Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
|Panzer Dragoon II Zwei|
|Platform(s)||Nintendo Switch, Sega Saturn, Microsoft Windows|
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei[a] is a 1996 rail shooter video game for the Sega Saturn, published by Sega and developed by Sega's Team Andromeda studio. It is the second entry in the Panzer Dragoon series, and a prequel to the first game. The game follows Jean-Luc Lundi, who raises and later rides a dragon he names Lagi. The player moves an aiming reticle (representing the dragon's laser and Lundi's gun) and shoots enemies while the dragon flies or runs through 3D environments on predetermined tracks.
Zwei began development in early 1995 alongside Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998), with a staff of twenty people and little assistance from Sega. In response to player criticism, the team lowered the overall difficulty and expanded the story elements. The music, composed by Yayoi Wachi, would go on to influence the musical direction of later entries.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei released to positive reviews from journalists, with many praising it as superior to the original Panzer Dragoon in its gameplay, graphics and narrative. A remake for the Nintendo Switch is currently in development, handled by Forever Entertainment under license from Sega.
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As with other Panzer Dragoon games (apart from Panzer Dragoon Saga), Zwei is a rail shooter. As in the first game, enemies can be defeated with either the rider's gun or the dragon's lasers. There is also the berserk attack, which is a rain of lasers from the dragon which automatically attack all enemies on screen for several seconds, during which the dragon is invincible. To use the berserk attack, the player draws on the accumulated energy in the power meter, which is filled by killing enemies. A radar in the corner of the screen displays the location of nearby enemies. Zwei is considerably more in depth than Panzer Dragoon, with alternate routes to be taken and a dragon that evolves based on the player's performance.
In 1995, following the release of Panzer Dragoon, developer Team Andromeda split into two teams; one team worked on a new role-playing game later titled Panzer Dragoon Saga, while the other developed Zwei as a standard rail shooter sequel. The two projects were meant to share team members, but due to the work overload this created, Saga was put on hold until Zwei was completed. In response to player criticisms, Team Andromeda worked on making the game less difficult and more story-intensive than the first Panzer Dragoon. Series creator Yukio Futatsugi originally oversaw both projects, but as his attention shifted onto Saga, Zwei became the responsibility of Katsuhiko Yamada. Due to their next planned game being an RPG, the team decided to reference RPG mechanics in Zwei with the branching paths and dragon evolution. Rather than a direct sequel to Panzer Dragoon, Futatsugi designed Zwei as a prequel, creating a thread which would run from Zwei through Panzer Dragoon and into Saga through the connection between rider and dragon. According to designer Kentaro Yoshida, the team went through multiple dragon designs, with the final designs being finalized by original designer Manabu Kusunoki. The dragons were inspired by different creatures and machines from classic science fiction. The programmers kept segmented wooden fish on their desks so they could reproduce lifelike movements for creatures in the game.
The team received no help from Sega's technical division on Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and did not use any Sega-developed tools such as the Sega Graphics Library operating system; instead, Team Andromeda's programmers created all the development tools used to create the game. The team also refined the design elements created for the first game, pushing for a higher and more stable frame rate. A notable element was the water effects, which were created using a combination of parallax scrolling and layers, allowing a look impossible on the 3D-focused PlayStation without exceeding the hardware limits of the Saturn. The Pandora's Box mode was created by a single programmer and it was included later in development after getting the team's approval. Music composition was led by Yayoi Wachi. Additional tracks were composed by Tomonori Sawada, Junko Shiratsu and Teruhiko Nakagawa. In contrast to the purely orchestral and electronic score of the first game, Zwei added ethnic elements. Panzer Dragoon Saga composer Saori Kobayashi attributed Wachi's shift away from the first game's musical style with shaping her future compositions for the series.
Panzer Dragoon Zwei was released in March 1996 in Japan. Releases in North America and Europe followed the same year. It was shown off at the 1996 Electronic Entertainment Expo. A PC version was released exclusively in Japan on March 14th, 1997. The PC version was initially slated to release worldwide, but was cancelled outside of Japan.
A remake of Zwei was announced in 2018 alongside a remake of the original Panzer Dragoon, both exclusives for Nintendo Switch. Sega outsourced publishing rights to Forever Entertainment, who wished to preserve the atmosphere while updating the graphics and gameplay for a modern audience.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei received generally positive reviews. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly applauded the game for its multiple routes, differing dragon transformations, and "some of the best graphics ever seen on Sega's 32-bit powerhouse". However, they criticized that the game's low difficulty leaves it with little longevity. In GamePro, Scary Larry asserted that Panzer Dragoon II Zwei "blows away anything resembling a shooter on the PlayStation thus far, in both graphics and imagination." He criticized that the game is much too easy, though he noted that the ability to choose from multiple paths increases the replay value in addition to making the gameplay more interesting. He also complimented the way the music reflects what is going on in the game. A reviewer for Next Generation said that while the gameplay makes only minimal innovations to the restrictive on-rails format, the game keeps the player hooked though its gorgeous visuals and absorbing story. He summarized, "In a surprising victory for art and plot direction, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei proves that visual sophistication and compelling storylines can sometimes overcome less than revolutionary gameplay."
Rob Allsetter of Sega Saturn Magazine praised the impressive attention to detail in the graphics and the multiple routes. He concluded that it "belongs up there with VF2 and Sega Rally as the standard-bearer for its genre." Maximum's Daniel Jevons concurred with Scary Larry that the game "positively laughs in the face of any competing PlayStation 3D shooters." He pointed out that the much-maligned on-rails format is necessary to create the experience the game offers, noting as an example that it allowed the developers to synchronize the soundtrack with what is going on. He also praised the animation, 3D graphics, high frame rate, absence of pixelation even on the heavily detailed bosses, precise controls, lock-on attacks, and the ability to adjust the game's difficulty by choosing different routes.
IGN staff writer Levi Buchanan ranked Panzer Dragoon II Zwei fifth in his list of the top 10 Sega Saturn games, saying "The original Panzer Dragoon that flanked the Saturn at launch was nothing short of revelation. But this sequel improves on almost everything, offering better graphics, smoother animations, changing dragon forms, and branching routes."
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- Pantsā Doragūn Tsuvuai (パンツァードラグーン ツヴァイ)