Review by IcePak

"Team Andromeda's last masterpiece promises to wrap up the events of the first two games in one massive adventure, but does it deliver the goods?"

Every once in a while comes a game so special that awes the gaming public worldwide.
Rare and few are these games, but when we get them they are treasured and they
tend to become the cause of many sleepless nights. Because of the Saturn's lack
of success everywhere in the world, except Japan that is, the majority of the
gaming population never even heard of Panzer Dragoon Saga, let alone played
it. But those of you who stuck with Sega's machine to end, are in for one of
the nicest treats the gaming world has offered up in a long time.

Five minutes into the first FMV sequence of Panzer Dragoon Saga and you will
agree that this is one of those special games. This is first and fore-mostly
because of the excellent quality and presentation, despite not being full screen,
of the FMV. Team Andromeda have always been light years ahead of other game
developers in terms of the quality of their FMV in games, and once again they
have surpassed themselves.

Once you get into the interactive part of the game you may start to reconsider
whether it really is one of those special games. Why? Well the presentation,
at least in the PAL version, is a little sloppy. For instance, whilst there
is no border at the top of the screen, there is a huge border that takes up
about a quarter of the bottom of the screen! The display should have been centered
with smaller borders, or better yet none.

Also during some parts of the game you may question the quality of the graphics,
whilst in others you'll be totally amazed. This is because the Saturn was never
really designed as a 3D games machine. So be thankful for the effort that it
took Team Andromeda to squeeze this much out of it, and understand that these
are probably the most detailed graphics you will find on the Saturn. However
the visual effects such as the dragons lasers and the rippling water effects
are absolutely stunning! You won't find effects this good on any other 32-bit
platform.

In terms of audio Team Andromeda have never let us down and again they haven't.
The musical score is one of the best in any video game to date. It is very atmospherical
and suits every stage or scene perfectly. If the scene is sad the music will
make you want to cry, if there's tension in the air then all will be quiet,
if there is lots of action then the music will be fast paced, if something bad
is about to happen the music will reflect this, and so on. It definitely has
a soundtrack that you'll turn up the volume for.

You'll probably recognize most of the sound effects from previous Panzer Dragoon
games and the quality is as good as it ever was. The only problem with the sound,
at least in the PAL and American NTSC version, is that the speech is all in
Japanese, except for a few places that they use the same language from the first
two games, which was a language that was created especially for the game. Don't
get me wrong, the voice acting is absolutely brilliant, but it would have been
nice to have it all in English, because it would have made the game that much
more special.

The games best feature is the gripping storyline, which is character driven,
because it takes you on an emotional roller-coaster ride that will have you
in tears, angry at the Empire and Craymen for what they have done to you, or
singing with joy. This has to be one of the best storylines in a role playing
game to date!

Panzer Dragoon Saga offers plenty of variety in terms of gameplay and design,
with plenty of different things for players to do and discover. There is also
a lot of originality, although you will notice similarities from the first two
games in terms of creatures that inhabit the land and a few of the stages look
familiar, but that's just to make it more believable that you are in the same
world as before.

The stages are divided up into four parts: the cut-scenes, the on-foot section,
the field sections, and the battle system.

The cut-scenes are there to basically there to provide you with the story, and
give you hints as to what you need to do next. They appear in two forms - gorgeous
FMV scenes or in-game sequences using the game engine, and whilst the FMV is
of much better quality, both are directed well and deliver the story in a very
cinematic style.

The on-foot sections let you take control of Edge, the main character, and you
can explore places like towns, and meet up with people who tell you stuff that
advances the complex storyline and game along.

The field sections are when you take to the skies on the back of your trusty
dragon steed, only this time instead of being on rails you have complete control
over your dragon and can go anywhere. This is a good improvement, but it's not
as action packed as the previous games, and compared to those can be a little
dull at times.

But that's where the battle system comes in. Battles are randomly generated
most of the time, so you can be exploring in the field mode and all of a sudden
you are transported into battle mode where you fight the various enemies. And
what a battle system it is! It is the first fully 3D battle system in that you
can rotate around your enemy, between the front, sides or back, to find their
weak points or move from where you are most vulnerable to their attacks. It's
turns-based like most other RPG's, so you can't move while you are attacking
but that's understandable and realistic. You have a three-tiered gauge that
allows for different types of attacks. For example if the first tier is full
you can perform standard attacks such as your gun or the dragons laser attacks,
whereas you need two or more tiers full to perform special moves such as dragon
berserk attacks. And as you go through it you build up your and the dragon's
skill and can earn more berserk attacks and money, depending on the level you
are up to and the type of dragon you have.

Speaking of which you can cause metamorphosis which changes the characteristics
of your dragon in terms of 4 categories: Attack, Defense, Spiritual and Agility.
This enables you to change the dragon to suit the type of battle you are about
to enter or to your liking.

Overall Panzer Dragoon Saga does what it's supposed to - it brings a conclusion
to the previous two games and it does it with style. The result is a very special
game, that despite its few flaws, warrants purchasing by anyone who loves a
good role-playing game or a character driven fantasy story.

Visuals: 9 / 10
Probably the best graphics you'll find on the Saturn, but compared to what other
systems are capable of you won't be stunned by them.
Audio: 10 / 10
One of the most atmospheric soundtracks, and sound effects to suit. Brilliant!
Story: 10 / 10
Absoultely brilliant. It is a character driven story and thus will have you
going from angry as hell to tears from sadness.
Gameplay: 9 / 10
The battle system is what makes this game. The other sections are good too but
you can't help but feel this is where most of the effort was put into. Morphing
your dragon is cool too!
Replayability: 7 / 10
There are only about 20 hours of gameplay here, but there are mini-games to
play once the game is completed properly and improving on your stats and finding
thing you needed before will probably make you replay it a couple of times.
And so will the story!
Overall: 10 / 10
A very special game that deserves a spot in every Saturn owners game collection.
One of the best RPG's to date!

Buy or Try: Anyone interested in role playing games, or character driven
stories, should get this game. In fact anyone with a Saturn should get this game,
that is if you can find it these days though.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/29/01, Updated 06/29/01


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