Review by Katon
"Sega's Shining Hour"
The Sega Saturn is possibly the most underrated video game system ever. Due to several factors (bad marketing strategies, bad business decisions by Sega, etc.), the Saturn died a quick and dishonorable death in the United States. However, several gems were released in the latter half of the Saturn's life, including Radiant Silvergun (Japan-only), Burning Rangers, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, Shining Force III, and the king of them all, Panzer Dragoon Saga.
For a machine supposedly incapable of producing good 3D graphics, the graphics in PDS are quite impressive. When compared with Playstation games which were released at the same time, Saga's graphics were excellent. Team Andromeda created a unique world and rendered it beautifully. FMVs, which are abundant, are also done very well. The only problem graphically is some pop-up, which can be severe at times, but it does absolutely nothing to hinder the gameplay experience.
Sound effects in the game, such as the cry your dragon emits when it is hit by an enemy, are good, but not extraordinary. The soundtrack is what really makes the sound department shine. The music in the game is hauntingly beautiful and is on par with much of Nobuo Uematsu's work from the Final Fantasy series. The battle themes are catchy, and all other music is appropriate to the situation. I own the soundtrack, and I would recommend to anyone who loves game music that they pick it up. Incredibly, Sega also included the original Japanese voice acting for the cutscenes and the FMVs, which is something I wish other companies would do. The voice acting talent does an incredible job telling a tremendous story.
This is the area where Saga begins to separate itself from other RPGs. Instead of a static turn-based combat system, the fighting in PDS is a mix of turn-based and real-time. When you enter a battle (always on your dragon, with one exception), you are given three gauges which need to fill, Final Fantasy-like, before you can attack. Basic attacks can be executed with only one full gauge, while others require two or more. Adding strategy to the battling, you are also given the option to move around in a circle around your opponent(s). This adds much-needed depth to the battle system. If you are not careful, even random enemies can hurt you. Also, almost every enemy has a weak point, and finding it helps end the battle much more quickly. At the end of the fight, you are given a ranking which determines how much experience and dyne (money) you will receive for winning the battle. This means you have to find the quickest and most efficient way of disposing of your enemies. Boss fights are incredible. The bosses in PDS are some of the most original to be found in any game. If you don't strategize properly, you WILL become mincemeat. The only negative in this section is that in some areas, random encounters occur a bit too frequently, but that is a minor quibble, and the excellent battle system makes fighting them fun, anyway.
Wow, the storyline of this game is incredible! It's very difficult to describe without giving away spoilers, but trust me, you will love it. Basically, Edge, the main character, is on a mission of revenge. At the beginning of the game, Edge befriends a dragon who becomes his partner in his quest. Tip here: Be sure to name your dragon and pet him at every opportunity. You'll be glad you did! Overall, a very tight and intriguing story.
Well, judging by the tone of my review, you should be able to tell what I think of it. Simply, Panzer Dragoon Saga is an amazing experience which no other game can duplicate. With Panzer Dragoon Orta moving back to shooter-style gameplay, this may be the only entry in the series which is an RPG. The Saturn has many great games, but none can top this one. If you expect to buy this game (at least the American version), you had better be prepared to spend plenty of money. However, I can say that I have had no regrets about my purchase. Out of all the games which are considered rare and extremely expensive, this one lives up to all the hype. Panzer Dragoon Saga is a monumental achievement in the history of gaming.
Overall score (not an average): 10/10
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/05/02, Updated 08/05/02
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