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Panzer Dragoon Orta was an excellent herald for

SEGA’s new era as a full-time publisher DARRAN JONES


When Microsoft
first considered
entering the
console race, it
wasn’t content
to run its own
horse, but was
instead intending to buy one of the
competitors. Realising it made more
sense to buy one of the existing
thoroughbreds in the industry, the
company entered negotiations with
SEGA – talks that would, eventually,
fall through.
Joachim Kempin, a former Microsoft
employee, revealed this news to IGN
in 2013, but was quick to point out
that nothing came of it because Bill
Gates (then-owner of Microsoft) was
not convinced SEGA had the power
to stop Sony and its all-conquering
PlayStation brand. Gates turned out
to be right, but those early meetings
proved fruitful for both parties
as they created a strong
bond, a bond which led to
number of excellent Xbox
exclusives when it finally
decided to enter the
console race itself.
And SEGA certainly
brought a lot of great
games to Microsoft’s
debut console. In addition
to performing publishing duties for
exclusive releases like FromSoftware’s
highly underrated Otogi series, it
also delivered an eclectic array of its
own titles, including Jet Set Radio
Future, SEGA GT 2002, Gunvalkyrie
(a canned Dreamcast project) Crazy
Taxi 3: High Roller and The House Of
The Dead III, among many others. It
was a serious piece of good news
for SEGA fans as the company had
announced its intentions to drop
out of the console arms race in
early 2001, coincidentally, the
same year that Microsoft
would enter it. While many
fans were excited that
an enhanced port of an
existing Dreamcast game, Shenmue II,
was heading to Xbox, just as many
were looking forward to the next game
in the Panzer Dragoon series.

“We did have a lot of pressure from
fans to release another Panzer for
the Dreamcast,” admitted Smilebit’s
Takayuki Kawagoe to Xbox Nation
magazine in 2001, “but we felt that
the series in its current incarnation
as a trilogy had reached a logical
conclusion. However, we had done a
lot of research into Xbox for our initial
titles and we were interested in the
potential to take the series to a new
place with the Xbox hardware.”
This approach to target Microsoft’s
new console made perfect sense,
more so if you look at the legacy of
the original trilogy. While SEGA’s Saturn
console was generally considered by
the gaming press and public alike to
be poor at making 3D games, releases
like the Panzer Dragoon series proved
that the machine was more than
capable in the right hands. The first
two Panzer Dragoon games were
impressive rail shooters, but
the third instalment from
Team Andromeda was
a completely different
beast, taking the form
of an impressive and
immersive RPG. Many
hoped that Orta would
also follow in this vein, but
Smilebit (which was made
up of many Team Andromeda
developers) decided to look to the first
two games for its inspiration. It turned
out to be a good decision.

Shoot to thrill
Panzer Dragoon Orta slavishly follows
the template that had been created
by its 32-bit siblings and it works
exceedingly well. It utilises the
same approach for its core shooting
mechanics and it continues to
allow for 360-degree vision of your
surroundings by using the L and R
buttons to spin your viewpoint
90 degrees. Alternatively, you can
press both buttons together to
look directly behind you, allowing
you to respond quickly to incoming
danger. Enemies are still defeated in
exactly the same way as the earlier
two games, so you can either shoot
them down using protagonist Orta’s


The awesome white,
Japan-exclusive limited
edition Panzer Dragoon
Orta Xbox fetches
silly prices on eBay
whenever it shows up.

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