There are lots of things on this planet that are certain. People will live, they will die, they will disagree, you get the point. Another thing that is for sure is that for everyone in the world has a different way to view things. You can look at something that is truly a work of art and call it crap, for that reason we have the internet. The endless resource for complaining and disagreement which brings me to today’s subject at hand. Panzer Dragoon Orta, hailed by hardcore gamers as reason enough to own an XBox (as if we really needed one but hey!) and to casual gamers an over hyped shooter with nice visuals. What makes us love the Panzer series so much? Is it the feeling you get when blasting hoards of enemies while being guided along a path of beauty, or is it the simple fact that this is a good freakin’ game? Opinions are like assholes everyone has got one and now for my asshol…errr I mean opinion on what could easily be the best shooter of the decade!
Is it Dragon or Dragoon??…
If there is one thing that MS has proven to us it is that the XBox can push polygons, it can texture them, and even bump map them better than any system on the planet. Smilebit has taken full advantage of this and crafted one of the finest looking games on the console. Rock solid frame rates, gorgeous landscapes, and some of the smoothest character animation I have ever seen. Lighting effects blast onto the screen like rockets blasting over a lake on a summer picnic screaming to be seen. Sure I can sit here and juggle the technical jargon for hours on end but what I want everyone to realize about Orta is that playing it is only the beginning, take some time to let the demo run to truly appreciate how gorgeous this game is.
Please Chase Him…
On the surface Orta seems fairly simple, you have one attack button and your movement is done mostly “on rails”. This means that your path is pre-determined in most stages limiting you to a confined path. There are certain levels that have branching paths but honestly taking one isn’t much different. Your dragoon has three forms, the first allows you to lock on multiple enemies by holding the button down and tapping it releases Orta’s gun. There is also a form where you can lock onto three enemies although the lock on dices out much more damage than the multiple one. The final form allows only the use of the handgun but it does give you the ability to lock on with it whereas the other two do not. Sure it all seems easy and shallow but underneath is a truly detailed gaming engine that rewards you with practice and patience.
Learning which form to use against what kind of enemy is crucial in the later levels and makes the game that more enjoyable to play. Each form also has a blast attack that is best used against the boss characters. Add all of this together and you have a finely crafted piece of software that deserves to be noticed. On top of the standard 10 missions, which are much longer than any typical shooter yet far shorter than your average game, you are also blessed with the Pandora’s Box. This is the extra features you can unlock by completing the game. Included inside is the original Panzer Dragoon from the Sega Saturn, if that wasn’t enough you can also unlock alternative missions which are played with other characters from the game. How is that for incentive to play?
The fake sound of progress..
Orta is chock full of originality, in fact the game is loaded with speech and dialogue in a completely different language and no it isn’t Japanese. The characters speak their very own language inside the game and it is presented so well it is believable. The voice actors are excellent and it never interferes with the fast pace of the game. The music is also astounding, mixing some classical melodies with some of the best harmonies I have heard since Rygar. The audio package is rounded out with the exceptional sound effects, all of this is presented in true Dolby Digital 5.1 and screams when being played through a great setup!
Where do we go now?
Sure there are gamers in the world who will get nothing from Panzer Dragoon Orta. They will look at it as another XBox game with sharp graphics and dynamic sound that offers them nothing to come back for. Others will shy away simply because they are not a fan of shooters, and this is fine PDO is not going to convert you to a shooter lover. Although I guarantee if you give it half a chance you will not stop until it is over. This game is one of those titles that is so well made it will go down in history as one of the best games on XBox that nobody played, Sega keeps hashing out classics with no audience to enjoy them. When will hardcore be mainstream? Who knows but for now I sit and enjoy one of the finest games this decade. Highly Recommended.