About twenty-five years after its initial release, Panzer Dragoon returns in a remake that was developed by MegaPixel Studio and is being published by Forever Entertainment. We’re taking a look at the PS4 version, after earlier releases for the Switch and Stadia.
For those who lived through the middle of the 1990s as gamers, Panzer Dragoon is a big name. If you didn’t have a Sega Saturn, it was probably one of those games that made you consider getting one or at least made you a little envious of Saturn owners. It’s become a bit of a cult hit over the years, but besides a brief comeback on the original Xbox we haven’t seen much from the series in close to twenty years now.
The core concept of Panzer Dragoon is still undeniably cool, with people riding dragons as they shoot down adversaries while sharing the sky with other enormous creatures. It certainly is a setting that fits as a showcase of what a system can visually pull off, something that definitely worked for the Saturn back in the day. It’s also an on-rails shooter though, which is a genre that isn’t as popular anymore now that time and technology has caught up with it. While retro fans in particular still love games like Virtua Cop and House of the Dead, modern games now allow us to move freely through game worlds as consoles and PCs now have the horsepower to handle such experiences.
As with many on-rails shooters, Panzer Dragoon, even in its remade form, isn’t particularly long. A genre that was born out of the arcade experience, you can target and shoot enemies on the go or elect to target multiple enemies in a row before releasing the fire button for a bigger instant effect (at a higher risk). Locking on doesn’t work on incoming projectiles though, so you need to be aware of that as you switch between the different firing modes to keep yourself safe while also bringing the hurt upon your enemies.
Panzer Dragoon is different from many of those arcade shooters in the sense that you get camera control though, which is of course a feature that gamepad controls brought to the genre and something that moved the gameplay forward as you now need to keep track of enemies in multiple directions at once – a radar view helps you with this. Panning around also makes it possible to appreciate how much went into this remake, which is no longer confined by the relatively limited amount of processing power in the Saturn.
While Panzer Dragoon was certainly a graphical powerhouse on Sega’s console, the true vision for the game shines through in the remake – especially in the environments, which are now far more detailed and make the original look plain in comparison. 3D games rarely age well, and it’s nice to see a new version of Panzer Dragoon that helps us experience the game the way we remember it rather than in the way it really was. Sure, this isn’t a remake in the same way that we’ve seen AAA remakes of games in the Resident Evil of Final Fantasy franchises, but the polish is certainly appreciated.
One big practical change in the new version has to do with the controls. The Saturn didn’t have dual thumbsticks, so you couldn’t move your dragon with one thumbstick whole aiming your shots with the other. This remake “fixes” that, although purists can still opt for the original control scheme instead for a truly retro experience to gamepad controls.
If, like me, you previously missed out on Panzer Dragoon then this remake is a great chance to catch up. Its relatively simple arcade-like premise and short running time aren’t for everyone (especially considering the price), but if you’re interested in a piece of gaming history then this is for you.