A few weeks ago I was browsing one of the local thrift shops when I cam across a treasure trove of saturn games all marked at 2 bucks a piece. Among them was the entire Panzer Dragoon series released for the Saturn. That's right, even the retardedly expensive (on ebay) Saga. Having recently finished all the games in the series, I am making a thread so you can all read and be jealous.
This is the game that started it all. I was actually really surprised by how good it looked still and how smooth the framerate was. I expected choppiness and poor gameplay, but what I was treated to was a fascinating story with incredible art direction coupled with some sweet rail shooter gameplay. You have two attacks at your disposal, lock-on and a rapid fire single shot kind of gun. You can lock on to 5 or 6 enemies at a time and that's about the extent of it.
There are 6 or so "episodes" and each one has a little preface to it. The intro and ending are full cgi and again, are surprisingly well done by today's standards. Each episode has a HUGE boss at the end of it that usually has some sort of pattern that is pretty easy to figure out.
The story is you're just some random hunter guy who then gets caught up in a struggle between good and evil (I know, right?). The story in this one is pretty barebones but it is still set against a beautiful backdrop with excellent music.
On the whole, this game is fucking difficult, but it's very much worth a playthrough, and in fact is included as a bonus on Panzer Dragoon Orta (to be discussed later).
Oh, and I'm just going to say this one once, the music in all the games is fucking incredible and does a perfect job of evoking the emotions needed for the scene.
Panzer Dragoon Zwei
The second game in the series follows in the rail shooter footsteps (wingflaps?) of its predecessor. The graphics are slightly improved and there are generally more enemies on screen. The devs added a "berserk" feature that is pretty much your typical screen clearing "bomb" attack from most shooters that you charge by shooting baddies. Also added is a points system that scores your performance as you play and the better you do as you progress through the levels your dragon will evolve into more powerful forms as you get more points. The game also introduced branching paths that are easier/more difficult based on different things.
The story takes place 1000 years before the first game. The main character is keeping his pet a secret because it's a mutant and we don't take kindly to mutants 'round these parts. His little mutant baby thing grows wings and one day he's out trying to get the little bastard to fly when this big fucking ship comes in and blows up his village just fucking cause. His mutant baby thing then decides 'oh shit I'm actually a dragon watch me shoot lasers' and now the empire is after them. I won't spoil the rest but it's actually really fleshed out as far as rail shooter stories go, and again the music creates situations that tug at the ol' heartstrings.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
This is my favorite game in the series even though it is completely different from them all. Instead of being a really sweet rail shooter, it's an RPG. It came out incredibly late in the Saturn's life, is 4 discs long, and is fully voiced. Every interaction (that I cam across at least) had full japanese voice accompanied by english subtitles. The first disc is really cutscene heavy (my playtime for the first disc was 2 hours 30 minutes because game doesn't count FMVs in time. That, and the intro is nearly 45 minutes long), but it mellows out after that.
The gameplay is actually really deep and you don't have to bother with any party bullshit. You ride a dragon. Duh. You have three action bars that fill up over time and different actions take a different amount of action bars. A lot of your magic attacks (called berserks) take two bars (and the MP of this game is BP) and regular attacks take one bar. The regular attacks you have available are a multi-enemy laser (like the lock-on of the earlier two games) and your single enemy high damage gun.
There is also a positioning system used in the game where you and your enemy jockey for a good attacking position. There are 4 positions: front, back, and to either side. Most enemies have a weak point that you can attack for large damage. Where you are in relation to your enemy is represented by a colored radar at the bottom of the screen. Green is a place you can't be attacked, black is a place where you can be attacked but only by normal things and red is where you will take heavy damage if you get caught there when the enemy attacks. The battle system is really fun and even though it used random attacks I was still enjoying fighting enemies even up to the final boss.
You can also alter your dragon's stats in the game's menu. Essentially you move a little dot around a circle graph that raises or lowers different stats based on where said dot is. I ran through the game with an attack class dragon with high defense but I had low agility and spiritual power (low spirituals means berserk attacks cost more BP)
The story takes place after the first game. It starts with you working for the empire guarding an ancient dig site when a dude named Craymen comes in and kills everyone (including you) and steals an artifact (a girl sealed in stone). When you were killed you were knocked into a giant chasm, but you actually weren't killed despite the shotgun to the face and like so many pokemans, the dragon chooses you! The story does actually get beyond its revenge story trappings, but not until midway through the third disc. Despite the sometimes seemingly shallow story, the game has a rich backstory that you get through finding ancient texts and talking to people. Learning the backstory of the world was one of the best aspects of the game, and every now and then you come across references to the earlier two games which is always fun.
It really is unfortunate this game is so rare, because I think it is one of the better RPGs I've played from a gameplay perspective, and the story is incredibly engaging, but it might not be "twisty" enough for some younger gamers raised on the stories available these days.
Panzer Dragoon Orta
The final (but hopefully not last) game in the series is Orta. Obviously the best looking because it was released on the xbox and it is the best of the shooter games.
Carrying over all the aspects of the first two games (branching paths, dragon evolution, etc.), Orta adds a quick evolution style of play. By pressing the Y button you can quickly change from Base Wing (the all around mode with moderate power, speed, and defenses), Attack Wing (super strong and super slow, no boost ability), and Agility Wing (ultra mobile, no lock-on, 3 boost meters). You can also level these forms up as you play to make them better at what they do.
This game also invented its own language for the characters to speak. It's like a mix of japanese and english but it doesn't really matter cause it's all subtitled anyway.
The story follows a girl named Orta, who for her 13 year existence has been imprisoned in a tower when one day a dragon saves her and she is then thrust on a quest to find out who she is. Oh and she will probably take down the empire (who is invariably evil) and shoot a lot of shit along the way.
Contained in the game is something called Pandora's Box. As you play the game you unlock different features of Pandora's Box and almost all of them have to do with the lore of the game world and it is all very fascinating. However, the best part of Pandora's Box is the ability to play the original Panzer Dragoon. This is the chance for the unwashed masses to experience the series' beginning.
Also, Orta is emulated flawlessly on the 360.
I hope this thread has at least interested you enough to pick up Orta for the Xbox (I got it for 7 bucks on ebay). Who knows, maybe the series will be continued someday. At least Sega isn't running this series into the ground...