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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.
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.