The Let's Play Archive

Panzer Dragoon

by nine-gear crow, Blind Sally, TravelLog

Part 1: Intro & Episode 1

Let’s jump right in with the game’s intro, shall we.

The game starts off with a series of infodump title cards:

Sets the stage well enough, no? I’ll give you my brief rundown on things and then I’ll let the guys from The Will of the Ancients give you their take on what the hell is happening in this opening.

You really can’t see it because of the terrible image quality, but that right there is the Tower, a massive artificial monolith located just off the coast of the Imperial Capital in the Panzer Dragoon world, one of a vast array of towers scattered across the world. It’s a massive mysterious device of ancient origin created in the time before the world went to crap.

The Empire is trying to excavate it and other ancient artifacts to fuel its war machine and take over the world. Of course.

However, in their poking and prodding at it, they awaken something. A thundering artificial voice booms from the tower itself: “Unit 01 activated. Unit 02 activated. Commence final program sequence.” This is the voice of Sestren, the artificial intelligence that regulates the towers’ environmental control systems and threat neutralization protocols.

Sestren has awoken and deemed all humanity a threat to its continued existence and sets in motion a plan to wipe it out using one of its bio-engineered weapons: the Dark Dragon.

Meanwhile, in the desert, we meet our protagonist for the game: Kyle Fluge. Kyle is a nomadic hunter travelling with his three companions.

In the midst of their hunt, they spot an Imperial Airship searching for the Dark Dragon in order to intercept and destroy it before it reaches the Tower. Imperial technology is easily identifiable as a mix of practical steel and iron hulls attached to massive marble-like "lift engines", pieces of ancient technology that almost seem geological in origin capable of defying the laws of gravity and floating in midair.

The Empire has harnessed these engines from various ruins around the planet and built a massive and imposing air fleet with them.

This is one of the “Pure Type” monsters produced by Sestren. They respond directly to its will, as they were specifically manufactured by it. Anything that has this white enameled armour on it is a Pure Type.

We’ll be encountering Pure Types later in the game in droves. A lot of the other biological enemies we’ll be encountering are mutated descendants of the original Pure Types from the ancient age, who have degraded through centuries of unchecked breeding and are now wild and free from Sestren’s control.

This is the Dark Dragon. The central antagonist of the game. We’ll be tangling with this thing quite a bit as the game progresses.

You can see the size disparity between the Dark Dragon and Lagi as they duel.

And also the sheer power the Dark Dragon possesses.

This, meanwhile, is the Sky Rider, a drone created by Sestren to pilot Lagi. The Dark Dragon also has a drone pilot too, that’s occasionally glimpsed in-game.

You’re probably wondering why I said Sestren created Lagi. Well, it did, originally. However, the program that was responsible for engineering it rebelled against Sestren and decided it was going to help humanity survive and created the Blue Dragon, referred to as the “Heresy Dragon” to fight against Sestren and its minions like the Dark Dragon and the Pure Types. It also, supposedly, created the Sky Rider, because a dragon in this game can only operate at full efficiency if it has a rider, natural or otherwise.

However, in the Sky Rider is killed by a shot from the Dark Dragon’s drone.

And the Dark Dragon zooms off triumphantly, nothing seemingly standing in its way to the Tower now.

But then the Sky Rider dumps the game in Kyle’s lap with its last breaths.

It passes a vision on to Kyle.

And then he dies.

And Lagi is sad.

Kyle picks up the Sky Rider’s blaster and decides to be a hero.

And he leaves his friends behind, because, not only is he a silent protagonist, he’s also kind of an a-hole.

And thus begins Panzer Dragoon.

Now here’s Will of the Ancients’ take on it:

Will of the Ancients posted:

General Summary
It was roughly eighteen years after the events of Panzer Dragoon Zwei that the Sestren AI relocated the Heresy Program, the renegade entity that had been ejected from the Ancient Age data network. The Sestren AI once again responded by activating one of the world’s ancient Towers, with the intention of annihilating the Heresy Program once and for all.

This particular Tower protruded from the ocean off the coast of the Empire’s capital city, and it had recently been discovered by the Empire itself. The Tower’s guardian - known as the Dark Dragon - was also awakened, although its place of slumber was far away; the terrible creature had a long journey ahead of it.


Opening Sequence
Out in the endless wastelands of the world many humans have lived and still live as nomads, surviving by hunting the mutated monsters that roam the lands. Kyle Fluge was one such hunter, and one day while he and his companions were out riding in the desert, they were surprised to see an Imperial battleship pass over the canyon they were in.

They did not have much time to ponder why a ship would be flying alone in this area though, as they were soon attacked by a group of large, mutated sand mites called burrowers. Determined to stop the last beast from escaping, Kyle followed it all the way to the canyon’s end: where the entrance to an Ancient Age structure stood open, yawning out of the sandy rock that had consumed the ruin.

Venturing inside, Kyle found the ruins silent and inactive. He eventually stumbled across the carcass of the burrower however, as the creature had been killed by an enormous pure-type monster. This beast crushed the coolia that Kyle had been riding, and it pursued him into the ruins; unfortunately for Kyle, the monster was impervious to the relatively primitive hunter’s weapons that he was carrying. Finding himself cornered by the beast, it seemed that Kyle was finished.

To Kyle’s surprise though, he was saved at the last second when a collapse of rock from the ceiling crushed the monster to death. Looking up, Kyle saw two dragons dive through the hole blown in the ceiling; one of them was the dragon guided by the Heresy Program, and the other was the Dark Dragon, which was viciously pursuing it. The dragons’ battle soon decimated the ruin complex, and Kyle was knocked unconscious during an enormous explosion.

When Kyle awoke, he found himself on a high plateau where the wall of the ruin had been blasted away; high above the plain beyond, the dragons were duelling in the open sky.

