Panzer Dragoon Saga

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Panzer Dragoon Saga
PanzerDragoonSagaBox.jpg
European Saturn cover art
Developer(s) Team Andromeda
Publisher(s) Sega
Director(s) Yukio Futatsugi
Artist(s) Katsumi Yokoto[1]
Composer(s) Saori Kobayashi
Mariko Nanba
Series Panzer Dragoon
Platform(s) Saturn
Release date(s)
  • JP January 29, 1998
  • NA April 30, 1998
  • PAL June 5, 1998
Genre(s) RPG
Mode(s) Single player
Distribution 4 CDs

Panzer Dragoon Saga (アゼル パンツァードラグーンRPG Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG?) is a role-playing video game released for the Sega Saturn in 1998. It was the third game released in the Panzer Dragoon series (not counting Panzer Dragoon Mini, a spin-off title for the Sega Game Gear), and is the only game in the series that is not a rail shooter. The player controls a young hunter named Edge as he attempts to free the world from the will of the Ancients with the help of a powerful flying dragon, which can fire lasers from its mouth. The game blends strategic semi-realtime combat with free-roaming exploratory sequences on dragonback and foot. It received critical acclaim.

Like the other Saturn Panzer Dragoon games, Panzer Dragoon Saga was developed by Sega's Team Andromeda studio. The team disbanded after Saga’s release; several of its members went on to Smilebit, which later developed the fourth Panzer Dragoon game, Panzer Dragoon Orta, for Xbox.

Gameplay[edit]

The player, as Edge, explores 3D environments on foot or riding the dragon, solving puzzles and interacting with non-player characters to further the story. The player can use a cursor to "lock on" to items of interest; locking onto distant characters lets Edge eavesdrop on their conversation. The dragon is used to explore the game's overworld and dungeons. Unlike the other Panzer Dragoon games, the dragon's course is not "on rails", and can be moved in any direction.

Battle system[edit]

Panzer Dragoon Saga uses a random encounter system to trigger battle sequences, which take place in mid-air on the dragon. The player has three action gauges that deplete with each move made. Basic moves such as firing Edge's gun or unleashing a laser attack from the dragon cost one gauge; special attacks (called "berserks") may use more. The gauges refill in real time.

The player can circle the enemy to target weak points and escape dangerous positions. Edge's gun is used to concentrate fire on individual targets, and can be upgraded with attachments; for example, the Sniper attachment increases damage done to weak points. The dragon's homing lasers attack multiple targets.

Edge and his dragon in combat. Note the combat menu on the left, the safety radar in the center and the three action gauges, one depleted, on the right.

The player can "morph" the dragon to boost its attack, defense, agility and berserk attributes; boosting one attribute depletes another. Additional morph forms are acquired by collecting hidden "D-Unit" items. After battles, the player earns experience points that boost the dragon's power and ability.

Plot[edit]

Panzer Dragoon Saga is set after Panzer Dragoon II Zwei and before Panzer Dragoon Orta.

Edge is an imperial soldier guarding an excavation site in a post-apocalyptic environment where artefacts from a lost civilization are being recovered. After helping fend off an attack from one of the wild mutant creatures that roam the land, Edge discovers the body of a young woman buried in a wall. The site is attacked by a faction of mutinous Imperial troops; its leader, Craymen, seizes the girl and shoots Edge and his companions. Edge falls into an underground reservoir but is mysteriously unharmed. A flying dragon descends into the reservoir and seems to communicate with Edge; with its help, Edge escapes the cave and swears revenge on Craymen.

Development[edit]

Development for Panzer Dragoon Saga began around the same time as its predecessor, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and its development group started as an offshoot of that game's team. They eventually grew to around 40 members, twice as many as that of the team working on Panzer Dragoon Zwei. The team wanted to create a game of a different genre to others in the Panzer Dragoon series but retained the series' identity.[2]

Like its predecessor, the 3D software Softimage was used in development. The game was listed in the top five most anticipated titles on Japan's Sega Saturn Weekly magazine for two years before its release.[1]

Even as the Sega Saturn faltered in the console market, Team Andromeda struggled with their own difficulties in developing the game. While they appreciated the creative freedom they had in attempting to produce gameplay that was unique, there was a need to adhere somewhat to the standard conventions of the RPG genre, as well as to incorporate the aerial shooting elements of the series. Eventually, they achieved their goal as they developed a well-received battle system that utilized both turn-based and real-time combat, and allowed the player to alter the dragon and its abilities on-the-fly, as opposed to the specific evolution paths of the previous game.

