Panzer Dragoon is a strange game. Otherworldly would probably be a more elaborate way of putting it: Sega’s 1995 original overcame the more limited technology of the Saturn to transport players to a faraway fantasy touched by Frank Herbert’s Dune and Hayao Mayazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It’s a wonderfully alien place, where oversized insects scuttle under monumental pastel skies.
No wonder it lodged itself in players’ imaginations, gaining a cult status that only seems to have grown in all the years since. There have been follow-ups and spin-offs – the RPG Panzer Dragoon Saga remains an all-time great, while Panzer Dragoon Orta, part of the fantastic wave of Sega games made for Microsoft’s first Xbox, provided a muscular modern update and Xbox One launch title Crimson Dragon was a wonky but entertaining spiritual successor from series creator Yukio Futatsugi. This, though, goes back to the source for what is, for better and worse, a faithful retread of the original.
It’s a slightly odd proposition, with Sega and the original development team seemingly uninvolved. Instead this is the work of Polish publisher Forever Entertainment and developer MegaPixel Studio, both relative unknowns – which might be why this feels, more often than not, like a fanmade project, with cut corners and slim production values. But it’s important to emphasize the fan part of that equation, because this clearly comes from a place of passion, with the source material being treated with utmost respect.