Here we are at the final review of Original Xbox Love Month! I am going to be a tad controversial and review a game that I consider to be the best game on the original Xbox, besides Halo and Knights of the Old Republic. I have not played Knights of the Old Republic, and while I enjoyed Halo, I am not a super hardcore fan of the franchise. I mean, you can still play video games and not be a fan of certain franchises. For me, I’m not a fan of Halo, Gears of War, Knights of the Old Republic , and a few others. Not that they are bad games, because they are not. They just never appealed to me. Plus, the only way you would consider a good game terrible is if you nitpick at every single element and push your opinion onto others, which is the sad fate of a lot of reviewers I have seen. I try not to push my opinion onto others because if you enjoy a game that I or others have given a bad review on, that is fine. You can enjoy it all you want, it just never did anything for me, and I personally found the game flawed. So, what game do I personally consider to be more for me than Halo or Knights of the Old Republic? Well, it’s Sega’s Panzer Dragoon Orta. Let us not waste any more time, let us get the review started.
The story takes place many years after Panzer Dragoon Saga, and revolves around this girl named Orta. She was a prisoner caught by a group called The Seekers who see her as a bringer of death. While she is being held prisoner, an evil empire attacks the place where she is being kept and is about to be killed. However, a dragon flies in and saves her, taking her away from the attack and saving her life. It is up to her and this unknown dragon that saved her to stop this evil empire from destroying everything and taking over the world. There is more to the story, like a mysterious ex-imperial drone character, who from time to time, helps Orta and is also flying a dragon that is basically like the one she rides. Overall though, the story isn’t the game’s biggest focal point, but it’s a solid story. You can tell there was a lot of thought put into this game’s story and characters to be something epic. It does succeed at times, but most of the time, the story is there to just take you from level to level. I still enjoyed it though, and I bet some of you really enjoyed it.
The gameplay is of a rail shooter, like the previous games in the series, or something like Vanark on the PS1 or Star Fox on the Nintendo 64. You fly through pretty linear levels and shoot down enemies small and large, and each level ends with a huge boss that you need to take down. There are a couple of main gimmicks that you will need to master if you want to beat the game’s 10 levels. The first gimmick is the ability to change into three different dragons. You have your normal dragon that can do both rapid-fire shots and heat-seeking shots. You then have a dragon form that can shoot only quick shots and is much faster. Finally, you have a strong dragon that can only do heat seeking-shots and is much stronger, but slower. Each of these forms can be upgraded through a simple upgrade system. The next gimmick this game offers is hard to describe, but you can’t just move freely through this rail shooter. During boss fights, you have to position your dragon on a specific side of the boss to either hit its weak spot or dodge attacks aimed in that direction. There is a lot of depth to this, and the bosses revolve around this gimmick so you better get good at using it. Even if you could move around freely like in Star Fox’s All Range Mode, they would have to redesign the entire game and that would ruin the strategy of choosing the right dragon and being on the right side to take down enemies faster and to take bosses down quicker. The single player itself is kind of on the short side, but the game is fun, and the unlockables are timed-base, meaning they will be unlocked after a certain amount of time has passed. One of the cooler unlockables is the ability to play a complete port of the first Panzer Dragoon, which was one of the classic games on the Sega Saturn. The game is also challenging, and the way you move can be a bit of an issue, but overall, the enjoyment you will have playing through the levels and unlocking so many cool unlockables will easily overshadow the bad.
The graphics are outstandingly beautiful. Sega definitely made a good chunk of the budget for this title focus on the graphical presentation. Even after so many years and one console generation, this game still holds up graphically. It’s very beautiful, well-animated, and a lot of nice character models and CG cut scenes. The music is gorgeous, with some really nice atmospheric tunes and just good music overall. The composer of this beautiful music is Saori Kobayashi. He is mostly well known for doing the music for Panzer Dragoon Saga, one of the most expensive and sought after Sega Saturn games and is also one of the most requested games to get a sequel or HD port. The last thing I want to talk about this game is its atmosphere. It seems like a huge amount of work went into this game, and you could tell the creators had a lot of passion making this game. It is just an excellent presentation overall.
So, what is wrong with Panzer Dragoon Orta, or what do I personally think is wrong with it? I feel like the direction-changing gimmick is slightly clunky, and your dragon’s movements are not as fluid due to being on a set path. Play this game and then play Star Fox 64 and you will see what I mean. I wouldn’t make a big deal of your character’s movements if it didn’t end up with sometimes getting a bunch of cheap hits from enemies. I also feel like the game is a bit on the short side, but there are a bunch of things that will expand on the single player experience that this complaint very minor. Due to how short the game can be though, is that you only have one life, but unlimited continues. You will just have to restart at the beginning of the level. It can be a bit annoying if you are not familiar with the dodge mechanic.
Panzer Dragoon Orta is one of the best games I have played, due to how much work and heart went into this game. It might have its small issues, but this game is just too good to be moaning and groaning about its faults. I highly recommend you get this for your original Xbox. I know a lot of people would say get it for your 360, due to the backwards compatibility update given to the system, but it didn’t work for me, so I’d still get an original Xbox for this game. Let us hope the spiritual successor to the Panzer Dragoon series known as Crimson Dragon can do well enough to get the series back on its feet.
This game gets a 9 out of 10