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Video Game / Panzer Dragoon

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"The fate of the world rests on the wings of an armoured blue dragon..."
Opening narration to Panzer Dragoon

Panzer Dragoon is a tetralogy of games developed by Sega's Team Andromeda for the Sega Saturn and by Smilebit for the Xbox. The first, second, and fourth games are dragon-riding rail shooters, while the third is a unique Eastern RPG. The series is famous for its beautiful soundtrack, After the End plotline and surreal Science Fiction atmosphere, owing a lot to Dune, French artist Mœbius (who drew the box art for the first game in Japan and is credited with design inspiration, particularly from his 1975 comic, Arzach), and Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (more of the manga than the anime).

Far in the distant future, mankind colonized another unspecified planet (Wild Mass Guessing makes it likely it's Mars), thanks to harnessing the power of terraforming run by artificial humans called "Drones", created from giant Towers that spit out streams of artificial creatures. The people who actually knew how to work the things, the "Ancients", put themselves to sleep for a couple thousand years to wait for the terraforming to complete itself and left everyone else to fend for themselves. Flash forward centuries later, and everything has gone to pot: the Towers never completed the terraforming, instead spewing out hostile monsters constantly. The Ancient's cryogenics failed, leaving them all dead. Mankind is forced to attempt to live on a halfway barren scavenger, Death World, filled with Everything Trying to Kill You. In the midst of this, The Empire ruthlessly seeks to harness the power of the Lost Technology from the Ancients to unite all humanity and its colonies but are prevented by general fear and confusion, as every so often, a single dragon and its Rider appears from almost nowhere to combat them.


The games which comprise this series include:

  • Panzer Dragoon
    • Released for the Sega Saturn (and PC) in 1995, players take control of Keil/Kyle, a mutant hunter whose excursion into the desert is interrupted when he witnesses a battle between two dragons, the most powerful genetically engineered monsters spoken of legend. The Dark Dragon mortally wounds the blue dragon's rider, who urges Kyle to mount his creature and stop the Dark Dragon from reaching the Tower and harnessing its destructive power.
    • The game was notable for being a rail shooter that allowed a full 360-degree camera rotation to fight enemies in all directions. There was also a Sega Ages version of the game for the PlayStation 2, which spruced up the visuals and smoothed everything out (including bumping the frame rate to a more natural 30 FPS). Naturally, this version stayed in Japan.
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    • A High Definition Video Game Remake for the Nintendo Switch was released on March 26, 2020, simply called Panzer Dragoon: Remake. Developed by Forever Entertainment, it features new visuals and changes to game-play to reflect modern standards, but retains the story. A Google Stadia version launched in June 2020, while Steam, and PlayStation 4 got their respective versions in September of the same year; Xbox One received its version on December 11, 2020.
  • Panzer Dragoon Zwei
    • A prequel released for the Sega Saturn in 1996, Zwei gives more insight as to the origin of the blue dragon from the first game. A mutant Coolia is spared by a boy named Lundi from the ritual killing of all mutants, as he couldn't bring himself to do the deed, especially when he noticed the Coolia in question had the especially rare mutation of wings. Adopting it as his own under the name "Lagi", Lundi attempts to teach it how to fly on the outskirts of town one day, when suddenly a flying Tower, dubbed "Shelcoof" by the Empire, destroys his home in a blinding flash, leaving the two with naught but the desire to take revenge.
    • Zwei introduced the Berserk Meter, which could unleash a barrage of lasers on sight, and the concept of dragon evolution: Lagi had various forms which it would mutate into at the end of each stage, according to score and play style, with a perfect run yielding the series' iconic blue dragon. The music also had a more ethnic feel to it than the orchestral/synthesized feel of the original game; the series would continue to use this style in later entries.
    • A Video Game Remake called Panzer Dragoon II Zwei: Remake, also developed by Forever Entertainment, has been announced, but has yet to be given a release date and platform.
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga
    • Also known as AZEL: Panzer Dragoon RPG in Japan, Saga is an Eastern RPG released for the Sega Saturn in 1998. It tells the story of Edge, a boy who finds a female Drone named Azel at the dig site he's assigned to protect, only to be double-crossed and killed by the Black Fleet, the Empire's elite soldiers. Led by a man named Craymen, they claim the girl for their own in their rebellion against the Emperor, who has gone mad with power and intends to harness the Towers for his own nefarious purposes, for which he needs Azel. Edge is mysteriously revived and rescued by a strange but powerful dragon, who seemingly has its own agenda concerning the Towers. Together, they set out to exact revenge on Craymen, unwittingly thrusting the pair into the conflict between the two factions.
