Review by Sklathill

"Arguably the finest 32 bit RPG ever created"

The final games for the Sega Saturn seem to have nothing but greatness stamped upon them. Shining Force III proved itself to be worthy of the name and Burning Rangers found a place in its fans hearts as an amazingly fun and original title. When the US release of Panzer Dragoon Saga was previewed, most magazines gave little space to the RPG, as the media was riding a wave created by games such as Parasite Eve and Xenogears. Perhaps Sega of America was finally petering out in its American Saturn releases when the so-called RPG revolution came top form; in any case, Panzer Dragoon Saga came into the US under an extremely small initial production run.

Copies were bought and words of the game were passed from person to person in internet forums and among groups of die-hard gamers. "This is a game! Amazing!" People went to the Toys 'R' Us and bought as many of this trio of final Saturn games by Sega as they could get. Burning Rangers, Shining Force III, an Panzer Dragoon Saga suddenly became scarce. Fans clamored for the remaining parts of the Shining Force series and others begged for more Panzer Dragoon Saga games to be produced. Even if the Saturn was going to finish in the United States a dismal third, video gamers across the nation showed how much they wanted these great games.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is arguably the finest RPG on 32 bit consoles. From the opening cinemas to the final moments of the game not twenty hours later, the player is taken through the story of a young boy named Edge, swept into a story of epic proportions thanks to the death of his mentor and the stealing of a girl from the ruins he was assigned to protect. Perhaps no finer story exists in the closing moments of this decade of video gaming. So too, the characters are a thing of wonder; one gets to simultaneously like and hate Gash, a remarkably complex person who continues to reveals pieces of story and himself throughout the game's progress, and one finds oneself sympathizing for a young girl who longs to know what exists outside of her half of the town. All the characters are voiced by a remarkable cast of seiyuu; the Japanese dialogue (and Panzerese which can be found at the beginning of the game) are completely subtitled! Of note is the seiyuu for the character of Azel; her voice actress, Sakamoto Maa`ya is an amazing talent, whose experience includes the main character Hitomi in the hit anime series The Vision of Escaflowne and songs for her own albums, composed by composer Kanno Yoko and other anime series, such as Brain Powerd. The dialogue is wonderful as is the inflection provided by these experienced seiyuu, while the subtitles are only slightly less so; those extremely learned in Japanese will find slight changes in the translation which seem to have been implemented without rhyme or reason.

The graphics are just below incredible; although the modeling of your dragon, enemies, and towns is excellent, the quality of the 3d engine is somewhat less so. Textures are somewhat dirty while the number of polygons per model is definitely lower than what players are used to, especially if they have been spoiled on the better Playstation and Nintenndo 64 games. Special graphical effects, though a bit cruder than on the newer consoles, do the job well. FMV sequences are encoded using Cinepak; although the production values of the sequences are excellent, the compression is not the best to be found.

Sound is very good in this game. The various effects for attacks are quite well done and do not irritate. The voice actors and actresses, as already mention, do a marvelous job with every single line of dialogue. The soundtrack is equally fine; though the sample quality may seem a bit lacking at times few and far between, the composition brings the quality of the soundtrack to the upper echelons of video game excellence, easily competing with the likes of Wakakusa and Sakimoto and besting even Uematsu's attempts at the 32 bit consoles.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is a wonderful RPG. If there are any real flaws to be found, they are in its length and linearity. At only 20 hours, some people might see a game as Xenogears easily besting this Saturn RPG. These 20 hours, however, are some of the finest hours ever to be played in all of video game history. This is an excellent game, of which the quality is worth far more than even the newest of RPGs available on either side of the Pacific.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/01/99, Updated 11/01/99

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