore found in specific areas of a level or while killing off specific types of enemy. Jehuty also comes with its own life meter, that drains with every hit taken, and is revitalized in the same way the game's secondary bar is.
Purely essential to comprehending a sequel's practice, Konami's control command layout is the same as its inaugural forerunner. By those standards, you're getting a game that will be relatively easily to adapt to after spending a little bit of time in the game's optional tutorial examination. Here you can relearn everything taught within Zone 1's system, and its new features to boot. Jehuty can dash or block manipulating the R1 and R2 buttons. Combine the square button with that (the regular attack button), and you can complete dash attacks. Even pressing down on R2 for a few seconds opens up the power of a Burst Attack, otherwise known as a glowing ball of certain deathly proportions. Pressing L1 opens the list for Jehuty's Sub-Weapon commands, where you can pick from each of the garnered devices stored intact in combination with the circle button that then activates them. As Jehuty can also float around with enemies in the air, pushing the triangle button has Jehuty ascend space, where X descends, able to hover around locked on enemies in a free flowing 3D form (the triangle and X buttons can also be used in conjunction with the square button for combo attacks). Press down on L2 for a bit though, and you can unlock the lock once surrounding an enemy. Guiding Jehuty around any level comes with the left analog stick and the right one to revolve the camera/select the target. One thing about the game's targeting reticle though is that it's sometimes difficult to perceive which target you're going after -- since sometimes you want a direct enemy, and there can be so many surrounding you all at once, it'll take a while before you can actually pause the auto targeting the game's famous for, and land on that spot you want.
If beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, this eye must be aware of only the finest brand of contact lenses -- because the game is that good looking. Initially what Konami had set to achieve was a different type of architectural structure for a game that no other release had done before -- Zone of the Enders was much like watching a 3D anime masterpiece in action (a technique Xenosaga followed up in). Now, how could a game as amazing as Zone of the Enders be taken up a step into revising its already graphical pounding synergy? The answer: Zone of the Enders 2. This sequel may look almost the same as its birth giver, but it's not. Enders 2 relies on three different styles of graphical prowess now, instead of just the one. There's the 3D modeling for in-game and cinema; cel-shading for certain special effects like the burst of snow when pounding squadrons of enemies through an icy glacier, or in smoke and explosion effects; and then there's a whole other anime style -- 2D hand drawn anime itself, integrated into the game's movie sequences. Each melding from its 3D state into 2D and back works extremely well for a game set in this kind of anime exalted universe.
Examples of the game's masterful prettiness would go something like this: A 3D laser show. Seriously. Take a 3D robot model, add in tons of more enemies and 3D backgrounds like snowy mountains, factories, rocky terrain, miniature building surroundings, etc., all of which can be demolished to the way you see fit, and you pretty much have Zone of the Enders 2: The 2nd Runner. When battles occur, and they will occur often, the lighting effects are a dazzling sight for sore eyes. Shoot an enemy with a laser beam, and it'll react by motioning backwards in flight. Blow up an enemy however, and the particle effects like smoke and sparkles fade into thin air. That's another thing too, the animations of your robot and other robots each have their own soul and purpose. Mostly, watching the game in action ends up being a lot of zipping around in a fixed rotation...but it's still a spectacle to watch so much happening on screen, while considering the textures remain solidified the whole way through.
Movie making magic is only as good as its performers bring to the table. This is why the voice acting cast from Zone of the Enders 2 once more pour their emotion, their life, and give their all into the role they were fitted with. Not to disqualify regular Hollywood actors as having a wicked set of chords on them, but the cast for Zone of the Enders 2 does such a tremendous job as a bunch of some of the greatest unknowns you'll never know. Through cut scenes and in-game fights, the game portrays its cast through humanistic properties: love, power, survival, knowledge, and more. Returning to the scene to reprise their roles a second time are a few of the cast members from Zone of the Enders -- even Remy Le Boeuf as Leo Stenbuck, now a more mature version (the guy you all said sounded like a girl). So if you want Oscar worthy video game voice acting performances, Zone of the Enders 2 is definitely your bag baby!
Infusing techno beats with orchestrated rhythms is the musical touch of the second of Enders. Intensifying battle backgrounds and pitched down to a calm while exploring enemy invisible areas, the music works well to stir you in the moment of wanting to continue the storyline. It's also nice to have two ears to hear all of the incredulous clashing, bashing, and kick-assing involved in Zone of the Enders 2's audio setup. Deconstructing environments, beaming lasers at enemy masses, scraping Jehuty's metal toes along hard surfaces, dashing around in space age locales -- it all sounds superb for the various forms the game receives its audio in.
Thought this game was just for single players only? You've got another thing coming. Like in its prior release, The 2nd Runner opts for players to have a two-player matchup in the game's Versus Mode. Here you can enter into a battle royal against another player commanding any Orbital Frame you want, be it Jehuty, Anubis, whatever, as long as you've beaten the game. Completing the game also gives you extra stuff for the package too, including a mode called Extra Missions. If you felt like replaying some of the game's brawls and don't feel like replaying the game itself to travel there, then this is where you can do it as any of the four diversifying Jehuty models. Unfortunately, playing through the main game only lasts around a 7 hour time limit for the average player like the first game did...but there are a number of difficulty settings for whether you're interested in taking the short road or the long one.
Zone of the Enders 2: The 2nd Runner is no longer the game you once knew. Sure it has ties in with its previous story, and sure it plays, looks, and sounds in similar ways with its first iteration...but it's almost as if Konami put the same makeup over a completely new person. A faster, more involving gameplay system with a changed direction on its storyline fuels this futuristic anime inspired action sequel. The game does have its share of ups and downs like any old elevator would. But Konami certainly got to work with handy dandy craftsmanship, fixing and tweaking this lift's wiring so you're getting a whole other spark of pizzazz...even if the ride only lasts for only so long.