Review by Tenshi No Shi

"A unique twist on a budding franchise."

Isn't it ironic the some of the best games released in the United States for the Saturn are also the last couple of games to come out? It's always sad to see a system die, but this one didn't pass quietly into the night as so many things do. Instead, the Saturn went out with a bang, throwing a party to rival that of most systems at the zenith of their power. The guest of honor? Panzer Dragoon Saga of course. Panzer Dragoon Saga stands as a testimony to the Saturn's passing, a sort of tribute to the console's once lofty heights.

The story of Panzer Dragoon Saga centers around a young man named Edge who ends up in a struggle against the Ancient Ones themselves. Of course, things do not start off this way as he is simply seeking revenge against the man who murdered his guardian. Left for dead, Edge is rescued by a dragon that bonds with the young man and helps him on his ever-growing quest. Revenge becomes a struggle to preserve the very basis of life itself. This is one of those instances where if I say anything more, I'll ruin a wonderful and original story. However, I will say this: you are in for a very shocking and unexpected ending...

Panzer Dragoon Saga's graphics are quite simply some of the best graphics found on the system. Employing the familiar look of the past two games, the third installment enhances the game engine, adding not only more polygons to the models but also better detail to the textures themselves. A few new special effects are used which really pushes the system's lighting engine to the max, adding mood to the use of special attacks. The animation is great, each monster moving quickly and as realistically as the imagination allows. My only complaint is the sometimes-limited color palette. There are far too many grays and browns used in the game. This might be an attempt to set atmosphere, but it comes off as boring and uninspired.

The one thing that I really appreciate more than anything in a decidedly Japanese game is when the programmers of the English version decide to leave the original voice work in and sub-title the game instead. I buy almost all of my anime this way and I applaud any video game company who opts to go this route. Aside from the otherworldly feel this gives to a game, it also seems to deepen the mystery of the story. Aside from the excellent speech, the music is also impressive, seamlessly blending into the game play and adding a wide array of appropriate emotions to any given situation that may arise in the game. The sound effects of Panzer Dragoon Saga are adequate, but sometimes get a little tedious in their simplicity.

The control for Panzer Dragoon Saga is great, giving the player little to complain about. Though it seems a tad slow on rotation, everything else is quick and responsive. Actual control is not a big issue with RPGs though, as poor control can generally be overlooked when it comes to the actual combat and item menus a game in this genre employs. Thankfully all the menus found in this game are easy to use and straight to the point. Battle doesn't feel as turn-based as it does in most role playing games, adding more intensity to the active-timer system Panzer Dragoon Saga employs. If you can imagine what it would be like to play a game that looks much like Panzer Dragon Zwei but plays something like Final Fantasy VII, then you might get the idea.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is a very original and well-designed RPG. It implements many unique new features never before found in this genre, while staying grounded in the very basics of what makes a role playing game. Everything you see in the game has a classic look to it, yet stays fresh because it's something you've never seen before. The only flaw I found in this game is it seems far too linear, like you're being lead around by your nose through most of the story. While most people might like this, it makes the game too short and leaves you longing for more of a challenge. This isn't necessarily a bad design flaw, but it bothered me all the same.

There are a few extra dragon classes for you to uncover if you are persistent and clever enough to find them. This might not seem like a lot, but the bonus dragons are not only cool but also powerful and they add a lot to your game play experience. Also found within Panzer Dragoon Saga are familiar landmarks from the previous titles. When you are powerful enough, interactions with these areas will tell more of what happened in the previous games, adding to the depth of the overall plot.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is the last great English Saturn game and will appeal to a wide variety of gamers. If you can track this hard to find gem down, it's well worth the purchase. Here's hoping SEGA decides to revive this franchise in the near future...

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 08/10/09

Game Release: Panzer Dragoon Saga (US, 04/30/98)

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