    • The game was praised for its very unique art direction, eclectic soundtrack, interesting combat engine, engaging story, and gameplay. It also expanded the mutation concept from Zwei to allow real-time transformations of Edge's dragon. Four stats were separated into two inversely-related pairs, and allowed the player to boost one of each pair while making the deficiencies in the other more pronounced (Attack boosts the power of the dragon's Homing Lasers, while Spiritual increase damage of special attacks; Defense decreases the amount of damage taken and Agility allows the Active Time Battle-like gauge to charge faster and dodge faster).
    • Only a handful of copies of the game were made, as the Saturn was on the way out to pave the way for the Sega Dreamcast. It remains highly sought after to this day, and commands extreme prices on online markets. As such, having a copy is considered a badge of honor for Saturn owners. While the game received critical acclaim, Team Andromeda disbanded after it was released. To twist the knife further, Sega lost the game's source code after these events; unlike some Saturn classics that have been ported to later systems, the chances of a Saga re-release is virtually non-existent.
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta
    • The Grand Finale for the series, Orta was developed by Smilebit (who had many of the original Team Andromeda developers) and released on the Xbox in 2002, and stars Orta, the daughter of Edge and Azel, who is fought over by various factions because of her unique nature. She's taken prisoner but rescued by a dragon and flies her way to freedom away from a villainous Drone called Abadd, who believes she's the key to restoring the Ancients. Orta ends on a bit of a more positive note as human civilization and mutated creatures begin to bond with each other to form a real working ecosystem without the influence of the Towers. It also includes a separate story mode that follows an Imperial boy named Iva Demilcol as he fights for the Empire, as well as his encounters with Orta.
    • Orta took the Berserk System of Zwei and the transformation mechanics from Saga and adopted it to the series' original shooter formula, with a dragon that could mutate into three different forms on the fly: "Base Wing" (a standard form with no noticeable strengths/weaknesses except for the largest amount of lock-ons), "Heavy Wing" (powerful offensive form with limited mobility and less lock-ons) and "Glide Wing" (most nimble form, but lacks Homing Lasers, yet can shoot down enemy Macross Missile Massacre with ease and carries a unique Healing Factor via its Berserk Attack). In order to increase each form's capabilities, "gene bases" must be acquired by either destroying enemies or the environment. Orta was lauded critically for showing off what the Xbox was capable of (and, to this day, still looks gorgeous), tight controls, numerous throwbacks to the original trilogy, and a veritable slew of bonus content that could stretch the replay value for hours (including the original Panzer Dragoon as an unlockable bonus). Alas, as with most of the series, it went by relatively unnoticed. However, Microsoft has since made it compatible with the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, with the latter version available for purchase digitally.
  • Panzer Dragoon Mini
    • A Sega Game Gear Spin-Off, which takes the series and creates a Fun Size variation, Mini was basically Panzer Dragoon, minus the rider, but with extra "cute" added in place.

The series went dormant following Orta, especially after Smilebit was folded back into Sega in the mid-2000s. The creators, however, have never been anything short of enthusiastic about the potential future for the series, and the fan following for the series remains very strong to this day.

In 2011, a Spiritual Successor, headed by the creator of the series, was announced for the Xbox 360 and the Kinect. Entitled Project Draco, this is the closest thing fans will have to a new Panzer Dragoon game. As of E3 2013, it has been rebranded as Crimson Dragon, which came out as a launch title for the Xbox One. Sega also threw the series a bone when they included "Dragon Valley" in Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, and the series made another surprise appearance in the 2015 comic book crossover Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Unite. Although in both these cases, the first game represented the franchise.

Definitely not to be confused with The Legend of Dragoon. Also see Phantom Dust, directed by series creator Yukio Futatsugi also with with an After the End Crapsack World setting.

The Panzer Dragoon series provides examples of:

  • Anyone You Know: Saga loves this trope.
  • After the End: Orta - its encyclopedia even refers to the events of Saga as "The Great Fall". Even before that, the original game opens "thousands of years" after a "once-thriving human civilization perished into dust".
  • Airborne Mook: Being a game where you ride a dragon, many of your enemies are this.
  • Always Accurate Attack: The dragons' "Arrows of Light" will always hit an enemy, so long as the targets don't go behind cover of some form (like the clouds in the final level of Orta). Averted with Saga as some (fortunately very few) enemies, Zastava for instance, are capable of dodging the lasers.
  • The Anime of the Game: Based loosely on the first game; included a blind Love Interest named Alita who became the Black Dragon's rider.
  • Another Side, Another Story: Iva's Story in Orta, a boy raised in the Empire, and goes on a mission where his fleet is shot down by Orta.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The Xbox One store port of Orta remaps the Berserk action to the top left and right shoulder buttons due to the Xbox One's controller lacking the "black button" on the original Xbox controller. This adds the extra benefit of making it much less awkward to trigger the move as well.
