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Panzer Dragoon Orta (パンツァードラグーン オルタ) - Xbox (2003)

American Xbox Cover

European Xbox Cover

Japanese Xbox Cover

After the death of the Dreamcast, Sega went multi-platform and divided its efforts amongst the three remaining platforms. Most of the mainstream-targeted games went to the PlayStation 2 (Virtua Fighter 4, Shinobi), and the kids titles (Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Monkey Ball, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg) made headway on the GameCube. However, Sega seemed to be offering its more hardcore offerings (Gun Valkyrie, Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon Orta) on the Xbox, probably hoping to help establish Microsoft's console as a successor to the Dreamcast. This didn't quite work, because the system never shook off its stigma as a system for first person shooters and other Western-oriented games, and most of these games kinda flopped. It's hard to say whether Panzer Dragoon Orta would've been more successful on a different platform - like the other Sega Xbox titles, it's pretty much a niche genre, and possibly still would've been ignored. But from a technical standpoint, the visuals hugely benefited from by the superior processing ability of Microsoft's behemoth.

Even though the Panzer Dragoon games looked okay during the burgeoning days of the 32-bit era, time has not been particularly kind to them. Panzer Dragoon Orta fixed this right up with incredibly crisp, colorful graphics and a near rock-steady 60 FPS framerate. It may lack some of the fancy effects found in later Xbox games, but artistically, it's one of the most gorgeous games on the platform, and possibly the whole generation. The boss battles and enemies were fairly impressive in the previous games, but everything in Orta just blows them away.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

The first stage is a journey through a series of canyons, much like the opening levels in Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, except under the cover of night during a fierce storm. The second stage is filled with some inexplicably strange wildlife, including the boss creature, which looks like a gigantic flying manta ray with vicious flora growing on its back. One of the later stages is a trip through some kind of living computer, complete with the trippiest visuals this side of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At one point, you assault a gigantic airship, which has to be several dozen miles long, and destroy its megaweapon, a gigantic tower that indiscriminately causes destruction with a blazing laser. There's imagination bursting our of every stage, even the dark, empty wasteland levels.

But there's more to Panzer Dragoon Orta than just inspiration, as the gameplay has improved significantly. You can now speed up and slow down, a la Star Fox 64, which helps avoid certain enemies. You can also use to encircle boss creatures, similar to the battle system in Panzer Dragoon Saga - finding the best position is usually key to dodging boss attacks and hitting their weakpoints.

There are three different dragon forms that you can switch between at any time - the Base Wing, which works just like dragons in the first two games, with two speed bursts; the Heavy Wing, which has more powerful weapons but can target less enemies with the lock-on laser and can't change speed at all; and the Glide wing, which doesn't have the lock-on laser at all, but has a rapid-fire standard gun with a wide targeting range, as well as three speed bursts. You can level up each of the forms individually by collecting certain items, so you can choose your upgrades based on your playing style, although it's to your benefit to level up all three, since your life meter is extended when you level up. Each also has their own unique berserk attack - the powers of the Glide wing is the only way to regain lost life, for example.

Much like Zwei, there are multiple routes through each levels, and you can save your progress in between each stage. You're also resurrected right before boss battles if you manage to reach them, which makes the going much less tedious. Your performance will help unlock extra bonuses in the Pandora's Box menu, which includes the usual mixture of fun options and bonus material. Also included are several sub scenarios, completely new levels featuring other characters from the game, including one of the Worm Riders and one of the Empire soldiers. Better yet, the Windows version of the original Panzer Dragoon is unlockable once you beat the game. It really sets the standard for bonus content, especially since the main game, despite clocking in at TEN levels instead of the standard SIX,, is still beatable in a about two hours or so.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

The story is woven in a bit tighter, with at least a few cutscenes between each stage. The opening cinema tells the story of Orta, a young girl locked in a solitary tower. But a dragon bursts through and rescues her from her prison, only to discover that the whole of the Empire is after her. Only by teaming up with a small band of humans known as the Worm Riders can Orta unlock the full potential of her dragon and defend herself from certain death. It's a bit overdone for how thin the narrative actually is, but it's all easily skippable.

Panzer Dragoon Orta isn't only the best of the series, but it's one of the best cult classics on the Xbox and one of the last true remnants of the Old Sega before they fell to the dark side. It's immensely cheap and easily obtainable, and everyone with the system should own it.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Smilebit

Publisher:

Sega

Director:

Yukio Futatsugi

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Rail / Tunnel

Themes:

Dragons!
Mount: Other
Post-Apocalypse


Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)


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Additional Screenshots


Panzer Dragoon Mini (パンツァードラグーン Mini) - Game Gear (1996)

Japanese Game Gear Cover

The appeal of Panzer Dragoon lies in its gorgeously detailed 3D world, something which can't exactly be replicated in the 8-bit hardware of the Game Gear. But Sega tried anyway with Panzer Dragoon Mini, parts of the "Kids Gear" line-up, which is I guess a specific line-up so children could play portable versions of the same games they watched their older brother playing.

