Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter video game published by Sega for the Xbox. The game was released in Japan in December 2002, the following month in the United States, and three months later in PAL territories. It is the fourth console game in the Panzer Dragoon series, after three such games on the Sega Saturn. Panzer Dragoon Orta was developed by Smilebit, one of Sega's second-party developers (before merging with Sega on July 1, 2004). This makes it the only Panzer Dragoon game not developed by Team Andromeda, even though Smilebit included many of Team Andromeda's former members.
The game focuses on a young girl, Orta, who has been held as a prisoner her entire life, before being freed by a mysterious dragon. As she rides on the dragon's back through a post-apocalyptic world, she must defend herself from the forces of an oppressive and militaristic Empire, who believe she is the harbinger of their destruction.
Panzer Dragoon Orta was made backward compatible with the Xbox 360 on April 19, 2007. The game was made compatible for all regions; however, there have been multiple reports that the PAL version of the game consistently crashes to the Dashboard after the full-motion video at the end of the third Episode.[ No fix to this problem has been made available in two subsequent backwards compatibility updates, though there is a workaround solution for this. ]
Panzer Dragoon Orta is a rail shooter: players can control the dragon's position onscreen, and may briefly slow down or speed up (the latter can be used as a potent ramming attack), but ultimately are in no control to fly about the level. Enemies must thus be defeated before they vanish offscreen as the levels "scroll" by (with the exception of boss battles, which take place in environments that "loop" until the boss is defeated).
Orta's dragon can morph itself instantaneously between three different forms: the Base Wing (standard class with no weaknesses or strengths), Heavy Wing (offensive class with less mobility), or Glide Wing (nimble class good for shooting down masses of incoming projectiles). Each of these forms can level up by collecting "gene bases" from certain enemies.
Attacking is performed by holding down a mappable attack button, maneuvering an onscreen cursor over enemies, and releasing the button to fire a volley of arching lasers at each target. Orta is also equipped with a rapid-fire pistol, though the game does not make it clear exactly how she obtained it (other than that it was related to the dragon somehow).
At the conclusion of each Episode, the player is ranked based on the number of enemies defeated, score, hits taken, and the time it took to defeat the boss. Each of these is assigned a letter grade from S, A, B, C, and D (with S being the highest). The four grades are averaged together to give the player an overall assessment of how well they performed. This grading also occurs at the conclusion of the game's numerous side-missions (including all seven Episodes of Iva's Story).
The main story of Panzer Dragoon Orta takes place several decades after the events of Panzer Dragoon Saga, and is told through ten Episodes. The Empire has risen to power again, and has utilized technology from the Ancient Age to create genetically-engineered dragons called "Dragonmares", that they may rule once again with an iron fist. The dragonmares quickly cause widespread chaos and terror, separating the nations and people governed by the Empire.
The player learns through an opening narration that a young girl, Orta, has lived all her life imprisoned in a tall tower in a mountainous region near Yelico Valley. She is kept there by the Seekers, people who fear that she is a harbinger of doom. One night, a pack of Empire-led Dragonmares invade the valley; they destroy much of the city and make for Orta's tower. However, before the Dragonmares can harm her, a mysterious Dragon appears and eliminates them.
Frightened and confused, Orta quickly flees the Valley on the Dragon's back. Evren, a general in the Imperial Army and leader of the attacking Dragonmare Squadron, follows Orta and surrounds her. She is saved again, this time by Abadd, a former Imperial Drone turned traitor. He flies away, cryptically hinting at Orta's importance. Orta asks the Dragon to follow him. In her search, Orta meets Mobo, a friendly but reckless member of the Wormriders. Mobo leads Orta through a river valley and a sea of ash before returning to the Wormriders' village, built upon a gigantic hovering creature called a Lathum. The Empire quickly attacks the Lathum with their capital fleet, and in the ensuing battle to drive them off, Mobo is shot down. Evren's squadron reappears and engages Orta in a fight, and the Dragon defeats them. Though Evren is defeated, his Dragonmare self-destructs in a volatile explosion, sending Orta and the Dragon down to earth.
