Welcome to this week’s, “Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead?”Â Each week we’re going to look at a dormant franchise that was once pretty popular, but for some reason has disappeared into the sands of time. Diehard GameFAN staffers will have four options for what they want to have happen to the series and you can see them in the title of this piece. For a little more detailed description see below:
Sequel – A direct sequel to the franchise. This means if it used sprites and was in 2-D, that’s how you want the next game to be as well. This might involve putting the game on a handheld system instead of a console, but it keeps the nostalgia and classic feel alive.
Spin Off – This is where you take the characters or a specific character is a totally different direction from the established franchise. Examples include Luigi’s Mansion, Hey You, Pikachu!, Shadow Hearts (From Koudelka), and so on.
Start Over – This is a reimagining of the series from the ground up. Perhaps it’s time to bring the series into 3-D. Perhaps you want a totally different control scheme or to throw away the old continuity. In a nutshell, this is taking the brand name from the old series and that’s about it. Everything else is new and re-envisioned.
Stay Dead – This is pretty obvious. This is a toxic franchise that you don’t want to see return in any way shape or form. Let the dead rest.
Today’s franchise is arguably the best of the 32 bit generation. All three games released during this time were considered system sellers in regards to the Sega Saturn. The third game in the series is almost always listed as one of the best role playing games ever made and the eventual fourth game in the series won our 2003 XBOX Exclusive Game of the Year Award. It’s been nearly seven years since a Panzer Dragoon game has graced a system, unless you count the Sega Ages game for the Playstation 2. Panzer Dragoon Saga is one of the most expensive and sought after games on the used game market and the series is nearly universally loved by gamers and critics alike. However, since purchasing Sega, Sammy has allowed the series to go dormant for nearly a decade. Is there still life in one of Sega’s biggest IP’s? Eight members of the Diehard GameFAN staff discusses their thoughts on what should be done with the franchise.
Alex Lucard – Stay Dead
In truth, I really want a sequel to any Panzer Dragoon game, be it the first two for the Sege Saturn, a sequel for the Saga RPG, or a second Orta, I just don’t trust Sammy
Sega to make it without ruining the game. Now let me clarify that. I don’t trust Sammy Sega to use the right people to make the game. For example, I trusted Valkyria Chronicles to be awesome because Sammy Sega let Sega WOW/Overworks, make whatever game they wanted without any insane decisions made by higher ups. Sega WOW is AM7 which means they gave us the 16 bit Phantasy Stars, helped make Sakura Taisen with Red Company, Skies of Arcadia, the Streets of Rage games and more. This was a no brainer that it would be awesome. I also trusted The House of the Dead: Overkill because Sega didn’t make it themselves; they let Headstrong Games make it. However, that’s about as far as the trust goes because Sega keeps ruining their classic franchises. The most obvious example is Sonic the Hedgehog and the horrors they have done to him.
The original developers of Panzer Dragoon, Zwei and Saga were Team Andromeda. Team Andromeda is no more. As such I don’t trust Sega to apply the right staff to making a proper Panzer Dragoon sequel.
Now, Smilebit, the developers of our Xbox 2003 Game of the Year winner are still part of Sammy Sega (mostly). This seems like a good thing. However, in the new Sammy Sega order the staff of Smilebit does not make games like they used to. There is no Hundred Swords for them to do. There are no Typing of the Dead games for them to design. Nor are there any Jet Set Radio games to be made. No, instead of letting Smilebit staff make the games they are best remembered and loved for, Sammy Sega has them all assigned to the Sega Sports R&D division. That’s right. Fast paced action game developers are being told they have to make sports games. To make it even more obvious why I don’t trust Sammy Sega making a good game with the Panzer Dragoon license is by looking at the two games Smilebit aka Sega Sports Japan have made this console generation: Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games. If that’s the quality Smilebit is capable of these days, I can honestly say I don’t trust them to make a good Panzer Dragoon sequel.
In Smilebit/Sega Sport’s defense, it could be that Sammy Sega has just forced quality developers into an R&D division they shouldn’t be in and that if they were allowed to return to the games they used to make, a fifth Panzer Dragoon would be awesome. However if that is the case, than it shows just how massively screwed up the internal structure and decision making process is at Sega these days and that unless Smilebit gets Sega WOW like creative control, I see middle and upper management ruining the eventual end product.
As much as I would love a new Panzer Dragoon and as much as I want to trust Sega to make something quality, I’ve seen everything from Sonic to Altered Beast and Shining Force to Golden Axe destroyed by them in the past few years. In a perfect world where all the stars lined up and Sammy got its head out of its ass and stopped ruining Sega, then yes, I would totally be on board for this. However, Sega’s streak of bad games overshadows their good games by a huge margin, and I guess I don’t have enough faith in their current management structure unless they are subcontracted their franchises out to a third party like Headstrong Games or Alfa System. Because of that, or until there is a massive change of how Sammy Sega does things, I would prefer to see Panzer Dragoon left alone rather than made into a cheap new game for a quick buck. Other than that I would love to see this (or say the Dragon Force) Sega Ages game hit North American shores as it was just a graphical clean up and thus a guaranteed quality game.
Dave Olvera – Stay Dead
When you say Panzer Dragoon, I think of Panzerese, the mix of eastern European languages that was created specifically for the game. I think of Mobius and the desert artwork that is galaxies ahead of your typical generic RPG setting. I think of the incredible cut scenes that draw you in – especially the tale of a boy and his mutant baby dragon in Zwei. I think of a series that always topped itself when under the original creative team.
Team Andromeda is no more. Since there is no more Team Andromeda there should be no more Panzer Dragoon. The trilogy of Panzer Dragoon, Zwei and Saga was a rare case of a series that became better with each game. While Orta was a decent to good game, depending on who you ask, I do not trust anyone to truly capture what made Panzer Dragoon such a good series. Two out of the first three games are shooters and the third is an unexpected RPG that eschews the Square fuelled distraction claptrap and delivers its story in a well paced and timely manner. The combat for Saga is still one of the better turn based systems and I looked forward to each encounter to actually fight.
Would another rail shooter fly? Probably – especially if using the cache of Panzer Dragoon. Could there be another RPG? Most likely, but could someone else deliver the world of Panzer Dragoon as well as its creative mother development team? Panzer Dragoon is one of my favorite series and, again, I have no faith in Sega to do anything but desecrate a body of work that should be left alone. I would not mind seeing the game re-released digitally but part of me wants to say, “Forget you, non-Saturn buying folk.” A part of me resents the people who would not give Sega a chance with the Saturn or the Dreamcast. The former is usually scoffed at and the latter has a Johnny-come-lately crowd who came to the system too little, too late. Call me bitter but those two things, along with Sega’s own bad decisions, helped kill my favorite Japanese developer. Sega-Sammy is the undead tarnisher of all things old Sega. A common theme among this series of articles is that Sega-Sammy cannot be trusted to do anything right for their old franchises. This new Sega should move on and stop ruining its already shaky image. They are doing right with their Platinum Games deal; don’t go back to using your old franchises like fluid rags.
While I am not exactly happy that Orta is the most likely last chapter of the Panzer Dragoon series, the option of revival seems disturbing. One lesson most video game enthusiasts and developers should learn: leave some things dead. Adventure out, try new intellectual properties, stop blindly buying sequels.
Bebito Jackson – Stay Dead
Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn: My second favorite game of all-time right after Shining Force II. The battle system, the graphics, the story, the style, the originality, all of it… just superb. And yes, I enjoyed the Saturn’s previous outings of Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon II, along with release Panzer Dragoon Orta for the Xbox. It’s a quality franchise with not a bad game in the series. However, PDS reigns supreme as one of the best RPGs ever made and thus the entire franchise holds an even more special place in my heart.
So in tribute to PDS’s loving memory… keeps your grubby Golden Axe blundering, Shining Force Neo bungling, Sonic the Hedgehog bludgeoning hands off the franchise SEGA. Outside of Virtua Fighter and Phantasy Star you’ve bastardized near every classic franchise you created before Sammy mutated you into a shell of your former self. I don’t trust you. I still love you. I still hope one day you’ll return to publishing and developing the type of exceptional games you delivered on a consistent basis back when I was a little Genesis hugging Bebito pubescent. But… until you get your act together FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, leave Panzer Dragoon alone. It’s the last SEGA franchise not named Sakura Wars where every release is exceptional. Don’t screw that up. Please stay dead. Let it stay dead and thus let the legacy of its greatness live on.
Mark B. – Sequel
Y’know, it’s easy to look at what Panzer Dragoon is as a franchise, immediately assume that Sammy/Sega would ruin the shit out of it, and move on with our day, but I’m willing to believe that Sega could easily turn out another awesome game in the series, because
1.) Panzer Dragoon Orta was released in 2002, well after Sega started making shit games as often as the good ones, and just a few short years before their takeover by their present evil overlords,
2.) Smilebit, the developers of Orta, were merged back into Sega when Sammy took over, meaning that more than a few people involved in the game are probably still on staff,
3.) Rez, which was released in 2002, was essentially similar to Panzer Dragoon mechanically, and was developed by in-house developers United Game Artists, who are at this point a part of Sonic Team, meaning they have even MORE developers still on staff who know how to make this work, and finally
4.) Panzer Dragoon, as a franchise, is a series of on-rails shooters, essentially, and thus can safely be described as being arcade-oriented in concept, and developing/publishing good arcade-oriented games is something Sega is VERY good at.
(Aside note: consider this my official “removing myself from the list of people who think Sega makes shitty games” announcement. In the past several years, aside from the always-terrible Sonic games they’ve released, they’ve attached themselves to some top-tier stuff as either developers or publishers, and while it was asinine of them to let the Bakugan franchise go to Activision, I’ve played more awesome Sega games in the past two years than I’ve played awesome Konami games, for example, so I think I’m entirely justified in forgiving them for raping the Shining series.)
