If you're going to take inspirations for your games, you may as well take them from the best. After Gunner's Heaven successfully aped Gunstar Heroes to create a quality early Playstation shooter, the people at Banpresto maybe thought they'd take a try. This time, they decided to mimic Treasure's Saturn classic Guardian Heroes. While they ditched the RPG elements in favor of straight-up fighting, their creation, the incredibly fun Panzer Bandit, is one of the most sadly obscure of PlayStation import games.
Panzer Bandit is essentially a Final Fight-style brawler, though everything controls more like a 2D fighter. You have two primary attacks (weak and strong), and a variety of Street Fighter-esque motions will perform flying flips, fireballs and whatever other special moves your character may have (and in case you're not adept enough, most of the speciality attacks are mapped to the extra buttons on the controller.) Even the bulkiest of characters are relatively agile, allowing you to super jump, double jump, dash, and essentially fly around the whole screen, tossing enemies into another and otherwise tearing new holes in everything. Hitting the trigger buttons will send your character leaping back and forth inbetween planes. There's also the usual power meter, which can unleash a super attack when charged up enough. And as natural for games of this type, you can choose to smash bad guys with a buddy by your side. It's all reasonably simple, but a total blast to play.
I'm at a loss to explain the story, but it seems to be about a group of four plucky heroes out to destroy a bunch of bad guys who ride around on giant whale battleships. In addition to the anime intro, all of the bosses have voiced prefight dialogues. And like so very many Japanese games, Panzer Bandit features cutesy adorable character designs to compliment the hectic, action packed gameplay. So here's the main cast:
Your standard blue haired anime hero who can shoot fireballs - funny how that's become a cliche nowadays. He has a floating robot buddy to assist him as well.
Ninjas make games better, this is a solid fact; especially when they're accompanied by robotic dogs - that's like double points right there.
Kou and Kasumi both have little helper pets that travel alongside them, though given that they really only perform super attacks, their full potential is never reached.
Panzer Bandit throws a lot at you at one time, but never quite reaches the epic chaos that Guardian Heroes sometimes threw at you. While at times the game doesn't quite feel busy enough, it also doesn't overwhelm you to the point that you can't see what you're doing. Whoever said the Playstation couldn't do 2D must've been making shit up, because Panzer Bandit, a 1997 title, proves them otherwise. While the foreground is polygonal, everything else are fully detailed, well-animated sprites. Even though the camera is constantly zooming in and out as you jump or switch between planes, the graphics stay fairly clear and never become the pixelated mess usually associated with scaling effects. The music is your typical catchy Capcom-style pop cheese that would feel right at home in a Mega Man game, which is actually a very, very good thing.
This being a side-scrolling brawler, Panzer Bandit is somewhat repetitive by nature. The fact that you're really only fighting the same two or three guys over and over doesn't really help the issue. So by the time you hit the eighth and final level, and you need to refight all of the old bosses, Panzer Bandit almost does begin to wear out its welcome. In spurts, however, Panzer Bandit is elegant in all of its bone-smashing simplicity, leading to some of the most button-mashing fun you're likely to find. Alas, this being Japanese only, you're unlikely to find this without paying a bit of a price.
In 2011, Panzer Bandit was released on the PlayStation Network in Japan.