The Panzer series of games on the Saturn are amongst the best you will witness on this platform, and arguably any other. While the first two games were hailed for their superb visual impact upon the player, one couldn't help but feel that the overall experience was a somewhat shallow one due to the player not exactly having complete control over his "elevated-steed". Nevertheless, I own the complete trilogy now and I am proud to say so.
Team Andromeda have long been regarded as the best when it comes to pushing the Saturn to it's technical limits and PDS certainly lives up to this lofty reputation. I think that I can safely say this game has possibly the greatest graphics that you will ever witness on this system. A bold claim indeed when faced with quality opposition of the ilk of Virtua Fighter 2 et all.
Considering the Saturn's supposed "inferior" 3D capabilities when compared to Sony's Playstation and Nintendo's N64, the visuals on this game are absolutely magnificent. They're aren't enough superlatives in the dictionary to do justice to the quality of PDS. The first CD of this quad-disk package contains some excellent sights, including a wonderful shimmering water-effect. But it is no lie to state that the further you progress throughout the game, the greater the visuals become. By the time you reach the third and fourth disks it is difficult to comprehend what is before your very eyes, I shit you not. Translucencies and transparencies, supposedly impossible to produce before, are all in here in abundance. Reaction to the game's music and sound-effects has been mixed. I can only praise it.
Chip-generated tunes, which are many and varied, sound very accomplished indeed and fit in nicely with the game's overall atmosphere. Unlike the majority of games where you end up turning the volume down and putting on your own sounds, PDS can have you contentedly humming away to the background music as you valiantly battle against forthcoming enemies. The sound-effects are crisp and possess great clarity, it is most pleasing to see a huge boss that you have been battering for minutes, fall to the ground with an appreciable crump. Flight-sim veterans may take a little while to get used to the controls as pushing up on the joypad makes your Dragon move up and vice-versa. This game is officially classed as being an RPG, albeit one with the majority of the action taking place in the sky, dismissing relentless hoards.
When the puzzles arrive they remain fairly simple to solve and the village-scenes are mostly in there for you to stock-up on weapons and progress the story along a little further.
Combat is turn-based, as in Grandia and Shining-Force, and is a crucial part of the game. You have the ability to fly around your enemy to locate it's weak-spot and then proceed to send it cascading to the ground via a number of different attacks. Action-fans will certainly enjoy evading their enemies attacks and constantly attacking it's weakness in search of those evasive "Excellent" ratings which reward you with many experience points and bonus-items.
A special mention must be made to Team Andromeda's professional and succinct cut-scene work in PDS. FMV-sequences adorn this game, especially the beginning, and help set the tone of your adventure, rather than being a poor substitute for an inherent lack of gameplay.
In conclusion, PDS comes with my highest recommendation. Although it may not take too long to finish, the desire to come back and achieve perfect ratings to try and open up some of those elusive secrets should remain. It's more than worthy of a place in any self-respecting gamers collection and is arguably up there in the Top Five greatest-ever Sega Saturn releases.
Review By: Michael West