Panzer Dragoon Saga is my favorite video game of all time and will likely remain so. This ultrarare game from the Sega Saturn was released in limited numbers so only a few people got a chance to experience its majesty, but it may very well be the single greatest game of all time. Panzer Dragoon Saga was released only a short time after the ever popular Final Fantasy VII, but in my opinion, Panzer Dragoon Saga utterly demolishes that game. Where Final Fantasy VII was mechanical, Panzer Dragoon Saga was vibrant, featuring beautiful imagery and otherworldy themes. Where Final Fantasy VII's animation and movies looked like puppetry, Panzer Dragoon Saga featured fluid characters with brilliant voice acting. Both games are dramatic. However the drama in Panzer Dragoon Saga really shines forth. The story is deep yet easy to comprehend. Edge is a vastly more interesting main character than Cloud of Final Fantasy VII. Edge is undoubtedly the hero of the game and a good guy, yet he's also not perfect. At first he is motivated by revenge but then finds a quest far bigger than his personal needs. He also suffers torture, emotional anguish, and many internal conflicts. In essence, he is a flawed, fleshed out character. He has become real to me where many other RPG heroes struggle to achieve the same effect and wind up looking like a mass of bad dialogue and terrible cliches. Many of the other characters in this game are also just as fleshed out, even the main villain, who blurs the line between noble and evil. Even the background characters you meet seem like real people and not just random, recycled polygon models.
The battle system is another element that makes this game so great. Personally I find it to be far more refreshing than most RPGs' "press button and wait" battle systems. Panzer Dragoon Saga blends the classic dragon flying and blasting of the first two shooters with RPG elements and an improved version of Final Fantasy VII's time bar system. Like Final Fantasy VII, you have to wait for a charge bar to fill up before you can take action. This time around, though, you have three bars and can achieve a variety of effects depending on how many bars you fill up. However the real meat of Panzer Dragoon Saga is in its revolutionary positional system. You can choose to maneuver your dragon to one of four points around the enemy at any time you wish, giving this game a strategic element most RPGs don't possess. The field is always changing, so maneuvering is a must. The tradeoff for changing positions is that your charge bar stops filling until your dragon is back in place. Another side of the battle system I like is the ability to customize your dragon. You can morph your dragon to change its stats to suit your need and watch as it changes shape in real time to one of hundreds of different shapes.
Even though the first two games were shooters, they've always been about awesome, otherworldly vistas and artistry and themes about war, biotechnological terrors, and mysterious, sometime ominous histories. It was only natural that the series progressed into an RPG format, as it is in this genre where the universe really shines. The innovative battle system and brilliant writing are only merely pieces of a much larger tapestry. Describing the whole experience is nearly impossible. No game is perfect, however, and if there are flaws, it's that the game is literally the shortest and easiest RPG I've ever played. The battles are breathtaking and challenging, to be sure, but are hardly ever deadly enough to kill you. And most players will probably finish this game within the space of twenty four hours, even when finding all the secrets. There are also precious few random battles, the curse and the core of most RPGs. However, these are small nitpicks when the overall game is this sweeping, epic, and beautiful. Personally I found the brisk pace of the game made it easier to concentrate on a story that was just the right length. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Panzer Dragoon Saga may very well be the Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings of video games.