    • For those who want to unlock the original Panzer Dragoon in Orta, but are having trouble beating the game, it offers an alternative criteria of simply playing story mode for five hours total.
  • Archaeological Arms Race: Several factions are after technology left behind by the Ancients, generally for this purpose.
  • Artificial Human: Saga and Orta revolve around the Drones.
  • A-Team Firing: The first boss of Orta, the Vermana battleship, constantly fires multiple machine gun turrets at you throughout the fight, yet these are harmless, unlike the missiles. The same also applies to the first boss in the original, where several Imperial soldiers can be seen on the deck firing machine guns at you, which are equally harmless (you can still shoot them however).
  • Barefoot Captive: Orta has been rescued from her lifelong prison with no shoes on, and remains barefoot until the post-credits cutscene of Orta, where she gets a pair of high-heeled sandals.
  • Battle Ship Raid:
    • Zwei: Lundi and Lagi take on the Shelcoof itself at Chapter 6 where they finally take down the ship by destroying one of the ship's wings and fighting the Guardian Dragon in its cocoon. However, the duo must confront the Guardian Dragon in its full glory as the Final Boss.
    • Orta: This installment really likes this trope, since the first boss is the Vermana, followed by an Imperial flagship in the fourth stage. The Vermana also returns in the eighth stage for a rematch.
  • Beam Spam: The Berserk Attack can rain down a barrage of homing lasers against everything on screen.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Saga loves this trope.
    • When Edge finds himself cornered by creatures in the beginning of the game, the dragon introduces itself by taking them out with a rain of lasers.
    • After Edge is captured by the Empire in Georgius, Gash comes to his rescue, but not before setting off a bomb on the ship and taking out an officer.
    • In the underground passage in Uru, when the Basilus takes out the elevator and sends the riders plummeting to their doom, Edge's dragon returns just in time to save them both.
    • After Edge and the dragon are nearly taken down by the Grig Orig's primary weapon, Craymen's fleet comes to his aid and fends them off, until it turns out Zastava wants to settle the score instead.
    • Orta also opens with one when the Empire and their Dragonmares attack the Seeker's village she's in. She would've been toast if the dragon didn't arrive when it did.
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Only the intro and ending to Saga is the franchise's fictional language used; the rest of the game is in Japanese. It's easy to tell when the switch occurs, as Edge's name starts being pronounced "Ejji" rather than "Edge" by the characters.
    • Iva's missions in Orta are introduced and concluded in Greek.
  • Bond Creatures: Dragons are intentionally designed to be this, only accessing all of their powers if they are paired with a human rider.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: The original game has an unadvertised "wizard mode" which bumps the framerate up to 30, but it does so by just speeding up the game to hit that mark, meaning you lose the intended accompaniment of the music. Not to mention that it oftens drops back down in busier sections of the game, and cutscenes are capped at 20 frames anyway.
  • Book-Ends: The prologue stage in Zwei, chronologically the first, starts with the words "Destiny Begins"; the final stage of Orta is called "The End of Destiny", ultimately concluding the series.
  • Broke the Rating Scale: "Out of Bounds" category - IGN told their readers to ignore the 10 for the graphical score of Orta and mentally overwrite an 11 in the box.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Els Enora boss in Orta shoots spears made from its own body fluids and can shed a veritable wall of crystalline feathers to try and snare the dragon. Once you break all its arms, it Turns Red and shoots out ALL of its blood at you. At this point, it becomes immune to player attacks, but loses health every time it shoots at you until it finally passes out.
  • Character Title: Orta and the Japanese version of Saga.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Empire beats Edge within an inch of his life when they think he's a spy working for Craymen. Gash is amazed that he survived it.
  • Compilation Re-release: Zwei was re-released in Japan along with its predecessor for the Sega Saturn several months after as Panzer Dragoon I & II.
  • Collector of the Strange: Both the Empire and the Seekers, each after the technology of the Ancients in their own ways.
  • Concept Art Gallery: In the "Pandora's Box" feature of Orta, where concept art is unlocked by doing well in the levels or clocking in enough gameplay hours.
  • Cool Airship:
    • Shelcoof in Zwei
    • The Empire's primary method of transportation, where a majority of its vehicles are tons of these, powered by gravity engines reverse-engineered from the Ancients, such as the Grig Orig and the Vermana. Orta faces off against their largest in the fourth episode of her game.
  • Crapsack World: The only way to be (somewhat) safe from giant mutated horrors is to live in the Empire. Unfortunately, there's a good chance of you being conscripted to fight said horrors, anyway. Also consider there's the incident involving the first tower, and then Craymen felt that genocide was the only option...
