Konami's classic short-lived mech-based action series has already been given an HD remake so let's see how it holds up in virtual reality.
I've been a big fan of Zone of the Enders ever since it released on PlayStation 2 back in 2001. The tight yet involving controls make the mech combat just awesome. After playing through the original countless times, the sequel finally released and it managed to be even better. Admittedly, I missed the world map and more open-ended missions of the original game as the sequel opts for a much more linear approach but the action is definitely more intense, there's an actually interesting story complete with anime cutscenes, and the campaign features a lot more variety. You'll find yourself trying to stop a train, taking on massive battleships, searching for someone hidden in a storage container, navigating through a minefield, and fighting an assortment of memorable bosses including Vic Viper itself. If you know what that is then be sure to take our Konami shoot 'em ups trivia quiz because you obviously know your stuff.
With all of that out of the way, just what the heck is Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars? Back in 2012, Zone of the Enders HD Collection released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 and it was a great excuse for fans to enjoy the series again with improved graphics. This time around, the visuals are even better as everything is incredibly sharp and smooth. However, the most significant addition is VR support. That's right; you can play the entire game in virtual reality through Dingo's eyes within Jehuty's cockpit.
Although being able to experience this classic game in VR sounds exciting, I was somewhat disappointed with its implementation. For starters, only the gameplay segments are presented in virtual reality while the cutscenes and dialogue sequences remain in a distant rectangle. Why can't you look around during these scenes? That would have been fantastic!
Anyway, the gameplay while using VR is a lot more difficult so thankfully, there's a VeRy easy difficulty setting. Fighting enemies is handled exactly the same as without VR and it doesn't really feel like it adds any additional enjoyment to the combat. For example, most VR games have you tilt your head around constantly to observe your surroundings but considering you're almost always locked on to enemies in Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner, you can simply look straight ahead 100% of the time. Also, melee combat is very disorienting. The camera jumps all over the place and you end up not knowing where you're facing simply after slashing a few foes.
As a result, the VR implementation here is more of a gimmick than anything. However, this doesn't make the core game any less enjoyable. It's still an awesome experience that mech and action game fans need to play. That being said, some aspects certainly haven't aged well. For starters, the voice acting is laughably bad. It's surprising because Konami also produced the Metal Gear Solid series which has some of the best acting in gaming history. Finally, I already mentioned how I don't like the linear campaign layout but what makes it worse is that it doesn't feature much replay value. There are only a few collectibles in the form of unlockable EX Missions which can be fun to master but I wish there was much more. You can play versus mode against a friend but that definitely lacks lasting appeal. In the end, the core game is still a blast but I wish more improvements were made and more extras were added.
Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner is a classic action game that holds up beautifully. That being said, this Mars remaster certainly doesn't feel necessary, especially because we already have an HD Collection and the VR implementation is far from perfect.
- + Same great game that's full of non-stop action and variety throughout
- + Looks better than ever
- + Now has an optional VR component
- - VR mode isn't much more than a gimmick and can be very disorienting
- - The voice acting is just awful
- - Linear campaign with little replay value