2020 has certainly been an active one for Panzer Dragoon fans. Aside from the Panzer Dragoon remake that released in April 2020, VR title called Panzer Dragoon: Voyage Record was also announced for the series in March 2020. It will be developed and published by the indie developer Wildman (Haruto Watanabe). In an interview, Wildman and M2 Director Naoki Horii talked about how a superfan like him ended up getting official permission from Sega to work on the license. [Thanks, 4Gamer!]
Here are the highlights:
4Gamer: To think that a game-loving engineer would end up developing, and even self-publishing, a new game in a series he loves. That’s unheard of.
Naoki Horii, M2 Director: It’s obviously quite crazy. (laughs)
4Gamer: For Horii-san to be saying this means quite a lot. (laughs)
Horii: Right. When Gunner of Dragoon was announced, I thought, “This is amazing.” But Wildman-san asked me to come take a look, so I went to check it out for myself. It was as amazing as I thought.
That’s why it was my job to introduce Wildman-san to Sega.
4Gamer: So it was Horii-san who put you in contact with Sega! That makes sense.
Wildman: Back in February 2018, there was an event called Horiemon Festival. I exhibited my developed title, Gunner of Dragoon, there. I wanted to let Horii-san play it, so I asked him to come to the event.
However, when I went independent in 2018, I wasn’t thinking of “actually developing Panzer Dragoon.” The reason why I showed Gunner of Dragoon to Horii-san was because I wanted him to introduce it to [Yosuke] Okunari-san as well, but that was about it. Afterwards, I founded Wildman Inc., and at Horii-san’s introduction, I went and brought Gunner of Dragoon to Sega.
Horii: They were still at the Ootorii office.
Wildman: At the time, my proposal was not to “make a Panzer Dragoon game,” but to ask if I could add Blue Dragon to Gunner of Dragoon. Dariusburst had Space Harrier as a DLC character, right? I wanted to add Blue Dragon as an extra character like that. But then Sega asked, “Instead of doing something roundabout like this, why don’t you get the license and make an official game?” So in mid-July, I wrote the proposal for PDVR and brought it back to Sega.
4Gamer: So just to confirm, you didn’t create Wildman Inc. to make PDVR.
Wildman: Right. PDVR came after.
Bringing back Panzer Dragoon
4Gamer: What did Horii-san think of all this while listening to Wildman and Sega?
Horii: Well, from the beginning I hoped it would end up this way. Actually, there have been people at various times who appeared wanting to work on the Panzer Dragoon IP. Even Sega asked us if we wanted to work on Panzer Dragoon in the early Nintendo 3DS days. I also wanted to work on it. But when it came to looking at potential sales, we didn’t know how much the 3DS hardware would sell, so there were some points of contention, and it ended up not happening.
However, if it were somebody with a great deal of passion for Panzer Dragoon working on a VR game, that would draw attention, and the players would be satisfied.
4Gamer: So you had an immediate thought after playing Gunner of Dragoon that, if brought to the right people, it would end up releasing as a Panzer Dragoon game.
Horii: Not to the point of it releasing as a Panzer Dragoon game, but I thought that having this person would undeniably be better than if we made it.
4Gamer: Which part made you think that?
Horii: I understood that this person had played the games thoroughly, and seen all there was to see. Although if you were to ask me to say what made me think it just by seeing Gunner of Dragoon, I can’t answer properly. When we were developing the Genesis version of Gauntlet, we thought, “This is the one chance we’ll ever get to port a game we know this thoroughly,” and I felt the same thing from Gunner of Dragoon.
4Gamer: Did talks with Sega go smoothly?
Wildman: Well yes, because of Horii-san’s introduction. I was presenting to producers from the very start. That’s unbelievably amazing. After submitting the proposal, it went through basically without issue.
4Gamer: So you were given the green light immediately.
Wildman: Really, it was near immediate. When I presented Gunner of Dragoon at TGS 2018, it was basically informally decided already.
Horii: That said, if people on the show floor didn’t find it fun, it would immediately be a point of criticism. If you’re able to make Sega think that this will be a plus for the brand, then sometimes even if it takes 10 years, it’ll somehow come to fruition. Though, to think that things would be decided so quickly, and that PDVR would release this year.
