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Capsule Review - Panzer Dragoon Saga

Title Panzer Dragoon Saga
Developer Sega
Year 1998
Platform Saturn
Capsule Rating
Capsule Review: Sega has no luck. As if one mostly ignored masterpiece (Phantasy Star II) wasn't enough, here's Panzer Dragoon Saga. This game had the misfortune of being released on the doomed Sega Saturn. To make matters worse, relatively few copies were pressed, and the thing is getting more and more difficult to find as time goes on. It's unfortunate - Panzer Dragoon Saga is nothing short of great. Mind you, this isn't just because of the remarkable technical achievements (look, some of these effects shouldn't have been possible on the Saturn), the good voice acting, the fine soundtrack or the strange otherworldly feel that the graphics create. First, the dragon-oriented battle system is one of the genre's finest, incorporating elements of the previous Panzer Dragoon games (which were shooters). This real-time system requires actual strategy in the form of attention paid to things like positioning, speed and efficiency. What's more, you can customize your dragon pretty much any way you want, though it may be wise to consider the drawbacks of certain customizations. It should be more than welcome to anyone sick of the overdone Final Fantasy-type battling.

But the best part of any good RPG always has to be the storyline. On one level, the storyline here is your basic story of "underdog versus Empire" - however, it's character-driven. It's the people that count, and the plot becomes more and more complicated at the end. The story goes beyond black and white, unfolding in the carefully directed FMV sequences, the characters grow more complex, and the thing comes together nigh perfectly in the end. Something that helps a great deal is the fact that the environments in this game are so very immersive - it feels like this world is real, and designed the music, towns and enemies by itself. Everything is completely appropriate, but no two areas look the same. This all-around excellent design makes for a more visceral experience, helping the player truly get into the game. And what a game it is - there probably isn't another developer that managed to cram so much into fifteen to twenty hours. Captivating in every sense of the word, and screaming to be re-released.

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