  • Creating Life: The Ancients did it first, then the Empire learned to reverse-engineer dragons, creating "dragonmares" in the process.
  • Cyberspace: When Edge and Orta are digitized into Sestren, the artificial intelligence running the Towers, in their respective games.
  • Death by Origin Story: Saga kicks off with one, with Edge wanting revenge against Craymen for the death of his captain, the man who raised him.
  • Decoy Antagonist: Craymen is introduced as one in Saga, and Edge will stop at nothing to get Revenge on him. As Craymen's motives become more clear, Craymen gets upstaged by the Empire, and they get upstaged by the Tower and its creatures. The true antagonist is what controls them.
  • Defeat Means Friendship:
    • In Saga, Azel finally joins Edge after the defeat of the Atolm Dragon, and the death of Craymen: losing them makes her question and realize her purpose, and Edge helps guide her.
    • When Mobo and his buddies are defeated in Orta, realizing she's not with the Empire, they become her allies for the rest of the game.
  • Degraded Boss: The Imperial Naraka-class battleship in the first game is the boss for the end of the first episode. In episodes three and five, it shows up as a regular Mook. Strangely, when it appears as a normal enemy, it has more attacks.
  • Developers' Foresight: In addition to the Old Save Bonus, Zwei has an option to format its picture for widescreen displays; this is almost unheard of in The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games.
  • Difficulty by Region: The western version of the original game reducd the number of credits available on easy and normal difficulties, added more enemies in Episode 2 and jacked up the Hit Points of the giant sandworms at the end of the stage to such a high level, it's essentially impossible to kill them both, thus getting a 100% shot down ratio for the stage.
  • Disc-One Final Boss:
    • In Saga, Craymen is this for part of the game.
    • The Emperor in Orta is the boss of Episode 8. The remainder of the game has you dealing with Abadd, who has seized control of the Dragonmares.
  • Disc-One Final Dungeon: The Tower in Disc 3 of Saga.
  • Disney Death:
    • In Saga, Zastava shoots Edge in the stomach, which blows him backwards and makes him tumble down into a deep crevasse. Subverted because Edge did die, if not the blast, but definitely the impact with the water below, but he's restored to life to become the Divine Visitor's avatar.
    • In the same game, Paet is shown in Zoah still working on his ship just before the Empire arrives and obliterates the whole town, killing everyone in it. Much later, Edge discovers him in the Seeker's Stronghold, having escaped on his ship with Bezer.
    • In Orta, Mobo and the Wormriders accompany Orta and take on the Empire's fleet together in Episode 4, only for him to be shot down late in the stage. After the Dragonmares go berserk on the Empire in Episode 9, Mobo comes back and brings an entire fleet of Wormriders with him to take them all on.
  • Downer Ending: Panzer Dragoon, Zwei and Orta end with the dragon's Heroic Sacrifice, but Saga is the worst offender, ending with the revelation that Edge was Dead All Along, kept alive as a No Fourth Wall avatar for the player, the Divine Visitor, and leaving the fate of most of the supporting cast uncertain.
  • Dragon Rider: Justified as the Ancients engineered them so they specifically wouldn't work without a human rider, so they wouldn't go berserk. Riders can at least help the dragons by deflecting shots with their laser guns. Also ties into Meaningful Name. However, the Guardian Dragon in Zwei seems to be the exception as we never see a rider.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: The first game had slightly different rules regarding the dragon and its mission. His rider was the one who telepathically told Kyle what to do, and the Arrows of Light came from the dragon's horn. Later games establish that the dragon communicates with its rider directly, and the lasers are a Breath Weapon. The 2020 Video Game Remake only adapts on the Arrows of Light front, but it still implies the dragon's horn produces some sort of energy.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: The first game has an easy mode, but upon beating Episode 4, you get hit with the message of "To Be Continued...Try Normal Mode". Only by completing the game on harder difficulties will it let you play the three remaining episodes.
  • Elite Mook: Several enemies in the series happen to be this.
    • Orta has "carrier" variants of enemies, who are either bigger, stronger, or have more attacks, while others are just a Palette Swap. Notable examples are the Carrier Yarva and Carrier Seba, the former being bigger and stronger, and the latter being stronger and having more attacks. Other Mooks that fall under this trope are the Madidar and the Interception Program ver.2.00.
  • Embedded Precursor: The original Panzer Dragoon (based on the PC port) is included in Orta and is playable after beating the game once (or alternatively by just playing the game for five hours total).
  • Emotionless Girl: Azel, being a Drone, does very little emoting over the course of Saga, acting very calm and collected.
