Thursday 27 June 2019

Panzer Dragoon Mini (Sega Game Gear review)

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1996

Panzer Dragoon Mini is an auto-scrolling shooter that was released exclusively for the Sega Game Gear in Japan.

It consists of five stages and there's three dragon types to choose from that have different attributes. Buttons 1 or 2 fire your gun, but each can also be held down for a homing attack that locks onto groups of enemies. The need to manoeuvre both your dragon and aiming reticle simultaneously with a singular d-pad is a bit clunky, but it works reasonably well most of the time; your dragon has a decent rate of speed making it adequate for the majority of battle situations. The gameplay does have some obvious flaws though, the first being the almost complete lack of scenery to keep you invested in the action; instead, you'll usually only see a scrolling floor and puffy clouds, with no environmental hazards in sight. This does result in you becoming absent-minded at times, taking you out of the supposedly epic mission at hand due to the game visually boring you to tears. Likewise, the enemy patterns are predictable and tend to follow the same tired structure of one group scrolling in left, and then another group entering from the right; you can pretty much anticipate where your cursor should be before they even appear, leaving the element of surprise almost non-existent. On a plus note, each stage features two boss battles, and the shift in perspective from a behind-the-back angle to a side-view is impressive. The bosses all attack in a similar fashion, but I do like how enemies are scattered throughout to force you to include homing attacks rather than just rapid-fire shooting and dodging bullets. Overall though, it's hard to shake the feeling that you've seen everything the game has to offer after the first stage.

Panzer Dragoon Mini is a strange fit for the Sega Game Gear, as it basically takes a technically impressive 32-bit title and reduces it to a bare-bones clone of Space Harrier (1985, Arcades). In particular, the design elements are wholly underwhelming, and in all honesty this feels more like an early proof-of-concept than a fully fledged game.

Random trivia: The game ROM features a couple of unused songs that originally appeared in Panzer Dragoon II Zwei (1996, Sega Saturn).

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