REVIEW: Panzer Dragoon: Remake

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

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Panzer Dragoon: Remake | Cutscene 11
Title Panzer Dragoon: Remake
Developer Megapixel Studio
Publisher Forever Entertainment S. A.
Release Date March 26th, 2020
Genre Rail Shooter, Arcade
Platform PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Age Rating T for Teen – Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence
Official Website

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I’m gonna start this review with a simple truth – I’ve never played the original Panzer Dragoon that Remake is based on. So when I agreed to review it, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. That said, I had always been intrigued by the series, and mostly hadn’t gotten around to it since the game started out on the Sega Saturn. As a lifelong Nintendo boy, that wasn’t a game I thought I’d ever get the opportunity to playing. So I was excited to tackle the remade game, developed by Megapixel Studio, despite not being familiar with their body of work. The question then is this. Was this lifelong Nintendo fanboy made a true believer of a Sega Saturn classic thanks to Panzer Dragoon: Remake?

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One thing I’m happy to report is that Remake is extremely faithful to the original. It’s pretty much a perfect recreation, which I can say after watching a playthrough online. What they essentially did is give the original game a beautiful new coat of paint, so fans should be right at home here. Special note goes to the breathtaking environments, which are all full of detail and packed with menacing monsters. And though I initially wasn’t that impressed by the cutscenes, which reminded me of a PS2 game at first, I have to admit they’re much prettier than the original ones. Perhaps the most impressive improvement in this regard is how seamless the levels are. Sure, there’s annoying load times before and after stages, but during them the action moves at a brisk clip and I experienced zero slowdown.

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As far as gameplay goes, it’s also remarkably faithful. You can weave back and forth, lock onto foes to blast with homing shots and fire standard shots. It’s fun to fly around wreaking havoc, especially since it’s pretty easy to move the camera around to hit foes on your flank and sides. All you need to do is press the shoulder buttons, and the camera will turn in that direction. That said, I’d be lying if I said the game was easy. Even on Normal, I got killed plenty of times, and foes like to hit you from blind angles. Even with radar showing enemy locations as blips, the action moves very quickly, so it’s easy to get surprised by bullets. Thankfully, once you start to learn the enemy patterns, levels begin to go smoother. Which is good, since inexplicably Panzer Dragoon: Remake features no tutorial. I literally had to figure out the combat on the fly (pun intended). Stranger yet, you can only access the control guide from the start screen. That may not sound like a problem, but keep in mind that if you are a few levels into the game and want to go back and check, you’ll have to forfeit your current run. I really think it would have been a better idea to make the guide able to be viewed from the pause screen as well. It’s not the end of the world, mind you, but it made the experience run less smoothly.

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The highlight of the game are definitely the boss battles. They are all massive (mostly) flying threats, and many of them have multiple phases. The big bad is the Prototype Dragon, a bulky little bastard responsible for murdering your blue dragon’s original pilot. He’s a recurring threat, and even shows up to hound you in stages that he’s not the actual boss. Perhaps my favorite boss is a segmented machine that splits into two different bosses. It starts as a dangerous windmill and transforms into a rampaging, missile spewing monstrosity. But all the bosses are fun, and they really make you earn your victory. I will say though, I do wish that losing to a boss didn’t mean replaying their entire level over again from the start. I gather the original Panzer Dragoon worked that way, but having a modern convenience like starting from where you died would have saved me a lot of time. Especially since I died right before the final stage my first run, and had to play through the entire game all over again to actually beat it. Then again, considering you can beat Remake in an hour or less, it’s not a big problem. Just a minor annoyance.

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Honestly my biggest issue with Panzer Dragoon: Remake was how it eschewed modern conventions. Sure, I get it’s a 1 to 1 port, but it also wouldn’t have hurt my experience any to smooth over some rough patches. For example, it can be difficult to avoid obstacles and projectiles. A big reason is that despite different buttons being mapped to move and aim, they essentially do the same thing. Your dragon aims with his entire body, so it’s very easy to get winged by giant cannonballs and the like. Especially in levels with narrow corridors. Suffice to say, your foes will get in several cheap shots, even hitting you as soon as gates open. As I played, I grew to wish that there was some sort of temporary dash move to provide invincibility, even for a few seconds. Cause you won’t find any med kits or the like to increase your health, meaning you have to beat each stage in one try. Oh and did I mention you only earn continues by beating stages? When you add the fact that sometimes I would start a new stage without my life bar full for some reason, you can start to see my dilemma. I’m still not sure if that last part was intentional design or a glitch. All I know is that problems like that made me yearn for a few more modern niceties.

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Though I already touched on the visuals, I’ll go into more detail. The artwork in Panzer Dragoon: Remake is why I’ve always been drawn to the series. Everything has great personality, especially the monstrous creatures of this world. That all goes a long way to make me not care that the plot of Remake is absent at best. Sure there’s some small details, but not a coherent narrative. But when you’re flying through the air, dodging giant fly traps, blasting ships out of the sky and chasing your nemesis, it’s easy to forgive the story’s faults. Musically the game is really enjoyable. While not every track is full of energy, they all do a good job of building on the momentum of each stage and driving the action forward.

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All in all, I had a good time with Panzer Dragoon: Remake. Sure, I would have preferred some quality of life tweaks to the original game, but it’s still a worthy adventure. And even though I only spent 2 hours with it, I feel that $24.99 is a fair price for this level of quality. That said, I hope you’ve expanded your system memory before you pick this up, since it’s a whopping 7 GB download. I don’t usually mention the size of games I review, but holy hell is that huge, and I realize not every Switch owner has supplemented their base memory yet. And while the original game’s cheat codes don’t work yet, I understand they’ll be added in a later update. Otherwise this is a perfect remake of a classic game. If you’re looking to relive your past or just experience a nostalgic jaunt to the days of the Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon: Remake is an excellent choice.

Review Score
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About Josh Speer

Josh is a passionate gamer, finding time to clock in around 30-40 hours of gaming a week. He discovered Operation Rainfall while avidly following the localization of the Big 3 Wii RPGs. He enjoys SHMUPS, Platformers, RPGs, Roguelikes and the occasional Fighter. He’s also an unashamedly giant Mega Man fan, having played the series since he was eight. As Head Editor and Review Manager, he spends far too much time editing reviews and random articles. In his limited spare time he devours indies whole and anticipates the release of quirky, unpredictable and innovative games.