Although few gamers nowadays have heard of it, the original Panzer Dragoon trilogy has an almost legendary status among Sega fans, particularly among those that owned a Sega Saturn. What was it, though, that made the Panzer Dragoon games so special? There were many things that the Panzer Dragoon games did right at the time. The game’s 3D graphics were amongst the best seen on the system at the time, and the first two games raised the bar for the on-rail shooter genre. Similarly, Panzer Dragoon Saga’s story, voice acting and battle system were ahead of their time.
However, what really defined the games was perhaps not the gameplay, the story, the characters or even still the unique artwork. What really stood out was the world that Team Andromeda created for their games. Panzer Dragoon introduced us to a desolate world where much of the events that happened in the past were shrouded in mystery. A highly evolved society known as the Ancients had disappeared long ago, leaving behind a world that has been destroyed by the wars of the past. All that remained were ruins and dangerous bio-engineered animals roaming the world. Under these circumstances, humanity struggled to survive. A nation known as the Empire sought to harness the power of the Ancient technology, ignoring the fact that it was that power that destroyed the world in the first place. Another faction known as the Seekers tried to prevent the Empire from achieving their goal, believing that their actions would unleash the horrors of the Ancient Age once more.
It’s from that premise that the Panzer Dragoon games threw the player into a conflict spanning over four main games. In each game, the main character encountered the ultimate weapon from the Ancient Age, a bio-engineered creature known as a dragon, and subsequently became a dragon rider tasked with the mission to prevent the monolithic structures known as the Towers to be reactivated. Unfortunately, that task proved anything but simple, as other dragons protected those Towers, and there was also the Empire who was looking to reactivate the Towers (and if possible capture your dragon).
To make the world feel more real, Team Andromeda put a lot of information in the game for those willing to find out more about the events that happened in its past. They even went one step further in the sense that not all of the information you found was actually correct. What the characters in the game told you was not necessarily the truth, even if they themselves believed in it. The various factions in the world each had their own interpretations of what happened in the past, and the player was left to figure out what really happened. All this contributed to creating a world that had existed long before the player entered the story.
Often it was also subtle things that helped create the atmosphere the Panzer Dragoon games are known for. For example, in Panzer Dragoon Saga the main map showed the progress of the various factions as the story progresses. Though a minor element, it gave players the impression that events were happening elsewhere in the world over which he/she did not have direct control. Another example of this is how some characters die off-screen in Panzer Dragoon Saga, with the player only learning about the event later on. This makes the story darker, but it’s also yet another element makes the Panzer Dragoon world more believable.
While the world of Panzer Dragoon was for the most part barren, there was still a surprising amount of variety to be found in the various locations where players travel to in the Panzer Dragoon games. At one point Panzer Dragoon Zwei has you traveling trough a dense forest, a scene that contrasts greatly with the canyons and deserts where you started the adventure. Afterwards, you found yourself in a sunken ruin of the Ancient Age, fighting your way through hordes of bio-engineered creatures that still guarded the structure. Like in the original Panzer Dragoon, the game’s finale took you to the skies for a showdown with another dragon that guards the Tower that your own dragon sought to destroy.
However, because of how impressive the stages in the first two games were, it left players wanting to break free from the on-rails aspect of the games. Movement was limited and while Panzer Dragoon Zwei did offer branching paths at some points, you couldn’t fly around freely. It was Panzer Dragoon Saga that finally allowed players to do just that. Team Andromeda struggled to realize Panzer Dragoon Saga’s ambitious design with the Saturn’s lack of 3D capabilities and as a consequence the game’s resolution was lowered compared to Panzer Dragoon Zwei, but the sensation of being able to fly a dragon around freely in a 3D world was simply unparalleled at the time. Furthermore, the game offered even more diverse locations than those from the previous games. You traveled to towns, flew over deserts and seas, visited ancient ruins (including submerged ones, and even the Towers themselves). Some areas like the ruins of Uru even had night and day cycles.
And let’s not forget the aerial battles that take place in the clouds, where you battle both Imperial airships and other dragons. Last but not least, there’s the enigmatic Sestren network, a digital network place that defies logic. While it’s only seen briefly in Panzer Dragoon Saga, Panzer Dragoon Orta had an entire episode set inside the network, showing us just how advanced the Ancients actually were.
This is just a brief look at what made the world of Panzer Dragoon so special. For more information, do visit the many articles over at The Will of the Ancients. Or better, play any of the Panzer Dragoon games if you haven’t done so already. Although Panzer Dragoon Saga is hard to come by, the other games are fortunately easier to find (and a lot cheaper).
Draikin is a guest writer from the Panzer Dragoon fan site The Will of the Ancients – Learn more about the world of Panzer Dragoon, visit The Will of the Ancients today!Ad: