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Panzer Dragoon Orta Preview
game: Panzer Dragoon Orta
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Sega
date posted: 09:10 AM Sun Nov 17th, 2002
last revision: 05:10 AM Fri Sep 23rd, 2005

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By Todd Allen

Fans of the Panzer Dragoon titles can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the efforts of Smilebit. The acclaimed series is getting new wings early next year on Microsoft\'s Xbox system. Smilebit has opted to stick to the roots of the Panzer Dragoon universe and formulate Orta as a shooter. This wasn\'t an easy decision because the third title in the series, Panzer Dragoon Saga, proved to be quite a competent RPG. If that news dismays you, your sadness will be short lived I assure you. This title is shaping up to blow the socks off action fans.

The developers have no small task in bringing the Panzer universe up to date. In the world of 3-D shooters Panzer Dragoon has quite a cult following and for good reason. When the first installment was released in 1995 for the Sega Saturn, gamers were introduced to visuals and gameplay ahead of its time, not to mention an awesome concept. Not resting on its laurels Sega followed up with Panzer Dragoon Zwei. This time gamers were treated to the idea of their dragon evolving to meet different challenges. Lastly came Panzer Dragoon Saga, the title that put an RPG twist on the trilogy. The three games arguably represented one of the sole reasons to own Sega\'s fledgling system. Judging from the shots we\'ve seen and some limited time with the demo, Smilebit is quite comfortable in those big shoes.

Graphically, Panzer Dragoon Orta is claiming to push the Xbox\'s limits. Judging from the demo, those claims are being made in good faith. Smilebit is known for its visual prowess and Orta doesn\'t disappoint. Playing through the opening scenes, I was treated to a wonderfully animated dragon with a striking amount of detail complete with fluid animation. I must stress, though, that once you lay eyes on your mount you must check your chin for traces of drool because it\'s gorgeous. The environments also sport slick graphical touches, though paying too much attention to them will only get you killed. Your enemies are detailed and fluid in their assault. The opposing dragons are also a thrill to face.

Control-wise Smilebit may have more than a few people holding their breath. While the developer\'s last foray, Gunvalkyrie, was quite a piece of eye candy, its ambitious control scheme left many with a sour taste in their mouth. For the most part Panzer Dragon Orta\'s controls are satisfactory. The controls intuitively allow you to target enemies from all angles. Even though your dragon is facing one direction, pushing the shoulder buttons will cause your rider to turn and fire in all directions, even at enemies directly behind you. You can easily manage your dragon\'s morphing as well. Unfortunately your control over the dragon\'s movement is a bit sluggish. This is especially frustrating during precision maneuvers where the iffy control will spell pain for you and your mount. Hopefully Smilebit will correct this before release.

Even with these quite correctable issues Panzer Dragoon Orta is shaping up to be a formidable experience. The game\'s mechanics faithfully create an engrossing three- dimensional experience exploding all around you. I really appreciate the ability to turn around and cap the guys who make it by you without having to change course. Your dragon\'s morphing capabilities also add depth by letting you approach enemies and scenarios in different ways. Each form has its own strengths and weaknesses that must be learned in order to better exploit them. Your dragon also has a \'lock-on\' ability where if you hold the firing button several enemies will be targeted and exposed to a large blast, compliments of your mount.

Smilebit has also done a great job of building a solid relationship between you and your dragon. Neither of you are stuck with all the work, so to speak. At some points your gun will prove more useful such as scenarios requiring a quick reaction. Other situations may place you in need of a more powerful solution. At that point the extra heat your dragon\'s packing will come in handy.

Action fans are really in for a treat this holiday season. Even though we\'ll be quite literally knee deep in quality titles, Panzer Dragoon Orta can\'t afford to be overlooked. Smilebit has really worked hard and their effort is showing big time. Fans have waited quite awhile to see a new Panzer Dragoon title hit the shelves and judging by the way the game is looking they won\'t be disappointed. This game has all the cards. We just need to sit back and see if Sega and Smilebit can play them.