Panzer Dragoon Saga
Earlier installments:
· Panzer Dragoon Saga
Last seen in: 1998
Publisher: Sega

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Panzer Dragoon Saga

Panzer Dragoon Saga is known by most of the people who visit RPGamer, but a physical copy has been seen by but a small percentage of those people, let alone actually played. It would have been bad enough for the game to simply be released on the Saturn, but the production of English-language copies was in keeping with the rest of the games released outside Japan late in the system's lifespan: abysmal. Paying less than $100 for a copy of this game today is staggeringly unlikely, but there are plenty of incredibly rare games that aren't worth the eBay prices they command (Custer's Revenge and Bubble Bath Babes come to mind), except to collectors who regard them as investments. Panzer Dragoon Saga comes close to justifying the incredibly high price that must be paid to procure it.

It's telling that, even twelve years after its release, Panzer Dragoon Saga remains unique among RPGs. The combat system shares aspects with other games, most notably a gauge that constantly charges during combat, determing what actions can be taken at any point during a fight. The game unmistakably feels like the other Panzer Dragoon games in its juxtaposition of the differing attacks the dragon and its rider can perform, however, along with the emphasis on maneuvering to avoid boss attacks rather than take them head-on. The dragon's attributes can be tinkered with at any time outside of battle to shift its strengths and weaknesses, enabling players to shift combat strategy constantly.

The world of the game is a fascinating concoction, one that will only be familiar to veterans of other Panzer Dragoon titles. Bizarre enemies and unusual landscapes abound, and while the Saturn isn't quite up to the task of making the on-foot segments completely effective on a technical level, they do the job. The story is a fascinating one, not startlingly original in the scheme of great plots, but nevertheless well-told, and it treads ground not usually seen in video game RPGs. Like so much else about the game, its music also feels otherworldly, with compositions that use instrumentation not often heard.

The odds against an RPG sequel to the game have dimmed a little with the announcement of Project Draco;, which appears to show Sega willing to give the series another shot after Panzer Dragoon Orta's sales disappointment. Yukio Futatsugi, leader of the Team Andromeda that created the game, joked about what he would like to do with the series before finishing: "I'm saying this now, but if the opportunity came I'd be more serious about it. But if my wish were to come true, I would be allowed to create a sequel to Panzer Dragoon before I die."source. One thing he did not mention is the possibility of that sequel being an RPG, however. Getting Sega to budget a new shooter is more than anyone expected for years, and an RPG is only likely to happen if Project Draco sells well, not exactly a good bet to make. It's truly a shame, as Panzer Dragoon Saga II on a console with the power to fully realize its otherwordly feel would be unforgettable. Thus spake Mike Moehnke

Panzer Dragoon Saga holds a really special place for me, as that one game I could just never get, but finally did recently. I suppose it's best to start from the begining though. The Panzer Dragoon series started off with two very good on-rails shooters, set in a unique post-apocalyptic world with some elements of fantasy thrown in. It was a strange setting, with a fake language in cut-scenes and great music to give the setting a real strange (in a good way) feel to it. You wanted to know more about this world as you flew along, and being short games because of their action genre, you wanted more of them. Panzer Dragoon 2 was somewhat revolutionary in a lot of ways, letting you unlock all sorts of options to mess around with the game world, and had a few branching paths to make sure replaying the game wasn't a bore. I don't think I originally had much interest in the games, but my parents got them for me, and boy am I glad they did. These games are special, one of those rare instances where a game or game series just blow you away in every way possible. What kid wouldn't want a game that lets you fly around  a dragon blasting away at monsters and air ships and the like? The choice to do it in a sci-fi setting is what makes it really special though. So what could Sega do to top this?

I think I first heard about Panzer Dragoon Saga in a game magazine, perhaps Game Informer? These were the early days of the internet, when many people were still using AOL, and magazines were still the best place to get info about new games (56k and quality images don't go together!). I can't remember whether I was excited for the idea of turning this great on-rails shooting series into an RPG, or very apprehensive about it. Regardless, I would have to say the idea of an RPG based on the series was at the very least interesting.

    What we ended up getting was one of the most amazing and finely crafted games of all time. I don't know what black magic Team Andromeda used, but somehow they were able to capture the essence of epic aerial battles from the previous games, and managed to capture the same feel in turn based random encounters. This is all wrapped up in a fantastic story, beautiful full motion video, and exploration of finely crafted 3D dungeons. The closest thing I can compare it to is how the Paper Mario games expertly place the essence of Mario into an RPG. Only during brief excursions into towns do you leave the Dragon, which never last too long, and provide a nice break from the more adventurous sections. Though I will admit the graphics haven't aged as well as other games from that era, I think it is still the best looking Saturn game, and pushed the machine to incredible levels. 

    The game also has a fantastic sense of pace, you never feel like there's too much battling, exploring a town, or cinemas, and it keeps you interested from start to finish. Though the game is mostly linear, and what some would call short (around 21 hours or so), the length is right for the game. Many RPGs these days, and even from back in the late 90's, are far too long, and Panzer Dragoon Saga knew how to tell its story at the perfect length. Panzer Dragoon Saga was the "Final Fantasy VII" of the Saturn, the difference, sadly, being that no one played it. These words are spoken by Mike Apps

Can a new game happen?

Series Highlights

Extremely unlikely

The Original (and only)

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