The dragon guided by the Heresy Program had a rider at this time, an individual known as the Sky Rider, although very little has ever been revealed about this mysterious character. As with all of the riders though, he was deeply motivated to help his dragon fulfil its purpose. Taking various pieces of evidence into account, it seems almost certain that the Sky Rider was a Drone, one of the humanoid bio-engineered creatures that were created long ago in the Ancient Age.

In the heat of battle the Sky Rider was distracted for one brief moment, and because of this he received a fatal laser blast through his chest: his adventure, whatever it had truly been, came to an end. The Dark Dragon flew away, heading ever onwards towards its destination: the Tower off the Imperial coastline.

The Sky Rider’s dragon lowered itself onto the plateau before Kyle, and the wounded Sky Rider reached out his hand to the young hunter. In the same way that Lagi showed Lundi glimpses of the future at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, the Sky Rider imparted a psychic vision to Kyle, asking him to take his place, to prevent the Dark Dragon from returning to the Tower. The Sky Rider then fell to the dusty ground, lifeless; the dragon let out a piercing cry of sorrow.

Taking up the Sky Rider’s ancient weapon, Kyle knew what he must do. Climbing aboard the creature’s back, Kyle ascended into the clear sky, determined to help the dragon fulfil its mission.

The game is divided into levels pretentiously referred to as "Episodes". There's seven episodes in total numbed 1 through 6, with the final one being called "Last Episode."

Episode 1 takes place in an aquatic ruin stage. We pick up almost immediately from the opening cinematic and are flying through the sunken remains of a city that was built in the middle of a massive lake, for whatever reason.

There's not all that much to say about this stage lore-wise, so I'll just turn it over to the boys from WotA to take it from here.

Will of the Ancients posted:

Episode 1

Beyond the parched desert lands a vast body of water opened up, and Kyle and the dragon flew out over the waves. Soon they found themselves passing through a mysterious sunken city, a sprawling ruin that continued to crumble into the waves even as they watched. The place was populated by various kinds of mutated monsters, strange species that had descended from the bio-engineered creatures of the Ancient Age.

Kyle and the dragon entered the flooded halls of a great ruined building, but without warning the structure was blasted apart by the Imperial battleship that Kyle had seen flying over the desert. Presumably the Empire was searching for the dragon, eager to harness the immense power that it represented; the ship violently attacked them, but, armed with the superior combat abilities of the dragon, Kyle was able to destroy the hostile ship and escape with his life.

At the end of the stage we encounter our first boss of the game...

What is there really to say about this thing other than ? If nothing else, it proves what a force to be reckoned with Lagi and Kyle are right out of the gate. It also proves how much the Empire kind of sucks in general, a recurring theme throughout the Panzer Dragoon games.

The Imperial Airship Miserable Failure is the same battleship glimpsed in the opening cinematic. This is a standard fare Imperial battleship, and we'll be seeing them with some regularity throughout the game.

It has a few attacks. First off it has six escort craft accompanying it that try to attack you. Then it tries to attack you with its bow and stern mounted turrets. Then it launches its reserve fighters to try and take you out. And finally, it launches a trio of high-yield missiles at you to try and shoot you out of the sky. And if you manage to destroy all of those, it's completely defenceless for the rest of the fight.

...Why has ball-numbing incompetence become a staple of my LPs?

And then to end the level, we're treated to a rare story cutscene and a brief glimpse at the Imperial POV. This rather decently sized fleet is only a small chunk of the main Imperial fleet we'll eventually have to blast our way through to get to the Tower. That big blue hexagon in the middle with the six dunce caps on is apparently the Imperial flagship.

Don't worry, the Empire gets slightly better at designing flagships as they go on. Case in point, the IAS Vermana from Panzer Dragoon Orta.

Like I say in the video, because we blew up the IAS Miserable Failure, the Empire is now aware of our presence on the battlefield. And being the greedy bastards they are, they have decided they want to capture both Lagi and the Dark Dragon and co-opt them into their war machine. Kyle? Probably not so much.

Anyway, here's some pretty behind-the-scenes artwork from the first level from Lagi: The Art of Panzer Dragoon, which is hosted on a sub-section of Will of the Ancients. These two images depict sketches of some of the enemies encountered in Episode 1 and a per-production sketch of the domed palace we fly through at the end of the stage before the boss fight.

Kyle Fluge (Game protagonist. Member of the Hunters)
Sky Rider (Lagi's previous rider before Kyle)
Jean Jacque Lundi (Panzer Dragoon Zwei protagonist. Believed to be the first human to encounter the Heresy Dragon, AKA Lagi)
Lagi (Solo Wing type dragon. Second incarnation of the Heresy Dragon)

The Heresy Dragon (Protector of mankind from Sestren)
The Dark Dragon (and Rider) (Game antagonist)
Pure-Type Monsters (Bio-engineered minions of Sestren)

The Tower
Sestren (Artificial intelligence responsible for rehabilitating the devastated world. Antagonistic to human life)
"Panzerese" (The language of the Panzer Dragoon world, a combination of Japanese, Latin, Ancient Greek, and Russian phonetics created by Panzer Dragoon producer Yukio Futatsugi)

Hunters (Nomadic desert-dwellers. Kyle's people. Shunned by the Empire)
The Old Empire (Autocratic dictatorship. Attempting to conquer the known world through superior military might)
The Ancients (Extinct civilization responsible for creating Sestren, the Towers, the Dragons, and the Pure-Types, among other things)
The Technology Preservation Faction (An Ancient organization directly responsible for the creation of Sestren and the Towers)

The Lake

Alita (Panzer Dragoon OVA-exclusive character. Kyle's girlfriend. Possessed by the Dark Dragon and becomes its rider. Blame Production I.G)