Panzer Dragoon Orta
Game Info
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Animated Blood, Violence
The Good

• Awesome design and execution of graphics
• Fast and frantic action
• Tons of unlockables
• No English Dub

The Bad

• Gamers who don't like rail shooters will want to skip


Orta is a young woman has been imprisoned for as long as she can recall. During a siege on the city she's held prisoner in, Orta is freed by a dragonmare. She rides the beast to freedom and sees the world about her for the first time in her life. During her trip, she discovers more about herself and why she was imprisoned. The story of Panzer Dragoon Orta is delivered through a number of FMV and in-game cutscenes that really go a long way to fleshing out the story. Along with that is an encyclopedia that explains a variety of aspects about the world Orta finds.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is, without a doubt, a "rail shooter", which means you'll be faced with wave upon wave on enemies to shoot down. Those uninitiated in the genre may think this sounds boring as dirt, but once you get into Orta, you realize the game has a depth to it that will make the journey well worth the time and effort. Your dragonmare can morph into one of three forms, each of which have their own strengths and weaknesses. The Base Wing is your standard dragon that most players will break themselves into the game with. The Heavy Wing is stronger, sturdier, but lacks the ability to glide and doesn't have as many lock-ons that it can perform. The Glide Wing is fast and evasive that can glide better than the other two and is great for disposing missile volleys. Switching between the three forms becomes essential to surviving this game.

Using the X and B buttons, players can use the glide ability to dash forward or slow down, which is good for dodging attacks and necessary for making it through most levels. When enemies are nearby, you can dash into them with the glide attack to destroy them. A lot of the boss fights will force the player to use the glide abilities to move around the immense bosses to target weak spots. Once players have filled their berserk gauge, they can unleash an attack in one of the three forms which helps delivers a ton of damage. Also, during the game, you'll be able to pick up orbs from defeated enemies that allow each of your dragon forms to evolve, making them stronger and more powerful.

Probably the most important feature of Orta is the ability to turn the camera and fight enemies in full 360°. Players can hit either the left or right triggers to turn the camera 90°, but can maneuver the camera more to their tastes by using the left analog stick.

While the main game only has about ten stages, you'll find a number of the levels have multiple paths. Replayability is the strength of Panzer Dragoon Orta. Even though by the game clock you may finish the game in a few hours, you'll find yourself replaying many levels, first because they provide such a good challenge, but then because you want to improve your score as your skills increase.

After you're through with the main game, you have tons to do in the Pandora's Box, which is a treasure trove of unlockables. While some of the Pandora's Box is merely Flight Records and info, you can also view unlocked movies and illustrations. Also available are Sub Scenarios about other characters in Orta's world, including Scenarios involving Iva, an Imperial Youth flying a hovercraft, and Mobo, who flies related missions to Orta's own. And, of course, then there's the original Panzer Dragoon to unlock.

Graphically, Panzer Dragoon Orta is impressive. Detail is poured into every aspect of the game. Visual effects range from fog, cloud and rain effects, which create a lifelike quality to the world, to a large range of laser and explosion effects that accent the hectic combat well. Enemy and ally models alike look well designed and animated to a "T". Smilebit has gone a long way to make the world complete and real in design and style. The levels are immensely detailed and work well not just as a backdrop to the action, but as an integral part of the action from time to time. Along with this are highly polished FMV sequences and a series of high-quality cutscenes done with the in-game engine.

Gamers who have a distaste for English dub will be pleased with Smilebit's decision just to include English subtitles along with the original voice acting. Sound effects and the music are well done and help draw the player into the game. One of the nicest things about the music is how it captures both the mood and concept of the game so well. The music feels like a part of the alien world you get to explore.

The only drawback that gamers may find in Panzer Dragoon Orta is what the game is inherently - a hardcore rail shooter. People who don't like the genre may be turned off by the game, especially its challenge. While the game features three difficulty levels, even on the Easy Level you'll be given a solid challenge, which fortunately is never too frustrating, but rewards players for using the game's techniques to their best.

If you've even given Panzer Dragoon Orta the smallest consideration of interest, go out and get it. This is the possibly the best game to grace the genre in years. With tons of things to unlock, and considerable replayability, dedicated gamers will enjoy this title for years to come.

- - Kinderfeld

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