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Zone of Enders: The 2nd Runner

What do you have planned for tomorrow? Are you going back to school? Dreading that horrid job you have? Sleeping in until the midmorning sun casts its golden rays into your room? We all map out our lives for not only the following day, but for weeks, months, even years in advance. Yet despite all of this planning, we still can’t predict the future. All your dreams and aspirations may never come to fruition, ditching you in the midst of an uncaring world. Thus the life of the individual is constantly changing with each new experience ever so slightly altering its ultimate end. Society as a whole is another story. Many proclaim that humanity’s future lay with the stars, with the most advanced technology breaching the inner depths of the cosmos in a search for a greater understanding of the universe. It’s not too hard imagine whole civilizations living in space colonies orbiting the planets that make up our solar system. But considering the fact that the flying car has yet to be invented, it’s a fair bet that such an existence won’t come anywhere close to our lifetimes. In the meantime, we can still dream.

If you’re into anime where giant robots bash the hell out of each other, you’ll love this.

But in the realm of the Zone of Enders: The 2nd Runner, the future is looking more like a nightmare. The planet Mars has been under siege by a military force called Bahram. Led by their zealous leader Nohman, these super-powered juggernauts have the potential to bring the entire solar system to its collective knees. Plenty of good guys have stepped up to take out the baddies, but they’ve all been wiped out by Bahram’s unparalleled strength. With Mars firmly in his grasp, Nohman set his sights on Jupiter and its moons in hopes of expanding his military empire. Caught up in the middle of it all, an ore miner named Dingo Egret is living day to day, hanging with his buddies and dealing with his crappy job situation on the moon of Callisto. But after searching the surface, he comes across something that would change his fortunes entirely. He discovers an abandoned mech named Jehuty, a deadly combat machine with enough firepower to make any evil psychopath shake in his little space boots. And before you can say plot development, the moon comes under attack, all the miners are scoured, and Dingo’s left with nothing but this robot and a burning desire for revenge.

The best special effects since Battle of the Planets.

Luckily for our hero, Jehuty packs more than enough punch to send his new enemies reeling. This state of the art war machine can glide gracefully through the thickest battles, its bright lights and shiny armor a beacon for all that is good and righteous in the video gaming world. Okay, so it’s just a big robot with a lot of weapons. A lot of really, really powerful weapons, the kind of which that make this game a pure and utter joy to play. Jehuty comes with laser beams, shields, missiles, homing bullets, and some truly awe-inspiring sword combos. As you progress through the game, you’ll obtain a considerable arsenal of deadly toys just begging to be tried out on some hapless AI. Considering how hell-bent Dingo is on dishing out some punishment, it’s little wonder how he can control his new machine so well. Luckily for you, the controls aren’t horribly complicated; the game even comes with a built in tutorial for each and every one of Jehuty’s wondrous abilities. But after battle after spectacular battle, you’ll find that Jehuty’s incredibly tight controls will become second nature.

In fact we recommend wearing sun glasses where possible.

Accordingly, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to hone your skills. Unlike many of its stale contemporaries, Zone of Enders: The 2nd Runner features some of the most intense gameplay ever seen on the PS2. The majority of your adventure will consist of you roaming into an area, wiping out any robot scum, and moving on. But in between those simple steps, you’ll have to face down dozens of enemies at once. And it’s not like these countless foes will simply wait their turn to be demolished, either. You’ll have to shoot down swarms of enemy drones sporting laser beams, take out gigantic ships with mind-boggling power, avoid tractor beams, do deadly duels with foes sporting energy swords, floating fortresses of doom, and more rival mechs than you should probably shake a stick at. All of these battles require different approaches and strategies that you’ll have to figure out as you play along. That is, if you can keep up with them. The confrontations in this game are so fast-paced that you’ll sometimes lose track of the combat at hand, watching in pure amazement as Jehuty zooms to and fro around the screen, utterly wiping out anything that moves. You can be faced with a seemingly dangerous foe, blink, and discover that your trusty robot has reduced to a heap of flaming metal. But even if the incredibly intense battles leave you in a stupor, it’s a fair bet that you’ll enjoy every second of it.

Aim… and Fire!

But that’s only half of the best aspects of this game. It’s one thing to have the most awesome video game combat system currently out. It’s a whole other thing to make the battle run so smoothly. In between all the searing laser blasts, fiery explosions and everything else going on, it has almost no slowdown whatsoever. Dingo’s entire adventure is portrayed crystal clear in all its glory, from the countless foes to the most minute details of the interactive exotic locales. You can see the light reflecting off the countless metal panels that make up most of the areas, or the bright glow of Jehuty’s sensors. You can almost feel the heat from that enemy you just demolished, or the way Callisto’s snow drifts collapse when you hit them, or the way that the sun casts a dull glow over the dusty landscape. You can see the individual lines of the hundred energy bullets you just shot off at once, or the way how Jehuty’s engines glow with fierce energy. With a pulse-pounding soundtrack, a cast of realistic and emotional characters, dramatic cutscenes, and some of the most epic boss battles ever conceived, this game makes for a nearly perfect portrayal of a hero’s struggle for revenge and redemption. It creates such a realistic atmosphere, practically drawing you into a future torn apart by bloodshed.

A left, a left, a left-right-left.

You know, most video game sequels never live up to their predecessors. It’s a sad, yet common aspect becoming increasingly prevalent. But in rare instances, the sequel will not only live up to it, it’ll beat the hell out of it, roast it on an open fire, and devour its spicy charred remains with a tossed salad on the side. Zone of Enders: The 2nd Runner is such a sequel. It’s everything that we could come to expect from a game; it has an excellent storyline, a cast of remarkable characters, intense gameplay melded with style, and a presentation so vivid and brilliantly executed that you’ll feel right at home. Yeah, the minds behind this game did something right, treating all of us to something that takes the standards of gaming and launches them skyward. What does the future hold for this series about the future? Who knows. Whatever it is, it’ll be bright.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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