For a brief stretch in the mid-90s, when Sega was still known around the world as a console making company, Panzer Dragoon was the Sega Saturns flagship console-selling game, eclipsed only by its successor Panzer Dragoon Saga in terms of critical prestige.
Then Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 in 1996 and the Sega Saturn imploded into a gaming history footnote. Lifes a bitch and then youre suddenly making games for the guys you ran a multi-million dollar ad campaign snidely mocking.
Panzer Dragoon was released for the Sega Saturn by Sega itself in 1995 as a Saturn launch title. Its a sci-fi/fantasy rail shooter game in the vein of StarFox and Space Harrier set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland world and centered around a young desert hunter named Kyle Fluge (alternately spelled Keil), and a mysterious armoured blue dragon (named Lagi by fans after the name Lundi gives his dragon in the prequel game Panzer Dragoon Zwei).
Kyle stumbles into a battle being waged between Lagi and the evil Dark Dragon. When Lagis original rider, a mysterious being known as the Sky Rider, is killed by the Dark Dragon, Kyle takes up the Riders quest to stop the Dark Dragon from reaching a structure known as the Tower, and using its power to destroy civilization.
You still with me? Good.
Panzer Dragoon received rave reviews when it debuted in 1995, even being dubbed Electronic Gaming Monthlys Best Saturn Game of July 1995, and later netted the 140th spot in EGMs 200 Greatest Games of Their Time list. Three-and-a-half games followed in its wake: Panzer Dragoon Zwei (Saturn 1996), Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn 1998), Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox 2002), and the series spiritual successor, Crimson Dragon (Xbox One 2013), which had a lot of the original PD talent behind it.
The game was developed for the Sega Saturn by Team Andromeda, the in-house Sega production team that later became SmileBit when they made Panzer Dragoon Orta for Microsoft. Nowadays theyre known as Sega Sports R&D and are responsible for all those Mario & Sonic at the Olympics games that come out every two years. Theyre also the guys behind Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future for the Dreamcast and Xbox, respectively.
Panzer Dragoon later received a PC port by Team Andromeda and a PlayStation2 remake by Land Ho Studios, though the PS2 Panzer Dragoon was never released outside of Japan. Theres also an enhanced remake of the original Panzer Dragoon bundled with Panzer Dragoon Orta and is unlockable after you beat Orta on Normal mode or higher. Beating the remake of Panzer Dragoon in Orta allows you to transform Ortas dragon into Lagi (also known as the Solo Wing form in Saga) when replaying the game.
Other Panzer Dragoon sub-games include Panzer Dragoon Mini for the Sega Game Gear, and something called Panzer Dragoon R-Zone for something called the R-Zone. I dont have anything to say about that one. :shrug:
Also, if youre interested, the goings on in this game might make a little bit more sense after reading through Twxabfns LP of Panzer Dragon Saga. Likewise, Panzer Dragoon Orta was LPd by gravitypenguin but never archived, so youll need Archives privileges to view it. No ones attempted an LP of Panzer Dragoon Zwei yet to my knowledge, anyway.
With commentary by: nine-gear crow, Blind Sally, and TravelLog
This game has a bitchin soundtrack that I implore all of you listen to at least once because its kind of lost in the din of Blind Sally, TravelLog and myself making smartass comments about the games contextless happenings.
It was composed by Yoshitaka Azuma aka AZUMA, who set the standard of Panzer Dragoon-related IPs having amazing-sounding scores. Unfortunately, it doesnt look like he did anything else of note outside of the Panzer Dragoon series. He contributed to the score for Orta and the hillaribad Panzer Dragoon OVA, but thats about it. The rest of the series soundtrack was handled by human ear-orgasm heretofore known as Saori Kobayashi.
1. Main Theme
2. Opening Theme
3. Flight (Episode 1)
4. Sudden Change (Episode 1 & 3 boss)
5. Worms (Episode 2)
6. Confrontation (Episode 2 boss)
7. Empire (Episode 3)
8. Departed Spirit (Episode 4) LISTEN TO THIS ONE
9. Creature Revived (Episode 4 boss) LISTEN TO THIS ONE
10. Raid (Episode 5)
11. Flagship (Episode 5 boss)
12. The Imperial District Goes Up In Flames (Episode 6)
13. The Tower Activates (Episode 6 post-level cutscene)
14. Final Decision (Final Boss theme)
15. Game Over
17. Staff Roll
Panzer Dragoon owes its inspiration to two very esoteric sources. The first was Frank Herberts legendary sci-fi novel Dune. The game pulls a lot of inspiration from the setting and story arc of the novel and its sequels, as well as the 1984 film adaptation of the same name by David Lynch. The Panzer Dragoon world has so much Arrakis in it, it hurts sometimes.
The other inspiration was the artwork of the French surrealist artist Moebius (aka Jean Giraud, 1938-2012). More specifically, it drew inspiration from his graphic novel Arzach, about a silent protagonist who rides a pterodactyl around a desolate desert-like post-apocalyptic landscape. Are we seeing any connections yet? It was originally serialized in the magazine Heavy Metal and also served as the inspiration for the Taarna vignette in the animated film of the same name.
A lot of the creatures, landscapes and aircraft in Panzer Dragoon and its sequels were based off of Moebiuss artwork, and Team Andromeda even commissioned him to design the cover artwork for the Japanese version of the game, seen here:
He also did this piece for the game depicting an Imperial Fleet detachment on the move.
Urgh I guess I cant really sweep this one under the rug if Im being comprehensive, can I?
After the game became a modest hit, Production I.G, the guys behind The End of Evangelion, the various Ghost in the Shell productions, and the animated cutscenes from Xenogears, among other things well, they made this. An Anime Abandon episode waiting to happen.
Paging Bennett White
The half-hour OVA essentially takes the plot of Panzer Dragoon, for lack of a better term for it and smothers it in a generic shitty mid-90s bargain bin anime plot. This time, instead of just trying to stop the Dark Dragon from destroying the world, Kyle must also rescue his girlfriend Alita, who has become the Dark Dragons rider for reasons. And save the world from the Towers magic bullshit too.
No one liked it, neither in its time or today and it was quickly swept into the dustbin of bad ideas. Even the folks who run The Will of the Ancients, the Panzer Dragoon fansite that I'll be liberally quoting from over the course of this LP, absolutely hate it. It's apparently up on YouTube in segments, if you're curious enough to try and watch it.
I sure as hell ain't.