  • The Empire: The Empire of the Panzer Dragoon series were power-hungry and seeking the power from the Ancient's lost technology.
  • Evil Counterpart: A staple of the series - the Dark Dragon in the first game, Zwei has the Guardian Dragon, Saga with Atolm, Azel's dragon, and Orta features Abadd's Mare, but also the Dragonmares.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The Empire has gained almost unrivaled power by harnessing the power of the Ancients' lost technology, believing it's theirs to control. Said technology also goes out of control and ends up destroying them at least once per game.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The Towers, which created hostile creatures instead of completing the terraforming tasks.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Happens a few times throughout the series.
    • The Dark Dragon in the first game is also being pursued by the Empire.
    • The Tower releases an army of pure-type monsters, which lay siege to the Imperial city. Episode 6 features Kyle with his dragon and the Dark Dragon racing through the city, while both dragons are waylaid by the Imperials and creatures.
    • The second episode of Zwei has a route where you ride through an open warzone between the Meccania Federation and the Empire, with both sides taking potshots at Lundi and Lagi.
    • The Black Fleet in Saga, who are rebelling against the Empire.
    • Abadd in Orta, who is against the Empire: towards the end of the game, he gains control of the Dragonmares, turning them against the Empire.
    • The Seekers, who held Orta prisoner, are attacked by the Empire at the start of Orta.
  • Face–Heel Turn: The Seekers between Saga and Orta - during the former, they challenge the Empire in their hunt for the Ancients' relics. While their methods are more pragmatic, Gash's ultimate goal is to destroy the Towers so humans can finally live free of them and forge their own path. Orta reveals that the Seekers saw the titular character as a harbinger of destruction and locked her up in a tower for several years until she was needed for war. It's unknown if Gash had any involvement in the latter, but it's revealed in Sestren that he believed she needed to be protected at all costs.
  • Falling into the Cockpit: Kyle, Edge, and Orta, but Subverted with Lundi, as he does not immediately fly on Lagi, but rather teaching it how to fly.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Religion: According to some texts in Saga, the gods created humans and granted them their knowledge to create their own world, but abandoned them once humans turned against each other. Many people in Zoah are trying to get into the good graces of the gods, and the dragons are worshipped as "messengers of the gods", in spite of the fact that the dragons are bio-engineered, man-made creations of the Ancient Age. Paet thinks it's all garbage, considering that the Guardian Light is another relic of the Ancient Age, and the gods didn't save Zoah from the Empire.
  • Featureless Protagonist: "The Divine Visitor" in Saga.
  • The Federation: The Meccania Federation, which appears in Zwei and is at war with the Empire. Further lore states that the Meccania Federation was conquered by the Empire.
  • Fictionary: "Panzerese", the fictional language spoken in all games, which appears to be based on Latin with the syntax of Japanese.
  • Fight Woosh: Saga uses a Fade to White effect.
  • The Fundamentalist: The people in the Holy District of Zoah in Saga give off this vibe, as they don't like outsiders or trading with them, and believes they're in good graces with the gods and frown upon those who aren't. Even though people in the Liberal District also believe in the gods, they're denied access to the Holy District because they're not as dedicated. Most of the people in the Liberal District view them as uptight snobby hypocrites, and Paet can't stand them, but there's a select few who leave the district in secret so they can trade and have a few drinks.
  • Fun Size: Panzer Dragoon Mini is presented entirely in a Super-Deformed manner.
  • Fusion Dance: Unlocking the Solo Wing form in Saga involves merging Edge's dragon with a pup they had found earlier in the quest.
  • Game Level: Referred to as "Episodes".
  • Gameplay Grading: The first game was only concerned with your percentage of enemies shot down. Zwei retained that while also assigning points on the routes you took through the stages, which determines how Lagi evolves. Saga graded your performance in battles with how quickly you killed enemies and how little damage you took doing so, awarding bonus Experience Points and "Dyne" (the Global Currency) for doing well. Orta finally adopted the more familiar letter grade variation, awarding ranks up to S based on shot percentage, score, accrued damage, and speed at killing the boss.
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Els Enora, the boss of Episode 5 in Orta - it literally comes out of nowhere, and unlike other bosses, has no introduction cutscene.
  • Götterdämmerung: The Ancient's lost terraforming technology.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Orta, who's half-human and half-Drone as she is Edge's and Azel's daughter.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • The Ancients, who introduced the Heresy Program (which itself is responsible for the player-controlled, mutating dragons seen in the series) into Sestren with the task of destroying the Towers that asserted their control over the planet's development.
    • Craymen: Edge doesn't ever forgive him for killing his entire troop (himself included) to capture Azel, but at Craymen's request, the two end up working against their common enemy, the Emperor, by the end of Disc 3.
