Panzer Dragoon II Zwei is everything a sequel should be...except rationally named. I mean, the title literally means "Panzer Dragoon Two Two." They should have picked "II" or "Zwei," but both is just silly, so I'm going to stick with Zwei because German makes everything better (well, except for those two world wars...). That, however, is irrelevant to the actual game which is truly fantastic. It takes (almost) everything about the original Panzer Dragoon and makes it better. Almost everything. Unfortunately my disc decided to freeze at one particular spot in level four consistently, so I had to finish my playthrough on an emulator, but at least that means I got to capture my own screenshots for this one.
In Panzer Dragoon Zwei, you play as Jean-luc Lundi, some random kid in a ridiculously superstitious village that has a strict policy of killing any mutated lizard beasts they see, believing the soft glow from the bioluminescence mutation is an omen of ill fortune. Jean-luc finds an even more unusual mutant one day, though; a specimen that not only displays bioluminescence but that also possesses wings. Unable to bring himself to kill this unique creature, Jean-luc hides it in his shed. Because being imprisoned in a small 5x5 wooden shack is definitely preferable to death or just being chased away. Anyway, he names the young wyvern Lagi and, once Lagi's wings develop, tries to teach him to fly. It's on his way back from one such flying exercise that a massive airship annihilates Jean-luc's village in an attempt to kill Lagi. At this point, Lagi goes super Saiyan or something and starts shooting lasers out of its mouth. Unfortunately these lasers don't even come close to hitting the airship, and thus beings the game with the sole objective of "Kill the airship that rekt my village."
Panzer Dragoon Zwei is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor in almost every way. The control is SIGNIFICANTLY more fluid and refined, and the visuals almost look like a different platform entirely. The game runs smoother, the textures are higher resolution, the video compression is of a much better quality, smoother animation, an almost complete lack of excessive pixilation even on detailed models, and the environments all look more detailed and immersive. Literally the only area in which I felt Zwei fell short of the original is the soundtrack. The first Panzer Dragoon's orchestral soundtrack is the stuff of legend, especially for the mid-1990s. That's not to say that Panzer Dragoon Zwei's soundtrack is garbage or anything. Zwei has a great soundtrack with some very fitting and well composed music. It just doesn't match the greatness of its predecessor's OST, and while that's a shame as it's the sole blemish on an otherwise universal improvement, those were some awfully big shoes to fill, so it's not too terribly surprising that it fell a little short.
With regards to gameplay, the game is a rail shooter that plays exactly the first one in terms of control, but there are a couple of key differences that make Zwei something different and make it apparent that Team Andromeda took player criticism of the first game into account when making the sequel. Despite my rather sarcastic synopsis of the story above, the writing and narrative were clearly given much more attention in Zwei than in the original. The cutscenes between levels offer more insight into the world and the plot unfolding, and the production values of the cutscenes are a marked improvement. Your dragon's form can also change depending on how you play. The biggest improvement to the experience, however, is the inclusion of branching paths. Depending on how you play each level, you will take different routes that while not affecting the story directly do affect your experience and the difficulty level. This one change added a lot of replayability to a game in a genre that usually lacks much at all in the way of replay value.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, despite having a repetitive name, is everything a sequel should be. It takes the formula of the original game and fixes control issues, improves visuals, adds in new gameplay mechanics, and fleshes out the narrative to give the player an all-around better experience than the first game could provide. It's worth noting that the music took a hit in Zwei, not even approaching the grandeur of the original game's soundtrack, but with that one exception, Zwei improves on Panzer Dragoon in every way. If the first game was worth playing, Zwei is a must have for Saturn collectors. The North American copy can be a bit pricey, going for $50 or so last I checked, but a Japanese copy can be had for $15 or $20, and while you might need to look up the story online, the actual gameplay wouldn't present any language barrier. Highly recommended.
My Rating - 4 Neps
I'm Mr. Deck
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach history at a high school in central North Carolina; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.