I normally wouldn’t be interested in a game like Panzer Dragoon Orta, except that it has cool dragons. For my first experience with a rail shooter, this was a good game to start with. It has very impressive graphics, simple controls, a decent storyline (for a shooter) and, most importantly, awesome cool dragons. You play as Orta, a somewhat mysterious girl who starts the game imprisoned. She is rescued by a dragon and the two escape by fighting their way through wave upon wave of machines and other beasts.
As I mentioned before, this is a rail shooter, so you don’t have that much control over where you go. You are on a semi-set course (although each stage has at least one branching point where you can decide which course to take) and you can move back and forth on the screen. You control the targeting reticule, and depending on the form of the dragon, can target one or more enemies at a time. The dragon itself has three forms: Base Wing, Heavy Wing, and Glide Wing. Base Wing is the most balanced, Heavy Wing is the slower, more damage-dealing form, and Glide Wing is fast and deals lighter damage. Knowing when to use each of these forms is a big part of this game, although it is possible to go through the game using only one.
The controls are simple enough that it won’t take long to learn them, and the game itself is not a terribly long one. You can probably play through it in a few hours. The main draw of this game is playing back through it to get high scores. There are also different ways to play through each level that you can explore on the second time through. Add to this a bunch of unlockable goodies and you have a game with excellent replay value.
Another major draw to this game are the visuals. The graphics are absolutely astounding. The creature designs are an interesting mix of organic and mechanical, with almost surreal colors and shapes. The environments are varied and beautiful. The dragon itself is really cool looking, and as you play through the game you will level the different forms up. The higher levels of each form (particularly the Heavy Wing form) are pretty cool looking. Yeah, definitely no complaints in the visuals department. Sound-wise, I have no complaints. The music is a mix of orchestral and electronic songs, and the sound effects (mostly laser fire and the screams of your vanquished enemies) are satisfying.
As far as difficulty goes, there’s plenty of enemies to shoot and different difficulty levels to play through. After you complete the game once, there’s the added incentive to go back and experience the same levels in different ways and to beat your previous score. Enemies will come at you from all sides, including behind you, so it’s important to get used to switching the view around quickly. You don’t have to shoot all of the enemies that come at you. In fact, you can skip shooting the majority and get through the game fine. However, if you like shooters, you will most likely want to get as many of them as possible. Some of the bosses are really cool as well, and quite challenging. All of them are visually stunning and cleverly conceived.
Overall, this is a game for anyone who likes shooters and fast-paced action. It is also an excellent introduction to the genre. It has plenty of shooting, brilliant graphics (probably still among the best to be found on any system), good pacing, and a decent storyline. It also has plenty of extras, including the original Panzer Dragoon game. It’s short, but the extras more than make up for this shortcoming. And dragons are really, really cool.