Genre: Shmup Developer: Team Andromeda Publisher: Sega Ent. Players: 1 Released: 1996
I could have reviewed the first game in this series or the only RPG I have ever truly enjoyed in Panzer Dragoon Saga, but there is something about this particular game that just hits the right spot for me and makes me come back over and over again. The big draw is the world that it creates, the mystery of being “dropped right in,” without fully explaining how everything is just so captivating.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, while quite dated to today’s eye with lots of rough edges and pop in, looked pretty great at the time and still gets the job done. The lighting effects are nice and there are some transparencies going on, but there are still the typical Saturn hashboard shadows that look a bit naff. The environments are varied with branching paths, and everything runs smoothly and with speed. The levels over water look particularly good.
Despite hardware constraints, the art style is where this game shines, graphically. The creatures and ships look amazing, very unique and original and all animating nicely. The dragon you ride flies with smooth strokes of its wings, and every move you make looks realistic as its weight shifts and is counterbalanced by its tail. Some of the phases of its evolution look spectacular as you progress. When he runs, you can feel the power of his legs as he strides with beautiful animated strokes across the land. Of all the foes you face, the stage three boss looks incredible and is the highlight of the whole game for me, in large part due to the music that accompanies it.
All the music is brilliant. It departs from the more orchestral style of its predecessor for a unique electronic sound with a sense of grandeur that adds to the atmosphere no end. The opening theme, for instance, is quite something. The screams and grunts of your injured dragon have an eerie and other worldly sound, laser blasts sound heavy and powerful, whilst the wind rushing by immerses you in the action. Explosions are subdued but deep, giving the sense of distance and space. All in all, it’s a great audio experience that enhances the game’s alien atmosphere.
The 360-degree shooting is not always intense. It ebbs and flows, keeping you on your toes throughout, though some areas feel a little too sparsely occupied at odd times. It’s a nice marriage of on-rails and free shooting action, thanks to the freedom of rotation atop the dragon that works well, creating a quite unique shooting experience that I’ve never quite experienced anywhere else. This sequel enhances the range of movement allowing you to attack and be attacked from above and below, placing you at the core of a “globe” of action. The control is responsive and intuitive.
I would have liked another level perhaps. Panzer Dragoon Zwei is on the shorter side, with one level that felt a little short leaving me wanting just a little more. In all, I absolutely love this game, as you can probably tell. Shooters with a deep and rich story are rare. It’s a must have for the Saturn library and any shooter fan.
SCORE: 9 out of 10