Happy saddest birthday to Panzer Dragoon Saga. On this day in 1998, the Sega Saturn's most ambitious game came to North America and promptly became impossible to find. That's because an extremely limited print of 20,000 copies were shooed out onto the marketplace, followed by another run of somewhere between 2,000 to 5,000 copies. After that: Nothing.
The Saturn was regarded as a lost cause for North America and Europe by April 30, 1998, but the system wasn't lacking for game-starved owners at that point in time. Ben Lindbergh's excellent retrospective about Panzer Dragon Saga's development, reception, and launch across Asia, Europe, and North America goes into detail about how Western execs and merchants turned their backs on Saga despite the RPG's stellar reception.
The higher-ups' dismissal of Panzer Dragoon Saga was a hard knock for Western Sega fans who'd invested their time and money into Saturn up until that point. To add dragonfire to the wound, Sega of America's extremely limited advertising budget for the game went to printing cut-out masks for Saturn owners who couldn't find a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga. The idea was to attach a rubber band to the mask and run around pretending to be the game's protagonist, Edge, in real-life, since playing Edge in-game was nigh impossible by that point.
"Run around your neighborhood flapping your arms imagining you're riding a morphing dragon…and your journey has begun!" the ad joshed. "Hey look! That's not a fire-hydrant, it's a power-up! That's not a rock, it's Azel! Watch the magic unfold as you become a master of make-believe!"
Ha ha! It's funny because Western Saturn fans got royally hosed for sticking by Sega during the company's roughest years! What, you freaks wanted to play the system's magnum opus? Psht. Save that money for the Dreamcast, nerds.
Additional hilarity: Outside of paying up to a grand on the secondary market, there's no legal way to play Panzer Dragoon Saga—and one isn't forthcoming. In February, we talked about the tragedy of Panzer Dragoon Saga on the Axe of the Blood God RPG podcast with Ben Lindbergh himself. Give it a listen, then pour one out for Sega's tragically underutilized stable of bioengineered dragon-weapons.