Panzer Dragoon Orta

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Panzer Dragoon Orta
North American box art
Developer(s) Smilebit
Publisher(s) Sega
Distributor(s) Infogrames (PAL)
Director(s) Akihiko Mukaiyama
Producer(s) Shun Arai
Takayuki Kawagoe
Artist(s) Takashi Iwade
Kentaro Yoshida
Writer(s) Shigeru Kurihara
Kenichiro Ishii
Composer(s) Saori Kobayashi
Yutaka Minobe
Series Panzer Dragoon
Platform(s) Xbox
  • JP: December 19, 2002
  • NA: January 14, 2003
  • PAL: April 21, 2003
Genre(s) Rail shooter
Mode(s) Single-player

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter video game published by Sega for the Xbox. The game was released in Japan in December 2002, January 2003 in the United States, and three months later in PAL territories. It is the fourth and final game in the main Panzer Dragoon series. After the release of the previous Panzer Dragoon game, Panzer Dragoon Saga (1998), Sega disbanded Team Andromeda, which had developed every game in the main Panzer Dragoon series.[1] Many staff joined Smilebit, which went on to develop Panzer Dragoon Orta.[1]

The game focuses on a young girl, Orta, who has been held as a prisoner her entire life, before being freed by a mysterious dragon. As she rides on the dragon's back through a post-apocalyptic world, she must defend herself from the forces of an oppressive and militaristic Empire, who believe she is the harbinger of their destruction, as well as multiple species of bio-engineered creatures.


Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter: players can control the dragon's position onscreen, and may briefly slow down or speed up (the latter can be used as a potent ramming attack), but ultimately are in no control to fly about the level. Attacking is performed by holding down a mappable attack button, maneuvering an onscreen cursor over enemies, and releasing the button to fire a volley of arching lasers at each target. Orta is also equipped with a rapid-fire pistol, which can be used by tapping the attack button instead of holding it down. Enemies must thus be defeated before they vanish offscreen as the levels "scroll" by, with the exception of boss battles, which take place in environments that "loop" until the boss is defeated). An onscreen radar marks enemies in the dragon's immediate surroundings as red dots. Using the Right and Left Triggers, the player can rotate the view 90 degrees to the left or right. This way the player can look in front, to the sides or behind the dragon and take down incoming enemies. A Life Gauge displays the dragon's current health. When the dragon's health reaches zero, the game ends and the player will have to redo the entire Episode. If the dragon dies during the final boss fight of the Episode, the player also gets the option to restart the Episode at the boss fight.

Orta's dragon can morph itself instantaneously between three different forms: the Base Wing (standard class with no weaknesses or strengths), Heavy Wing (offensive class with less mobility), or Glide Wing (nimble class good for shooting down masses of incoming projectiles). Each of these forms can level up by collecting "gene bases" from certain enemies. Unique to the Glide Wing is the ability to have the dragon perform a barrel roll by moving the thumbstick sideways in quick succession.

Each dragon type has a different Glide Gauge. The dragon's ability to slow down or speed up can only be done a limited number of times as it decreases the Glide Gauge. When the Glide Gauge is empty, the dragon can no longer slown down or speed up and must wait for the gauge to refill (which happens automatically over time). The Glide Wing can speed up or slow down up to three times using a full Glide Gauge, while the Base Wing can only do so two times. The Heavy Wing can't slow down or speed up at all, trading its mobility for a greater damage output.

As with the Glide Gauge, each dragon type also has a different Berserk Gauge. Using the dragon's Berserk Attack depletes the Berserk Gauge (which refills over time as you defeat enemies). Besides inflicting a lot of damage on the onscreen enemies, the attack also grants the dragon invincibility for a short amount of time. In the case of the Glide Wing, the attack also steals life from the onscreen enemies and uses it to refill the dragon's own Life Gauge.

Orta's dragon is capable of shooting homing lasers at multiple targets. Here, the Base Wing form attacks several areas on an early boss.

During the boss battles, the player can also position the dragon to the front, the sides or behind the boss using the dragon's ability to speed up or slow down. During a boss fight the onscreen radar shows the areas around the boss where the dragon is vulnerable to attacks (marked with a red color) and the ones where the dragon is safe (green color), and these areas change as the battle goes on. The player must use this information to move around the boss and avoid being hit, while simultaneously finding and attacking the boss's weak points.

At the conclusion of each Episode, the player is ranked based on the number of enemies defeated, score, hits taken, and the time it took to defeat the boss. Each of these is assigned a letter grade from S, A, B, C, and D (with S being the highest). The four grades are averaged together to give the player an overall assessment of how well they performed. This grading also occurs at the conclusion of the game's numerous side-missions (including all seven Episodes of Iva's Story).