    • Azel also counts, as she was originally built as a weapon to take over a Tower and hopefully guide the Heresy Program back to Sestren. Craymen convinces her to help him in his attempt to re-activate the Tower in his misguided attempt to "restore thes world" instead. This is followed by Edge convincing her to go back to her original duty, making hers a rare Double Heel Face Turn.
  • The Hero Dies: Edge in Saga, although he actually dies in the intro, and Iva's story in Orta.
  • Homing Lasers: This is each dragon's sole form of attack until Saga introduced Berserk spells. It's also your worst enemy in the Final Battle in Orta.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Coolias, which are bipedal lizard-fish animals. Lundi's coolia, Lagi, ends up mutating into a dragon thanks to being a host for the Heresy Program.
  • Hover Tank: The Hover Tank Dahra in Orta, one of the Empire's ground units.
  • Humongous Mecha: Bacharsuha in Orta, the Episode 8 boss.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: Used in Saga to cycle between day, dusk and night in towns or at camp.
  • Incredibly Durable Enemies: In-Universe example with "Pure-type" monsters, which have a much more advanced form of armor that human weapons are unable to damage. It's only when the player characters acquire their dragons and special guns that they can start battling them on equal footing. Lazara are among the easiest enemies in Saga to beat.
  • Injured Player Character Stage:
    • In Saga, after Edge and Azel fight for the second time above Uru, their dragons engage in an Air Jousting duel (doubling as a Beam-O-War) and knock each other out, sending their riders plummeting into the ruins alone. Both dragons are out of action as Edge and Azel escape the ruins together on a Floater instead (which has very limited capabilities).
    • After defeating Evren's Dragonmare squadron in Orta at the end of Episode 4, the dragon's wings are injured in the explosion, sending it and Orta plummeting to the ground (into a huge snowdrift, fortunately). The next stage has it running through a frozen tundra until its wings heal; simultaneously, this also locks out the dragon's transformation capabilities, rendering only the Base Wing as the available form. In addition, it is stuck with Level 1 lasers.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: It's obvious the world is half-way colonized, but nobody remembers what planet they originally came from or how the hell they got there.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Subverted in Saga - a lot of the doors in towns are locked.
  • Konami Code: A variation on this appears in the original game (with X Y Z instead of B A Start), where it is used to enter the level select.
  • La Résistance: Subverted; while the Empire is corrupt, it's Necessarily Evil.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Deconstructed with Iva in Orta - nobody ever lets him off easy due to his illness, and he's fully expected to perform as a soldier of the Empire, until the Seekers take him in. Even then, he provides them false information due to a lack of trust. His father left him a note explaining the truth about his condition (he drank polluted water as a child and was taking pills made from a Dragonmare-sourced serum to stave off the infection), and when he finds out that he's out of medicine, he rushes off on a Suicide Mission to accomplish one last good deed before he dies. Although mortally wounded, Iva dies in his new friend's arms.
  • Like a Son to Me: Edge's captain raises him like a son, and one of his journal entries wonders if he'll ever call him "father". Unfortunately, he's already dead by the time Edge reads it.
  • Living Macguffin: Azel and Orta
  • Meaningful Name: The series' title - at its most bare bones, it effectively becomes "Panzer" = "Tank", "Dragoon" = "Mounted Infantry". On a deeper level, it really makes more sense (see here for a better explanation).
    • In Saga, the Emperor's ship, the Grig Orig, translates into "Iron Fist".
    • In-Universe, "Orta" is Panzerese for "day": The Stinger shows Orta walking into the wilderness with a newborn dragon pup as a brand new day starts.
  • Mecha-Mook: The Pure-Type monsters that appear throughout the games happen to be this.
  • Military Coup: Saga has the Black Fleet, an Imperial unit, starting an open rebellion against the Empire.
  • Mind Screw: The ending of Saga has the Divine Visitor, who is revealed to be the player. Read it here.
  • Monster Is a Mommy: Invoked when Orta defeats the Els Enora, who is then slaughtered, along with her offspring, by Abadd.
  • Mystical White Hair: Orta has white hair as she's half-drone on her mother's side.
  • Named Weapons: The dragons' lasers "Arrows of Light"
  • Narrator All Along: Implied in Orta that it's either Sestren or the Heresy Program; whoever it is, it's not human.
  • New Game+: Box Game in Zwei, the PlayStation 2 version of Panzer Dragoon, and Orta.
  • Nice Hat: Kyle's hat is pretty distinctive, and comes with goggles to boot! Orta's as well, which doubles as a Scarf of Asskicking due to it being a turban.
