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Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PlayStation 2) artwork

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PlayStation 2) review

"Youíve just been the man you hate most in the universe, a bastard named Nohman. Bloodís everywhere. You canít move, you canít breathe, you can barely even think, and every thought you have is devoted to wishing Nohman burns in the deepest, darkest, demon-dominated corner of Hell. Right next to where youíll soon be. "

Youíve just been the man you hate most in the universe, a bastard named Nohman. Bloodís everywhere. You canít move, you canít breathe, you can barely even think, and every thought you have is devoted to wishing Nohman burns in the deepest, darkest, demon-dominated corner of Hell. Right next to where youíll soon be.

But youíve got a guardian angel. Before you die, a subordinate of Nohman makes a pact with you: Sheíll help you, but only if you help her in return.

You agree. Fade to black.

Youíve just been saved by a woman you know next to nothing about, a beauty named Ken Marinaris. Sheís not content with just being your savior, though; she wants to be your master. By hooking your body up to a war-weapon called an Orbital Frame, she has effectively put you on a leash, one that she could turn into a noose at any time. A simple word from her and all the systems go down. You dieÖunless you cooperate.

Your name is Dingo Egret. Youíve tried to live the peaceful life, stay away from the sound and fury of the warring worlds, but itís all come back to you. Youíre a warrior, and warriors fight wars.

Your Orbital Frame is Jehuty. A sleek machine with vast potential, a humanoid weapon of mass destruction. Sought by most and feared by all, it is an unstoppable force; no army formed against it can prosper.

Your enemy is Nohman. Heís used you, played you, tricked you. Sacrificed your friends for crazed ideals. Spared you, and had the audacity, the nerve, the gall to think you would still fight for his cause.

It is time Nohman paid.

Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner isnít about lofty morals. Itís not trying to make some deep statement. There arenít any hidden meanings to find and itís not a trussed up commentary on the political situation. While most games are content to give you some wussy motivation, like longing for love or praying for peace, all the Second Runner asks you to do is tap into your most primal instinct. The story may talk about Ďthe Will of Metatroní and other standard anime-fare, but at the core itís all about one thing: Vengeance.

And what sweet revenge it is, too.

Nohman sends endless waves your way; enemies come by the hundreds, filling the sky with metal menace. Your enemy truly is legion; sometimes youíll fight them by the tens, mostly youíll fight them by the hundreds. Targeting, attacking, switching, moving, dodging, blocking, throwing, youíll take them out in hordes, explosions all around you. Jehutyís power is incredible and youíll have access to all itÖeventually.

You see, the Jehuty you start out with is the barebones version; powerful, yes, but nowhere near as powerful as it can be, as it will be. There are weapons to acquire, new abilities to use, each one giving you a new kind of edge against the enemy. Mainstays like the ever-popular laser blast, so strong and so quick and so accurate that you can almost write your name in the enemy swarm. Rapid-fire weaponry for large-scale destruction. And a beam cannon with enough power to rip apart an entire ship with a single blast.

But youíve got to fight for them. Nohmanís no idiot; the pack of mindless robots he constantly sends your way are just to soften you up. The bosses are the real challenge.

Each one forces you to think in a way you havenít thought before; use abilities you mightíve neglected. Brute strength isnít enough for them, youíve got to adapt, strategize, planÖbecause they do. Theyíll beat you back and beat you down, and if you donít take them out fast and hardÖdefeat. You wonít have an idle moment, there wonít be a second where youíre not slamming on the buttons, using every move to its fullest.

Thereís never any trouble in doing so, either; the controls are tight. Every move does what you need it to do when you need to do it. Never any delay, never any missed attacks. And that vast arsenal at your disposal? Switching from attack to attack is simple; the one and only time the game stops is when you change. Bring up the menu, pick your poison, get right back. Youíll have a solid handle on every situation, always. If you lose, itís your fault and your fault alone.

And it all looks so radiant, too; if there was ever a time the epilepsy warning was needed, this is that time. Every thing you do results in a light show, a shimmering array of flashes and flickers that fill the entire screen. Every shot you fire, every enemy that blows to piecesÖit all looks real, it all looks magnificent. Itís pleasure enough just to watch things in motion; every battle shines in a different way, and each way is brilliant.

But you must remember: You are Jehutyís second runner, the second one to push its limits. Thereís a story before your story, but you neednít think much on it; your quest is a standalone affair for the most part, and on the rare occasion that something happens that you canít understand, a clarification is quick to follow, letting you get on with the matters at hand in short order. And if youíre still left in the dark, if you still canít understand the previous runnerís story and apply it to the current, itís a small matter: The game comes with a step-by-step recap of its predecessor, making sure everyone is enlightened.

The path to Nohman is a rough one, no mistake. Each battle is fiercer than the last, more vibrant, more kinetic, more demanding on your senses. A hard road, and you're going to earn every inch of it

But itís worth it. If for nothing more than wiping that stupid smirk off Nohmanís face, itís worth it. Whether itís the storyís promise of fulfilled revenge or the gameís promise of relentless action, youíre going to be pulled, dragged from scene to scene until the final blow in the final battle. Once you start playing, you wonít want to finish. Youíll need to.

lasthero's avatar
Community review by lasthero (October 06, 2005)

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