Panzer Dragoon Saga is an iconic Sega Saturn RPG that is often hailed as the best game you’ve never played or will ever play. Though it is a staple on RPG bucket lists for most people around my age, any hope for a remaster, rerelease, or any other sort of resurrection has long been dashed because its original source code has been lost. That is too bad because the consensus regarding Panzer Dragoon Saga is that though it’s only around 20 hours long, the game is truly an epic, majestic, unique, innovative, and otherworldly experience that words simply fail to adequately describe.
Since I will likely never get to play Panzer Dragoon Saga, I opted for the next best thing: reviewing the Resurrection: Panzer Dragoon Saga 20th Anniversary Arrangement Soundtrack. This incredible album features 20 tracks arranged by original Panzer Dragoon Saga composer Saori Kobayashi. How cool is that? Although this album does not feature the game’s entire soundtrack, the glorious hour I spent listening to it left me absolutely breathless and wanting more. I must have listened to this at least half a dozen times as of this writing. I almost wish I’d never experienced this soundtrack because now I’m clamoring for this “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” game even more.
Those who have played Panzer Dragoon Saga marvel at the game’s immersive otherworldliness. Plenty of games mix high fantasy with science fiction, but Panzer Dragoon Saga is said to do this is in the most seamlessly organic way. This sentiment is 100% reflected in the music I experienced in this arrangement album. I heard the traditional instrumentation of European classical and Middle Eastern folk music, all with the right seasoning of sci-fi synthesizers for a truly delicious sonic meal. I could easily see the motifs throughout the soundtrack being part of award-winning film scores for highly acclaimed and iconic pieces of cinema. Familiarity with Panzer Dragoon Saga or video games in general is not required to enjoy this soundtrack. All any listener needs is a desire for amazing music. In fact, I played this album for music aficionados unfamiliar with video game soundtracks, and they totally got into it.
Resurrection is most certainly an RPG soundtrack with battle themes, boss themes, location themes, and the like, but everything is done in a unique and original way. For example, the battle themes don’t feel or sound like the traditionally punchy tunes I’m used to. In listening to pieces like the flowing “Mutant Species,” I felt like I was soaring around on the back of a dragon, strategically jockeying for the best position to one-up my foes, like a shark encircling its prey. The location themes are deliciously evocative and atmospheric without ever being forgettable. The event themes made me feel like I was witnessing something important, despite not knowing what that important thing was or the degree of its importance (since I’ve never played the game, sadly).
It should be noted that not only did Panzer Dragoon Saga have full Japanese voice acting, but there was a fictional “Panzerese” language created specifically for the game. For an English speaker, I’m sure the Japanese + Panzerese speech in the game would create an unparalleled immersive and otherworldly experience. I mention all of this because the ending song is sung entirely in that Panzerese language and is absolutely gorgeous.
I know I’ve overused words such as “otherworldly” throughout this review, but it’s difficult for me to put my thoughts on this soundtrack into words. The music simply needs to be listened to and experienced in all its majesty. When we talk about the greatest RPG soundtracks of all time, Panzer Dragoon Saga deserves to be as much a part of the conversation as stalwarts like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger. Whenever I listened to this album, it turned my ordinary existence into something extraordinary. I recommend using a good pair of headphones or a good stereo system when you check out this soundtrack. I loved listening to it in my car at a good volume, since car stereos are rolling surround sound systems. My car is where I listen to music the most, so I’m all about the “crank it in the car test,” which this soundtrack passes with flying colors. I will probably never get to play Panzer Dragoon Saga in my lifetime (insert “sad face” here), but I will always have the Resurrection: Panzer Dragoon Saga 20th Anniversary Arrangement Soundtrack.