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Classic game appreciation section: Panzer Dragoon Zwei


Fossilised dragon?


Playing it today, it's clearly aged. With the game engine stretching every polygon to breaking point to create the huge draw distances, everything looks paper-thin in the light of 2011, which is a real shame. But what does hold up is the 30fps frame-rate, meaning if you can find a screen small enough, it still moves like a dream. I wish I could say it still looks sensational on a 40in TV, but I can't. However, it is one of the few Saturn games to support Widescreen, so it at least has the correct proportions on modern TVs.


Above: Here's the incredible final boss fight. Only... it looks shocking when blown up this big. But wait!

Check out a small-windowed video and hopefully you can still appreciate the magic that's happening here:



Rotation on the background, sprites used for special effects over beautifully animated 3D models... it's a masterpiece.

 

And beauty that's more than skin deep

For a game that seems to be a rather hands-off, on-rails shooter at first, it's only your dragon's basic flight path that you don't have control over. There's loads to get involved with once you get over that fact, from the berserker attack that charges as you shoot enemies to working the 360-degree camera and using the right weapon for each situation. 

Lagi evolves, too. There's a transformation scene at the end of each level based on how many play points you accumulated (based on route taken, enemies hit etc), the new form exploding from within its old skin in front of your very eyes. Lagi truly is a mystical creature and you end up having a great respect for your steed as a living creature, rather than a mere vehicle in a videogame.


Above: The play points after a particularly impressive run on YouTube... and there goes Lagi's old skin

 

To the end

You would think that the game's relative brevity, packed though it is with standout moments, would only hold your attention for so long. But even if the alternate routes don't make you want to come back, Pandora's Box will. It's a bit like a debug menu, which unlocks at the end of the game, but it's full of so many extra features you can easily spend hours trying them all out. A screen rolling camera effect, extra scoring displays… even a sweet seven-way shot.

I may be doing a lot of devs a disservice when I say this, but the attention to detail and consideration for the player in Panzer Dragoon Zwei is head and shoulders above most games today. And yet it just sits there in its understated box, contained on a single optical disc that only plays on a console nobody owns.

It's a thing of beauty, precursor to some of this generation's best games and without question one of the best-realised game worlds and art styles ever committed to disc. And the impression it leaves on the mind is indelible.


Above: Lundi's statement at the end of the game still rings true for Saturn gamers

 

WTF?

But there's a sad end to the story. Team Andromeda, who developed Panzer Zwei, Saga and the original Panzer Dragoon were absorbed into Smilebit in 1998. Smilebit did go on to make the excellent Panzer Dragoon Orta on Xbox in 2004 (and Jet Set Radio!) but has since been moved away from such games, having been turned into Sega Sports Japan. Currently making? Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games.

*Facepalm*

28 July, 2011

Appreciation Section: Sega Rally
Officially awesome since 1995

 

 

Appreciation Section: TimeSplitters 2
So far ahead of its time

 

 

Appreciation Section: Sonic the Hedgehog
Kicking off a new regular feature on Sonic's 20th birthday

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15 comments

  • Ikki - July 1, 2014 6:41 a.m.

    Preach on, brother !
  • crumbdunky - July 30, 2011 11:03 p.m.

    Great game, for sure, and even Orta was pretty cool but as I knew you couldn't resist wailing on Lair(and I was right. you couldn't)I feel a bit let down. Sure, it was a mistake not to release Lair with both sets of controls(I actually LIKE the Sixaxis ones best myself,mind, though I can obviously see why people hated them as they're very twitchy and only someone a bit odd, like myself(and I'm not professing any skill goes into it-I'm purely a bit odd)will prefer them to "normal"pad inputs)but had Sony done that, had the game also had a mini-map or "radar" of some kind to tell you if you'd got turned around in flight combat and re-released it wth a trohy patch I fail to see it getting the bad reputation it now has. Lair isn't as good a game as this, certainly not for it's day, but it's not the disaster it's made out to be and is eminently playable for ANYONE now they patched the controls and a patch for trophies could and would allow a new appraisal of the game which was a bit unfairly tagged a fail of the Haze variety and I thin there's some good in there-some of the levels from stealth to balls out attacks are good, it looks good even today and sounds AMAZING. I guess I expected a dig,it came and seemed a bit unnecessary to me, that's all. Not putting cold water on the Panzer Dragoon parade at all-one of my fave games on Saturn and, yeah, there aren't many good dragon games and there should be-it's just that Lair was a better effort than most give crediot for and but for a couple of, admittedly big, oversights it could have been respectable at worst and others would find it, as I do, a pretty cool game. Not what was promised but, equally, not the mess it was made out to be either, not in my book.
  • philipshaw - July 29, 2011 10:47 a.m.