Though the Dragon is severely injured in the blast, its wings badly torn and useless, it can still run. The Dragon carries Orta across a snowy land long into the night, where its wings regenerate. An Els-Enora, a graceful flying predator, attacks the pair, and Orta wounds it in self-defense. It finally begins to fly away, and Orta sees its children fly up to it. She expresses sorrow for her actions, but Abadd suddenly reappears and kills the Els-Enora and its children with a single laser volley. Orta is hurt by Abadd's emotionless deeds, but is compelled to follow him, as he claims to know information of her birth.
The trio descend into the ruins of a Tower, and from there gain access to the ancient information network known as Sestren. Deep within this network, Orta finds a hologram-like, left behind by her mother, revealed to be Azel from Panzer Dragoon Saga. She mentions that Orta is the child of a drone and a human, implying that Edge, Saga's protagonist, is her father. As the hologram ends, Abadd manifests himself inside the network. He has learnt Azel's secret of reproduction, and intends to use Orta's body to replicate himself infinitely, thereby ensuring that drones will be able to live forever. Orta manages to defeat Abadd's avatar and discovers that he is heading for the Cradle, a gigantic monolithic artifact of the Ancient Age suspended above the Imperial City. Orta orders Sestren that she be transported as close as possible to the cradle.
The Cradle becomes activated and Orta and the Dragon find themselves in an Imperial research facility. After destroying several experiments such as a captured Catharp (found in Episode 3), a room full of dragonmare embryos, and an improved assault carrier Vermana, the facility soon collapses. The pair escape only to encounter the new Emperor in an Imperial defense unit called the Burchusha. The Burchusha is destroyed and the Emperor dies within the explosion. The Cradle, which has been tied by wires break free destroying several Imperial ships and making the Dragonmares go berserk and attack the Empire fleet.
A fight erupts above the Imperial capital as the Dragon heads for the Cradle. The Wormriders, led by Mobo, attack the remnants of the Imperial fleet at the City, leaving Orta to fly towards the Cradle. After finishing off the last of the Dragonmares, the Dragon destroys the Cradle's outer shell. A metallic cocoon-like object emerges from the Cradle's core, and Abadd's voice can be heard from within it. The cocoon erupts into a fearsome dragon, which Orta defeats after a long and dangerous battle. Abadd and his dragon slowly vanish into nothingness as he repeatingly says "Orta...I...need...you." The dragon, severely wounded, flies slowly to the ground and collapses. Orta whispers to it in tears as the credits roll.
In a final post-credits scene, we learned that the Dragon has died, and the war has come to an end. However, the narration explains that the Dragon left behind an heir. The camera pans across a vast and lonely grassland. A baby dragon accompanies Orta as she silently walks toward a range of mountains in the distance, to an unknown destiny.
Panzer Dragoon Orta has many unlockable bonus features which are opened after certain achievements within the game, such as beating it on a certain difficulty or with a clearing the game with a high shot-down ratio. These features are contained in "Pandora's Box", a feature returning from Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, and include a detailed encyclopedia of the Panzer world, a bestiary of defeated enemies, an archive of concept art, extra bonus missions that expand the story of the main game, statistics tracking, a cutscene viewer (including movies from earlier Panzer Dragoon games), and even a complete port of the original Panzer Dragoon.
Orta's unlockables are also unique in that they are time-sensitive. Accumulating twenty hours of play time will unlock everything, regardless of other circumstances.
Of particular interest is a detailed set of seven additional Episodes that chronicle the life of Iva Demilcol, a young Imperial boy whose father died in a battle with Orta's dragon shortly after a bitter argument with Iva over the morality of war. Iva is stricken with an unusual disease, and must take a strange pill each day to survive. He aims to find out more before all his pills are gone. Though he manages to make a few friends at the Empire's military academy, he becomes isolated once again when Orta's dragon shoots down his fleet, killing all of his friends. Iva himself only survives when he is rescued and revived by a group of Seekers. After proving himself worthy of the Seekers' trust, however, Iva learns that his father was involved with dragonmares, which shocks and angers him.
When the conversation turns towards the weaponry of the Ancient Age, one of the Seekers mentions a great weapon hidden in the nearby ruins; whoever hits it would be destroyed, along with everything in a wide radius. Another Seeker gets word of the Dragon, and Iva sets off after it immediately. He cannot catch it, however, and returns to the Seekers' den, where he shocks them by suddenly falling to the ground. It has been a long time since he has taken his medicine, and the Seeker that gives him the pill notes that it is the last one. A Seeker named Emil notices a peculiar amulet that Iva wears around his neck, and identifies it as a letter container used by nomadic tribes. Opening it, Iva does indeed find a letter to him from his father, who tells Iva that he will be dead by the time he reads it.
Iva's father tells him that Iva carries in his body a virus, when he innocently drank water from a poisoned well as an infant. Iva survived when his father made a medicine from the internal fluids of a bio-engineered creature. The medicine stopped the virus from spreading, but could not purge the disease completely, as the virus began to evolve into more resistant forms. Iva's father made medicines from more and more powerful creatures, but eventually there existed not a single creature from which a medicine could be made. This led him to join the people responsible for the dragonmares; the pills Iva took recently all came from one. He acknowledges that what he did was ultimately wrong, but he tells him that he continued to make the medicine so that he could be with him for that much longer. He tells him never to give up, that he has faith in him, and pleads Iva to forgive him.
The Seeker colony is suddenly attacked by dragonmares. Iva vows to destroy them all and bring the horrors of his father's work to an end. Iva finds the ancient weapon, shaped like a big drum, and activates it just as the dragonmares come tearing into the chamber. A giant beam of light shoots skyward from the drum, repelling the dragonmares; Iva is surprised to find himself still alive. The device was not a weapon of mass destruction, but instead a sound generator meant to ward off bio-engineered creatures. The shaft of light makes a great pattern of colors in the sky, and the many soldiers of the Empire and the Seekers lay down their weapons for a moment in awe.
Iva is rescued by the Seekers, and sits quietly with Emil underneath the branches of a great tree. He acknowledges that while humans have a very despicable nature in their tendencies to fight and ultimately kill each other, he is moved that they were yet able to make something so beautiful. He feels tired, and knowing that he may never wake again, he calls out softly to his father before falling asleep, and expresses his gratitude for being able to know the many people that befriended him on his journey.
The game's soundtrack was composed by Saori Kobayashi and Yutaka Minobe (whose previous work includes the soundtrack for the 2000 Dreamcast RPG, Skies of Arcadia). The ending song, Anu Orta Veniya ("When the Day Breaks"), was orchestrated by Hayato Matsuo and sung by Eri Itoh. Kobayashi, Matsuo and Itoh had previously worked for Panzer Dragoon Saga soundtrack in the same position.
The U.S. soundtrack release for the game was published by Tokyopop and includes bonus tracks from Panzer Dragoon, Panzer Dragoon Zwei, and Panzer Dragoon Saga. These tracks are not on the original Japanese soundtrack release, which was published by Marvelous Entertainment.
In the U.S. television commercial, the music was composed by Bones Domingo and his song "Violet".
|GameRankings||90.4% (86 reviews)|
|Metacritic||90 out of 100 (41 reviews)|
|Eurogamer||8 out of 10|
|Game Informer||8.25 out of 10|
|GameSpot||9.0 out of 10|
|IGN||9.2 out of 10|
Panzer Dragoon Orta was well received by critics, attaining a score of 90% on both GameRankings and Metacritic. GameSpot called it "one of the best traditional video game shooting experiences ever made", and IGN's review called Orta a potent mix between "a solid storyline, stunning graphics, and great sound", declaring it "the best rail shooter of all time". Most of Orta's criticism was directed at the short length of the main single-player game, and its high level of difficulty even on the easiest settings. 1UP.com's review noted that "if you can beat it on normal difficulty, then consider yourself a true gamer," and that "it may turn off some with its difficulty".
Limited Edition Xbox
On December 19, 2002, a Panzer Dragoon Orta Special Edition Xbox was released in Japan to commemorate the release of Panzer Dragoon Orta on the Xbox. This quickly became the most sought-after Xbox to date. This Special Edition had a limited production of 999 units.
- ↑ Greg Kasavin (2003-01-13). Review: Panzer Dragoon Orta. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2008-07-27
- ↑ Hilary Goldstein (2003-01-10). IGN: Panzer Dragoon Orta Review. IGN. Retrieved on 2008-07-27
- ↑ 1UP Staff (2003-01-12). Sega's legendary dragon soars to new heights. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2008-07-27
- ↑ Mielke, James (2007-09-11). 1UP: Panzer Dragoon Orta Retrospective. 1UP.com. Retrieved on 2008-08-03