The Empire has returned to power, using ancient technology to genetically engineer dragons called dragonmares. A young girl, Orta, has lived all her life in a tower in a valley, imprisoned by the Seekers, who fear she is a harbinger of doom. One night, the Empire attacks the valley with its dragonmares, destroying much of the city. Before the dragonmares can harm Orta, a mysterious dragon appears and eliminates them.

Orta flees the valley on the dragon. Evren, a general in the Imperial Army and leader of the dragonmare squadron, pursues her. She is saved by Abadd, a renegade imperial drone. He flies away and Orta asks the dragon to follow him. In her search, Orta meets Mobo, a friendly but reckless member of the wormriders. Mobo leads Orta through a river valley and a sea of ash to the wormrider village. The imperial fleet attacks the village and Evren's squadron engages Orta, but she and the dragon defeat them. Evren's dragonmare self-destructs and Orta and the dragon fall from the sky.

The wounded dragon carries Orta on foot across a snowy land until its torn wings regenerate. They fend of an attack from a flying predator, but Orta feels sorrow when she sees it has children. Abadd reappears and kills the family with a laser volley. He claims to have information about her birth and Orta follows him.

They descend into the ruins of a tower and access the ancient information network known as Sestren. Orta finds a message recorded by her mother, saying that Orta is the child of a drone and a human, made from DNA she recovered from a human in Sestren. Abadd explains that he has learnt the secret of drone reproduction and intends to use Orta's body to replicate himself infinitely and conquer the world. Orta defeats Abadd's avatar and discovers that he is heading for the Cradle, an ancient monolithic artifact above the imperial city. She orders Sestren that she be transported there.

Orta and the dragon find themselves in an imperial research facility. After they destroy several experiments, including dragonmare embryos, the facility collapses. They destroy an imperial defense unit and the Emperor dies within the explosion. The Cradle breaks free, destroying several Imperial ships and sending the dragonmares berserk. The wormriders, led by Mobo, attack the imperial fleet at the city, leaving Orta to fly towards the Cradle.

After destroying the last of the dragonmares and the Cradle's shell, a cocoon-like object emerges from the Cradle's core. The cocoon erupts into Abadd's enormous dragon, which Orta and the dragon defeat. The dragon, severely wounded, flies to the ground and dies. The war over, Orta walks towards a mountain range with a baby dragon.

Iva's Story[edit]

Iva Demilcol is a young imperial boy whose father died in a battle with Orta's dragon shortly after a bitter argument with Iva over the morality of war. Iva is stricken with an unusual disease, and must take a strange pill each day to survive. He aims to find out more before all his pills are gone. Though he manages to make a few friends at the Empire's military academy, he becomes isolated once again when Orta's dragon shoots down his fleet, killing all of his friends. Iva himself only survives when he is rescued and revived by a group of Seekers. After proving himself worthy of the Seekers' trust, however, Iva learns that his father was involved with dragonmares, which shocks and angers him.

Iva discovers a letter from his father. Iva's story is mostly told through text superimposed above illustrations, and features music from Panzer Dragoon Saga during certain scenes.

When the conversation turns towards the weaponry of the Ancient Age, one of the Seekers mentions a great weapon hidden in the nearby ruins; whoever hits it would be destroyed, along with everything in a wide radius. Another Seeker gets word of the Dragon, and Iva sets off after it immediately. He cannot catch it, however, and returns to the Seekers' den, where he shocks them by suddenly falling to the ground. It has been a long time since he has taken his medicine, and the Seeker that gives him the pill notes that it is the last one. A Seeker named Emil notices a peculiar amulet that Iva wears around his neck, and identifies it as a letter container used by nomadic tribes. Opening it, Iva does indeed find a letter to him from his father, who tells Iva that he will be dead by the time he reads it.

Iva's father tells him that Iva carries in his body a virus, when he innocently drank water from a poisoned well as an infant. Iva survived when his father made a medicine from the internal fluids of a bio-engineered creature. The medicine stopped the virus from spreading, but could not purge the disease completely, as the virus began to evolve into more resistant forms. Iva's father made medicines from more and more powerful creatures, but eventually there existed not a single creature from which a medicine could be made. This led him to join the people responsible for the dragonmares; the pills Iva took recently all came from one. He acknowledges that what he did was ultimately wrong, but he tells him that he continued to make the medicine so that he could be with him for that much longer. He tells him never to give up, that he has faith in him, and pleads Iva to forgive him.

The Seeker colony is suddenly attacked by dragonmares. Iva vows to destroy them all and bring the horrors of his father's work to an end. Iva finds the ancient weapon, shaped like a big drum, and activates it just as the dragonmares come tearing into the chamber. A giant beam of light shoots skyward from the drum, repelling the dragonmares; Iva is surprised to find himself still alive. The device was not a weapon of mass destruction, but instead a sound generator meant to ward off bio-engineered creatures. The shaft of light makes a great pattern of colors in the sky, and the many soldiers of the Empire and the Seekers lay down their weapons for a moment in awe.

