Different Dragons Theory
It is commonly thought that the dragon had the same physical body in all four Panzer Dragoon games. But what if the Heresy Program controlled different bodies in each game (with the exception of Panzer Dragoon Orta)?
- A Recap: The Nature of the Dragon
- 1) Lundi’s Diaries and the Panzer Dragoon Zwei Ending Sequence
- 2) The Rebirth of Lagi in Panzer Dragoon Saga (?)
- 3) The Identity of the Panzer Dragoon Dragon
- 4) The Form of the Panzer Dragoon Saga Dragon
- 5) The Panzer Dragoon Ending Sequence
- 6) The Dragon Crest at the Beginning of Panzer Dragoon Saga
- 7) Descriptions of the Different Dragons
A close up of the basic wing.
Kyle riding the armoured blue dragon. Could this dragon be a different creature from Lagi?
After playing through the first three Panzer Dragoon games, many gamers make a very understandable assumption about the series’ storyline. It is commonly thought that the dragon in each game was meant to be the same dragon: the same physical creature from one game to the next.
This idea does make good sense on the surface; in each game the dragon fulfils another part of the same greater mission, acting in a very similar way to the dragon in the game before it, and these creatures even look very similar - or even the same - at some points from game to game.
When examining the intricacies of the sprawling and enigmatic Panzer Dragoon storyline though, it seems that this assumption is challenged by numerous pieces of evidence throughout the games. As much as this idea may at first seem to make sense, it may very well not be the only possibility, or even the most likely explanation. In this article I will be looking at the alternative: the idea that more than one dragon starred in the Sega Saturn games.
A Recap: The Nature of the Dragon
When approaching these pieces of evidence, it is worth keeping in mind what is known about the nature of the “dragon” itself. Although the dragon and its purpose remained largely mysterious throughout the series, the truth was revealed to the player (to some extent) at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga. Just before the final battle of that game, the player was shown several recordings of past events in the Panzer Dragoon world, presented in the form of five “flashback” FMV sequences. Some of these events had never been revealed before, and they shed much light on the true nature of the dragon.
In the distant past, the Ancients created the vast monoliths of technology called Towers, and they linked these structures together with a data network known as Sestren. The Sestren network was designed to gather information for an artificial intelligence that dwelled inside it, and this AI was charged with operating the Towers. The Towers themselves were instruments of global oppression, built by the Ancients throughout the world so that their will could be imposed on all life.
Ten thousand years after the Ancient Age ended, the possibility that the Towers might at last be destroyed emerged in the Sestren network itself. The program-entity pictured below, a black-coloured, dragon-shaped program, went renegade and threatened the safety of the Towers and Sestren. Although it unfortunately has no official name, this entity is often referred to by fans as the Heresy Program. The Sestren AI ejected it from the network at once, but the Heresy Program lived on even in the outside world, in the form of spiralling energy that travelled the wastelands.
The Heresy Program represented as a black dragon.
The Heresy Program represented as energy.
In order for the Heresy Program to fulfill its own mission of destroying the Towers though, it had to take on a physical form, and this is what we saw in Panzer Dragoon Zwei - the first part of the series’ storyline. The Heresy Program entered into the body of a domestic riding animal called a coolia, and it empowered this creature, enhancing its body and guiding its thoughts.
Lagi as a pup.
The coolia’s name was Lagi, and the Heresy Program set out to gradually transform his humble body into the body of a dragon, the ultimate kind of bio-engineered creature created by the Ancients. The people who dwelled in the village where Lagi was born feared such mutations though, especially the distinctive green light that pulsed within his throat: the light that signified his potential to summon forth the dragon’s legendary “arrows of light”. It was only because Lagi was hidden away by his owner, a young man named Lundi, that he was not put to death by the superstitious villagers.
A year or so after Lagi’s birth, Lundi’s village was destroyed by Shelcoof, the flying Tower of the Sky. The adult Lagi took Lundi as his rider, and they set out after Shelcoof. The Heresy Program continued to evolve Lagi’s body step-by-step through different dragon forms during the course of their adventure, each one more powerful than the last. Eventually Lagi reached the Solo Wing form, which is apparently the ultimate form of the dragon, and he succeeded in destroying Shelcoof.
Lagi shoots his first laser.
Lagi in the Type 01/Solo Wing Normal Class form.
