#517 Panzer Dragoon Orta

Posted: 22nd May 2013 by Jeroen in Games
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241th played so far

Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Platform: Xbox
Year of Release: 2002
Developer: Smilebit
Publisher: Sega

Would you believe this game is made by the same developers as the previous Jet Set Radio Future? Even odder, they’re also responsible for the upcoming, even other edutainment/survival horror Typing of the Dead. Even more depressing is that these days they’re responsible for the far less exciting Mario & Sonic sport games. It feels like a bit of a waste.

With that sad note, we come back to the end of our small XFest, starting with Midtown Madness 3. We finish with our eternal bane, a shoot ’em up. While it’s the second most common genre on the list, the most common one, action, is one we pick up by default a lot more often. With how far behind we get then, having a game like it come up like this, rather than doing a few because we have to, is quite nice.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is the fifth and last in its series, all with the same style of gameplay. The fourth game will be covered in a future Dreamfest 2, but that’s for later. Let’s first see whether it’s as hip as Jet Set Radio Future.

Our Thoughts

First things first – that ‘Dragoon’ in the title – I’m fairly sure this is a misspelling and should be ‘Dragon’. After all, there’s no soldiers in the game, while you do ride around on a big-ass dragon. Yeah. This annoyed us. Apparently this is based more around the German for ‘armoured dragon’ despite the fact that the German for dragon is Drache.

So yeah, that’s the basic game. You are a girl called ‘Orta’ and ride around on a big-ass dragon. You fire lasers and missiles at enemies around you while your dragon flies mostly around a single path (you can adjust it slightly, but as this is a rails shooter, that’s to be expected. It means you can shoot on all sides, which obviously has plenty of use as they attack you from all sides.

This has one big advantage, though, although it doesn’t impact gameplay. As you’re flying around, you’re pulled around many gorgeous vistas. Endless forests, deep caves and marvelous buildings. That combines nicely with the exotic animals you face in some levels as well as the strange ships of the enemies you fight against. It’s colourful and imaginative and the lovely graphics make playing this game worth it.

Which makes something else worth mentioning here – you meet some allies along the way, and your opponents at least announce things to you (although why they’d tell you what weapons they’re going to use is beyond me). As a staple of the series (and probably to make translation easier), this is done in some sort of garbled speech that doesn’t make sense. They still, however, manage to be quite stereotypical with it. Yeah. The good guys sound Japanese, the bad sound Russian. Hmmm…. Actually it’s a made up language that is a mixture of Russian, Latin and Ancient Greek, still… I get props for recognizing the Russian.

The game itself then. One interesting thing – something it feels we’re no longer used to – is that it expects you to read the manual. A nice, big manual. As 90s as it feels, without it you won’t know your controls here, and while firing is on the expected key, Peter can testify that missing out on a lot of the additional options makes the game unnecessarily difficult. Finding out that holding down A leads to a homing attack really was a game changer.

It’s not that complicated, but between homing lasers and missiles, berserk attacks if you build up one meter, and gliding using another, it becomes difficult enough to keep track of it and figure out your tactics. As said, you have some control over your path – direction and speed – and while the former mostly matters for the mass enemy and fly-through sections, avoiding attacks – the latter comes into play with the bosses. One plant-based one requires you to move from its front to its back and vice versa as it keeps turning to avoid you, while the challenge with the ‘Catharp’ (possibly pronounced ‘Cat-Harp’ – an evil combination if I ever heard of one.) is that you need to overtake it to shoot at its vulnerable point.

But that’s where it is. The game starts off quite relentless and steps it up from there. It’s not easy to keep up with and gets incredibly frustrating. But it doesn’t take too much work to keep up with it either, and some stubbornness will see you through it… as long as you find out that one secret to finishing the boss.

Final Thoughts

Another shoot ’em up with a very steep difficulty curve. We know that when we cover Panzer Dragoon Saga the difficulty will probably be amped up again. Great as long as you’re okay with a broken Sega Saturn controller.