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The History of Panzer Dragoon

April 16, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next

Panzer Dragoon

The opening cinema of Panzer Dragoon -- rendered on the Saturn in a small window with blocky FMV -- relates the story of two young men hunting in the desert, one of whom is the hero, Keil. They look up, and find two dragon riders dueling in the skies. Keil's friend is accidentally killed, leaving our hero stranded in a cave, about to be eaten by some of the world's nastiest monsters. Before his death, one of the dragons flies by and carries him to safety. The rider is dying, but in his last words, he begs Keil to take his beast and follow his opponent, the evil black dragon, before he reaches the Tower and causes mayhem.

Compared to the later entries in the series, the original Panzer Dragoon is a bit cut and dried -- the only weapons are your standard gun and homing laser, there aren't any options to speed up or slow down, and there are only six completely linear levels. Additionally, from a 2008 perspective, it takes awhile to get used to the choppy framerate, and the lack of analog control is annoying.

Despite feeling barebones, it's still a remarkably fun game. The Easy Mode only lets you play to the end of level four -- Normal Mode and beyond lets you plat the full game, but it's pretty difficult. Although the levels are only about five minutes long each, it's a pain to get to the boss, die, and have to start all over, especially since there are no life power-ups. You get a limited number of credits, although you gain more at the end of each level based on how many enemies you've killed. Strangely, there are some minor differences in the difficulty levels between the Japanese and Western releases, with the Western version generally being more difficult.

Panzer Dragoon For awhile, Sega was actively porting many of its console and arcade games to the PC, with varying degrees of success. The Windows port of Panzer Dragoon has a bad reputation, but it's basically the exact same game -- choppy framerate included -- running at a higher resolution, so it looks crisper. It's a nice, dirt cheap alternative to the other versions.

This version was included as an unlockable in Panzer Dragoon Orta for the Xbox, which also runs at a higher resolution than the Saturn version, so it looks a bit better. The ability to use the analog stick is nice (the Saturn one only supported the system's digital pad) even though it's not technically true analog control.

Panzer Dragoon
also was treated to a rerelease in 2006 for the Japanese PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Ages 2500 budget line-up. It includes a "Saturn Mode" with graphics similar to the original game, and an "Arrange Mode" which features anti-aliased graphics, better texturing and some improved polygon models, mostly notably the dragon. Both versions now feature control with the analog stick, although again, it's not true analog.

Unfortunately, despite the opportunity to fix some issues, the draw distance is still fairly short, and the frame rate hasn't improved at all. Some of the minor effects, like the rolling ocean waves in the first stage, don't look quite right either. It's a nice package overall, and probably the best looking of all of the versions, but it's not substantially better than any of the other versions. The major bonus is the addition of the Pandora's Box bonus menu, which features a bunch of artwork, as well as a full replay of the entire game by an expert.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 8 Next

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John Adams
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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
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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
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This article is bafflingly backward!

Brian R
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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.