Team leader Yukio Futatsugi has stated that this was done so as to allow for more combinations to compensate for the lack of characters, as most RPGs usually allow the player to control a party of several members, as opposed to the single character and his dragon in Panzer Dragoon Saga.[1]

The game also intentionally eschewed the highly populated worlds of most RPGs, as Futatsugi felt the lack of NPCs lent a sense of loneliness to the game. This is further evidenced by his statement that the game could only have been done on the Saturn, rather than the Sony PlayStation, due to the former's more somber color palette, which served to further highlight the game's desolate, post-apocalyptic atmosphere.[1]

Team Andromeda also had to deal with the tragic losses of a couple of their members during the game's development: one to a motorcycle accident, and another to suicide. The latter occurred during development of the game, and not, as is often rumored, due to the eventual poor sales of the game.[1]

Release[edit]

Panzer Dragoon Saga was one of the last games released for the Saturn outside Japan.[3]

Due to the failure of the Saturn and the fact that PDS was one of the Saturn's last releases, the company did not produce many copies. Only about 30,000 copies were produced in total, making the game very expensive to come by today.

However, the game, coming late in the Sega Saturn’s life, was released in very small quantities in the US and Europe. Only 6,000 copies were first produced for the game’s American launch in May 1998, and many retailers failed to meet pre-order demand. Sega released a second batch of 12,000 copies the following June and then another 12,000 in the late summer.

In May 2009, online game-downloading service GameTap’s general manager Sene Sorrow stated they had the rights to publish the game, but didn't believe there was enough demand to make it a priority.[4] According to Futatsugi, the game's source code has been lost, making a port unlikely.

Because of the title’s limited print run, English-language copies of Panzer Dragoon Saga are rare. What copies do exist tend to be recognized as valuable by their owners and, as a result, copies tend to sell for a relatively high price on eBay, often raking in over $300 US.[5] Although the game is frequently requested to be re-released on a modern format, thus far the game remains a Saturn-only release. Team leader Yukio Futatsugi has also confirmed that the original source code for the game has been lost, adding further weight to the unlikelihood of a port.[6] There is now a demand from fans for the source code to be recovered.[1]

Legacy[edit]

Panzer Dragoon Saga was received with unanimous praise from international gaming publications, citing its sophisticated art direction, vivid and unusual story, and its cinematic, fluid battle system as particularly noteworthy. Official Sega Saturn Magazine UK gave it a review score of 96%, and provided the entire first disc of the game with a £4.99 edition.

In addition to its persistent fan following, Panzer Dragoon Saga continues to be well regarded by critics and was featured in IGN.com's list of the top 100 games of all time in 2007[7] and in G4's top 100 games of all time in 2012.[8] On Gamerankings.com, the game is ranked as the most critically acclaimed Saturn game of all time, with an aggregate score of 92.87%.

Soundtrack[edit]

A "Mini Album" was released prior to the official release of the game itself, a two-disc set with the first CD containing a selection of music from the game and the second disc acting as a game demo. The two-disc OST was released later with a limited print run. It would be re-released in 2001 as "Azel: Panzer Dragoon RPG Memorial Album" with two bonus tracks remixing the ending song. However, this print run would also be limited.

Much of the soundtrack was generated in-game using the Saturn version of Invision's Cybersound, as in Panzer Dragoon II Zwei.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Panzer Dragoon Saga Sega Saturn Retrospective". 1UP.com. Retrieved January 22, 2009. 
  2. ^ "The History of Panzer Dragoon". GameSpot. Retrieved September 12, 2007. 
  3. ^ Kalata, Kurt. "The History of Panzer Dragoon". Gamasutra. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "GameTap sitting on Panzer Dragoon Saga, Joystiq mobilizes masses". Joystiq.com. Retrieved May 13, 2009. 
  5. ^ "VideoGamePriceCharts.com". Retrieved 2008-05-12. 
  6. ^ Ciolek, Todd. "Among the Missing: Notable Games Lost to Time". 1UP.com. Retrieved 2014-04-02. "In a 2009 interview, Panzer Dragoon Saga director Yukio Futatsugi confided that the game's source code no longer existed in Sega's records. While this might have delighted some collectors who paid hundreds on eBay for the game, it's by no means a death sentence. Even without a game's source code, it's entirely possible for developers to dump the data from a retail copy and emulate it. While the lack of basic code might rule out a heavily reworked version of the game, it simply makes porting Panzer Dragoon Saga more work than normal." 
  7. ^ "IGN Top 100 Games 2007". IGN.com. Retrieved November 24, 2008. 
  8. ^ Top 100 Games of All Time: No.22, G4.

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