Panzer Dragoon Orta
Mention the Panzer Dragoon series to fans of the Sega Saturn, and you’ll see them frothing at the mouth. The series is definitely one of the most popular games ever released by Sega – Panzer Dragoon Saga, the RPG of the series, sells on eBay for over $100 to this day. So what is the big deal and does this game live up to the expectations of an almost five year wait? The answer is yes.
The gist of the story is this: you are Orta, a ‘mysterious girl’ who is rescued by a dragon. Orta then rides the dragon and starts fighting as mankind's only hope. Using the ability of the dragon, you’ll fight through a total of ten episodes unlocking various things along the way, including the original Panzer Dragoon game from the Saturn.
When you first start up the game, you are presented a short menu of options: new game (duh), Pandora’s Box (where all the unlockable stuff is, including the original Panzer Dragoon), Tutorial and the obligatory options menu.
If you have never played PDO, let me make one thing perfectly clear, play the #@$$@#ing tutorial first. The game is difficult for newbies to control because you are fighting in a 360* environment. Enemies are coming from all over the place and they all want you dead. By using the L and R triggers, you can turn your dragon 90 degrees around at a time. You will absolutely, positively need to get used to this in order to win the game. There are three tutorials: basic, glide and form change and all are very important. Even the old Saturn players would benefit from this tutorial.
Once you get the hang of the system (it’s a little complicated to figure out at first, but easy to get used to), you can then start a new game. As mentioned before, the game is broken up into 10 different episodes (read: levels) with gigantic bosses at the end of each level. This is a rail shooter, and by that I mean the environment moves you through the game field whether you like it or not. You are limited in the scope of movement of the dragon – it is not a go anywhere you like type of game.
Thankfully the action is so fast and furious; you probably won’t even notice this. Enemies come from all over and you’ll be rotating your field of vision so often that it probably won’t matter. There are gamers out there in newsgroups and forums that deride this kind of limited environment, so I put it out there as a caveat. They are definitely missing out on some incredible gaming goodness.
Gameplay itself is pretty much destroying everything you can. To do this you have a variety of weapons. First you have the standard stock cannon, which just means you press X all day. You then have the lock-on weapon, which is used by holding down X and in effect “mouse looking” at all the bad guys until you find a weak point which will be auto selected by the game. Releasing the button then sends out a targeted weapon, certain to cause damage unless it gets shot out of the sky itself.
There are three other things you have at your disposal: first the ‘glide’ attack which is more like a “ram into the bad guy” attack. There’s also a berserk attack which is very powerful and also gives you invulnerability for a short period of time. The catch to the berserk attack is that you have to build up a meter for it by destroying enemies so the attack is limited.
Finally, you have the ability to morph into three different forms: base wing, heavy wing, or glide wing. Each one has their own characteristics. For example, the heavy wing is the most powerful, but it cannot glide. Again, I need to point out here that it is imperative you morph into the right creature at the right point of the level in order to succeed.
It will take a seasoned gamer a fair amount of time to finish the game. Many times I will say in a review, “this game is short at only 20 hours” or what not. PDO isn’t long as say Kingdom Hearts, but for a shooter, it never wears out its welcome and you have a feeling of being satisfied – not eagerly craving more because your fingers are sore from hitting the fire button too much. The gameplay time is just right for this type of game.
As far as the graphics goes, I recommend you check out the state of the art 1995 graphics from the original Panzer Dragoon and see what a difference eight years makes – it truly is amazing. (It’s also amazing that it’s been eight years since the last game – heck, Charlie from GN was like, 4 when that game came out). If you want to show off the power of the Xbox, this is THE game to get. It is truly a sight to see – even if you don’t like the genre of gaming. It is amazing how Sega managed to get so many things on screen at the same time: you, the bad guys, the movement of the mountains or environment you’re in and of course the explosions and weapons firing --- without a single discernable slowdown. The game also supports 480p (progressive scan). Did I mention how amazing this is? Okay – just checking.
Sound in this game is also very well done – there’s a Dolby Digital soundtrack and while I was unable to test 5.1 speakers for this review, I can only imagine how it sounds since you’re in a 360 degree environment with enemies coming from all around you – it must be incredible. Subtle touches in the sound such as the ‘whooshing’ of the dragons going past and of course the sounds of explosions are amazing for even built in TV subwoofers.
The instruction manual is also well worth a read – of course you should always read the manual, but in addition to the standard how-tos, there is also a history of the entire Panzer Dragoon series and well worth your time.
After you’ve finished the game, there are plenty of unlockables in the game, and what is cool about the unlockables is that you don’t have to complete each level in extra hard mode to unlock a new costume – while that is still an option (not a costume, but videos, and the original game), you will also get rewarded for playing the game – the longer you play the game, more stuff gets unlocked. This is a very cool feature and should be federal law for all other games.
Panzer Dragoon Orta is the complete package and easily one of the best Xbox games I’ve played. The only drawback to the game is the tendency to get some sort of numb thumb or controller wrist from excessive button pressing. I would avoid playing this game straight out for long periods of time or else you’ll suffer from claw hand. Unfortunately the game is so good, that you’ll probably keep saying, oh just one more game.
With excellent graphics, sound and a unique control system combined with an insane amount of unlockables and replay value, I highly recommend Panzer Dragoon Orta. Now, if only there was some sort of cooperative multiplayer…maybe next time.
Fans of the series will be in heaven with this game. Newbies looking for a rail shooter with gorgeous graphics wanting to show off their Xbox to their PS2 friends will also love it. Actually, everyone will love it.
Rating: 9 Excellent
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
I am male, married, 31 years old and love videogames ever since my parents bought me an Atari 2600 on December 24, 1979.
My resume for video gaming includes writing for PC Gamer (Contributing Editor, 2000), Operation Sports, Sharky Extreme,and the now defunct Rival Works, in addition to ghost writing for various publications. In addition from 2000 to September 2002 I was Editor In Chief for an online publication that ceased to exist because of the powers that be.
Right now I am playing Medal of Honor Spearhead, Splinter Cell, NHL2K3, Madden and NBA2K3. I love sports games and first person shooters with a pinch of strategy games.
I have two wonderful kids and live in the Northeast. I am a Patriots, Revolution and Orioles fan. View Profile