I really, really miss the old Sega. Sure, every now and then they come out with a pretty cool game, but compared to in their heyday? No one could touch Sega for sheer “attitude.” But c’mon now, Shadow the Hedgehog? Jesus Christ, Sega. Just go to the corner with a sign around your neck that screams “DESPERATION”. It’s like what would happen if the Get Along Gang took opium and got all up in the grill of Grand Theft Auto. It’s—Jesus, you know what? It’s so stupid I can’t even joke about it. Thanks for taking away my humor, Sega. Why don’t you just fucking eat my future babies from the toes up and be done with it, you heartless, cold corporation?
Supposedly, only 5,000 copies of this game came out in the States. I pre-ordered. Thank goodness, because have you looked on eBay recently? This thing goes for $100-$150. Worth every penny. But I swear it’s just luck that I’m reviewing another awesome game. Don’t worry, friends and neighbors: I promise to go back to shitty games for next month’s review. But this? This game is like a giant pile of crack, and I’m the addict, baby. You can have your Final Fantasys, your Dragon Quests, your niche RPGs like Suikoden or Breath of Fire. Me? I’m taking Panzer Dragoon Saga—in my opinion, the absolute best role-playing game ever made. Period.
On launch day, the surprise launch that was three months earlier than Sega said, there were a ton of horrible games, and one awesome one called Panzer Dragoon. It’s a shoot-‘em-up, but it was done with such style—such class—that it became an instant classic that was only bettered by its sequel, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei. Holy crap is this game good. And then came Panzer Dragoon Saga, a break from the shooter formula that would only result in one of the best games of all time. Goddammit, I miss Team Andromeda, the company that made this game.
Anyway, this enthralling game opens with a good 15-minute cinema that showcases stunning CG for its time. The character design—hell, the whole world design—is organic and mechanical and beautiful all at the same time. Believe me, in the year this game was released, you have never seen draw distance like this. Especially for a system that was created specifically for playing 2D games.
Combat is slightly difficult at first, but I’ll break down the basics. You’re on a flying dragon. You encounter an enemy. In the bottom-left corner you have a perfect circle representing your attack radius. Now that you’ve engaged, you can feel free to move around the creature. The circle is split into four quadrants, so when you push left on the stick, your dragon and rider rotate around to the left. The idea is to keep moving and stay out of the enemy’s main attack path. A green cone indicates absolute safety. Yellow means you’ll take a bit of damage. Red is what I like to call, “Oh shit, I didn’t move my dragon fast enough and now I’m fucked.” Once that enemy starts into their attack, you’re locked in the position you’re in until the attack is over. And imagine this: You can morph your dragon in real time into four different shapes representing speed, agility, strength, and something else. I can’t really remember because I was busy loving the hell out of this game.
There are breaks for towns (all done in behind-the-back camera as Edge, your hero, runs around), where you naturally can buy food, weapons, and upgrades. You can also just camp down next to a cozy fire at a crossroads and pet your dragon and cup his balls a little bit. You can save here in the camp and rest everyone up. It’s the awesome little touches that make this one so memorable. When you stand up and walk around your camp site, your loyal dragon will follow you with his eyes. He’ll stand and rotate to keep you in sight if you walk behind him. He’ll screech at you. If you ignore him, don’t pet him or acknowledge him, he won’t love you. Dammit, don’t you want your dragon to love you?!
That’s it. This game is brilliance. It the only RPG I’ll go back to time and time again. I’ve probably beaten it seven or eight times. It’s just such an ethereal, otherworldly experience. It’s hard to describe. Those that own a Saturn and this game will instantly tear up reading this, and then probably go play it again.
Sorry about this not being my usual humorous write-up, but frankly, Panzer Dragoon Saga deserves better. This game is so far out of the league of, say, Virtual Hydlide that they would never run into each other, even if Captain Skip McFurious came backward in time with a rocket ship from the year 4,000 to launch them toward one another. Speaking of humorous reviews, if you want a funny one, go back and read Virtual Hydlide. That one still makes me pee a little.