Developer and Publisher
4Gamer: This time, Wildman is not only Panzer Dragoon: Voyage Record‘s developer, but also its publisher. Why is that?
Wildman: The reason I became the publisher was so that it would not incur losses for Sega. The Panzer Dragoon series has seen no further development from Sega since Orta in 2002, and the PS2 port in 2006. The reason for this is because the expansion of the series on Sega Saturn and Xbox was not met with actual sales despite its fame. This goes especially for the trilogy, which was well known in Japan, but didn’t pan out overseas due to lacking Sega Saturn sales…
4Gamer: Right. They weren’t able to create a market overseas for the Sega Saturn, so it being the Sega Saturn classic still meant it was obscure.
Wildman: Meanwhile, Panzer Dragoon enjoys a cult status centered in North America. In 2012, the Smithsonian held an “Art of Video Games” exhibition, and Orta, Zwei, and Panzer Dragoon Saga were all chosen.
That said, the projected userbase is quite small. Furthermore, PDVR uses VR as well. In 2018, there was no BeatSaber fever, nor was there Half-Life: Alyx. There were no VR games that proved it could become a big hit. In that situation, if Sega were to fund the project as a publisher, if it didn’t pan out, it would mean a fatal blow to the Panzer Dragoon series. I wanted to avoid that no matter what, so I asked to be the publisher so that I would carry all the risk. It means I’m making PDVR without getting a single yen from Sega.
Horii: Rather, you’d be paying Sega instead.
[Editor’s Note: Forever Entertainment’s Panzer Dragoon remake also was created using this same method.]
4Gamer: But that’s why I felt passionate when I saw the news. Usually this would be unthinkable. But to turn this around on its head, it means that for Japanese gamers, although Panzer Dragoon is a well-known title, it wouldn’t guarantee that it would turn a profit.
4Gamer: Was the reason that the 3DS proposal Horii-san mentioned earlier didn’t work out due to this reason?
Horii: Possibly. Although it was possibly that it was just too troublesome.
4Gamer: Even if it’s also an old title, if it was based on emulation without needing to rewrite the code, I think it might’ve been different. But because it was Panzer Dragoon, and a Sega Saturn game, that wouldn’t do.
Horii: Right. If it were for 3DS, we’d have no choice but to rewrite it all.
The “Best Of” Compilation
4Gamer: Why did you choose to recreate several episodes from the trilogy?
Wildman: PDVR isn’t a full remake of the first game in VR, but rather I chose to make a remake of several stages across the trilogy. This is because Zwei and Saga are both really well-made, but due to the aforementioned reason, they haven’t been graced with a remake.
If I were to focus on making a full VR remake of Panzer Dragoon, the creation of Zwei and Saga remakes would depend on the sales of the first. Of course, that means it may never happen.
PDVR aims to take the good points of Panzer Dragoon‘s battles. At launch, there are currently going to be an extremely small amount of stages. It’ll be the fight against three dragons, as well as popular scenes. If I were to recreate the full three games, budget would need to expand exponentially, so that would definitely not work out. However, with the small amount of stages, I’m aiming to recreate the scenes with a triple-A level of quality.
4Gamer: I’d like to ask Horii-san, as I believe he’s probably seen the revival or otherwise of many game IPs. From that perspective, what do you think of this project?
Horii: Usually, there is no such thing as “revival.” I mentioned this earlier, but to make a new Panzer Dragoon would take too much. I must say that it would be very difficult for someone working at the company to get such a proposal greenlit.
It was the same for Sakura Wars. The producer there talked about how, after years of writing out project proposals, a new game finally released. Up until this point, Panzer Dragoon would have ended this way. But this time, there was a reckless young man who knocked on Sega’s door with his own creation. (laughs)
It’s the feeling of, “Oh, there was another way.” It’s a route that those who work at the company and must continue to develop the next game cannot choose. To be honest, I am one of those who want to play a new Panzer Dragoon. When I was called to Wildman’s event booth, wore the HMD, and played while riding the rodeo machine and felt the wind blowing from the fan, I thought, “This is idiotic!”, and laughed. And then I thought, “If this was brought to Sega, Wildman-san might be able to realize a future of creating Panzer Dragoon, and Sega might make something in the future.
Panzer Dragoon: Voyage Record will launch for VR headsets sometime in the 2020 Japanese Fiscal Year, which lasts until March 2021.