Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox)

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Written by  :  *Legion* (144)
Written on  :  Oct 17, 2003
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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Xbox-exclusive AAA title - and largely overlooked

The Good

In the past 5 years, video gaming has gone in a more complex and lengthy direction. While this is a good thing, there is also a desire for fast, reflex-testing gameplay. Panzer Dragoon Orta fills that role like few other games can.

I don't want to call it "shallow", but PDO is definitely a visceral experience. It is a railed shooter, fast and furious. There aren't many pure shooters like this anymore, but this one would stand out even in a crowded genre. The Panzer Dragoon games are some of the genre's most heralded, and Panzer Dragoon Orta makes the series proud.

Your character, Orta, rides a dragon, while enemies attack from all angles. Using the L and R buttons, and the control stick, you shift your view 360 degrees and fire at waves of enemies. The game features some interesting targeting combos and other wrinkles to keep it from being purely "point and shoot", although that is much of the heart of the game. Bosses are *huge*, and being able to recognize patterns quickly will keep you alive.

I don't want to wait until the end of the review to mention this: Panzer Dragoon Orta features the original Panzer Dragoon game as an unlockable bonus. For me (and anyone else that doesn't have the Sega Saturn classic), this is a big selling point. It is unlocked after 5 hours of gameplay, or it can be unlocked immediately with a code.

The visuals and audio are *stunning*. It is games like this where the Xbox's muscle really puts the GameCube and PS2 to shame. In addition to some of the most gorgeous visuals to date, the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound is wonderful. This game is definitely a treat, especially for the big TV and surround sound crowd.

Tying together the game's 10 episodes is a storyline that is more storied than most players might realize. While it is essentially ignorable, fans of the series - and post-apocalyptic worlds - will eat it up.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is a short game. It can be completed in around 3-4 hours. There are multiple paths through most stages, lending some replay value. Also, the inclusion of the original Panzer Dragoon adds some more great gameplay as well.

The Bad

Whether this is good or bad depends on your point of view - Panzer Dragoon Orta is HARD. It can challenge an experienced game player even on "easy" difficulty. The starting screen says that "normal" is right for most game players, but I think some PDO developers have a major sadistic streak. "Normal" mode will break the will and spirit of a casual gamer, and may even break some experienced gamers. For the real pros, there is "hard" difficulty, which I can almost not conceive.

For some people, it may be hard to justify the purchase of such a short game. It's a great experience and the replay value (both through the game proper and the PD bonus) is more than most games of this sort. Even still, this isn't a game that one will play for 15+ hours. It is definitely worth a rental for everyone, though.

The Bottom Line

Panzer Dragoon Orta is an amazing railed shooter game. Like any good throwback, it takes the best of old gameplay, adds some new wrinkles, and maxes out the aesthetic factor. Fans of the Panzer Dragoon series are required to buy it, and newcomers can enjoy 2 of the series' 3 games (not including the RPG, Panzer Dragoon Saga) in one package.