TGS 2005: Sega Ages: Panzer Dragoon Hands-On

Sega brings it Saturn classic to the PlayStation 2 as part of its Sega Ages series.


TOKYO--Tucked away toward the back of Sega's gargantuan booth at the Tokyo Game Show was a bank of kiosks holding the upcoming entries in its Sega Ages series--remakes or revivals of its classic games. One of the games was Panzer Dragoon, the stylish rail shooter from the now-defunct Team Andromeda that appeared at the launch of the Sega Saturn. The game featured two playable episodes that took us back to the days of 32-bit shooters and Sega's underappreciated console.

The demo featured episodes one and two from the start of the game, which follows the adventures of a young boy befriended by a mysterious, powerful dragon. When it initially debuted, Panzer Dragoon turned heads for its impressive art design, surreal setting, orchestral soundtrack, and rail-shooting mechanic. The first episode finds the boy and his dragon making their way across an ocean to ruins where they face off against a massive airship. The second episode sees the pair navigating a desert and caves near it before taking on another dragonrider.

The control is simple--you just have to shoot. You can change your viewing area to one of four spots--front, back, left, and right--to better deal with incoming foes. In addition, tapping the fire button will let you shoot individual blasts, while holding it down will let you lock on to multiple targets that can be hit once you release the button. The aiming reticle isn't quite as responsive as we would like, but we expect it will be tightened up as development on the game progresses.

The visuals are several steps above those in the original Saturn game, likely due to the fact that it was probably ported from the PC version of the game. Unfortunately, there hasn't been a whole lot of work done to upgrade the visuals, so plan on seeing a lot of blocky objects and garish textures. On the upside, Team Andromeda's artists were masters of doing a lot with a little, so the game's unique art style made the most of the blockiness. The frame rate is a generally solid 30 frames per second.

The audio has been faithfully reproduced from what we can tell, though the show floor is not really the place for audiophiles to scruntinize music. The unique soundtrack mixed orchestral clips with more contemporary music styles to create a unique audio experience that still holds up. Beyond that, the game was pretty thin on sound as it always has been. You'll hear clips for the individual bullets as well as the familiar tone when you've locked on to a target. The lasers that fire when you release the lock retain the satisfying "whoosh" we fondly remember.

Considering how blasphemous some of the entries in the Sega Ages series have been, we're reasonably pleased with Panzer Dragoon. The game is a fairly faithful re-creation of the original game so it's hard to complain. Sega Ages: Panzer Dragoon is slated to ship later this year for the PlayStation 2.

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