The newest installment in the Panzer Dragoon videogame series, Panzer Dragoon Orta finally brings this excellent series out of the shadows, and onto the X-box. As in it's predecessors, you once again ride around on your dragon on a fixed path, shooting enemies from the evil empire. But this is more than a hyped-up rail shooter.
This time round, you play as a young girl named Orta, who has been imprisoned by the Empire for all of her life. Her prison is blown open by Imperial Dragonmares, and all seems lost, right at the beginning...but bring in the dragons!
The dragon is one of the Great Dragons, prophecied to come around when the world needs saving. It has chosen Orta as it's rider...and let the shooting begin. Together, they fly (and run) through levels, shooting everything in sight, and working to overthrow the Empire. Enough plot...onto the rest of the review!
The creators of Panzer Dragoon Orta obviously worked long and hard on this game to make it easy to play, hard to master, and addictive as hell. Thanks to SOME control over your dragon, the flight never gets boring, and it lets you choose alternate paths through levels at points.
In the game, you also get more than one dragon form, which plays more than a small part in the game. The Glide Wing is manuverable, fast, and good for shooting down missiles, but not good for planes...and it also sucks at taking damage. The Base Wing is the balance point, which you'll use for most of the game. And then comes the Heavy Wing, which is basically the freaking awesome boss destroyer. No missile shooter, but big honking lasers coming out the ying-yang. Also, you get Beserk attacks, which is basically the Ultimate Thing Destroyer, activated when you take enough damage.
Finally, some of the RPG elements from Panzer Dragoon Saga have been put into the game. Scattered across the levels, in hard to reach places are special powerups that increase your dragon's level, making it look bad-ass and giving it mucho more power. The catch is...the powerup only goes to whatever dragon form you're in at the moment. So...you have to choose which form gets the power!
Controls for the game are mercifully simple. You get one gun button, speed up/slow down buttons, dragon form switcher, and left/right camera swivel on the trigger buttons. (Hint: learn to use the swivels, or else you will get your butt kicked). Intuitive, simple...I like it.
Damn, I can't say enough about the graphics. I CAN say that this game utilized every shred of what the X-Box should be able to do, and hasn't had to do. Everything is clean and sharp, the weapon effects are awesome, the ships and bosses and dragons and creatures are beautifully rendered. It makes you want to just sit back and WATCH as you run through levels, instead of actually playing.
This again, is awesomely done. The soundtrack is well done, the sound effects good, and not irritating after two hours of play. But what makes this category shine is Ortean, or the made up language that every character speaks. Based off of latin, it is spoken by every character in the game...and sounds real. English meanings are naturally done in subtitles.
Orta also succeeds in having high replay value. Multiple paths through levels, added to a set of bonuses only unlockable by repeated or excellent play keep you coming back again and again. Some of these bonuses include being able to use secondary characters, new levels, and a full version of the original Panzer Dragoon game. Also, some would keep coming back just to see the worlds and creatures again and again.
All in all, Panzer Dragoon Orta is one of the best games I have seen for the X-box so far. It IS short, but add on the replay value...it's worth a buy. And a play, and another play, and another...