Review by FRIEDSTRUCK
"A Timeless and Epic Masterpiece. Yes, These Big Words are Accurate!"
Yes very few can justify the purchase of a $200.00 video game, especially one that is not a limited edition (though this had a limited print run in the West), and one that usually goes for this high on ebay, and is constantly resold for a higher price (hey, that's capitalism for ya!), however Panzer Dragoon Saga is one game, that would justify a $1000.00 price tag. Team Andromeda, the creators behind the Panzer Dragoon series, decided on a different route for the series, and that route was to make the third game a role playing game. Now, how many game series have gone from rail shooters, to RPGs? Very few if any, however Panzer Dragoon Saga is living proof that it can be done, and it can be done fantastically. Personally, I detest RPGs, they are my least favourite genre, and I cannot stand any of them. Only three RPGs have interested me in my life; the Pokémon series on Game Boy (until Silver/Gold), Baldur's Gate, and now, Panzer Dragoon Saga. You might be asking, how can someone who absolutely hates RPGs, like this specific game? Read on, as game play will begin to tell you why.
Game play: 10/10
Perfection. Never have I had such an easy time learning a complex game system. Saga is split into two main areas; combat, and free exploring (just like the many different RPGs out there). The free exploring is done either on foot as Edge (the main character), or as the dragon, and for a brief period, the Glider, whereas combat takes place only while atop your dragon. The combat system is a mix of the shooting part of the two previous Panzer Dragoon games, and... hell, let's just throw in Pokémon for the other part; semi turn-based combat. I say semi because while it is basically turn based, back and forth style combat, depending on where you position your dragon (yes, plane changing returns), and depending on how much, "spirit" you have (measured by bars), you can go through an entire battle without being hit. In terms of positioning, some enemies have danger zones (where they can cause a whole lot of damage to you), neutral zones (where only minor damage is dealt), or safe zones (where they cannot attack you no matter what); couple this with the fact that some enemies can reposition themselves, every battle has endless possibilities, where anything goes. The exploration with the dragon is a lot of fun, and does not really detract from the pace of the game, especially since there are items to, "break," and incentives in terms of how much you explore, and see. The exploration parts on foot are also not a nuisance in the slightest (save for one point in the game), and the majority are actually quite fun. Depending on the amount of items you collect, and how you treat your dragon (yes, there is even a minimal amount of virtual pet taking-care-of in Saga!), your dragon will change its form, and even give you items, which can greatly affect your playing experience (the final form your dragon goes through is a great surprise!). The game also pays great homage to the past games, and it really makes you appreciate the little things that Team Andromeda put in the game. Form perfect game play, to a perfect story.
Edge is a young Hunter, hired by the empire to look after the crew of an excavation site (he is there along with his captain, and few other fellow hunters). One day, a large, dangerous creature turns up in one of the excavation sites, and Edge is dispatched, along with two others, to get rid of it. When they reach the creature though, they realise that any attempt to rid it would prove fatal. While they are down in the site, Edge discovers a girl, around his age, stuck inside a wall. As Edge leaves the site, an evil man by the name of Craymen, his fleet of rebels, and his right hand man, Zastava, kills off all of the workers, as well as the hunters. When Edge protests, they just ignore him, and enter the site. Edge tries to revive anyone that he can, however everyone is dead or, near death. As the evil men emerge from the site, Edge sees that they went in to collect the girl. Edge wonders what is so special about her, and as the men leave, Zastava shoots Edge, wounding him fatally; he falls to the bottom of a valley, and lands face first in a pond, dead. Suddenly, a spirit hovers around Edge, and brings him back to life. Edge is stunned, knowing that he was, a few seconds prior, face down and dead. He gets onto a small platform, and discovers a gun hidden away, behind a light. He also notices a very large dragon crest above an elevator. Edge steps onto the elevator, and rides it up, still looking at the dragon crest. When it arrives at the top, a similar creature to the one Edge was sent to dispatch, corners him as Edge shoots away with the gun he just found. When the creature is about to impale Edge, suddenly, a dragon emerges, and saves him from death. Edge climbs aboard this creature, who he seems to have an instant rapport with, and takes off to the skies, to begin his adventure. While it has many recurring elements that are seen in other video game stories, Panzer Dragoon Saga's world and events take the story to a whole new level, it is truly an epic, timeless story. Graphics will be up next.
Of the few games that truly show the power of the Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga by far shows it the most. To start, the FMV cut scenes are far and away the best seen on the console; they are incredibly smooth, incredibly colorful, and so detailed, each scene is a work of art. Next, there are the characters and creatures that you will encounter. Each character and creature, no matter how insignificant, has their own unique look, and scheme to them, even if they appear for one battle, or in one location at one point in the game. The hunters are joined by another group of people, the seekers. Every hunter and every seeker has the same colors on their clothing, however each one has a different design, or different pattern to them; they are incredibly distinct. The enemies are another thing of beauty, each group being distinct, and different than the other. Your dragon is another entity is that is so incredibly detailed, it looks awesome, and if you tweak your dragon's statistics to certain areas, it takes on a different look. Finally, we have the locations. Never (aside from the almighty Shenmue and its sequel) have I seen such depth, detail, and substance put into a world, it is as if Panzer Dragoon Saga's world is alive and communicating with you. If you are a Panzer Dragoon veteran, you will recognize nearly all of the locations, and enemies; they all have the same general look as they did in previous games, however they have been revamped for Saga. Graphics are perfection, how about the sound?
More perfection, starting with the music. Saga went back to Panzer Dragoon's style of upbeat, up-tempo music, mixed in with a bit of ambient music as well. Every song flows perfectly with the level/situation, and every, no, not song, piece of music is just masterfully composed, and it reeks of upper echelon production. When you are in a battle, the tribal drums really get you into the spirit, even if the battle only lasts for twenty seconds or so. When walking through Zoah, the lovely little piece fits right in with the happy-go-lucky members of the town. On to the sound effects themselves, they are nothing short of brilliant. Every character, NPC or not, has their own unique voice, and tendencies (when you meet Zastava, you will know what I mean, big time). Though everything during game play is spoken in Japanese, Panzerese is used for the very first cut scene, and the very last cut scene. It is fantastic how this is done, and really makes for an interesting time during cut scenes and the like. Is Saga replay-able enough to remain perfect?
Replay ability: 9/10
I feel, that there was about 5 more hours or so of game play, Panzer Dragoon Saga would have been perfect replay-wise, as the amount of things you can do once you beat the game, surpasses the other two Panzer Dragoon games, ten fold. Otherwise, this game is replay perfect, with many qualities that will make you come back for more. Plus would you not like to just fly around, listen to the amazing music, and maybe engage in a few random battles? Nothing wrong with that!
Buy or rent?
I doubt you will find this game for rent, so buying is your only way of getting it. Even if you could do, you absolutely buy this game; you're a fool if you do otherwise...
Worth the $205.00 I paid? Absolutely, one of the best larger purchases I have ever made, and I will never regret it. Panzer Dragoon has just this magical quality to it, just this, "thing," that every special Sega game has. I call it the Sega charm, and again, every special Sega game has it, from Shenmue, to Burning Rangers, to Sonic, I cannot put my finger on it, but its just something special that these games have. Panzer Dragoon Saga just has it more than others, and I guess that is what turned me on to this game, even though it is an RPG. If you are a hardcore gamer, you owe it to yourself to play this game before you leave this Earth, you are missing out on one of the best... "So, you were guiding me... Then you must be the Divine... "
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/20/09
Game Release: Panzer Dragoon Saga (US, 04/30/98)
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