Panzer Dragoon: Remake Review
A cult classic brought gracefully into the modern age.
Before we begin, I should disclose I have not played a Panzer Dragoon game previously and the following review is of Panzer Dragoon: Remake as a stand-alone game. That being said, if you told me this game was originally from 2020 I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. The game looks beautiful in the modern era and has overall aged well, still proving to be enjoyable to this day.
The on-rails shooter genre is fairly sparse, especially when you omit light gun games. Rest assured, Panzer Dragoon deserves its high rank alongside Star Fox 64 and Pokémon Snap. Much like Star Fox 64, moving your reticle to aim also moves the player, but in this case you’re riding a dragon. Tap to shoot at enemies; hold down to charge a lock-on shot. Rather than only being able to select one enemy, you can select a number of enemies at a time to hit them with a delayed but powerful shot. This leads to satisfying gameplay where you decide if it’s more efficient to use one over the other, as short bursts result in high damage per second, while locking-on can hit enemies all over the screen and hit things otherwise protected or hidden from view.
Panzer Dragoon combines familiar mechanics while adding it’s own twist.
While this works well enough, I tend to prefer either the more precise feeling of Star Fox 64 or leaning heavily into the lock-on feature such as Rez did. There’s more of an emphasis on moving out of the way of relatively slow moving projectiles leading to Panzer Dragoon feeling a bit more SHMUP than other on-rails shooters. While some may prefer this, I found the controls a little too slow for this to feel good, even if I enjoyed flying under bridges and around crumbling debris. Unlike the aforementioned games, bombs that damage all enemies are absent here and felt needed in specific moments, as well as power ups. Also unlike all of these, rather than simply waiting for enemies to enter your line of sight, you can rotate your view 90° at a time allowing you to see enemies on all sides of you.
Enemies will swoop down from the sides, come straight at you, and sneak up from behind. Rotate the camera to keep track of what is happening where or you’ll be shot where you’re neglecting! You’re still limited vertically however, meaning waiting for enemies is still something you’ll experience a bit of since you’re aware of their presence from the mini-map prior to being able to see them. This, combined with how busy the screen can get at times, can leave you relying on using heat-seeking shots as you can’t quite see what’s happening. Still, I commend the developers for taking this approach and really enjoyed the change of pace from other competing games. Needing to manage what was effectively four separate zones added some variety that really separates this game from the others.
Playing through Panzer Dragoon was thrilling. Seeing the lush environments and the varied enemies truly filled me with awe. While there’s a simple story to string alongside the events of the game, seeing where you’ll be (and what you’ll be up against) next is the real highlight of this game. This, however, only lasts through one playthrough as there is only one path through the game where others in the genre offer different paths through levels or entirely new levels altogether. Furthermore, there is little to unlock in the game giving it very limited replay value. Hard mode was just barely too difficult for me to finish the game on my first playthrough, while on Normal mode it was easy to complete the game without dying. Photo mode, cheat menus, and the personal goal for 100% of enemies killed and no damage exists, but that is content not everyone will seek out.
The biggest flaw of Panzer Dragoon is that is simply leaves you wanting more…
While it may seem I’m being fairly critical, do not let that dissuade you from getting the game. The biggest flaw of Panzer Dragoon is that is simply leaves you wanting more without being able to provide it. At roughly an hour of play time to finish the game, I was just feeling acquainted with the mechanics and wanted to see what else it had to offer. What new situation can it put me in that further makes use of changing the direction you’re facing? What other fantastic creations will I get to see? It was absolutely worth the playthrough and I would absolutely recommend it to others, but only if someone were looking for more on-rails shooters. Panzer Dragoon: Remake is available on Steam, GOG, and Nintendo Switch. (Soon to be available on more platforms and streaming services, including PS4, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and the newly announced Amazon Luna.)