Hello TAY! Last week, I wrote about an insanely over-the-top anime-game that a lot of you seem to love.

Today, we take a trip down memory lane, to a time when high scores mattered, and when challenge was paramount.


Panzer Dragoon Orta was released back in 2003 as an Xbox exclusive. Developed by Smilebit and published by Sega, it, of course, was-and, currently is-the latest in the excellent Panzer Dragoon series, originating on the Sega Saturn. In this installment, you play as Orta, a young girl who has spent her entire life imprisoned in a massive tower. The ones who keep her imprisoned are known as Seekers, who seem to think Orta will bring the end of the world. Soon, a group of Dragonmares led by the Empire from previous PD games, attempt to kill Orta, before a dragon shows up and destroys them. Orta hops on the dragons' back, and before you know it, you're off on an adventure to survive and destroy the empire, as well as learn more about Orta's mysterious past.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter throughout. You can control the dragon's position on screen somewhat, as well as dodge to the sides, but it flies a predetermined path through each level. You also control a targeting reticule with the right joystick, locking on to a huge variety of enemies and unleashing a swarm of missiles towards them. Anyone who's played last week's game, Asura's Wrath, will feel right at home here. The on-rail segments of that game are very similar to this one.


Of note is PDO's dragons. Specifically, there are three of them-that you can switch to at the press of a button. There's the default Base Wing, which is of medium strength and speed, and then there's the Heavy Wing (high strength, low speed) and the Glide Wing (low strength, high speed) Successful mastery of the game requires knowing when to switch between these forms.

And mastering the game is no easy task. PDO is difficult. It's part of an old-school method of game design, where the game tried to make sure you didn't finish. In other words, nobody holds your hand. You have to earn it. You'll fight wave after wave of increasingly stronger enemies, all varying in strength and speed.


Also noteworthy is PDO's graphics and art design. Folks, this is a game that still looks great today, despite now being over ten years old. A couple of levels look a little stiff, as they are nothing more than corridors, but the overall art design, especially on Orta and her Dragon, is striking. It makes a strong case for the importance of great art design in games.


The level design does a great job of creating a sense of speed. Routinely, you'll ride the dragon at breakneck speed throughout a level, destroying enemies who manage to keep up with you. When you're not tearing through a level, the game then creates a sense not of speed, but one of spectacle. The camera will linger on huge landscapes long enough to let you absorb the details, big and small, of each level.

Here's a (somewhat blurry) playthrough of the opening and first level. You can see what you're in store for if you've never played this before:

The soundtrack is solid, too. Composed by the same team who created the soundtrack for the fan-favorite Skies of Arcadia, there's a song for every moment in the game, from the eye-poppingly epic, to the heart-tuggingly personal. It's a little different than you'd expect; the songs are very percussion and synth heavy. But each song does a great job of complimenting the action onscreen. Here's a decent example, called "City in the Storm."

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a game that has aged marvelously. It's absolutely worth a revisit, or maybe even a first visit for some of you. It controls perfectly, has an engrossing story, is massively challenging, and, for you graphics nuts, it still holds up visually. Also, as a bonus, the original Panzer Dragoon is unlockable, so you can see where it all began! (I love them both, but I prefer Orta maybe just a tiny bit more.) The game is backwards-compatible with the Xbox 360, and, having done a cursory check on eBay, is still available without destroying your wallet.


So check it out. You'll have a blast.

Hit the comments section if you wanna talk Panzer Dragoon!

Thanks to Wikipedia and IGN.

Next week, we see if radios work in the fog!