Sega has had a strong 2017. Sonic Mania is excellent, and the publisher had success relaunching games like Vanquish, Bayonetta, and Yakuza. But it needs to do the work to start reclaiming its past, and it should start with what is arguably the best game the company ever made: Panzer Dragoon Saga.
In 1998, Sega launched the third game in the Panzer Dragoon Saga for its 32-bit Saturn console. Unlike the first two on-rails shooters, Saga was a role-playing adventure with a combination of real-time and turn-based gameplay. Critics praised the game, and it ended up as the best-rated release on Saturn, according to the GameRankings review-aggregation site. But despite that acclaim, Panzer Dragoon Saga never came up as often as the Dreamcast’s Shenmue as the classic series Sega had to bring back. But that doesn’t mean no one is trying to make it happen.
Olivier H., who goes by PanzDragoonWorld on Twitter, wants to convince Sega to bring the series back. Olivier started this quest after playing and falling in love with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Panzer Dragoon fan saw how Nintendo threw away certain conventions of that series and that got his imagination going.
“And I thought: Panzer Dragoon deserves a similar approach,” said Olivier. “We deserve a modern Panzer Dragoon with a touch from the past but also with new possibilities offered by new technology.”
Naturally, Olivier posted a petition to Change.org, but it has only gathered just over 120 signatures since July. That brings me back to the point that Sega fans don’t seem to care as much about Panzer Dragoon Saga as some other games, and you can probably pin that on a handful of factors.
Saga wasn’t a huge game on a third-place console, and that makes it one of the rarest games in the world. Panzer Dragoon Saga sells for nearly $300 on eBay in used condition with all of the discs. So while it has a lot of demand among collectors, it’s possible that not enough people played it originally to have much fondness for it today.
Another reason that fans probably don’t constantly beg Sega for more Panzer Dragoon Saga is that the game didn’t end on a cliffhanger with the promise of a half-dozen more games still to come. That’s what happened with Shenmue, and seeing the end of that story is one of the major driving factors of that fan community.
But the biggest issue in drumming up success for an HD remake or even a sequel is that most fans know that Sega lose the source code for Panzer Dragoon Saga. That means the company could not go back and easily extract the game code to port it to modern tools, consoles, or operating systems. This makes it prohibitively difficult to produce an updated version of the game. And without an easy way to play the old game, Sega probably doesn’t think (I’ve reached out to the publisher for a statement) it could get fans excited enough about spending money on a sequel.
Despite those hurdles, Olivier is keeping the faith.
“I do think there is hope for this,” he said. “I believe there is hope because I see fans everywhere on YouTube, commenting on articles, on forums … they just are all over the place and I am trying to unite them in one place. We need to gather the old fans and also convince the new generation there is great potential there.”
Olivier lists some reason to believe. He reached out to Panzer Dragoon creator Yukio Futatsugi about this effort, and the developer followed the PanzDragoonWorld account. Sega has also mentioned that its Sega Forever program to bring its classic games to mobile could support Saturn, and that could get the original Panzer Dragoon out into the world on a device that hundreds of millions of people own.
If excitement does build up, Sega will have to either jump right into a sequel, a spiritual successor, or it will have to hire some technical wizards to backward engineer the original for an HD remake. All of those are still unlikely, but more people deserve the chance to play it … and maybe that will start with PanzDragoonWorld’s social-media campaign.