Archives for posts with tag: Panzer Dragoon


Phantom Dust is now available on Xbox One and Windows 10. The game made it onto both stores late last night, after some unexpected teething problems. I decided to jump right in and play the first half-hour or so.
 
Phantom Dust kicks off with an intro cutscene that I can only describe as ‘very Futatsugi’, reminiscent as it is of the director’s more well-known Panzer Dragoon. A voice over tells us that no one knows when or why the world changed, after the surface was poisoned by a mysterious dust that brought aggressive apparitions and erased the memories of the human population. Driven underground to survive, people abandoned their cities. But some people were affected differently. To them, the dust gifted psychic powers, and these Espers now roam the surface looking for relics of the past, and clues to the world that was lost. We see two mysterious new Espers discovered in strange stone sarcophagi, and I have to admit, my mind immediately jumped back to Azel’s discovery in Panzer Dragoon Saga.
 
After that, you’re into the game proper, and cast as one of these two new amnesiacs. After choosing a name – because no one can remember theirs, of course – you set out to help the inhabitants of the world beneath the surface, working for an organisation called Vision. I played up to the end of chapter 1, where you have a short showdown with a character that is obviously going to become very important, and so far I’m having a lot of fun. It certainly seems like there’s a lot to learn, though. For the uninitiated, Phantom Dust is a third-person arena combat game where you use a variety of skills that periodically appear near your starting position. These will later be drawn from your player-defined arsenal, taking inspiration from collectible card games, though in the early stages you’re given some beginner skills just to get your head around the various mechanics in play.

There’s a fair bit to remember with these skills – it’s not just about what they do, but how they do it. For instance, range has an effect here, with certain skills being more effective at certain distances, which is denoted by your reticle colour (red for close range, yellow for mid and green for long range). As an example, Bullet of Fire will throw a flaming attack in a straight line to your enemy, but will likely miss if you aren’t at medium distance, while laser is a long-range attack that fires out in a curve, often hitting scenery if you aren’t paying enough attention to your surroundings (and dishing out some pleasing environmental destruction as something of a consolation). You quickly start to take mental notes for each skill, but so far there’s been maybe a dozen in play, and apparently the game contains over three hundred!

Hmm. I wonder what they drink in a post-apocalyptic world covered in crazy dust.

Of course, it’s not all about offense, you’ll need to try to upset your opponents attacks too. You’ll get some defense skills for this, which, if timed well, can really save your bacon. An early favourite is About Face, which captures your enemy’s attack and sends it right back at them. Firing off your own attack immediately afterwards seems like a useful early-game combo to get used to. I mentioned earlier that skills will periodically appear at your spawn location, and this is important because you can only hold a small handful of these abilities at once, with some being single-use. You can overwrite these with new skills whenever they’re available to mix up your strategy.

I really am still at the very beginning of the learning stage in Phantom Dust – Chapter 1 is basically an extended tutorial – but I can’t wait to get back to it and try out more skills and strategies. As a lifelong Panzer Dragoon fan, it feels great to finally play what was effectively a lost Yukio Futatsugi game, and for free, too! Phantom Dust may be 13 years old now, but it’s still a very striking game; the textures clean up very well indeed, giving the image a very clean presentation despite its age, and the art direction and sense of atmosphere is excellent. The music is also very distinct, taking some recognisable classical pieces and messing with them a bit so that they’re just wrong enough to make you feel a touch uneasy, and the very first sound you hear on the title screen is so Twin Peaks it immediately gets under my skin. I’m intrigued by the story – Futatsugi has always been good with the whole lost civilization/ancient knowledge thing – and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

As I said the other day when the final release was announced, it’s a fantastic idea to give this away for free and get it into people’s hands, especially as it had such a limited release in the past. Hopefully, with more people able to try it out, it’ll strengthen calls for a new entry and get Microsoft to really think about trying again. And if they do, I really hope they get Futatsugi involved.

Keep an eye on A Game with Chums, where we’ll be playing the game in the coming weeks!

One of the original Xbox’s cult favourites is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 soon, and, courtesy of Polygon, we now have our first look at gameplay.

