Review – Panzer Dragoon: Remake

Although I am someone who grew up loving Sega, I can’t exactly say I have a lot of nostalgia towards the Panzer Dragoon games. That can basically be said about any other cult classic originally released solely for the Saturn. The first time I played a Panzer Dragoon game was when I bought Orta on the original Xbox. I eventually picked up a Saturn with a handful of its most important titles, including the Panzer Dragoon games. I really liked the first game, but it suffered from the same problem as most early Saturn titles; it was rushed in order to meet a surprise deadline. As a result, the first Panzer Dragoon was a very short game that also suffered from some technical issues. This brand new Panzer Dragoon remake is here not only to bring the original back to spotlight with a brand new coat of paint, but also introduce this cult classic franchise to a wider audience of gamers.

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This remake also features a fantastic recreation of the original FMV intro.

One curious thing about the Panzer Dragoon remake is that it wasn’t developed nor published by Sega themselves. This is not an uncommon thing to happen, as the company has already done this in the recent past. Both the remake of Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap and the upcoming Streets of Rage 4 were handled by DotEmu, while Shenmue III was published by Deep Silver. The Panzer Dragoon remake was handled by Forever Entertainment, a company I knew little of prior to the release of this title. I had only played one game published by them in the past, the largely underwhelming survival horror Hollow. Did they end up doing a better job handling this classic?

The short answer is, yes. But there’s just so much you can do with the original Panzer Dragoon. That game, although aimed to compete against Star Fox (both titles feature nearly identical gameplay), was even more limited than the 1993 Super Nintendo title. It featured no upgrades, no branching paths, no scoring systems. You had your dragon, a weak pistol, the awesome multi lock-on beam, and the ability to move the camera around in order to kill enemies beside and behind you. That is still all you’ll do here.

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Panzer Dragoon is at its best when you aim and shoot at dozens of enemies at once.

The gameplay is basically intact, but the developers included new control schemes for those used to playing twin-stick shooters. For the most part, you’re fine without even touching the second analog stick, as it forces you to pay attention at two different parts of the screen at once: your dragon on one side and the reticule on the other. It brought back some horrible Star Fox Zero memories I thought I had repressed years ago. Stick to one analog stick, the shoulder buttons to move the camera around, and the B button in order to shoot at things. It’s more than enough to entertain you, even though it’s beyond basic.

The graphical improvements disappointed me a bit. I don’t dislike the brand new visuals: the opening stage looks absolutely gorgeous, with more detailed backgrounds, enemies onscreen, and some beautiful water reflection effects. It’s a lot more detailed than Panzer Dragoon Orta, for instance, and that game was already beyond gorgeous for OG Xbox standards. That being said, it’s not something that pushes the Switch’s hardware to its limits and yet the game still runs at a meager 30 frames per second. Some slowdowns occur every now and then, especially when there’s a lot of action happening onscreen. Thankfully, I can’t complain about the soundtrack. What was already fantastic back in 1995 received some fantastic rearrangements that definitely do the original tunes justice.

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It’s hard to go back to the original Panzer Dragoon after playing this much more visually appealing remake.

Technical issues aside, the main problem with the Panzer Dragoon remake is that it’s a remake of a painfully short title that was originally rushed to meet a surprise launch deadline twenty-five years ago. There’s just not a lot of content in here to justify the somewhat steep price. Had they released a compilation featuring Panzer Dragoon Zwei as well, I would have definitely considered it a must-buy. As for now, I can say I enjoyed my time playing this remake of a criminally underrated cult classic, but I would only recommend grabbing at a discount.

 

Graphics: 7.5

A very welcome visual improvement over the original, but the fact it only runs at 30fps ended up being a disappointment, as the game doesn’t exactly look like something that would be pushing the Switch’s hardware to its limits.

Gameplay: 7.0

Make sure to play this game with the classic controls, as the dual-stick “modern” gameplay scheme it offers makes the game a chore to play. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same control scheme and gameplay from 1995.

Sound: 9.0

The original Saturn version already had a fantastic soundtrack. This rearranged version might actually be even better than the original.

Fun Factor: 6.5

It’s a very faithful recreation of the original Panzer Dragoon. The problem is that the original game was already a rushed job with a very short length. While this remake isn’t a rushed job, it’s still a painfully short game with a somewhat steep asking price.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Panzer Dragoon: Remake is available now on Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

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