    Yeah this game is awesome, good to see appreciation for it
  • Rowdie - July 28, 2011 8:20 p.m.

    @cresta, oh man I got jobbed by a third party mem-cart too. I'm pretty sure I haven't bought a third party accessory since. Panzer Dragoon set the bar for rails shooters more than once. I'd also say Saga set the bar for JRPGs and it hasn't been met till this day.
  • thecresta - July 28, 2011 8:12 p.m.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JdKTnIMP5g < Better quality version of the final boss theme. Was on the verge of achieving all the extra's in Pandora's Box, then my memory cart got wiped (it was a cheap one) and I lost the lot :( Bought an official Sega cart after that, but couldn't put in the hours to get it all back. That's one of the things I miss the most in the current generation. Points and trophies are only good for showing off, the extra's you used to achieve from perfecting the game were far more rewarding. Paid-for DLC has almost completely destroyed that though...
  • Gob - July 28, 2011 5:50 p.m.

    I played the hell out of Orta, but never beat the final boss. Must correct that, seeing as how it might be my favorite game of all time.
  • thecresta - July 28, 2011 5:49 p.m.

    One of my favourite games of all time. But as that YouTube video proves, playing the game through an emulator completely ruins the amazing soundtrack!
  • DirkSteele1 - July 28, 2011 5:33 p.m.

    I own a Saturn (only recently acquired through eBay, mostly for 2D stuff) and I picked up a copy of this. Excellent game.
  • Sy87 - July 28, 2011 4:44 p.m.

    Back in the day no matter how good the games of today seem. I still have a heart for the older one from the days of saturn to playstation 1. I think it has something to do with the fact that Japanese company's made good games back than with story and art. Oh well if only a new one gets made. Why don't they they should remake lots of the old games I mean we get lots of resident evil remakes ,which I don't mind, but they are remaking Halo 1 which is not that bad but its not that old. I know there are plenty of the great past ones that will make a good following. If only, but hell yeah Panzer Dragoon series rules. Sorry, but I don't have an infinity symbol on my keyboard.
  • Pytor - July 28, 2011 3:47 p.m.

    LOVE the Panzer series all around! I feel like busting out my Saturn now and getting my dragon on. And yes, WTF!? on that final note!
  • mothbanquet - July 28, 2011 3:35 p.m.

    Saga is probably my most-played demo of all time. The entire Panzer Dragoon universe still stands out as one of the most imaginative, well thought out and downright ingtriguing worlds ever created. Everything, from the monsters, technology, right to the houses the human inhabitants lived in were so uniquely designed and really did transport you to another world entirely. Not only that but, at the heart of it all, was rock-solid gameplay and simple yet elegantly told stories that brought the whole thing to life. Cheers Justin, you've made my day with this! :)
  • GR_JustinTowell - July 28, 2011 3:34 p.m.

    @FauxFurry - Project Draco? There's nothing yet to say that it will be exactly like Panzer Dragoon. And besides, a Kinect game isn't quite what I have in my mind as the ideal next Panzer Dragoon... Still, fingers crossed it'll be awesome!
  • FauxFurry - July 28, 2011 3:31 p.m.

    Sega is adept at repackaging the same thing for new generations of gamers so why not put together a Panzer Dragoon complete collection with snazzy new graphics (and maybe the second ending for Panzer Dragoon Saga)but no other new assets whatsoever?
  • Darkhawk - July 28, 2011 3:22 p.m.

    Panzer Kinect is coming out! The Rez/Child of Eden evolution comes full circle.
  • reson8er - July 28, 2011 2:36 p.m.

    "Panzer Dragoon Zwei is better than Lair, in art style, gameplay and feel of mysticism. Fact" Couldn't have said it better myself. I still love this franchise, and still own PD, PDZ, PDS, and PDO. I wish SEGA had the ability to rekindle the majesty of the series. PDS showed that the series can most certainly be taken in directions other than "shooter". It was so distinct, very much Ico/SoTC asthetically before those games ever existed.

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