I am sure that I can speak for every person in the entire world when I say that we all wish that we could ride a giant dragon that shoots lasers. That is the entire basis for the Panzer Dragoon series from Sega. Orta is the fourth title in the series, but it may be the first title that you have actually heard of because the other three titles were exclusives for the Sega Saturn and released in extremely limited quantities.
Panzer Dragoon: Orta follows the tale of a girl named Orta who has been imprisoned for her entire life by mysterious people known as the “Seekers.” Her tower that she is held captive in is destroyed by the Empire who ride genetically engineered dragons (that are apparently way better than regular dragons) and just as the Empire is about to kill Orta she is rescued by, you guessed it, a dragon. Listen people, it’s an on rails shooter, if you’re looking for a deep and engaging narrative look elsewhere.
The game controls are fluid and responsive. You hold down the attack button and move the cursor over objects to select them, then you let go of the button and your dragon fires a barrage of laser-missile things at whatever you happen to be trying to kill that particular moment. Orta has a small pistol that can be fired separately, but it’s puzzling why the developers put it in at all. The pistol she has is almost completely useless against anything larger than a water fowl, and well, if you are riding a dragon, chances are that you aren’t hunting ducks.
The most interesting concept about the game is that the dragon has three “modes” that it can enter depending on the combat situation. It has the “base mode” which is a well balanced setting, “heavy wing,” which is less mobile but has greater firepower, and “glide wing,” which is weaker but have high maneuverability. Learning the pros and cons of these forms is extremely important because this game is hard, like the Mile High Club mission from Call of Duty 4, except every single level is that way. I’ve played this game a lot of the years and I still haven’t seen the ending. Hell, half the time I never even see the third stage because of the sheer quantity of enemies you have to fight. It’s hard to even tell where you messed up, eventually you just notice that you have lost all your lives and you will say to yourself “What happened?”
It really is a shame that the game is so frustratingly hard because there are really cool unlockables, such as unique concept art, videos, and even cutscenes from the previous games in the series which I assume are there to catch you up with the whole genetically engineered cyborg dragon storyline. For those who are truly dedicated, the game has an full unlockable version of the original Panzer Dragoon, but If you have the tenacity and free time to beat this game then I’m assuming you are a fan and have probably already beat the original and its sequel.
The game looks really good for an original Xbox title, there isn’t a whole lot going on in the background as most of the graphical attention went into character design and development, as that is the focus of the game. Boss battles are epic events except for the fact that you get to look at the same stretch of background for the entirety of the fight. This wouldn’t even be a major complaint if some of the boss fights did not exceed the 20 minute mark. The game is unapologeticly brutal and that definitely hurts it a little bit. You can tell from the beginning that this game is built from the ground up for Panzer Dragoon’s small, but committed fanbase. If you don’t know what’s going on already, then you are going to be lost from the start. Panzer Dragoon: Orta is a very solidly built game and reminds me of a time when Sega did more than churn out awful Sonic the Hedgehog titles.
Does It Hold Up?
If you’re looking for a shooter that is easy to pick up, but hard to master then you could do a lot worse than Panzer Dragoon: Orta. If you've never played it before you should pick it up because it is a unique experience, and the whole package is available for about 5 dollars. If you have played it before, you are not going to have some sort of epiphany by picking it up again. This game is devilish in its simplicity, but has a hard time holding up to the gaming behemoths that we have on the market today. It is, however; exceedingly worth the small price tag. Plus it has dragons that shoot lasers; is there anything cooler than that?
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