Back in 1996, I made a pretty big decision. Based largely on my love of Sega arcade games and a brief obsession with the World Series Baseball, home run derby demo, I opted to buy a Sega Saturn rather than a Sony PlayStation. While I inevitably looked back on that choice a few years later with no little sense of regret, for a year or two at least, it really did feel like I had made the right decision. From Sega Rally and Virtua Fighter 2 to its host of spectacular 2D fighting ports, it might be easy to laugh now, but the high price point aside, for quite a few years, the Sega Saturn was actually pretty ace.
As good as it was though, the Saturn, much like Sega around that time, was nothing if not esoteric, and it’s library of games, while not to everyone’s tastes, certainly spoke to a certain type of gamer……a gamer much like me. Few games encompassed Sega’s somewhat unique approach at that time more than the utterly brilliant but commercial questionable, Panzer Dragoon series. It was never likely to be a system seller, but the series’ slick gameplay, fantastic score and wonderful artistic style ensured that it has lived on in the memory of many gamers for decades after its original release.
And that’s largely where it has had to live – in our memories. Other than the similarly brilliant and similarly underplayed Panzer Dragoon Orta on the original Xbox, the series has remained largely stuck on the Sega Saturn – until now of course. Sure, what we really all want is a remake / re-release of the fabled Panzer Dragoon Saga (a game I was lucky enough to play when it first came out, but dumb enough to trade in), but honestly, it’s a start, and despite a few rough edges, a good start at that.
Those expecting this remake (a term pushed to its limits here) to make major changes or refinements to the gameplay or structure will ultimately be left disappointed, but for those hoping for an experience true to that of the original, this carefully considered remake will likely tick all the required boxes. There are certainly elements of the game that are starting to show their age, but as a big fan of the series, I for one am very pleased with the work done by MegaPixel Studio. Sure, the visuals have been upgraded significantly, but this is still the same game you will remember from 1995 – a pure on-rails shooter with very little to get in the way of its still excellent gameplay.
One could argue that they could have pushed the visual upgrade a little further, and yes, there are times in which it feels caught between the past and the present, but for the most part, this feels like an artistically balanced approach that allows the game to work in the here and now without losing the essence of its original visual design. A big part of Panzer Dragoon’s charm has always been its fantasy world and Ghibli-style aesthetic (it always looked like a cross between Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky to me), and it has been successfully retained here while still ensuring that the game never looks overtly old fashioned.
Did it need an upgrade? Absolutely (the Saturn’s 3D visuals haven’t aged particularly well), but this robust but far from overstated visual overhaul gives you the feeling of playing the game as you remember it rather than as it actually was. It’s a ploy that toy manufacturers have used when re-releasing retro-style figures in recent years, and one that often works very well. Too much polish, and it feels like something totally new, but get the level just right, and you can almost trick yourself in to believing that this was how it always looked.
Well, Panzer Dragoon on the Saturn certainly never looked this good, but one thing it did do, was play all but exactly the same. The upgraded visuals and new soundtrack (one that sits conveniently alongside the original score) are just about all that is genuinely new about this remake. The gameplay is, for all intents and purposes, the exact same as it was 25 years ago. That would make many 3D games from the time all but unplayable today, but thanks to Panzer Dragoon’s streamlined and somewhat unique design, that gameplay manages to hold up amazingly well.
Many genres are iterated and improved upon just about every year, but thanks to the relatively limited popularity of the rail-shooter, that’s simply not the case here. Yes, some games have since moved the genre (sub-genre?) forward to one extent or another, but for the most part, a rail-shooter in 2020 will likely play in a very similar way to a rail shooter released 20 years ago……or in 1995 to be exact. There is admittedly little in the way of actual content here, and newcomers might well baulk at the relatively high asking price for a game that can be ostensibly ‘finished’ it little more than an hour, but to judge this as a one hour game is to ultimately miss the point. This is an experience to be played numerous times, to be tried on different difficulties, one that encourages self-improvement without the need for a multitude of superfluous game modes. Could it have done with a few more carrots to help keep you invested? Undoubtedly. But while an unlockable cheat menu does add a bit of longevity, Panzer Dragoon’s longevity will ultimately come from its unique gameplay and that fact that, while you probably won’t put hundreds of hours in to it (despite the invitation to do so via one genuinely outrageous Trophy), for fans of the series, it’s likely to be a game that you will pop back to time and again, long after many of its more feature-filled brethren have been consigned to history.
Panzer Dragoon Remake’s limited content and somewhat subtle visual upgrade might make it a tough sell to newcomers, but for fans of the original, or those simply looking for a more streamlined, arcade-esque gaming experience (the type that is so disappointingly underrepresented in today’s gaming market), MegaPixel Studio’s carefully considered remake will likely prove hugely popular. Do I wish that this was a remake of the genuinely exceptional, Panzer Dragoon Saga? Of course I do, but honestly, you’ve got to start somewhere, and starting at the beginning seems like as good a place as any.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Panzer Dragoon: Remake Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
MegaPixel Studio’s carefully considered remake will likely prove hugely popular.