Panzer Dragoon Orta
Release Date: 1/13/2003
AWARD WON: BEST XBOX GAME -2003
Best Xbox game? Try one of the best games to come out all year. Panzer Dragoon Orta was a major surprise from Sega, and one that showed that there WAS hope post-Dreamcast (however misguided that was).
But why? Why was an on-rails shooter considered the BEST Xbox game that year?
Well, I wasn’t on staff, so I can only speculate for certain, but to put it into simple terms, everything worked. The visuals were absolutely top-notch, and were some of the best visuals on the system at the time. The aural presentation was spot-on and the music was well suited to the game. PDO played great and it was a lot of fun slipping back into the lock-on on-rails shooting the series was known for. And there were a ton of extras, including the entire original Panzer Dragoon, in the “Pandora’s Box”.
But I think it goes a little beyond that, too. Sega had been on a roll as a developer at that point. Jet Set Radio Future had hit the Xbox some time prior, and had been fantastic. The release of Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution was a major feather in their cap. And ultimately, all people really wanted was to say, “I love Sega”, and games like PDO gave us the opportunity to do just that. It was a chance to support them in their chosen venture, and more importantly, a chance to say, “We don’t care if you have your own console or not, we’ll still buy your games”. They then proceeded to piss away that goodwill with bad game after bad game, but for a while, at least, games like this proved that it was good to be a Sega fan, and every time I play PDO, for a little while, I can forget all of that and just sit down and enjoy a good, fun game by a company I used to like. I think that sums it up.
Throughout my history of buying “next generation” systems – that is, new systems before the term “next generation” became a buzzword – the purchase has always been brought on by one must-have game. The fact that they were all, with one exception (Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance for Gamecube), hockey based games (NHL All Star Hockey ’95 for Saturn, NHL ’98 for PS1, NHL ’01 for PS2), the fact remains that I historically don’t get a system until there’s something there that HAS to be owned by me.
Panzer Dragoon: Orta was almost that game that got me to get an XBox.
I was saved by two things: 1) my impending separation from the US Navy, and the need to save money for it, and 2) the fact that I had a friend that had the system and game, and made them readily available so that I could fill my quenching, as long as I provided him my copy of NBA 2K3 for PS2.
Now, I never had the chance to play any of the Panzer Dragoon games on Saturn; they were long gone from stores by the time I could go looking for them, and used copies were going for almost unheard of rates (though not as high as Chrono Trigger’s $100 tag at Funcoland). So the chance to see what the fuss was about with the PD series was well looked for.
I was blown away. Lots of things to blow up, solid play mechanics, good controlls, excellent graphics, and a nice, dark (without being overbearing) atmousphere made this an entirely enjoyable game. I never played it long enough to unlock the original Panzer Dragoon, but surely, when I either get my hands on an XBox 360 – or pick up the old system for a bargain – that will be rectified.
I loved this game with a passion, and can’t wait for the chance to finally own it. At the right price, of course.