Chapter IV: Team Andromeda Strikes Back
With the success of Panzer Dragoon, Sega gave Team Andromeda the green light for a sequel. Of course the team wanted to expand upon the universe they had created. So by late Spring of 1995 it was decided that they would do two follow-ups, one would be a prequel set just before the events of the first game and the other an RPG set after.
To accommodate for both games, Team Andromeda expanded their numbers and split into two teams. However due to Futatsugi's commitment to the RPG, he was unable to direct the prequel. Instead series co-producer Tomohiro Kondo took over both directing and producing duties.
Production on both titles began in the summer of 1995. During development, the team took into consideration everything they had learned while making the first game and the criticism it received. Now having a better grasp of how the Saturn worked, the developers were able to make gameplay smoother and raise it's framerate to 30 FPS. Though they still refused to use Sega's dev tools, opting to create their own like they did with the first game.
Development ran smoothly and the game was finished by the end of the year. Composer Yoshitaka Azuma couldn't return for the sequel due to commitments toward the soundtrack for the game Virus by Hudson Soft. Instead the soundtrack was handled by multiple composers including Yayoi Wachi (Sonic Triple Touble, Magic Knight Rayearth), Junko Shiratsu (Knuckles Chaotix, Outrunners), Teruhiko Nakagawa (Metal Head, Shadow Squadron) and Tomonori Sawada (Golden Axe III, Sonic 3).
The sequel was titled Panzer Dragoon Zwei. Much like how the first game used the German word Panzer in it's title, the team went with Zwei as it translates to two in German so as to fit in with the asthetic of the series. However feeling that most players wouldn't be able to distinguish that the game was a sequel, Sega added a II to the title.
Panzer Dragoon Zwei was released in Japan on March 22nd 1996. North American gamers had to wait a few weeks later on April 17th while Europe saw a release on May 10th.
Chapter V: Panzer Dragoon Zwei
Panzer Dragoon Zwei begins one year before the first game. Thousands of years after civilazation fell and humanity went nearly extinct, the surviving humans fled to the wastelands. In order to adapt to this dangerous enviorment, they tamed wild animals called Coolias, in the NA and EU they were called Khourieats.
It's soon discovered some coolias have a genetic mutation that came in the form of a blue-green glow in their throat. Fearing this mutation would cause another cataclysm, villages purged all coolias that showed any sign of mutation.
However one young villager disobeyed his village and secretly kept a newborn mutant coolia he named Lagi. Much like the first game, the protagonist he was nameless in the NA and EU release but was named Jean-Luc Lundi in the Japanese release.
One year later the Empire declares war against the neighboring country of Meccania. During this time the Empire discovered a mystery airship called the Shelcoof in their region heading towards an unknown destination.
At the same time, Lundi noticed Lagi had developed wings and takes him on a test flight. Just when they're about to take off, the mysterious airship appears over Lundi's village and destroys it. When they get to the devastated village, the two find it overrun with Pure-Types. Thus the game begins
Much of the gameplay from the first game was brought over to the sequel but with new improvments. Above the player's life was another bar that would fill up everytime you shot down enemies. Once the bar was green, pressing either X, Y or Z would unleash a Berserk Attack where for a short amount of time the player would become invincible while automatically targeting and firing a barrage of homing lasers at enemies.
The game introduced mutiple paths for certain levels. The alternate paths were usually much harder but had a greater reward for completion. Lagi could evolve into different forms depending on the player's performance which was given points based on three categories, Clear, Route and Technical. These features meant that not every playthrough was the same and players never knew which dragon they would end the game with.
Because Lagi was still young and developing it's wings, not every level was in the air. Some levels would have Lagi shooting from both land and air with transitions between both fighting styles happening mid-game. Players could also choose what type of HUD they wanted.
As Lundi and Lagi fight their way through the village, they see the Shelcoof in the distance and try to fly to it. Only to be attacked by a mysterious creature called the Guardian Dragon defending the airship.
