Zenonia 2: The Lost Memories Hands-On Preview

Cellphone gamers in Korea have been playing it for months, beta testers are currently putting it through its paces on iPhone, and today we finally got our chance to try Zenonia 2 at GDC. We’re impressed that Zenonia 2 manages to improve on the original in nearly every meaningful way.

As we’ve reported before, Zenonia 2 has four times the number of playable characters as the original. Four different characters, each with their own attack style and storyline, will go on separate adventures and come together at key points in the story. We took turns playing as a blonde gunslinger named Ecne who carries a shotgun on her back and fights with two pistols, and a rhino-horned martial artist named Daza who pummels anything nearby with his fists.

The game starts with the evil creature from the first game, Ladon, imprisoned and chained. He struggles to break free and once again bring chaos to the land. Meanwhile, the four main characters find themselves imprisoned in a dungeon, and though they come from very different backgrounds, they attempt to escape together. The first mission of the game involves beating up guards and finding your way out of the dungeon.

Each character has his or her own storyline, so they all start differently and connect at certain points. There will be multiple save slots, so you can start a new character at any time without losing your progress. Also, there are three difficulty modes for added replay value: Normal, Hard, and Hell. Unique items are available only on the harder difficulty modes, and since wearable items change both the look of your character and their skill in the multiplayer arena, you’ll want to go looking for them.

Besides the multiple playable characters, we noticed that the menus are specially designed for the iPhone’s touchscreen. This means you can drag and drop items or abilities from your inventory to your character’s status menu, instead of using a cumbersome D-pad left over from the cellphone version. You can also customize the game controls, dragging them anywhere you like, which will come in handy when the iPad launches and players have to keep their hands to the outside edge of a bigger screen.

We’re told that progressing in Zenonia 2 will require less grinding, as there are more story missions throughout the game. While it may take some time to wade through the massive amounts of dialogue and get right into the hacking and slashing, we know many players enjoyed the original’s plotline and they’ll also appreciate the sequel’s deep, character-driven storylines.

Finally, we had a chance to test out the game’s asynchronous PvP multiplayer. When you enter an arena in the game world, you can challenge your friends’ characters or start a random quick match. Your opponent is AI-controlled, but has the same level, abilities, and appearance of their playable character. Matches are lightning-fast, and even if you get beaten, you’ll still gain gold and XP for the fight.

Multiple characters, touchscreen menus, less grinding, and online multiplayer are all definite improvements on the original. The game even seems to move a lot smoother, and it looks beautiful, with a number of colorfully varied environments. We’ve had our turn, and you’ll have yours soon when Zenonia 2 launches within the next few months.