The resurrection of Panzer Dragoon Remake
Taking a belated look at the patched-up version of this Saturn redux
I've never really kept Panzer Dragoon any closer than arm's length. I wasn't able to play the original until the SSF emulator made it possible - I never had it on PC, and none of my Saturn-owning friends had it to my memory. But its acclaim did stick with me, so I had pretty high expectations of the Sega title only to find it was a faintly benign rail shooter akin to the terrible Sky Chase levels in Sonic Adventure. So I reasoned that it wasn't for me, because it's not very good, and I only like very good games like Izzy's Quest for the Olympic Rings. Later I tried Panzer Dragoon Orta because I'd been repeatedly told that it, too, was excellent. Sceptically I gave it a go and sure enough I found it to be a bit of a dirge. Was it possible that Panzer Dragoon was bad and Saturn owners - having backed the wrong horse - were a bit... desperate?
It is now 2020, and a remake of Panzer Dragoon is out on Switch. And, you know, I ignored it. Can you blame me? I hadn't had a good experience up until now. But duty called and I decided to finally have a butcher's at it following a major update, bringing 60fps performance, something called "Episode 0" (I have no idea what this is), control tweaks and a host of general improvements. Now, I can't really comment on these improvements. I can barely compare it to the original game. So I have to discuss it on its own merits, you see? Not ideal, but bear with me.
Panzer Dragoon Remake is still Panzer Dragoon, but with totally new graphics and (optional) improved controls. I'm assuming you already know how it plays at least on a basic level, but essentially your big drago(o)n flies through the levels and you hold the triggers to lock onto enemies, before unleashing some fiery blue streaks - and I ain't talking about Martin Lawrence. You've got a radar in the top right so you can keep an eye on where your enemies are coming from and rotate your viewpoint in order to keep track of them. It's fun, challenging and downright stirring in places. It all runs beautifully smoothly, and looks great.
Which is why I was surprised to see quite a lot of criticism of Remake's visuals - no, it doesn't have the stark look of the Saturn original, but it has its own Roger Dean-ish charm, and looks downright impressive running in handheld mode. One of the most striking games I've played on the system, actually. Though I wouldn't have complained if they'd included a mode that presents those original graphics, but retained the improved performance. What's here is absolutely ace. I'm not close enough to the Saturn game to tell you if it's a good remake, but it's definitely a good time.
I did actually go back and try the Saturn game again recently, just for a quick squizzle (What? - Ed) following my experience with Remake. I don't know what happened, but it seemed a lot more fun now. I think Remake gave me an appreciation for the original. Coming from the more modern, user-friendly experience, I knew roughly what to expect and didn't have to wrestle so much with the Saturn version's more archaic (but entirely playable) control system. So I played one game and it taught me to like two games. Thanks, Panzer Dragoon Remake. Thanzer Dragoon Remake.
A review copy of this game was provided by the publisher.