A quirky mix of Arena battler and Collectible Card Game, Phantom Dust was a Japanese exclusive for Microsoft’s original big black box, made by Sega alumnus Yukio Futatsugi, creator of the excellent Panzer Dragoon series. Sadly, the game never saw release in Europe, and was not made widely available in the States either, causing many to miss out on it. Thankfully, it’s now getting a second chance.

Co-developed by retro specialists Code Mystics, Phantom Dust HD brings the game to Xbox One in full, native 1080p (with support for arbitrary resolutions on the PC side), expands the screen ratio from its original 4:3 to 16:9, and brings back multiplayer functionality over Xbox Live. Adam Isgreen, Creative Director at Microsoft Studios Publishing, is careful not to label the game a remaster, instead choosing to call it a re-release, and he notes that, with the source code for the game lost, there was a limit to what the team at Code Mystics could do to bring the game up to date. Having said that, it sounds like the new HD version is using higher resolution development assets rather than the compressed textures and FMV files found on the original retail disc, and it’s clear to see that Phantom Dust now looks better than it ever has, sporting a much cleaner presentation.

Some changes have also been made to the way players build a card deck, with some free DLC aimed at getting players straight into multiplayer without having to cut their teeth in the campaign first. To facilitate this, players will now have separate saves for both modes; while single-player unlocks will feed into your multiplayer arsenal, multiplayer-earned cards won’t be available in your campaign run. While it may be disappointing to some that Phantom Dust HD isn’t a full-on remaster, with these and some other quality of life changes in place, it’s safe to say that it’s also more than a mere port of the original.

One point of contention will surely be that the game still runs at 30 frames per second, but Isgreen notes that the original was hard-coded to that refresh rate and that the team were unable to change it. “The entire engine was built around the game running at 30 FPS,” Isgreen told fans on Neogaf. “Everything in the code and data is either frames @ 30, assumes 30, or hard-coded to expect 30 FPS.” On the plus side, Phantom Dust HD will be a Play Anywhere title, so players that have access to both Xbox One and Windows 10 will be able to buy it once and have it available on both platforms.

The route Phantom Dust has taken on its way to Xbox One has been rather circuitous. At E3 2014, Microsoft announced a reboot with a flashy CGI trailer – a CGI trailer that it later transpired developer Darkside Games had never seen. The game was put on hold in 2015, resulting in the small developer closing its doors – Kotaku covered the story from the developer’s perspective. Microsoft insisted that they still had intentions to develop the title, but nothing has been heard since.

At E3 last year, in a post-conference stream with Geoff Keighley, General Manager of Microsoft Studios Publishing Shannon Loftis announced a port of the original game, to the surprise of many. It seemed to some that this was a sop to those disappointed by the cancellation of the reboot, but it was later revealed that Loftis had funded the port with some leftover budget from another project, and had kept Head of Xbox Phil Spencer out of the loop until she had something to show him. Spencer is a big proponent of the game himself, so it seems Phantom Dust‘s XBO outing is something of a passion project for many on the Xbox team.

Quite when Phantom Dust will release is yet to be confirmed, but Spencer has previously stated the idea was to have it out before E3. Isgreen also told Polygon that fans will be happy about the price; many will already be expecting a low price point, given its mid-2000’s looks, but the Microsoft exec also suggested that the idea is to get as many people playing the game as possible, suggesting a low barrier to entry. Perhaps we’ll actually see it launch on Games with Gold in the near future?

Many will also be wondering what this means for the future of the franchise, if it indeed has one. Could this be testing the waters for another crack at a reboot, should players respond positively to it? Time will tell. But with E3 on the horizon, and an interview with Phil Spencer, where he spoke of investing in first party, still fresh in their minds, fans will surely be hoping for some good news this June. For my part, I hope that Phantom Dust and the recent Voodoo Vince re-release are the start of a renewed focus on some of Microsoft’s older IPs.

I posted recently about a new game on Windows Phone, Crimson Dragon Side Story, and I was so very excited. I’ve never been excited for a mobile game, but this was different; this was a spiritual successor to Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series.

