Panther Software Inc is a defunct Japanese video game developer that was established on the 21st of July 1987. They were at the time of their Dreamcast development based in the Shibaura Minato-ku district of Tokyo, Japan. I’ve been currently unable to find the exact reason and the date they went out of business but it was sometime in 2005. Once i’ve been able to ascertain a cause and an official date i’ll update this section with the relevant information.
Unfortunately, while Panther Software’s official site has been partially archived there seems to be a wealth of content that is missing. The company only lists developed titles from its Entertainment Square incarnation of its official website which lists five titles developed by Panther Software namely it’s PlayStation and Dreamcast titles with nothing before these releases.
I’ve come across many errors & games attributed to Panther Software but i can’t locate any official confirmation of early titles the company developed but the general online consensus is that from the late 80’s to early 90’s they worked on titles for the Sharp X68000 system. A number of these Sharp X68000 titles can definitely be attributed as titles by Panther Software.
After the Sharp X68000 titles Panther Software engaged in Sony PlayStation development and developed four titles for the system. An early game that Panther Software developed for the system is arguably the game the company is most famous for and that was スペースグリフォン VF-9 better known in western markets as Space Griffon VF-9. I believe that Space Griffon VF-9 is the only Panther Software title to be released outside of Japan with a North American release by Atlus U.S.A., Inc in 1995.
Panther Software announced a number of titles were in development for the Dreamcast but they only managed to release one title for the system. That game perhaps unsurprisingly was an enhanced version of Space Griffon known as 蒼鋼の騎兵 ―ＳＰＡＣＥ ＧＲＩＦＦＯＮ― or BLUESTEEL VARIABLE FORMULA -SPACE GRIFFON- . This Dreamcast version of SPACE GRIFFON was released on the 3rd of November 1999 and it retailed for ¥5,800. Below i’ve linked to the official Sega Space Griffon Dreamcast catalogue entry about the game. ©1999 PANTHER SOFTWARE INC./© SEGA
To support the impending release of Space Griffon Panther Software in association with select Japanese retailers ran a campaign to promote the game by playing a fifteen second promotional Space Griffon video in their respective stores. The video campaign started on the 29th of October and ran through till the 4th of November. Below is a Softbank Games report via itmedia of the promotional campaign. Copyright (c) 1999 by Softbank Publishing Inc. All rights reserved.
Panther Software sought to make Dreamcast iteration of the game the definitive version of Space Griffon. The game on the Dreamcast featured a massive graphical upgrade with a complete overhaul on some of the games content. The graphics were rendered in a much higher resolution to take advantage of the Dreamcast’s abilities these included much better texture work throughout. The games frame rate was now a solid 60fps and the game didn’t need to be obscured with crippling fog to hide the limited draw distance of the previous PlayStation version. The cutscenes have all been completely re-drawn in an anime style if Panther Software could improve something for the Dreamcast version of the game they certainly did. Linked to below is the games official dricas site which details some of the changes the Dreamcast version incorporated. (C)PANTHER SOFTWARE INC.
Nearly twenty years after its Dreamcast release if it were to be released in today’s market Space Griffon would probably be described as a HD-remaster of the earlier PlayStation title. In some respects, that’s a valid argument but at the time of BLUESTEEL VARIABLE FORMULA -SPACE GRIFFON- Dreamcast release its PlayStation heritage was seen as a stigma by some reviewers which was a common occurrence of the time.
Below i’ve included a comparison of some of the main character portraits from the PlayStation & Dreamcast editions of Space Griffon so you can get an idea of the visual upgrade.
The main protagonist Jim Billington
Konrad von able
The Dreamcast versions just seem have more personality in their design then the original PlayStation versions. I personally find the PlayStation designs are slightly generic and remind me of old MS-DOS computer titles.
Space Griffon is designated by Panther Software as an action shooting game. The games premise is that the A Max corporation has a lunar base called Hamlet that has stop responding so you as the protagonist get sent to Hamlet as part of a special team called ‘A Max Cleaner’s’ that are sent in to find out what’s happened to Hamlet. This achieved by piloting/driving your transformable mech Space Griffon around the base destroying rogue sentry guns, mechs & bio terrors & locating key cards as well as filling mission objectives. Your mech has three modes of transport the first is combat mode which is the slowest in speed but is the best for offensive firepower, the middle ground is the assault mode which as you’d expect balances fire power and speed equally. The final option is Cruise which is the fastest way to travel but lacks offensive capabilities. Personally, I tended to use Cruise mode to navigate around the levels exploring and switching to Assault mode for general combat.
Reading contemporary reviews from the games launch period the game had some quite harsh criticism for the overall look in-game notably for the bland interiors of the Hamlet moon base. Whilst i can understand these complaints and some more variety would’ve been welcome it is after all set in an industrial moon base i’m not sure how Panther Software could improve the interiors given the story of the game. If the interior was designed this way to keep the game running at 60fps than i think it’s’ more than worth the trade-off.
The main criticism i have against the game is your constantly stopped dead in your tracks when your teammates call you to discuss events or objectives it spoils the flow. It’s nothing game breaking but does get annoying especially if you’ve already encountered what there contacting you about.
Space Griffon on the Dreamcast is a fairly linear title and maybe if it was localised with a few minor changes it would have been well received. Even being a Japanese region exclusive game Space Griffon is simple to play with the in-game map showing you locations you can’t really get lost. Unfortunately, the game is considered obscure certainly in its Dreamcast guise which is something of a shame.
T-39601M BLUESTEEL VARIABLE FORMULA -SPACE GRIFFON-
SAMPLE T-39601M BLUESTEEL VARIABLE FORMULA -SPACE GRIFFON-
(NOT FOR SALE) 非売品 discs/media & other media
I’ve seen any individual 非売品 disc for Space Griffon however i do believe that there’s content for the game on either the Dreamcast Express or Dream Preview discs. I’ll need to check exactly which one and i’ll update this section once i’ve confirmed the contents.
Rather embarrassingly i’ve been unable to locate any other media relating to Space Griffon.
I’ll finish up briefly with what happened to Panther Software’s other titles in development for the Dreamcast and the company itself. Braveknight was all but completed and had promotional items ready for the Dreamcast version. With Sega’s announcement of the discontinuation of the Dreamcast in early 2001 around the games probable release date Panther software canceled the Dreamcast version of Braveknight. The Dreamcast iteration of the game has plenty of media and promotional items relating to it. Panther Software finally released Braveknight for the original Xbox system as a Japanese exclusive release. Below i’ll link to the archive site of the Xbox version of Braveknight so you can take a look at the game. 2002 PANTHER SOFTWARE
The other title known that Panther Software had in development for the Dreamcast was リトルドリーム or Little Dream which looked quite interesting again plenty of media still exists for Little Dream but it would go unreleased on any format.
The end of the company seems to have been swift as the last title Panther Software was pre-pairing for release was Kana ~Imouto~ again for the Japanese Xbox. This was a port of a Japanese PC title from 1999 Panther software had information about the games development from 2003 so it seems it was nearing release.
The company announced on the 27th of May 2005 through the games official website that it was cancelled due to production costs in a declining market for Xbox titles and they were very sorry and hoped to release the title on other platforms. Below is the official statement about the games cancelation. (c)2004 PANTHER SOFTWARE
Thanks for taking the time to read this entry on Panther Software. If anyone can help with any information about either Space Griffon or Panther Software themselves especially any official media please get in touch either through the site or on Twitter @dreamcastcollector