In the spring of 1995, I finally got the Internet in my house and started checking the video game boards for the latest game releases. I realized almost immediately that I couldn’t trust everyone online, because for some strange reason anonymity creates false information. So around 3:00 on the 11th. In May 1995, I had my doubts when I read that Sega had surprisingly released its new console, the Saturn. The launch was scheduled for the end of September, so I tentatively called my local Software Etc. and asked if Saturn had indeed been released that day. To my surprise, they said yes, but if I had wanted to, I could have rushed in because they didn’t have more than a handful. I jumped in the car and drove as fast as I could. I was a big fan of Daytona USA on the slots and was looking forward to trying it out at home. The system came with a copy of Virtua Fighter, and the only game that seemed reasonably appealing was Panzer Dragoon, a title I literally knew nothing about. I rolled the dice and went home with a big smile on my face and an empty wallet.
Probably because I knew what to expect from Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA, but I was completely knocked out when I loaded up Panzer Dragoon. I was captivated by the music on the title screen and just let the game play. When a new game launched, there was a very long cinematic effect that was far greater than on any other home console at the time. It was way ahead of its time and even my parents (non-players) were impressed with the visuals. Then the game started, the music came on and I had a blast. The alien world combined with the sparse but no less intriguing story kept me hooked from start to finish. It’s one of my favorite gaming experiences because the game really blew me away as a teenager. Others, like Super Mario 64, Final Fantasy VII and Zelda: Ocarina of Time will soon have similar effects, but Panzer Dragoon has a special place in my game collection.
So, in Panzer the Dragon: When the remake was announced for the Switch, I was immediately excited and maybe a little worried. I was looking forward to giving the game a new coat of paint, but I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the design principles of current games. As if by tradition, the game’s shadow fell on an unexpected Nintendo Direct Mini on the Switch last Thursday (March 26, 2020) – nearly 25 years later. This is crazy! Despite the fact that he was completely fascinated by Animal Crossing: New Horizons, I just had to find time for one of my favorite 32-bit classics.
If you don’t know the franchise (and I wouldn’t be surprised if many Switch owners do), Panzer Dragoon : The remake looks a lot like the original Star Fox game on the Super Nintendo. The game is a 3D shooting game that takes place on rails. You ride on the back of a dragon and can move around the screen at will. If you hold down the fire button, you can shoot and hit multiple targets at once. It triggers laser attacks. If you have small, fast spinning projectiles, you can just press the fire button for short bursts to eliminate them even faster. Where the game gets a little crazy and unique is that you have a full 360 degree attack zone. By pressing one of the shoulder buttons, you can move the view 90 degrees to the left, right or back to take out enemies that are trying to surround you and attack from all sides. You have a small HUD radar that shows the position of enemies with red dots, so you have to be careful or risk getting shot.
At the time of the Saturn’s release, there were no analog sticks for the console, and it would be a few more years before Sony standardized the two-lane layout that controllers still use today. In this version of the game, you can choose between different control options to try to find the right one. Purists who want to experience the game as it was in 1995 will find solace in the classic control system, where the second stick is not really used. The modern facility will use a suitable analogue stick for aiming, as most players are used to these days for third and first person shots. I didn’t like the two operating systems from the start, but I found the two-handed configuration a little more comfortable. You have the option of reversing flight and aiming, which is what I usually do in my games. For some reason my brain didn’t like it, so I had to go back to normal. Then my brain didn’t like it either, so I went back to the opposite state. I never really understood a style that suited me. You have to experiment to find what works best for you.
Once I understood the controls, the game worked very well, and I managed to reach the fifth level without dying in normal difficulty on the first try. I was very proud of myself and I was impressed that I could remember so much of the original by playing this remake, because in quotes I have the impression that this game is more of a remastering. For the most part, the levels seem very similar in design, and the enemies have similar patterns, as do the bosses (at least from memory). Usually, when the game is refurbished, there are many more differences than what can be found here. Ultimately, it’s just semantics – know that if you’ve played the original, you’re getting a very good approximation here – from the story to the cinematography to the scenes. In fact, my only complaint about the gameplay is that the rediculus seems a bit out of place. It’s hard to describe what’s wrong, but sometimes it seems hard to tell where my shots will land, so I miss some of the enemies I swear I’m aiming at. The game is also very picky about where you draw enemies with the cursor. I feel like the area needs to be expanded to make it more enjoyable. Most players probably won’t notice, but it’s definitely different from the original.
Of course, the biggest upgrade comes in the graphics department, and I have to say I’m very pleased. The developers seem to have respected the original style of the game and are content to implement more detailed environments. The result is some really great scenes that often go by too quickly to fully appreciate the work that has been done. Although I should mention that there is a photo mode that you can access at any time to pause the action, and you can rotate the camera at any angle to capture the image.
The world still looks like the original, but has been updated for more powerful systems and runs at a constant speed. Some of the enemies still look a little old, but I think the design of the boss and blimps is a lot like the original, and I appreciate that they didn’t try too hard to change their appearance. Some areas may be a bit too crowded, so some enemies may not be visible, but honestly I haven’t had much time yet. That’s probably because I played the original on the floor at the time, probably more than 30 times. The game can be more difficult for newcomers.
Like I said before, I love the game’s original soundtrack and I’m glad the developers left it intact for this release. The sound is still played today, and it contains some truly amazing music. Some scenes will be more atmospheric and unsettling, while others will feature grandiose orchestral pieces that heighten the tension.
Just prior to the release of this review, the developers released a patch for the game with a brand new orchestral soundtrack. It’s standard and I quickly listened to a few of them and was impressed. It’s different, but it also sounds great on its own. For nostalgia’s sake, I’d probably rather play with the original music, but I appreciate the work that has gone into the new version, which features more exotic instruments. You can change the tone during operation to compare them at any time.
In addition to the aforementioned problems with controls and redikus, which sometimes seem a bit out of place, there are some other weaknesses. First, the loading time between levels is quite long. I haven’t timed it, but I think it’s close to a minute. Also, the game is quite short, especially for those who have already played it. Experienced players can probably get through it in less than an hour, maybe two. Beginners will probably die a little more and will have to learn the opposing formations and so on, so it will probably take them longer to win the game. Some may think the price ($24.99) is a bit high for the time it takes to beat it, and this is a valid criticism.
Tank Dragoon: The remake is hard to evaluate because I have such an affinity for the original, so this game definitely tickles the nostalgia bone. Knowing that it’s pretty hard to have fun playing Saturn classics these days, I’m glad there’s a new and relevant way to try them out. I like the graphical update it got, but there probably could have been more improvements in the game’s controls, and at that price I think an extra level or two would have been really helpful. This type of shooter is highly specialized these days, so the appeal is not for everyone. I highly recommend picking it up if you enjoyed the original and want to relive the experience. Also if you like it on arrowheads, it’s a good choice. For everyone else, it’s a good idea to wait for the sale before taking the device.
Dragoon Tank: Revision of Remake
- Charts – 7.5/10
- Sound – 10/10
- Gameplay – 5.5/10
- Late complaint – 4/10
Final thoughts : WARNINGS
Tank Dragoon: The remake will definitely appeal to fans of the original Saturn game, and for them I say absolutely opt for this one. I enjoyed moving around in the game and I really liked the updated graphics. The new soundtrack doesn’t pack the same punch as the original, but sounds more sophisticated. Fortunately, the original can be switched between options so you can get the best of both worlds. The high price, combined with the short advertising campaign and niche genre, make it hard to recommend this genre to anyone but loyal fans.
Craig has been covering the video game industry since 1995. His work has been published in various media. He is currently an editor and contributor to Age of Games.
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