I mentioned in the aforementioned post that I am a huge Panzer fan, but that really doesn’t do it justice. Over the years the four games in the series have taken on an almost mythical significance for me – a reminder of what Sega could achieve at their best, a promise of creativity that we now rarely see.

The Panzer Dragoon games were (and maybe still are) among the most immersive, atmospheric games I’ve ever played. The way everything came together, from the superb, fantastical artwork to the perfectly-tuned on-rails lock-on-shooter gameplay, the lush yet energetic soundtrack and minimalist story that gave you just enough details about Panzer‘s world to make you want to draw out every thread created a whole far greater than the sum of its (not insubstantial) parts.

It’s a type of game we rarely see any more – the closest analogue we have now is the excellent Child of Eden (created, of course, by ex-Sega man Tetsuya Mizuguchi), and that doesn’t have anywhere near the depth and complexity of some of Panzer Zwei‘s systems and mythology.

Talking about Crimson Dragon on a gaming forum, myself and another forumite were reminiscing about Panzer Dragoon Zwei -specifically, the forest level that came on a demo disc that we had both happened to play exhaustively until able to afford the full game. It made me think of the background music from that level.

I haven’t played the game in many years, yet it’s remarkable how vividly I can recall that level solely from the background music. I can hear the sound effects over the top, I can almost see the two giant worms spiralling around one another firing on my dragon as we fly low under a canopy of trees. If you haven’t played a Panzer game, you’ve missed out. Sega – make these games your next HD updates!

For now, I’ll just have to dig out my Saturn and hope it still works…


I don’t usually post about mobile games, but this one’s got me very excited; a mobile title in the new Crimson Dragon universe is coming to WP7 next Wednesday. For those not in the know, Crimson Dragon is a forthcoming XBLA Kinect title directed by Sega’s Team Andromeda alumni Yukio Futatsugi, and it’s a spiritual successor to the cult favourite Panzer Dragoon series – a series of which I am a massive, massive fan.

I’ve been patiently waiting for more news on Crimson Dragon for some time and none has been forthcoming. Indeed, it was delayed for unspecified reasons shortly before its original Japanese release date of June 13th came and went, making me wonder whether we’d see the game at all. This surprise announcement gives me hope we’ll soon hear more about it.

Getting back to the news at hand, the mobile game, imaginatively subtitled Side Story, is a sidescrolling shooter set on the planet Draco. You play as Sana, pilot of a dragon named White Reaver, and you’re on a mission to investigate a mysterious plight called Crimsonscale Disease.  Your dragon is upgradable, a feature first seen in Panzer Zwei, and the original series’ iconic lock-on laser makes a welcome return too.

The game goes live on the Windows Phone Marketplace next Wednesday (September 12th), but no price has yet been announced. Either way, count me in.

Given that it’s one of my most anticipated titles due this year, I’m a little surprised I’m only just seeing this trailer now. Nevertheless, it’s got me even more excited for its release.

For those not in the know, Crimson Dragon is billed as a spiritual successor to Sega’s currently-dormant Panzer Dragoon series, and is being produced by former Team Andromeda leader Yukio Futatsugi, who directed all three Sega Saturn Panzer Dragoon games. It’s due for release sometime this year on Xbox Live and is a Kinect-only title.

Being an enormous Panzer fan (I still have my mint, boxed copies of all four titles, thank you very much), I’m a tiny bit disappointed that Crimson Dragon won’t be a physical, boxed release – this is exactly the kind of game I’d buy a special edition for. I’d love an art book and soundtrack cd, especially as Manabu Kusunoki (designer/CG producer for Panzer, Zwei and Saga)  and Panzer Saga/Orta co-composer Saori Kobayashi are both back on board for this title.

But as long as it plays as nicely with Kinect as 2011’s Child of Eden (also created by a former Sega alumnus, Sega AM3’s Tetsuya Mizuguchi), I can certainly forgive it being a digital-only release. Hopefully we’ll see more, and maybe even get a release date, at E3 in a couple of weeks.