Panzer Dragoon Saga
Image: Sega

Sega released Panzer Dragoon Saga on this day 25 years ago – and in doing so, unleashed one of the finest JRPGs of the 1990s.

Launched under the title Panzer Dragoon: Azel in Japan on January 29th, 1998, the game would mark something of a departure for the series, which – up until this point – had been restricted to the 'on-rails' shooter genre.

The first title was one of the Saturn's key exclusives, taking the gameplay of games like Star Fox and Space Harrier and adding in cutting-edge 3D visuals and an intriguing fantasy world. The second game, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei, expanded on this concept, offering deeper mechanics and improved visuals.

Panzer Dragoon Saga was intended to be a rival to Final Fantasy VII on the PlayStation, and while it was certainly a close match when it came to overall quality, the dire commercial fortunes of the Saturn meant that it sold poorly. It is reported that Sega only published 20,000 copies in North America (released on April 30th, 1998), and as few as 1,000 copies were apparently made available in Europe (5th June, 1998).

These low print runs have made both versions incredibly collectable on the secondary market – and the fact that Sega has never made the game available digitally (according to director Yukio Futatsugi, Sega has lost the original source code) means the price is unlikely to fall any time soon.

2002's Xbox exclusive Panzer Dragoon Orta returned to the 'on-rails' action of the original games, and more recently, the original game has been remade for modern platforms. Panzer Dragoon Saga sadly remains locked in the past; unless you have very deep pockets (or don't mind resorting to emulation), then it's frustratingly out of reach for the vast majority of players – a crime when you consider the quality of the game.

Are you a fan of Panzer Dragoon Saga? How do you feel about it turning 25? Let us know with a comment below.