Anyway, when you think of Sega’s better games in the past few years, you essentially come up with Yakuza, Valkyria Chronicles, and their major arcade-oriented franchises. You know what I mean. House of the Dead. Outrun. Virtua Fighter. Well, Panzer Dragoon is a fast-paced, twitchy series (mostly) that involves shooting down everything you see before you get murdered, and call me crazy, but I think Sega can handle that. I mean, I’m not expecting that we’re magically going to see another Panzer Dragoon Saga in my lifetime or anything, but I don’t think that if they release another game in the series it’s going to be called Panzer Dragoon Shizer or anything.
Chris Bowen -Sequel
The fact that we have to ask this question about Panzer Dragoon is shameful. For one, I don’t know what the hell is taking so long with getting the original shooters into our hands on a system that supports it nowadays; yes, the original is available as an unlockable in Panzer Dragoon: Orta, but if Sega can put Virtual On on XBLA, they can surely update and post up the first two Panzer Dragoon games for fans of the series; it’s not exactly a hard game to do, and the controls fit perfectly with modern gamepads.
Thirdly, why the hell hasn’t Sega Sammy Holdings LLC re-released Panzer Dragoon Saga!? Are they seriously sitting in their offices at Sega Sammy Holdings LLC, and saying, “We won’t re-release this game because no one will buy it!?” I just did a price check on Ebay for the game and the best price I could find that isn’t going to be driven into the stratosphere by last minute bidders is $150. The median seems to be about $200! Does Sega Sammy Holdings LLC thinks that cleaning the graphics up and posting it on XBLA for $15 isn’t going to sell!? Wait, don’t answer that…
Needless to say, the first two shooting games are very fondly remembered, the RPG is still a collector’s item – not to mention probably the best original RPG of its generation (I place it behind only Suikoden II) – and the last we saw of the series – Panzer Dragoon Orta – was a huge hit on the original XBox that I revered so much I almost bought the SYSTEM for it back in ’03. Imagine a sequel, on any platform you choose, with modern graphics, a cleaned up engine, and everything we could have in 2009. I might melt due to giddiness. I’m unsure if Aileen would either break up with me or play it herself, because I would love that game so much that I wouldn’t need sex anymore. It would be perfect. What is taking too long? Are they too busy making Pachinko machines?
Executives at Sega Sammy Holdings LLC, if you empty suits have ANY souls whatsoever, you’ll stop shitting Sonic games right now and get on this.
Aileen Coe – Sequel
Considering how much the games run for these days (even if Orta is the easiest to find), I’m surprised they haven’t already been released somewhere like XBLA. Even without any graphical updates, the hype from fans alone would probably get people curious enough to pick up the games, thus increasing profit margins for Sega and making the Saturn games accessible to more people. Win-win.
Either another rail shooter or an RPG along the lines of Saga has the potential to do gangbusters. Recent releases have proven that rail shooters can still work. The battle system in Saga was fairly deep, and another game like that with cleaned up graphics and controls outside of battle…well, yes, Chris, I’d likely be playing right alongside you (or fighting you for the controller in the case of an RPG). Though who’s to say we can’t do bot- wait, this is a public column, I should probably keep it all PG and stuff.
Though nothing like Panzer Dragoon Mini. That one can stay dead.
Widro – Spin-Off
The Panzer Dragoon series is comprised of three rail shooters and the ultra-rare RPG (not counting the insipid Game Gear game). The Xbox game, Orta, stands up graphically to this day, with bold colors, cool character designs and fantastical settings, so I have a hard time recommending a fourth rail shooter with just another graphical upgrade. I’ve always found the Panzer Dragoon universe itself more compelling than the games, so I’d love to see it mapped onto a new type of game. What about an open world game where the player controls a dragon (and upgrades dragons) and roams the countryside for racing, shooting or RPG missions. Or even a slower game, along the lines of Viva Pinata or Harvest Moon where the player raises dragons for fighting in an ongoing war. Either way the Panzer Dragoon world is rife for mining future games, and shouldn’t be ignored by the modern Sega.
A.J. Hess – Spin-Off
There is way too much here to do a sequel for, so how about a new genre? Panzer Dragon has been a shooter and an RPG, so how about…MMO? The consoles should be able to handle that if the PC isn’t feeling up to that. Obviously mounts would play a huge role. Also, doing an MMO type game would give you room to flesh out so much of the story that was missing via quests.
Stay Dead: 3
Star Over: 0
It’s rather telling that this was nearly a three way tie between our staff. We all love Panzer Dragoon in all its CONSOLE forms and yet that love has expressed itself in many different ways. Notice that no one wanted Sammy Sega to restart the series and just use the name. The only thing I think we can all agree upon here at Diehard GameFAN is that the original trio of games is one of the best trilogies ever and that Orta truly deserved its spot as one of the best game son the original Xbox. What do you, the reader, feel should happen with Panzer Dragoon? Let us know.
Next week, we’ll be looking at Rare’s fighting game franchise and if it has a life beyond arcade cabinets and two SNES ports. See you then!