Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
The History of Panzer Dragoon
View All     RSS
October 24, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 24, 2014
PR Newswire
View All

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

The History of Panzer Dragoon

April 16, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 8 Next

Despite these quirks, Panzer Dragoon is still remarkably fun to play, and most of this lies within its gorgeous visuals. The Saturn wasn't exactly a 3D powerhouse, and the installments for that system look a bit aged, but the actual artwork is spectacular. Drawing inspiration from the works of French artist Moebius (who provided some illustrations for the original game), Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, and David Lynch's Dune movie (complete with sandworms), the world of Panzer Dragoon consists of expansive, barren landscapes filled with strange beasts and other monstrosities out to destroy the remnants of humanity.

It's a masterful blend of fantasy and science fiction that's rarely pulled off in any medium. The levels stretch from expansive oceans to barren deserts to the winding tunnels of lost ruins. It takes a lot of effort on the graphic designers part to take such dark and dismal landscapes and turn them into something of beauty. Also, the enemies in Panzer Dragoon don't just explode when they die -- they literally fall apart at the seams. There's rarely a thing more satisfying than targetting a whole school of flying fish-things, hearing the beautiful chirp of the lock-on cursor, unleashing a hellstorm of lasers, and watching the dismembered chunks of your former foes fall helplessly to the ground.

Panzer Dragoon takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the land is barren, save for expansive, empty oceans. It seems that humanity brought about its near-demise through some nasty genetic tinkering, resulting in strange monsters that overrun the planet. Most of the game's plot revolves around the relics and ruins left behind from humanity's prior age, especially huge structures called Towers, which control great portions of the land.

Panzer Dragoon Nearly all of the game's dialogue is spoken in what has been dubbed "Panzerese", a made-up language which is apparently a combination of Ancient Greek, Latin and Russian, which lends to the series' atmosphere.

The music is the first game has some stirring orchestral pieces, but the rest of the music primarily consists of synthetic beats reminiscent of Vangelis' Blade Runner score or Toto's work on the Dune movie. Although much of the music is subdued, especially in the later games, the atmosphere is carried by tribal drum beats and electronic versions of other wind instruments, which further enhances the exotic world of Panzer Dragoon.

In video game music circles, the soundtracks and their composers -- primarily Saori Kobayashi, who is responsible for most of Panzer Dragoon Saga and Orta -- are often held in as high regard as the games themselves. The game's sound effects also deserve special note, especially the unique painful screech when your dragon takes damage. Whenever you're hit, the dragon flails wildly and whelps in horror before reorienting itself -- you can really feel the impact of every mistake you make.

There are three primary games in the Panzer Dragoon series -- the original, Zwei, and Orta. Panzer Dragoon Saga, also known as Panzer Dragoon RPG: Azel in Japan, is a unique role-playing game that takes the shooter mechanics of the other installments and brilliany weaves them into a deeply strategic battle system. All of these were released on the Saturn, except for Orta, which was released on the Xbox. There is also a throwaway Game Gear spinoff, and a really, really bad anime.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 8 Next

Related Jobs

Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States

Tools Programmer-Central Team
Crystal Dynamics
Crystal Dynamics — Redwood City, California, United States

Senior/Lead VFX Artist
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand

Level Designer
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand

Lead Game Designer


John Adams
profile image
While I felt the cliques of panzer dragoon one was justified in some respects somehow I feel you’re far too connected to the workings of today’s gaming world, where sugar filled cut scenes and artificial length is added to games and some other points you have made do not seem to make sense in context making me question have you done your research wrong or did you even experience these games at the time?

The frantic difficulty of the game?

The patterns of the enemies throughout the on-rails games has always been some of the very best examples of video-gaming flow, enemies coming in waves that were created for single strokes of the directional pad and placements which lead from one to another without pushing the player as they’ve come to expect such movements, complaints about lack of analogue support not withstanding, forgetting that the analogue pad wasn’t created yet…

The minor? Improvement in graphics of Panzer Dragoon Zwei?

Even today when I’ve showed this game to people they’ve been stunned, at the scale, design and beauty of enemies and areas you encounter throughout this game, everything from the guardian dragon to the animated transparent textures used throughout level 4 and at points with water/clouds… kept at a smooth and constant frame rate…

While these minor niggles only made me put my back up, more importantly I feel you don’t understand the gaming arena of the mid 90s, we had just come out of the 16 bit era, the arcades were still leading the way in game development, games were made to be arcade experiences, a rush, a ride something that leaves an impression, complaints about the length of the games I feel are totally unjustified, so many games of that era were both shorter and lacked any replay value, being spewed from the arcade generation, along with being born from the arcade orientated 1990s SEGA surely the longevity of the game cannot come into question, games like this, Nights and even Orta are score attack games at heart, the shmup and arcade strive for perfection, the mission to get 100% accuracy winged death rank… The slow unlocking of the contents of Pandra’s Box merely to give the player an area to “play” within, these weren’t standard practices at the time…

No game is perfect and they all do have their flaws, but I feel you may be being needlessly critical on the side of bias e.g saying the FMV in panzer dragoon saga could not compare to the work of square, at this time the only recent FMV square had done was in FFVII which if memory serves couldn’t even match panzer dragoon 1’s FMV in quality…

This article could be your feeling, however more likely I feel its probably an attempt to get a reaction, to put ones-self at a height of editorial elitism to be able (in an uninformed way) criticise such a guarded game series…

John Adams
profile image
While I felt the critiques* of panzer dragoon

Very sorry at 1am i am running on reserve power, there are surely many a typo but now i don't care...

Brandon Sheffield
profile image
This article is bafflingly backward!

Brian R
profile image
I definitely agree with John Adams. This feature article was written too subjectively, and biased towards the author's personal and well unsophisticated tastes. To say that the saturn wasn't mad to be a 3d powerhouse and was unable to display tasteful graphics is just like saying that "NES wasn't good at displaying 2D graphics like the nintendo DS is so it shouldn't have even tried."

The Saturn was a console of its time, the playstation was designed for 3D graphics, but even it's games can be viewed as ugly/pixelated as any saturn game. Even playing the original Metal Gear Solid gets distracting if you focus on all the clipping problems and jagglies.

The game designers used the technology of the period and tried to do as much as they could with it. Nights (for example) is horrendously pixelated and has the vantage point of about 5 feet. Though if you pay attention to the colors its aesthetic is impressionistic, vibrant moving pointalism. Gameplay and music are perfect, though not only very innovative for the time, complimenting aspects to a extremely engaging videogame as a whole.

Though the author does mention the games' commendable art direction, he fails to see that technological limitations are not bad graphics, just graphics of the time and aesthetic strength should overcome the attention given to technical limitations.

To add, I thought panzer dragoon zwei was phenomenal. The first time i played it was when i was 15. After finally completing the game, the ending song played and credits rolled it was my first real conscious experience that i had just took part in something so well conceived, executed and (above all) artful. The music, the landscapes, the flight, and epic immensely affecting. Games don't really achieve that as flawless and masterfully. And maybe the game was short because they cut out all the fat, and all the imperfections.

I'm not gonna even get into Saga, and to say the "problems" or imperfections the author sees in the game as 'nit picky' would be a severe understatement.

Its like saying bread is crappy cause it has crust on the sides and all bread should be crustless everywhere.

pff...just kill this waste of a good subject "article"/overlong ignorant blurb.