After being knocked out, the two found themselves in a canyon which to their surprise was the home to a Meccanian outpost. However their visit is interupted when the Empire lauches a surprise attack. Caught between the fire from both sides, Lundi and Lagi are confronted by a massive Imperial Battleship.
As the battle rages on, they seek shelter in the forest below. While the two thought they were the target of the Imperal ships, it turns out it was actually the Shelcoof the Imperals were chasing after only to be decimated by the great airship.
When Lundi and Lagi get to the forest, they soon find it's crawling with Pure-Types. The two are able to defend themselve but are confronted by a massive Pure-Type called Golia. After the battle with Golia, they came across the entrance of an ancient building. Upon entering they discovered an endless series of flooded corridors full of Pure-Types.
At the end they came into a huge chamber with an underground lake and a narrow bridge. However they soon find a massive Pure-Type lurking in the water. After deafeating the Pure-Type, the two exit the ruins which leads them to a vast inland sea where they spot the Schelcoof in the distance. However before they could take on the airship, scores of enemies come pouring out of it. During the skirmish Lundi and Lagi were confronted by another Pure-Type. After the battle the two were then able to launch their attack on the Shelcoof.
Seeing the Guradian Dragon, Lundi and Lagi chase it to the airship just as the ship launches a counter-attack. While dodging fire, they were able to get inside the Shelcoof and destroy half of the ship's engines which crippled the ship. The two then head for the underside of the ship where the Guardian Dragon has been encased in a cocoon. Thus the first of the three part final battle begins.
Upon cracking it's cocoon, the Guardian Dragon emerges in a more powerful form. It's at this point where Lagi reveals it's final form. If players gained 24 points or 100% shoot-down rate on every level, Lagi would evolve into the Blue Dragon from the first game. The second part of the final battle is tricky but upon defeat the Guardian Dragon would revert back to it's previous form. In one last attempt, the weakened Guardian Dragon increased it's speed trying to dodge Lagi's attacks. However it's not enough and is quickly defeated.
After the Guardian Dragon crumbles into the sea, Lagi and Lundi headed toward the Shelcoof. However Lagi summons a force field, leaving Lundi behind. He telepathically speaks to Lundi, explaining it's mission to destroy all the ancient towers as well as a glimpse into future events in the first game. As this is being revealed, the Shelcoof explodes and everything is englufed in a flash of light.
When Lundi comes to, he finds himself in the middle of a desert with the wreckage of the Shelcoof nearby. Upon entering the wreckage, he comes across a large chamber. On the wall of the chamber he sees an engraved emblem of Lagi with a green glow. After the credits roll, Lundi utters "After all this, he is still with me". Letting us know that Lagi is still out there looking for the next rider for help on it's mission.
Depending on which dragon you ended the game with, the emblem in the final cutscene would change. Upon completion players were shown their shot-down rate as well as their final score and ranking. Either completing the game 100% or clocking in 30 hours of gameplay would unlock Pandora's Box (Pandra's Box in NA and EU) which included features such as level select and more powerful weapons. This feature could also be unlocked if players had saves for both Zwei and Saga.
Chapter VI: Aftermath II
Like the first game, Panzer Dragoon Zwei was a critical and commercial sucess. Critics praised it's multiple paths, dragon types, berserk mode, frame rate and how it generally improved upon the gameplay of the first game. Zwei went on to sell 310,000 units worldwide. Despite selling just a little less than the first game, Sega was still confident in Team Andromeda and it's next game in the series.
Unlike it's predecessor, Zwei never recieved a PC port. Though later in 1996 the game was packaged alongside the first game in a box set. Several cutscenes and demo footage from Zwei were unlockable in Panzer Dragoon Orta. To this day it has remained an exclusive for the Sega Saturn.
In the next part of the six part Panzer Dragoon retrospective we'll take a look at the game that expanded upon the series and the Saturn's swan song that pushed the console to it's limit. It was a four-disc epic that told the story of a young Imperial mercenary and a mysterious young girl with a link to the past. Panzer Dragoon Saga.
Here's a link to the previous part in case you missed it.
Panzer Dragoon Retrospective: Part I: The Beginning
Until then my friends, see you next time.