  • Nintendo Hard: The first game starts off moderately challenging and ramps up from there, with the final levels showing no mercy. In addition, levels have no checkpoints, your health cannot be replenished except for a small refill between levels, there is no save system, and the only way to get extra lives (or credits as they are called in-game) is to shoot at least 90% of the stage's enemies, and once you run out of them, you need to restart the entire game from the beginning.
  • Not So Different: Iva's Story demonstrates how the Empire views Orta and her dragon - a witch hellbent on destruction.
  • Oddly Named Sequel: Of course, the series has no real consistent Theme Naming, but Subverted with Orta in the alternate closing credits, which identifies it as Panzer Dragoon Vier. "Vier" is German for "four".
  • Old Save Bonus: Zwei and Saga can actually affect each other with their saves, as they were developed concurrently. Having a save file of the first game while playing Zwei unlocks the Box Game, while having a save from Zwei while playing Saga will unlock a Music Box that plays the theme from Zwei by talking to a girl in the Holy District of Zoah.
  • Organic Technology: Almost all technology is organic, including the snail-sized guns, which are living organisms.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons are only dragons in the most general sense. They perform more like living X-Wings and shoot lasers and tend to look more like giant armored fish with horns crossed with an H. R. Giger doodle. They're really "dragons" In Name Only; meanwhile, the Ancients simply referred to any biological creature with the highest tier of power to be referred to as a dragon. In-Universe, the modern day usage is on par with using the word "dragon" to mean a god or an instrument of god. Considering almost all wildlife presented in Panzer Dragoon is spectacularly alien with the exception of "humans", this really isn't that far of a stretch.
  • Please Wake Up: Orta to her dragon after defeating Abadd.
    Orta: "Hey... what's wrong? Open your eyes... please..."
  • Point-and-Click Game: The non-battle portions of Saga, while still maintaining the series' lock-on control scheme.
  • Promoted to Love Interest: Azel in the localization of Saga, which is adopted as canon in Orta, as she becomes the mother of the titular character for the game using Edge's genes.
  • Psychic Link: All dragons form a mental bond with their riders, presenting their mission of destroying the Towers, with Orta being the exception, as the dragon is merely there to guide and protect her.
  • Psycho for Hire: Zastava in Saga, and Evren and her Dragonmare squadron (to a lesser extent) in Orta.
  • "Ray of Hope" Ending: Although Orta technically ends as a downer, The Stinger shows Orta walking into the wilderness with a new dragon pup by her side, a tone that's less somber than it seems. Recall in the beginning of the game on the amount of angst she had on being alone for all her life, until the dragon rescued her.
  • Recurring Boss:
    • The Dark Dragon is the first game.
    • The Atolm Dragon in Saga, considering its rider is Azel, The Rival.
    • The Guardian Dragon, the Final Boss in Zwei, returns in Saga when the Empire invades what's left of Shelcoof.
    • The Grig Orig in Saga: Edge first faces it after the Empire destroys Zoah, and again after the creatures from the Tower take it over.
    • The Vermana, the first boss in Orta, is fought again in the Imperial Capital.
  • Recurring Character: The blue dragon is an available form in all four games; it's referred to as "Solo Wing" in Zwei, Saga and Orta. By default, it's considered the highest form the dragon can assume, being the single most powerful form in each game its in, save for the first, since it was the only form available.
  • Recycled Soundtrack
    • Many of the cutscene songs from Saga were reused in Iva's story in Orta.
    • The Final Boss music from Zwei is heard again in Saga when the same enemy is revived and fought again.
  • Red Baron: The Empire has taken to calling the dragon the "Dragon of Destruction", which pretty much sums it up. Granted, its technical title of "Heresy Program" isn't any better.
  • The Rival: A Recurring Element for the dragons - the Dark Dragon in the first game, the Guardian Dragon for Zwei, and Azel's dragon Atolm in Saga. Abadd's unnamed Dragonmare in Orta is also this, to a certain extent.
  • Rule of Cool: How else could you explain a series revolving around a post-apocalypse sci-fi fantasy world with giant robots, ancient androids, and shapeshifting dragons that can shoot laser beams?
  • Scenery Porn: When the game launched, Orta was critically lauded for its gorgeous graphics which showcased a wide range of locations. Even by today's standards, it could be mistaken for a launch Xbox 360 title. The Xbox One takes this even further, making the smallest of details in the backgrounds and models pop in a way few original Xbox games can manage.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: A few enemies in the series are capable of deflecting the dragon's lasers. In Orta, you have the Ramjanaki, Pure-Type monsters who are shielded from the front. The Empire also has the Shielded Warship Shaiha, basically the Imperial equivalent of the aforementioned monster.
  • Shout-Out: Saga has a few of these.
    • Inside An'jou's tent are a pair of guns, inscribed with the words "From Mr. Woo".
