Panzer Dragoon Orta (Sniper)
Genre: Shooter
Developer: Smilebit
Publisher: Sega

Outside of perhaps Halo, no game features more pixel-shader programs than Panzer Dragoon Orta. Additionally, the texture resolution is marvelous, the color palette is diverse and rich, and the framerates never drop visibly. The design of the visuals, from the menus to the character design, lends a very unique chemistry to the Panzer Dragoon world- the word "artsy" comes to mind. If there is a negative to be had, it's that the game intermittently looks glossed over or blurry, like other Sega X-box titles.

The sound effects fail to be noticable, but the soundtrack, light, airy techno, fits the game like a glove, and some of the melodies, particularily the boss song, are memorable. Like the music, the voice acting is notable, and you can hear the enemies communicating their desperation and fear as you obliterate their forces. There are also a handful of cutscenes, with believable and emotion-emitting voiceovers.

I've played many games like this in my lifetime- Galaga, Xevious, Thunder Force- and this particular title is much like those were; twitch, reflex-driven, fast. This title adds a few new ideas to the mix however; you can rotate the camera and shoot enemies on all sides of your dragon, and, with some bosses, you can speed up or slow down to move to a different side of the boss. The stages are fast and intricately designed, and the plot is very good, adding integral facets of what is otherwise just a shooter.

The visuals, music, voice acting, and story create a game universe that has a different taste than any I have ever experienced before. If you're in the mood for a straight shooter with an uncommon chemistry, great story, and a multitude of unlockable features, including a fully playable version of the original Panzer Dragoon, then this game has your name emblazoned on it. If you're looking for a game that defies the "I just want your money" corporate attitude, but aren't into shooters, this title is still worth at least a rent.

Sniper's verdict: