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Feature: 'The History of Panzer Dragoon'

Sega's Panzer Dragoon series proved both short-lived and beloved, with developers and fans alike entranced by the series' unique, organic world view - Gamasutra presents
April 16, 2008
Sega's Panzer Dragoon series proved both short-lived and beloved, with developers and fans alike entranced by the series' unique, organic world view - Gamasutra presents a comprehensive design history of the franchise. Despite having been praised by critics for its sense of freedom, soundtrack, and rewarding difficulty, Panzer Dragoon debuted with notable flaws in its mechanics that many gamers beyond the hardcore weren't willing to overlook: "Since enemies come from all angles, being able to shoot in any direction is key to survival. However, it also contributes to one of Panzer Dragoon's biggest issues -- sometimes, there's just way too much going on at once. Short of spinning the view around rapidly, the only way to detect incoming enemies is by paying attention to the radar at the top of the screen. Before you get used to it, you'll find yourself tracking the enemies' position frantically, until you can finally target them, only to find out that they've already fired off a few shots and done some damage to your dragon. In many cases, the most efficient way to combat enemies is simply to play through the levels over and over, and memorize when and where the enemy formations pop up. It's frustrating to get the hang of at first, but the learning curve is almost a necessity, because the Saturn Panzer Dragoon games are remarkably short, and they needed some kind of staying power. There are other issues that take some adjusting -- you don't directly control your dragon, but rather, you control the targetting cursor, and the dragon just sort of follows. It's strange to feel the disconnect between the beast you're piloting, especially if you're more familiar with similar games like Nintendo's StarFox 64. It doesn't help that trying to dodge enemy attacks can be quite difficult due to both the controls and perspective -- most of the time, it's better just to try to shoot down enemy projectiles than rather dodge them, which can occasionally be a fruitless affair." Nevertheless, those who were able to forgive these imperfections had a lot to appreciate with the rail shooter's visuals and atmosphere: "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." You can now read the full feature of our look at the Panzer Dragoon series' history with an analysis of each individual entry from Panzer Dragoon's debut on the Sega Saturn to its flight on the Game Gear.

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