    • One of the tables in Juba's bar has writing scratched on it that reads "They killed Kenny".
    • When Craymen delivers a letter to Edge, it reveals his full name as "K.F. Craymen".
    • The racing level in the Box Game also opens with "Rolling Start!"
  • Sliding Scale of Turn Realism: Saga uses a variant of the "Active Time Battle" system. In combat, not attacking or moving will cause the action gauges to fill up, stocking to a maximum of three. Repositioning prevents the gauge from accruing until the motion is over; Edge's gun, the dragon's lasers and using items cost one gauge, while Berserk Attacks cost two.
  • Story-to-Gameplay Ratio: The first game, Zwei and Orta have almost none. The entire story has to be pieced together from Saga and Orta (the latter via the bonus material world bible).
  • Suicide Attack: Orta has a mook named Floating Mine Mardai, which are mini-airships whose sole purpose is to sacrifice themselves to take down enemy air units as airborne suicide bombers.
  • Taking You with Me: Evren says this word-for-word and blows up her Dragonmare to try to take out Orta at the end of Episode 4 in Orta. It doesn't work, although it does render her dragon temporarily unable to fly for most of Episode 5.
  • Timed Mission: In Saga, the Deathmaker boss battle has a time limit of seven minutes. Many side missions in Orta also fall under this.
  • True Final Boss:
    • When playing the first game on hard difficulty, after defeating the Super Dragon, instead of dying, the Prototype Dragon will challenge you to one last fight in its normal form. The fight is a repeat of when you fought him in Episode 2, but this time, he uses double the attacks (shoots four missiles instead of two, and shoots eight when you aren't looking), and has a shield which makes him invulnerable for a few seconds.
    • In Zwei, after defeating the Guardian Dragon, it will rise from the water in its normal form and face you in a final duel if you reach the last episode with a high enough percentage rate. The fight will always be initiated when playing the game on harder difficulties after they're unlocked in Pandra's Box.
  • The Unchosen One: Kyle at the start of Panzer Dragoon, as the blue dragon's original rider is killed by the Dark Dragon, and he just happens to be there to see it. The unnamed rider gives him his mission as his dying wish, then keels over.
    • This also leads to the rather unfortunate side-effect of Kyle being the one rider just about everyone seems to forget, since his place in the series is seemingly nominal at best when compared to the other protagonists. However, some DO note that for the dragon to fight at maximum capacity, it needs a rider; without Kyle, it could never have accomplished its mission.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Poor Edge is used by absolutely everybody, thanks to being the only dragon rider around and fairly naive to boot. Craymen and the Empire use him against each other, and the Seekers use him against both.
  • Updated Re-release: The Sega Ages 2500 Volume 27 re-release of the first game features an "Arrange Mode" that boasts higher resolution visuals and updated models along with the original Sega Saturn version. It also includes a Box Mode with a slew of unlockables to make it more in line to the game's predecessors, and audio commentary from Yukio Futatsugi, the original game's director.
  • Vendor Trash: All sorts of it in Saga.
  • Vestigial Empire: Simply called "The Empire", it's been crumbling for quite a while and every-so-often someone with a dragon comes along and kicks the crap out of it a little more each time.
    • As of Orta, the Empire was making somewhat of a comeback because it started integrating the colonial cultures into it instead of driving them into the ground. Lord only knows what Orta blowing up their airborne fleet again did to them, though.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Edge can bond with his dragon whenever he makes camp, as well as name him. Becoming especially close might inspire the dragon to learn a new Berserk Attack.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Lagi, Edge's dragon and Orta's dragon can all remold their bodies to enhance their battle effectiveness in terms of strength, defense, speed and "spirit power".
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Ikrakav for the Episode 2 in Orta will force players to come to grips with the boost and brake mechanics of the dragon in order to flank it and Attack Its Weak Point, including evading its attacks. Knowing when to transform the dragon into its other Wings to take advantage also becomes a necessity (if it wasn't already by this point in the game).
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Once he's defeated, Zastava asks Edge if his Revenge was worth it, before pleading with him to work together with Craymen. Edge doesn't respond, so the audience never knows.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Played with in Saga, as some people will simply refuse to talk to you because they don't know you. You also have the possibility to listen to conversations from afar.
  • You Didn't Ask: Azel pulls one in Saga when she and Edge get lost in the Uru ruins, revealing the limitations of the Floater at a bad time.
    Azel: Once we go down, there may be no way of coming back up. Be careful.
    Edge: Be careful? We already went down! Why didn't you tell that before?
    Azel: You didn't ask.
    Edge: *grumbles*

Alternative Title(s): Panzer Dragoon Saga


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