Iva is rescued by the Seekers, and sits quietly with Emil underneath the branches of a great tree. He acknowledges that while humans have a very despicable nature in their tendencies to fight and ultimately kill each other, he is moved that they were yet able to make something so beautiful. He feels tired, and knowing that he may never wake again, he calls out softly to his father before falling asleep, and expresses his gratitude for being able to know the many people that befriended him on his journey.

Bonus features[edit]

Panzer Dragoon Orta has many unlockable bonus features which are opened after certain achievements within the game, such as beating it on a certain difficulty or with a clearing the game with a high shot-down ratio. These features are contained in "Pandora's Box", a feature returning from Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and include a detailed encyclopedia of the Panzer world, a bestiary of defeated enemies, an archive of concept art, extra bonus missions that expand the story of the main game, statistics tracking, a cutscene viewer (including movies from earlier Panzer Dragoon games), and even a complete port of the original Panzer Dragoon.

Orta's unlockables are also unique in that they are time-sensitive. Accumulating twenty hours of play time will unlock everything, regardless of other circumstances.


The game's soundtrack was composed by Saori Kobayashi and Yutaka Minobe (whose previous work includes the soundtrack for the 2000 Dreamcast role-playing video game, Skies of Arcadia). The ending song, Anu Orta Veniya ("When the Day Breaks"), was orchestrated by Hayato Matsuo and sung by Eri Itoh. Kobayashi, Matsuo and Itoh had previously worked for Panzer Dragoon Saga soundtrack in the same position.

The U.S. soundtrack release for the game was published by Tokyopop and includes bonus tracks from Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, and Panzer Dragoon Saga. These tracks are not on the original Japanese soundtrack release, which was published by Marvelous Entertainment.


On December 19, 2002, a Panzer Dragoon Orta Special Edition Xbox was released in Japan to commemorate the release of Panzer Dragoon Orta on the Xbox. This quickly became the most sought-after Xbox to date. This Special Edition had a limited production of 999 units.[2]

Panzer Dragoon Orta presents a rendering bug when run on the original Xbox 1.6 models at 480p but a workaround has been found.[3] It was made forward compatible with the Xbox 360 on April 19, 2007. The game was made compatible for all regions; however, there have been multiple reports that the PAL version of the game consistently crashes to the Dashboard after the full-motion video at the end of the third Episode.[4] No fix to this problem has been made available in two subsequent backwards compatibility updates, though there is a workaround solution for this involving unlockables.[5]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 90% (86 reviews)[6]
Metacritic 90/100 (41 reviews)
Review scores
Publication Score A[7]
Eurogamer 8 out of 10
Famitsu 35 out of 40[8]
Game Informer 8.25 out of 10[9]
GameSpot 9.0 out of 10
IGN 9.2 out of 10

Panzer Dragoon Orta has a score of 90% on both GameRankings and Metacritic. GameSpot called it "one of the best traditional video game shooting experiences ever made",[10] and IGN's review called Orta a potent mix between "a solid storyline, stunning graphics, and great sound", declaring it "the best rail shooter of all time".[11] Most of Orta's criticism was directed at the short length of the main single-player game, and its high level of difficulty even on the easiest settings.'s review noted that "if you can beat it on normal difficulty, then consider yourself a true gamer," and that "it may turn off some with its difficulty".[7]

IGN also included the game in their list of Top 25 Xbox games of all time[12] and in their top 11 list of games that deserve an HD remake.[13] GamesRadar named Panzer Dragoon Orta the 10th best Xbox game of all time out of a list of 25.[14]


  1. ^ a b "GameSpot Presents: The History of Panzer Dragoon - GameSpot". 2005-06-01. Archived from the original on September 22, 2004. Retrieved 2015-12-11. 
  2. ^ Mielke, James (2007-09-11). "1UP: Panzer Dragoon Orta Retrospective". Retrieved 2008-08-03. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b 1UP Staff (2003-01-12). "Sega's legendary dragon soars to new heights". Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  8. ^ Xbox - パンツァードラグーン オルタ. Weekly Famitsu. No.915 Pt.2. Pg.107. 30 June 2006.
  9. ^ "Panzer Dragoon Orta". Game Informer: 105. January 2003. 
  10. ^ Greg Kasavin (2003-01-13). "Review: Panzer Dragoon Orta". GameSpot. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  11. ^ Hilary Goldstein (2003-01-10). "IGN: Panzer Dragoon Orta Review". IGN. Retrieved 2008-07-27. 
  12. ^ Douglass C. Perry, Erik Brudvig and Jon Miller (2007-03-16). "The Top 25 Xbox Games of All Time". IGN. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  13. ^ IGN Staff (2012-06-23). "11 Retro Remakes We Need Right Now". IGN. Retrieved 2012-10-28. 
  14. ^ GamesRadar staff (April 19, 2012). "Best Xbox games of all time". GamesRadar. Retrieved February 2, 2013.