In exciting news for Mech combat fans, Zone of the Enders 2, Hideo Kojima’s 2003 game about insurgency on a future Martian colony, is coming to the Playstation 4 and PC, with complete support for virtual reality via Playstation VR for its particularly balletic form of combat.
Sony announced the news today at their section of the Tokyo Game Show 2017. TGS, given that it occurs later in the year and focuses predominantly on the Japanese market often lacks the blockbuster announcements that are seen at Gamescom or E3, however with a stream of new, old and slightly redone trailers there is often plenty to chew on. Alongside some already announced VR games, including Monster of the Deep, Skyrim VR and the VR remake of PS2 anime shooter Gungrave was the announcement of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS (Anubis: Zone of the Enders Mars), the updated rerelease of an updated rerelease of a 2003 PS2 game.
The difference though? The entire game will be playable in VR (at least on PSVR, other systems are not confirmed as of the time of writing)
Get Yourself To Mars
The original Zone of the Enders is something of a cult hit, a game that sold pretty well despite being a fairly niche and incredibly short game. That might have been because a demo for the hotly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 2 was included on the disc, a deliberate attempt by Kojima Studios and Konami to boost sales, and one that worked perfectly.
The game itself though? It was fantastic. An incredibly fast paced action game taking place above ground using a mix of fast paced close range combat and a variety of long range weapons. It told an interesting story, albeit a short one that was filled with a lot of anime tropes (whiny child hero ends up pilot of super powered giant robot is a surprisingly common trend in anime shows), and some questionable translations.
The Trials of Dingo Egret
The sequel however improved everything. It was a significantly larger game, removed much of the melodrama of the original, improved the gameplay in pretty much every regard and even had a more interesting story, albeit one headed by the unfortunately named “Dingo Egret”. The graphics were overhauled with a nice cel-shaded style which was very much the style of the era (Cel Damage, Klonoa 2 and The Legend of Zelda The Wind Waker aped a similar style in the same time frame).
The game sold abysmally however, swamped by a number of popular releases at the time (Including the aforementioned Wind Waker) and languishing in cult obscurity. Even a HD rerelease of the two games didn’t help matters much, although it did make the game possible to play in Europe.
It is curious therefore why Konami have gone back to Zone of the Enders given the relatively low sales and the lack of involvement of series creator Hideo Kojima, who left Konami two years ago under the worst possible terms. However, using VR as a loss leader with full versions of cult games isn’t entirely a new trend.
The VR Second Life For the Second Runner
This is far from the first time that companies have rereleased games that were either unsuccessful or cult hits using VR as a selling point. The critically acclaimed Rez Infinite came from the same thinking: a cult hit of a game that deservedly received critical acclaim once technology (and the gaming world at large) had come around and caught up to the vision.
Rockstar are taking a similar gamble with VR. Rather than porting their latest game, the highly successful and venerated GTA V, Rockstar have opted to port LA Noire, Team Bondi’s excellent, unique 40’s detective game to HTC Vive in a stripped down form with 7 of the game’s 25 cases re-designed for VR. Given the game’s pioneering work in facial capture and animation this is a perfect fit, and hunting for tells and giveaways in a shifty suspect will be all the more satisfying when you look directly through Detective Cole Phelps’ eyes. The game was very good, and sales were strong, although given Rockstar is known for gigantic hits, it’s still considered more of a cult hit.
Zone of the Enders The 2nd Runner would fit right in here, and given the nature of the story (the player’s character is kept alive by being in his giant robot and can’t leave or he dies), you could feasibly have the whole game take place in VR in the cockpit of Jehuty, although given the sheer wildness of combat in both ZoE games, it will be interesting to see what the game does to avoid the crazy spinning that causes cybersickness.
Will it revive the fortunes of the Zone of the Enders series or Konami itself? It’s far too early to tell, but Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner Mars will be released in 2018 for PS4 (With PSVR Support) and PC.