The Third Run at Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner

I mentioned in a couple of posts earlier this week that signs suggested this year’s Tokyo Game Show would be light on surprises, and that presumption sadly held up. But that’s not to say there weren’t any surprises.

For instance, it’s astounding that Konami had something to announce during the show at all, let alone during the 2017 PlayStation Press Conference in Japan. The saga of the company retreating to the shadows in terms of their overall core gaming output has been well told over the last two years, after they forced out Hideo Kojima and many developers who worked at Kojima Productions. They haven’t completely retreated from the core gaming audience since then, but they’ve noticeably and unsurprisingly reduced their output. They’re a Pro Evolution Soccer company that occasionally throws dedicated gaming systems a bone like Super Bomberman R for Switch and the upcoming Metal Gear Survive.

They announced another one of those bones at Sony’s show in the form of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner — M∀RS. While this 2003 PlayStation 2 game was previously remastered for last-gen consoles by High Voltage Software, and subsequently HexaDrive after they polished it on PS3 due to its initially unsatisfactory performance, M∀RS will be a remake of sorts. That’s “of sorts” because the cutscenes and in-game sequences will still be the same, so it’s not quite a remake as some have said (me included). But Konami and assisting developer CyGames are providing more serious visual enhancements to this version, so it will also be more than a remaster. It’s not taking advantage of the full power of the PlayStation 4 (or PC), but the result will be an interesting fusion of the two.

To elaborate: The visuals for M∀RS have been given a further overhaul, this time to benefit 4K resolutions and TVs with HDR support. Konami posted comparison images showing the enhancements they’ve made between the PS2 version, the last-gen remaster, and the newest version using pictures of Jehuty on the official website. Though all its visuals have been given enhancements, a close-up of Jehuty was chosen for the comparison because the Orbital Frame mechs are receiving most of the work. Additionally, it will run at 60fps, as shown in the debut and extended trailers.

This version will also be updated with current-generation audio design to take advantage of modern surround sound setups. Given the number of enemies that constantly assault the player in this game, this should be an aural treat.

It will also have VR support so players can see everything through Jehuty’s cockpit. It’s one reason for the new name, since the upside-down “A” resembles a “V,” which is part of the focus in the trailers. That’s clever enough that you’d think Kojima came up with it. Just try not to get motion sickness if you play with this mode, given how fast-paced the game is.

With this new version, I was hoping it would receive a new English dub too, since the original was subpar at best. Konami used to spare every expense when it came to localizing many non-Metal Gear PS2 games, outside occasional exceptions like the last two mainline Suikoden games. It’s a pity the extended trailer shows how they’re reusing the original; perhaps expecting this was too much.

The existence of this project begs the question: What’s the point of this revival anyway? Before you praise Konami too much, a company that’s drawn constant and deserved ire from former fans for over two years now, it’s possible this was CyGames’ idea. After Granblue Fantasy, and their other mobile games to a lesser extent, made a pile of money, they started investing in AAA game development. This was the purpose of their show last year, where they revealed several new AAA and mobile games, though none of the titles in the former category have a release date yet. It would be nice if they could work on further collaborations with Konami if it gets them to make more core-aimed games again, but don’t expect Konami to do this on their own.

It’s probably best that you also don’t expect this to lead to the rebooted development of the “Enders Project,” one that Konami’s Kojima Productions tried to generate interest in. They couldn’t go through with its development at the time it was teased between 2012 and 2013 due to Kojima and the staff not being able to obtain the funding from Konami. On the other hand, 2nd Runner director Shuyo Murata is still at the company, so they still have the talent to create another installment if they want to green light it.

The M∀RS version of ZoE2 will release sometime in the spring next year. At the very least, let’s hope this leads to more remasters treated with respect.

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