Why Zone of the Enders Is Best Experienced in VR
Giant mecha are sadly under-represented in VR, Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner - Mars fills a specific niche.
Zone of the Enders is a cult classic that was first released on the PlayStation 2, and though its sales were firmly in the ‘average’ zone, it became much beloved by fans. Many considered it a strange choice, for both remastering and for virtual reality (VR) as the title was not hugely well-known and was in third-person. However, as I will argue, it actually all makes perfect sense.
When modern virtual reality first came onto the scene with the likes of the Oculus Rift and the Samsung Gear VR it quickly became apparent that to escape the eternal bugbear of simulation sickness, the best approach was to have something that was mostly stationary close to the player, like a dashboard or cockpit in order to keep the symptoms at bay.
Some developers chose to tackle this by keeping the player still bringing the action to them, resulting the endless wave shooters we all know so well. Another development was a rise in titles where the player controlled a vehicle – a car, a tank, a spaceship etc. This provided the stationary object needed, while also providing movement and dynamism.
You would expect at that point that giant mech titles would have swiftly followed. Lets face it, giant mecha are really cool. Particularly for those of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s and remember the great cartoons and Anime that featured them prominently – Neon Genesis Evangelion, Gundam, Macross, Voltron and sure, Power Rangers, why not.
However, that doesn’t seem to have happened. Quality titles featuring giant mecha are fewand far between. Zone of the Enders fills that niche rather nicely. In addition, coming from the era that it does, it embraces its 90s Anime heritage, complete with slightly dubious lip-sync and overwrought performances. And it is glorious.
As I mentioned in my review, there is a great deal of satisfaction which can be found in getting toe-to-toe with enemy mecha and busting their chops with your giant metal fists or your sword. For cutting down enemies with the Burst attack works excellently, but nothing quite feels as visceral or as powerful of driving your JEHUTY warframe towards the enemy and cutting them down to size.
Some have complained about the switch to first-person for the VR mode, and while it does somewhat restrict the view of the rather lovely landscapes, it also feels authentic, you can really imagine you are inside this powerful war machine, which is the entire point of the immersion, and give you what feels like a real stake in proceedings.