Panzer Dragoon Orta ( Or, as you probably know it, Panzer Dragoon Orta.) For those of you who do not get that joke, it's because you haven't played a Panzer Dragon game, where they speak a language that sounds like Latin, Russian, and Japanese got some freaky three-way action. And for those of you who have not played a single Panzer Dragoon game, stop reading this blog, go into the garage, grab a tool, and hit yourself in the face with it until your punishment has been served. Panzer Dragoon is an awesome series of games, and not playing them deserves some type of physical mutilation. Oh, they're rare? Um, I found Orta on GameStop.com without any problems, played it, and beat it; what does that say about your argument? And what does any of that say about Panzer Dragoon Orta? Nothing, really, just like how saying the game has an excellent story tells you nothing about the game. I'm not going to say anything about it, because we all know that the series is known for having kickass stories. Also, the only thing I can say about it is that the Empire's no longer a shallow evil due to some sub-scenarios. More on that later, though. Right now, we cover the basic gameplay, as we always do. As dictated by rail shooter standards, you either shoot everything in an ironic plan to end gun violence by depleting the bullet supply or realize how stupid that is and just zap everything with lock-on lasers. Works well on its own, feeling a helluva lot like the Panzer Dragoon games of old. In fact, that's how I could sum up the game: Panzer Dragoon of old. It feels exactly like the Saturn games of yesteryear, improvements be damned. Not that that's a bad thing; again, if you find fault in being flanked on all sides, shooting down bullets and enemies simultaneously because your dragon burps lasers, then you haven't hit yourself in the face with that screwdriver enough times. Get back to that. However, if you were to point out to me that the game can be kinda cheap about this, given the camera issues and your dragon's fat ass, then congrats! You can now graduate to carrot whacks, as I agree with you on that. I can't tell you how many times an enemy has hit me because they were in the one corner of the screen that my shoeless shooter couldn't point at, or the other corner that was covered with dragon wings. The worst part is that there's only one way to heal, and that requires going to glide form and shooting out a bunch of phantom dragons to suck the life force from living enemies. Or, as I like to call it, "Reverse Pac Man." Oh, this picture has nothing to do with the game; I just wanted you to know how awesome such an idea would be. Hold on, I see my mention of a glide form has confused you, so let me explain: remember how in Zwei, your dragon morphed over the course of the game? In the six years between Zwei and Orta, Sega realized that the system doesn't mean much if you don't have much control over how your dragon evolves. Oddly, they ignored that logic when working on the multiple routes, but moving on, you get three forms you can switch between at any time: base if you're a pussy, power if you want bosses to die quickly, and glide if you like yielding to enemy traffic while taping down the A button to kill things. All of the forms level up over the course of the game, and this time, you're in control of how your dragon levels up. However, more often than not, you'll just stuff all the experience into your power form, hoping it eventually gets enough roid rage to scare bosses away. That doesn't mean the boss battles are just "spam power"; no, the boss battles in this game are awesome. You now have to jump around to different sides of the boss for maximum damage a la Saga, switching forms on the fly (no pun intended, I swear, I'm not THAT desperate) to destroy the threat at hand. As in "that strategy/reflex thing I feel I've been pumping for some time now." Speaking of pumping, let's inflate the size of this blog past the number of paragraphs it logically should be. How, you ask? How do you ask, Ye Who Must Carrot Whack Their Face? Get back to that! The good readers get to read about the unlockables, of which there are a shitload. You get the typical stuff like cutscene viewers and a glossary of terms, but then there's the stuff like an unlockable Panzer Dragoon (which I've (hopefully) blogged about below) and another, shorter, crapper storyline. OK, the story itself isn't crap; through screens of text that set a trend for years to come, you learn that the Empire isn't entirely evil, and that you don't make many friends by stuffing their face full of Boston baked bullets. (People don't like feeling gassy, especially when those gases are explosive.) No, it's the gameplay that sucks. You obviously can't ride a dragon, so you're stuck on that scooter thing Saga knew should be limited to one level. Orta (or in this case, Iva) doesn't know that; for seven levels, you're stuck with a slow-moving scooter that demands much more from you than you can provide. You can't speed up, slow down, look down, look up, or have any fun while using the scooter. So why would you play it? I don't know, I couldn't find much reason to play these scenarios other than "to write a richer blog", which makes about as much sense as hitting your face with a power