For my birthday present this year, I treated myself to a particularly alluring gift. Look what came in the mail today:
What else but Panzer Dragoon Saga, possibly the most coveted treasure in the Sega Saturn library? PDS’s status as a rare game is legendary, though it’s worth taking the time to define exactly what is meant by “rare”. Panzer Dragoon Saga isn’t exactly difficult to find; browse around eBay and there will regularly be half a dozen copies on auction (the catch being that each one commands around $150 on average). Owning your own copy of PDS isn’t difficult if you’ve got the desire to pay that much for one used game.
Furthermore, its total print run of 30,000 copies, while definitely limited, is by no means extraordinarily scarce. I own several Sega Dreamcast games with print runs in the low thousands, such as Border Down Limited Edition which had just 3,000 copies produced. In the next month, I hope to score the DJ Max Portable 2 Orpheus Package for Sony PSP, limited to just 500 pieces.
So why is Panzer Dragoon Saga commonly the first title that people think of when they hear the phrase “rare game”? For one, it was released on a game console that not too many people owned. Sega Saturn was 2 seconds away from drowning underwater when PDS came out, so few people knew about the game, let alone had the chance to buy it when it released. PDS was critically acclaimed by the gaming media, but its fame was mostly achieved posthumously through word of mouth from dedicated fans. By the time everybody knew about the game, Sega Saturn had been wiped out and you couldn’t hope to find any related products in stores.
Also contributing to the eventual mania for the game is nearly universal praise for its quality. A lot of rare games have little redeeming features aside from simply a very low print run. Panzer Dragoon Saga, on the other hand, is considered by many among one of the best games ever produced, a jewel coaxed from the dying breaths of the Saturn. That assured a constant demand for the game and maintained its high price tag for the past decade. It wouldn’t be too presumptuous to say an aura of mysticism surrounds PDS, a fabled masterpiece that few have been fortunate enough to play. Is it any wonder Panzer Dragoon Saga has often been called the Holy Grail of gaming?
I personally have been desiring PDS for the past 6 or so years, tracking it on eBay to see if prices would ever drop. They didn’t. Cynics may reason that the time spent following this game could have been saved by just purchasing it on eBay at the onset, $150 and all. But where’s the fun in that? A little delayed gratification never hurt anyone, and if it weren’t for the daydreams and the longing over the years, finally holding Panzer Dragoon Saga in my hands wouldn’t be nearly as sweet as it is now.
A lot of people have great stories about how they got their copies of PDS. Mine isn’t that interesting. A member from Something Awful forums had finished the game and wanted to pass it onto another Sega fan (some people just aren’t collectors, I suppose). I jumped at the opportunity and had it mailed to me for a fantastic price. I’m happy to say it’s in pristine condition and I can’t wait to try it out in the summer when I return home. Am I worried that after all the anticipation and excitement, actually playing it would be a letdown? Not at all, the time chasing after the game is just as vital a component to the overall Panzer Dragoon Saga experience. Does a guy pursuing a girl worry about whether she’ll live up to expectations? Half of the fun is in the hunt.