So Panzer Dragoon Mini is a lot like Space Harrier, if Space Harrier were really boring. You control one of three dragons - no riders - with a behind-the-back 3D view. You shoot down enemies, then a few more appear a couple seconds later. Repeat. There's no lock-on laser or Berserk attacks, just your regular gun. Everything is really slow, and the enemy patterns don't change much. On occasion, usually during boss battles, the camera switches to the side of the dragon, mimicking the camera rotation from the console versions. Some of the bosses do little kinda cool for the tiny system, but it's the only real positive aspect of Panzer Dragoon Mini. There are only four stages, with a password function to skip between them. The whole game is orders of magnitude shorter than the Saturn original. This is one of the rarer Game Gear titles, released late in its life, so it's a bit rare and pricey. Don't let that trick you into thinking it's worthwhile.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Sega

Publisher:

Sega

Genre:

Shoot-'em-Up: Rail / Tunnel

Themes:

Dragons!
Mount: Other
Post-Apocalypse
Sprite-Based 3D


Panzer Dragoon Mini (Game Gear)

Panzer Dragoon Mini (Game Gear)


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Additional Screenshots


Anime

Panzer Dragoon got its own anime in 1996, which was translated and brought to the States by ADV. It is, as one might expect, pretty bad. It's only a single episode OVA that clocks in at about twenty five minutes. So even if you paid $3 to rent it back in the day before Cartoon Network showed anime non-stop, then you'd probably feel ripped off.

The opening sequence is pretty much like the intro to the video game, with two friends hunting for scorpions in the desert. Except our hero Kyle (mistranslated from "Keil") has a blind girlfriend named Alita, who is apparently "in tune" with the monsters or something. Anyway, an evil black dragon flies by, kills Kyle's friend, kidnaps Alita by absorbing her into its body, and takes off. Another dragon, whose rider has been killed, takes up Kyle and chases the black dragon, to not only stop it from reaching the tower, but to save Alita.

So. On the journey, they run into some Empire ships, which the dragon destroys despite Kyle's general anti-violence stance. They land on the ground and set up camp, finding a sole survivor amongst the wreckage. Kyle tries to comfort the Empire soldier, who then ends up turning on them. After this needless interlude, Kyle and his dragon fly through a couple segments lifted practically straight from the game (from stages one and four - one of the shots is a pretty clear homage) before getting to the Tower. The dragons fight, and Kyle saves Alita. Then the spirit of the dragon speaks to Kyle and convinces him to "combine forces", which allows him to throw a super hadoken or something and save the day. Then Alita gets her sight back and everyone lives happily ever after.

It's hard to develop attachment for character in only one episode, but all Kyle seems to do is yell is his dragon for not listening and whine about saving his dear Alita. The lackluster plot isn't saved by the visuals either. A few of the segments - notably the intro and any shot with the Empire ships - are rendered with computer graphics that looks reasonably like the models used in the game cutscenes. For the time, they weren't too bad, but it greatly clashes with the hand drawn characters, so it isn't even all that visually appealing. Which is really shameful, given the richly detailed world of Panzer Dragoon, which could have been brought to life in the hands of a better animation studio. The action scenes aren't that particularly good either. Similarly, the music is lacking - the main theme seems to borrow a bit from the Saturn game, but most of the soundtrack is rather lousy.

It's only out on VHS, but it's not worth bothering with unless you're a massive Panzer Dragoon freak.

Panzer Dragoon

Panzer Dragoon



Team Andromeda was dismantled after Panzer Dragoon Saga, with its members scattered to different parts of Sega. Some were reassembled into Smilebit, another internal development team at Sega, for the production of Orta, but this was later disbanded once Sega and Sammy merged. It seems unlikely that the world will see another Panzer Dragoon, despite how loudly fans voices cry for a remake or Panzer Dragoon Saga. However, the spirit lives on in other games, such as Sega's own cult classic Rez, which utilizes nearly the same play mechanics as Panzer Dragoon.

Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn



Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Panzer Dragoon

Page 2:
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
Panzer Dragoon Saga

Page 3:
Panzer Dragoon Orta
Panzer Dragoon Mini
Anime

Back to the Index