Oh yeah? Well I've got a dragon!
Your name is Edge. You've been hired as a mercenary to guard a set of ruins for the Empire. Unbeknownst to you, these aren't your ordinary ruins. These are ruins of the Ancient Age, a time long past when technology ruled the world. Great machines were built that could change the environment, or even obliterate it. Then suddenly, for reasons unknown, the Ancients disappeared, leaving only remnants of their fantastic civilization. The Empire uses these remnants to build giant war machines to maintain the Empire's grip on the world. At these ruins, however, excavators uncover a woman, embedded in rock. After reporting their find, great warships arrive on the scene and destroy all survivors. Only you are left.
Amidst the rubble, you discover a dragon, and immediately feel a bond between you and the ancient creature. With your newfound friend, you journey to faraway lands in search of the man responsible for the execution of all your friends, Lord Craymen. Will you succeed in your revenge, or will you be caught up in something much bigger then you could ever understand? Such is the universe of Panzer Dragoon Saga.
The Panzer Dragoon series has been one of the most graphically impressive uses of the 32-bit consoles for a long time. Creating a fully fleshed 3D environment, gamers have marveled at the true graphical ability of the Saturn that very few games have shown. Spanning four CD's, the game beats out everything else on size alone. One of the final games to be released for this doomed system turns out to be one of the best games I've ever played. I wonder where this game was when they needed it...
The graphics for Panzer Dragoon Saga push the Saturn to its very limit. As most of us know by now, the Saturn was never designed as a 3D polygonal machine, so although the graphics are good, they're not close to what you might have gotten on the Playstation or the N64.
The dragon itself is simply amazing. Not only do its wings have realistic movement (they flap harder, angle, and glide depending on how you are flying and where you're headed), but also you can use the real-time transformation to change the shape of your dragon any time you like. The dragon evolves as the game goes on, gaining new abilities based not only on what you've accomplished, but also on how you accomplished it. One might think this would cause outrageous load times, but relax, dear reader, there is almost none.
Unlike the earlier games in the Panzer Dragoon series, this game doesn't keep you on a rail. You are free to move about the landscape at will. You visit towns, investigate ruins, and explore the desert without any restriction of movement. Though this rail-free environment gives you more freedom, some of the background graphics look worse then they did in Panzer Dragoon Zwei. I guarantee that the tradeoff was well worth it, however.
Panzer Dragoon Saga is revolutionary in so many ways, I'm not quite sure where to start. The battle system is unlike any other. Most similar to Final Fantasy 7, the battle system has a gauge which the player must wait to charge. In order to avoid attacks while the gauge charges, you have the ability to move around your enemy to get to his blind side. Battles require quick reflexes and remembering different enemies' weaknesses, something you don't generally have to do in an RPG.
Another impressive aspect of the game is that all dialogue is done with voice. Interestingly enough, the voice is not in English. In fact, the voice seems to be a pseudo-Japanese, sometimes sounding recognizable, sometimes just plain gibberish. So even with the voice acting, subtitles were still required. Never fear, however - this simply adds to the immersive quality of the world that Sega has created. The large amount of voice could be one of the reasons that the game is four CD's long.
The other reason is the large amount of FMV. Upon starting the game, you're treated to a good fifteen minutes of FMV, then you get to play for five minutes, then you get another ten minutes of FMV. Not to worry, the FMV is more spaced out than that in most circumstances, allowing ample time for gameplay.
Panzer Dragoon Saga should take you over thirty hours to beat, and even then you wouldn't have found everything that the game has to offer. Your dragon evolves differently depending on what you uncover. Different endings await you. You may not uncover the entire plot even after you finish, leaving most gamers wanting to find what they missed.
Panzer Dragoon Saga is an excellent game on any system, and a truly impressive one on the Saturn. If you have a Saturn and love RPG's, get this game. Period. If you don't, you're missing what this now-defunct system has to offer. Panzer Dragoon Saga is a perfect eulogy for the Saturn, a system that never got to show its true colors.