Played it: Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner (HD Edition)
The thing I liked best about the first Zone of the Enders was the cool overworld map, representing a space colony orbiting Jupiter - from which you could descend to more specific arenas full of enemies to be confronted or avoided. The 2nd Runner opts, instead, for a linear progression of levels, some of which allow exploration, but many of which are frantic set pieces.
In every other respect, however, this is a vast improvement on the original: the gameplay requires strategy; the different weapons are all useful in their own ways; the characters are more interesting (even the slightly annoying main character of the first game reappears as a more mature ally); the settings are more varied – and so are the challenges.
In the first game I often wasn’t sure exactly why I failed or succeeded. In The 2nd Runner, it was almost always clear that I failed because I sucked at whatever I was supposed to be doing – whether that was being ganged up on by mooks, learning the rapidly changing attacks of a boss, negotiating a minefield, shooting down giant spaceships or escorting a character who makes Ashley Graham seem like Liberty Prime – and I succeeded by practicing, paying attention and experimenting with different strategies.
In summary, this was probably the most fun I had swearing at my TV so far this year.