Lost in Time

I love me some Sega.  I grew up on the Genesis and the Saturn before splitting to Sony consoles, and the memories of those two consoles run deep.  I could go on and on about big franchises like Sonic and Virtua Fighter, but one of the more interesting IPs to spawn from the latter console is Panzer Dragoon.  While its on-rails shooter experience ran multiple titles and ventured into the 6th generation of consoles, the franchise has been on ice for nearly 20 years. Sounds about ripe for a remake if I do say so myself.

For those not familiar with Panzer Dragoon, the original title follows Keil Fluge, who while on a hunting mission oversees a battle between two dragons comes in contact with one of the dragon riders as they get shot down in combat.  The rider of the blue dragon entrusts Keil with his mission on his final breaths, ordering Keil to hunt down the other dragon and stop it from activating an ancient ruin that wields power to cause destruction untold.  Keil takes the rider’s ancient weapon and dragon and sets off in pursuit to save the world.

Like most on-rail shooters, your character is affixed to a predetermined line and your job is to shoot all that’s in your way.  Repeated button taps fire as fast as your finger can hit, but holding onto the fire button locks on to multiple enemies as they’re hovered over to target and releasing unleashes a flurry of bullets against your foes.  It’s super satisfying hitting a group of enemies with a barrage of curving bullets or raining a stream of shots at a boss while dodging attacks and keeping your head on a swivel for sneaky ambushes.

While games like Time Crisis were taking the opportunity to add more interactivity and functionality to the simplistic formula with its cover system, and with all of Panzer Dragoon: Remake’s action, one static screen wouldn’t hold it all, so PDR allows you to freely swap to both sides and behind to keep the action going as well as not get shot in the back.  This’ll give you plenty of angles to take in the remade stages, which will fly through vibrant forests, bustling port cities, and sprawling deserts.  MegaPixel has lovingly brought each stage to life and they are a treat to see in the present day compared to the Saturn of old.

While I love my old titles and am happy to see them remade, it is not without issues.  Panzer Dragoon: Remake holds several boss battles, and to their credit most are an entertaining fight, but almost all of them hold zero difficulty in their fight patterns and boil down to how fast you can spam the attack button, not learning patterns and dodging projectiles.  Some of the later stages have some less than stellar enemy positions that make it near impossible to get through areas unscathed either by how many enemies are on-screen or where they spawn in accordance to the previous wave.  It’s not a big deal, but can be a bit frustrating.

For better or worse, this is a tried and true remake, and Panzer Dragoon was and still is very light on content.  Seven stages span 60 minutes of game time and a modifier mode after completing the game gives you some extra flavor to savor the meal.  Panzer Dragoon: Remake is a game that expects repeated playthroughs in order to perfect the art of its flying combat, but you can see everything this game has to offer in a lunch break, and that may sour the user base outside its most devoted.  The addition of Panzer Dragoon II Zwei would’ve added a much needed boost to content, as well as making the $24.99 price tag much more appealing and understanding, but that remake is scheduled to drop in 2021, and I can expect to have the same issue there as I do here.

I personally am happy to see old Sega Saturn titles see the shiny new light of day, especially such a prolific title in the console’s catalog.  But the amount of content needed to have a game be worth its weight in gold has increased as the decades have moved forward, and the smooth combat and appealing graphics can’t mask that the meat on Panzer Dragoon: Remake’s bones is lacking.

Reviewed on Steam