GameSpite Quarterly 8 | Panzer Bandit: Pilfered Treasure

Much as Gunners Heaven was Media.Vision’s attempt to mimic Gunstar Heroes, Panzer Bandit is Fill In Café’s knockoff of another beloved Treasure classic, Guardian Heroes. And similarly to Media.Vision, Fill In Café didn’t quite get it right, although they did come a fair bit closer.

Just like Guardian Heroes, Panzer Bandit is a beat-’em-up where characters may leap between separate 2D planes, thus allowing players a degree of flexibility to their movements while simultaneously giving them the more precise controls and correspondingly extensive move sets they would encounter in a 2D fighter. Unlike Guardian, though, Bandit lacks the RPG-like stat progression and the multiple branching paths that gave Treasure’s title its replayability. Though the player can select the order in which to approach the first four of the game’s eight levels, it’s nevertheless more linear and straightforward.

Still, Panzer Bandit’s dynamic character and world design go a long way towards making it feel like a lost sibling of Treasure’s Saturn classic. Rather than lift Guardian’s medieval fantasy trappings along with its gameplay, Fill In Café created a steampunk universe filled with sprawling factories, hulking robots, and whale-like battleships. Instead of using magic points to execute special moves, the players have a steam gauge that slowly fills the more combos they pull off. The playable characters, though anime stereotypes at heart, are nevertheless each given a little twist to give them a bit more personality than the norm. The plucky teen hero has a hovering robotic sidekick, the girl ninja has a robot dog, and the wand-wielding magical girl is piloting a borderline out of control mech. Of course the best of the bunch is the cigar-smoking, gun-toting robot, Ein, whose special moves include hurling fistfuls of grenades and pulling off crazy gunplay. The enemies, too, have a distinctive, appealing look to them, and their large, well animated sprites are definitely some of the nicer 2D visuals on the PlayStation. The game is at its best, both visually and gameplay-wise, when swarms of enemies flood the screen and the player tears into them with gusto, sending bodies flying around the screen like so much robotic confetti.

So while it might not have quite nailed what made Guardian Heroes such a beloved classic, Panzer Bandit is nevertheless a fun, frantic game, and it’s a real shame it never ventured beyond its native Japan.

By Mike Zeller? | May 29, 2011 | Last: Tail of the Sun | Next: Chapter 4: Juggernaut Days?