We are approaching an exciting time in the gaming world as we come towards the end of a console generation and approach a new era. During this time we have seen countless remasters and reworks of older titles some of which hold up exceptionally well and a handful that were best left to the memory bank. For this review, it is time for me to go back to the very underrated Google Stadia and load up an unexpected remake of Panzer Dragoon.
You may be scratching your head right now and thinking what the hell is Panzer Dragoon and rightly so because even I was only ten years old when the first installment was released back in 1995. The first three games in this series were developed in the 1990’s by Team Andromeda for the Sega Saturn console. The very last time we saw anything with the Panzer Dragoon name was back in 2002 when it hit the original Xbox console and was developed by Sega’s Smilebit team. I have to be completely honest and say I remember playing the original first few Panzer Dragoon titles but the experiences of them weren’t one I can recall.
So 18 years after the last installment and a whopping 25 years after the very first we see the remake of the original Panzer Dragoon game. This is available to gamers across PC, Nintendo Switch and Google Stadia but no word on the Xbox and Playstation 4. The Panzer Dragoon series is set on a post-apocalyptic planet where there is a battle for land, research and technology. What I find odd about this remake after some reading into it before a playthrough is that the original development team and Sega appear to have no ties or involvement with this project. This makes me question whether its a salute to the fans of such a niche genre or are we seeing a revival of this series with a view to something totally new?
Enter the fray developers Megapixel Studios and publisher Forever Entertainment who have now taken the reigns of all things Panzer Dragoon. Now if you’ve played the original Panzer Dragoon quarter of a century ago you are essentially revisiting the same game albeit it with some improved visuals and reworking. It is described as an on-rails shooter and whilst this is a limited genre in today’s era it is interesting to see whether this is a warranted remake and if it holds up well. Sega worked on some sublime on rails shooters back in its heyday with Afterburner and Space Harrier getting the royal salute as we cast our minds back. It’s important to note that back then gaming was very different, analogue controls did not exist and we were still used to 16-bit graphics so will this change the feel of the original memories, keep reading.
The strong point of the original game is I recall it actually felt brilliant to play in that era and it still plays exceptionally well in the remake with some updated and upgraded control schemes understandably. The analogue controls see you using the left stick to control the dragon and the right stick to negotiate your aiming reticle with a view to attacking the waves of enemies that you’ll come across. Sadly though this control system does not handle well at all and is very clunky and frustrating but all is not lost here as you can revert to a more basic system. This original control system will have you using one stick and whilst you might be thinking this doesn’t sound as exciting as using both you really have to get the game in your hands to understand what I mean. This is how the game apparently is intended to be played so it will feel more natural to those who hammered the game back in its original era.
Onto the visual aspects here which is the weakest point of the game by a country mile, it doesn’t look and perform great. We are talking graphically on the scale of a budget indie title at best which was my greatest disappointment which is a sad shame. I have zero intelligence of what it takes to create and develop a game but you’d think with the foundations of the gameplay, story and other elements already at hand you’d put your all into the graphical feel and polish. Don’t let this completely eradicate your interest in the game though as I’ve always stuck by the motto of graphics don’t make a game. Now back in the Sega Saturn generation if you were picking this up for the first time it would have been one of the titles that you would have stuck and been genuinely blown away by, however, it has not aged well.
The main factor to take away from the experience of Panzer Dragoon is the fact that it remains faithful to the original and that is fantastic for the hardcore fans. But I couldn’t help but feel and witness the clunky mess of not only the graphical elements but simple things such as changing controller settings. Whilst playing the game you were not able to change settings unless you quit back to the main starting screen. Now I know this isn’t the end of the world but it is an additional bugbear for something so simple. There are some great things to take away though and one of these is the fact that the original soundtrack is here so if you loved the music you can relive those moments here. There is also a secondary soundtrack available if you want to switch things up a bit and this can be accessed within the settings from the main menu and again not changeable mid-game.
One thing to bear in mind with Panzer Dragoon is its very short playtime within its 7 levels. Even taking your time you could work through this in 2-3 hours comfortably. There is a variance of difficulty levels if you do want to play through again for longevity but let’s be honest do you play through a campaign of something twice? Oddly there is a feature where you can take and save a photo of your in-game antics, whilst I wasn’t quite sure why this was in there it may appeal to some people out there.
Overall Panzer Dragoon wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either, it could have done with some more time in the oven so to speak. With dated visuals, clumsy controls and not enough polish on the game it does let it down somewhat. However, they have laid the foundations for the next remake which comes in the form of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, lets just hope there is more than just the colour brown. With all these factors in mind, it does warrant a play if it is just to nod at the memories of 25 years ago
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Google Stadia 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 - 6.5/10
Graphics - 4.5/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 6/10
Panzer Dragoon is a remake that could have been so much more but fans of the original will want to revisit their youth
- The gameplay is as true and fun as the original.
- The soundtrack is great and has a secondary option.
- Two control schemes to choose from.
- There is so much colour brown in this game.
- Visually could be better.
- Can’t change options mid-game.