Phoenix from the flames
Panzer Dragoon takes to the skies, rising from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames as a timed exclusive on Nintendo Switch with Steam and Xbox versions coming soon. Publishers Forever Entertainment are hoping to expose a new generation of gamers to 1995’s SEGA on-rails shooter by porting it to current-gen and making slight weeks before bundling it up as a remake. But does this modern take on Team Andromeda’s classic warrant a place in your current collection?
In 1995 when the game originally released for SEGA Saturn the developer/publisher was cruising on the crest of a string of successful franchises, many sharing similar traits. Virtua Cop and House of the Dead were akin in format but had the bonus of coming packaged with groovy lightgun peripherals. The dawn of HD TV gave us crisp visual fidelity but in utilising a different technology rendered these plastic weapons obsolete and the genre fell by the wayside somewhat. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have all have dipped their toe into the genre in recent years using motion controls to solve the problem with varying success. This is why remaking Panzer Dragoon makes perfect sense, you will get the nostalgia of the on-rails shooter without the need for a gimmick in the control mechanics.
Set over seven action-packed and thrilling stages
Panzer Dragoon is a roller coaster ride that pits you against some of the meanest dragons and creatures that have a sole objective, to shoot the living daylights out of you. Movement is restricted, as you would expect, and follows a set path toward the finale of each stage accumulating in a boss fight. The analogue stick or d-pad will allow slight movement to dodge the incoming barrage of projectiles but is nothing more than a sluggish shift in the corresponding direction. Just ahead of your trusty dragon sit a series of spinning targets that gradually fade into the distance to give a 3D-like depth and are used to chaperone attacks mapped to the B button.
The screen layout displays a health bar bottom-left and a radar in the top-right to alert of incoming nasties. Triggers shift the camera in 90-degree intervals as throughout play enemies will appear from all directions, often flanking when least expected. The Switch seemed especially twitchy with this mechanic, it was easy to accidentally end up spinning around in a daze faster than the ’80s pop classic by Dead or Alive (or Flo Rida depending on age). After beating each stage you are given a tally of key statistics followed by some fairly abysmal loading times.
In the visual department, Panzer Dragoon has received the HD treatment.
The game looks fine running on the Switch in handheld mode but the backgrounds and character models aren’t the most detailed and finished with merely average textures. There’s a stark contrast in the different locations each stage is set, ranging from bright and beautiful open landscapes that are in your face, to barren wastelands or dark claustrophobic cave systems. Overall Panzer Dragoon is a good looking game but nothing to write home about, most of this is incidental though because in motion your priority is to stay alive rather than take in the sights. The developer has included a photo mode to help combat this which is fun to play around with, apply filters and change the camera to your heart’s content.
Panzer Dragoon can be finished in a couple of hours and the only replay value is in beating the last run as once the story is done, that’s it. Where it really suffers is that for today’s gamers it offers a barebones experience. Simply not enough has been added, there are no options to upgrade or customisation in gameplay that is standard nowadays. Hopefully we will see some of these features added with time, the devs have already released a patch that includes additional and reworked music, bug fixes and game balancing. It’s good that they are responding to issues raised and supporting the game’s future.
Panzer Dragoon: Remake on Nintendo Switch lets you play SEGA’s classic on the go but with minimal additions or improvements made it will have limited appeal. The visual while improved does still look and feel dated, as do the game mechanics. I understand keeping true to the original but mixing it up with unlockable dragons or weapons would have gone a long way to making this remake a more attractive package with features that are considered as standard nowadays. This remake is great if you are looking for a quick blast of nostalgia and will certainly sell well.
Review code provided
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 26/03/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action
Developer: Megapixel Studio
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Download link: eShop