drill to appease a bored King. Review Synopsis How can I find fault in the story? It's Panzer Dragoon. Having improved a lot on the old PD gameplay, I give this game the Zwei to the Zwei Award. Look it up. Having enough unlockables to rival Brawl, I'm surprised that I posted this blog so quickly. OK, damn it. I know that this has some clever use in forums; I just can't think of it. Panzer Dragoon ( I'm surprised that I was actually able to get this game running.) I wasn't emulating this on my (barely)-able-to-do-the-job laptop, but rather through Orta on my Xbox 360 because I'm incredibly lazy. I've read stories about how the game won't work, which makes sense, since it's a 360 trying to emulate the Xbox trying to emulate the PC trying to emulate the Saturn. The only way to make things harder would be if the game was originally designed for a Jaguar emulator that's native to toasters. But I managed to pull through and beat the game, as should be obvious by my typing this. However, for the first few levels, that's not exactly saying much; up until level 5 (originally titled "The Bane of my Existence"), Panzer Dragoon is pretty damn easy, consisting mostly of making things explode every 20 feet. "Can't they shoot back?", I pretend you yell at me whilst I write this blog. Sure, they can shoot back; it's just that you'll either dodge their super soakings, or they won't even get the chance to fire off a few peas. The only exception to this is everything after level 4, where the enemies take more than one hit to die and the shots are more effective than spitballs, changing the game from relatively easy to decently challenging. Of course, that's by 95 standards; by modern standards, it's exactly the same, but with some incredibly cheap sprinkles. For example, there's no healing mid-level, no checkpoints, and you only get credits if you make sure nothing is left living in the end (keep in mind that I never said shooting them down is the only option). Is...is that my gun? What's odd is that both I and the game used the word "credits", even though this isn't an arcade game. Just goes to show you how old this game is that it feels like an arcade game before even being told what platform it's for. (Hint: it's the one furthest from arcades.) What also shows that plesiosaurs were probably this game's target market is the intro, which, through CGI which gives new meaning to the word "animated", tells us the tale of Panzer Dragoon: a big bad empire has found a large tower that houses a dark dragon ( TOTALLY ORIGINAL). You're hunting womprats one day when you stumble across ruins. At the end of it is a guy who dies, leaving you his magical dragon, free with magical GPS. Unfortunately, it's permanently set on Big Ass Tower, so you might as well take down the empire and its dragon thingy. Not exactly memorable, but it serves its purposes well: give you a reason to play. Also, it does something I've managed to avoid for three paragraphs: show you how the game works. Might as well get to that: you can either shoot things down with your gun, or lock onto a billion targets and watch as your dragon pukes on everything in sight, like a super-model. However, unlike a super model, the dragon isn't sexy, but the vomit is, in reality, deadly lasers. (On that thought, the proposition of laser vomit certainly would make America's Next Top Model infinitely more interesing.) It works well (sticky lock-on be damned), but it doesn't go any further than merely adequate. There's nothing that pops out as unique or interesting, at least from a gameplay standpoint. The only thing that even comes close is the ability to aim entirely around your dragon, but it's mostly limited to one side at a time, the only achievement being a visual transformation from rail shooter to FPS in the sky. Oh, look at that, I said "at least from a gameplay standpoint" in that other sentence. That's gotta lead up to something, right? Well, attentive reader who probably isn't real, you should know by now that I'm a writer who's more predictable than a Mega Man game, so I'll use this final paragraph to mention the graphics. Simply put, they've aged horribly. I've already mentioned the crap CGI, but the actual in-game graphics have this oddly pixelated look and definitely give off the vibe that this is a 3D game for the Saturn. Don't believe me? Go play the tunnel levels, and you'll soon notice that the walls move whenever you get close to them, for some reason. Don't want me to live? I'm surprised it took you this long to want me to die, but I'll stall it further by saying that, artistically, this game is fantastic. It makes intelligent use of colors and provides enough detail to make the polygons surrounding you feel like an actual world, as opposed to an environment where the NRA somehow managed to take over the entire government everywhere ever. That's the only reason this series managed to get as far as it did: because without the vibrant world and rich mythos, you're pretty much left with a forgettable shooter only notable for winning the Penis Exploding Awesomeness Award for Featuring a Laser Puking Dragon. Review Synopsis How many times have you heard the evil empire spiel?How many times have you played Star Fox with dragons in it?How many shoop-da-whoop jokes did I make?