Has time been kind to Sega’s cult classic? Panzer Dragoon: Remake – The Finger Guns review.
Of all of Sega’s many video game franchises over the last four decades, one of its most diverse and beloved is Panzer Dragoon, a series that began as a straight-up on-rails shooter in 1995 and produced a number of sequels and off-shoots over the following seven years, even forking off into RPG territory with 1998’s Saga. Despite the relative success of the series, Sega hasn’t really done much with it in the last 17 years. So, it came as something of a pleasant surprise, when – 25 years on from the series’ debut – we got the release of a remaster. Originally released for the Switch and, believe it or not, Stadia earlier this year, Panzer Dragoon: Remake – developed by MegaPixel Studio and published by Forever Entertainment – has now made its way to PC and PlayStation 4.
Remasters can be a mixed bag, often removing much of an original’s charm. However, early impressions here are encouraging, as Panzer Dragoon: Remake does what all good remakes should do as a bare minimum – look like how you remember it looking.
It’s a phenomenon I’m sure many of you are aware of. You spend years convincing yourself that a game that undoubtedly looked great at the time of its initial release is somehow still a looker, only to finally revisit it and realise how poorly it has aged. It’s a phenomenon that’s also particularly prevalent for games from the 32-bit era, as this represented video gaming’s first proper foray into proper 3D, and Panzer Dragoon very much falls into that category. Whilst the Sega Saturn version still evokes pleasant memories, thanks to its distinctive art style, it has all of the limitations you would expect – blurry character models, muted colours and a pretty short draw distance. Given the Saturn’s well-known struggles with 3D, it’s frankly a miracle it ever looked as good as it did, but it has aged badly.
Thankfully, then, one of the most striking differences you’ll notice almost immediately is the vastly improved colour palette, giving the whole thing a really vibrant look. Couple this with the better textures, lighting and shadows, smoother animation and much clearer draw distance, and Panzer Dragoon: Remake is actually a bit of a looker which delivers that unique hit of dopamine that only a piece of well-executed nostalgia bait can. The improved visual clarity also makes it easier to tell where enemies are on screen and detect projectiles that little bit more quickly – something that could be an issue with the 1995 original.
You’ll also be pleased to note that Yoshitaka Azuma’s stellar soundtrack remains intact here also. If nothing else, Panzer Dragoon: Remake’s presentation is really good. It’s just a shame that, in pretty much every other regard, the game is disappointingly safe.
You see, the game’s main issues come from the fact that it’s a 1995 rail shooter in 2020. That’s not to say that this is a bad game, of course. It wasn’t bad then, and it still isn’t now. However, it definitely feels like MegaPixel Studio could have been bolder and taken a few more risks.
Let’s take the speed of the gameplay, for example. Panzer Dragoon was a game that operated at a languid pace back in 1995. However, that means that it feels practically glacial by today’s standards. An additional injection of pace feels like it could have gone a long way.
It also feels very basic in terms of game mechanics. This is, of course, an issue inherent to rail shooters, but for a game called Panzer Dragoon: Remake, rather than Panzer Dragoon: Remastered, it feels like a missed opportunity by MegaPixel Studio not to include some more modern gameplay aspects, even if it had been something as simple as adding increased mobility controls, such as the dedicated acceleration and deceleration buttons from Panzer Dragoon Orta, the excellent original Xbox-exclusive sequel.
In fact, there’s some irony that the one concession the game has made to modern gaming – the addition of a twin-stick control scheme – probably the one it needed least, given the original’s one-stick scheme actually works perfectly well for what’s on offer here (thankfully, that scheme is still available and is definitely the one I would recommend using).
Panzer Dragoon: Remake is a perfectly fine game that, unfortunately, has little to help it stand out from the crowd.If you played the original 25 years ago, there’s really nothing here that you didn’t experience back in the day, beyond the nicer visuals. If you’re a younger gamer who would be experiencing this for the first time, then its old-school sensibilities and leisurely pace are probably going to leave you cold.
A perfectly serviceable remaster, Panzer Dragoon: Remake still feels like a missed opportunity to reinvigorate a franchise that deserves it. Would love to see what MegaPixel Studio could do with one of the sequels and a little more creative freedom, but this feels a little too difficult to recommend at the price.
Panzer Dragoon: Remake is available now on PC (review platform), Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Google Stadia.
Developer: MegaPixels Studio
Publisher: Forever Entertainment
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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