All of this is well established, but two major questions remain. Firstly, was the physical dragon in Panzer Dragoon - which was the second chapter in the storyline of the series - still Lagi? Furthermore, was the physical dragon in Panzer Dragoon Saga - the third part of the story - still the same dragon from Panzer Dragoon? Or was the Heresy Program forced to enter into, guide and empower different creatures during those later times?
1) Lundi’s Diaries and the Panzer Dragoon Zwei Ending Sequence
Vitally important to an understanding of Lagi’s fate are the diaries of Lundi, his faithful rider from Panzer Dragoon Zwei. These diaries can be found as items in Panzer Dragoon Saga, and they elaborate greatly upon the events of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, especially the game’s enigmatic and mysterious ending sequence.
Lundi is transported away from Lagi.
Shelcoof is disabled.
After destroying the Guardian Dragon that was Shelcoof’s protector, Lagi left Lundi behind; the dragon sealed its rider inside a protective sphere of energy and ascended into Shelcoof alone. Lundi lapsed into unconsciousness at this point, and the dragon caused many strange visions and truths to seep into his mind, as he himself wrote in his diary:
When he destroyed the ship, he entrusted me with his secret. The secret of him, and of the world.
On his return to consciousness, Lundi came across the wreckage of Shelcoof; he ventured into the ruin, searching for his dragon friend. The fallen Tower was truly lifeless, for Lagi had been successful in completing his mission, as Lundi recounted:
Inside, it was as quiet as it was dead. What remaining monsters were left had long since died.
The next thing that Lundi relates in this diary is perhaps the most vital piece of information there, as it clarifies something that was not actually witnessed in the Panzer Dragoon Zwei ending sequence itself. Lundi describes how he found the body of Lagi:
In the centre of the airship, Lagi laid still, his power completely exhausted. Lagi’s body was stone cold, but I knew he was still alive.
Lundi elaborated on this same event in another one of his memoirs, the book dubbed the “Old Diary”:
By destroying the Tower of the Sky, Shelcoof, our journey came to an end. Exhausting all his power, he discarded his body, and entered a deep sleep.
So it would seem that Lagi’s body genuinely did pass away at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei; it was lifeless and cold, and Lagi’s spirit or consciousness had left its exhausted flesh so as to enter into a state of slumber. This discovery of Lagi’s body was not witnessed in the ending sequence itself though, so we are likely meant to assume that Lundi found the dead dragon only after the events we saw. The full motion video ended with Lundi still in the heart of the ship, so it would certainly make sense for him to find Lagi’s body soon afterwards.
Lundi sees something mounted on the wall.
A dragon crest.
What we did witness as the game’s ending sequence drew to a close ties in with all this quite clearly, though. Lundi entered an enormous chamber at the heart of Shelcoof, and he gazed up at a massive carved image of a dragon mounted on the ancient wall. This engraved artefact would later come to be known as a “dragon crest”, and as Lundi stared at it, a greenish light began to glow from beneath its surface: the same greenish light that had once resided within Lagi’s throat now throbbed within the throat of the enormous carved dragon.
The dragon crest glows with the pulse of the living.
Lundi had glimpsed this same crest during the visions and revelations that Lagi had shown to him, and he apparently comprehended what it was. As Lundi gazed at the glowing image, he whispered the single word “Lagi”. As we have been told that Lagi had “discarded his body” and “entered into a deep sleep”, it seems fairly clear that the spirit of the dead dragon now resided in this crest.
Evidently Lagi both died and lived on at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei then, as while his body passed away his spirit was kept safe within the dragon crest. It is also quite clear that Lagi was not destined to slumber within that artefact forever, as Lundi himself confirmed in his diaries:
One day, Lagi will regain his power and return to the sky.
So, is this truly evidence that Lagi did not go on to become the Panzer Dragoon dragon? Taken alone it certainly is not, as it would leave open the possibility that Lagi had regained his power and emerged from that crest before the events of Panzer Dragoon, and that Lagi was the dragon in that game also.
As with most truths in the Panzer Dragoon world though, the truth here is apparently not so straightforward. Other sources indicate that Lagi’s spirit may still have been inside that dragon crest right up until the time of Panzer Dragoon Saga: forty-eight years after Panzer Dragoon Zwei, and a whole thirty years after the events of Panzer Dragoon took place.
2) The Rebirth of Lagi in Panzer Dragoon Saga (?)
The second disc of Panzer Dragoon Saga takes Edge and his dragon to the inland sea called Georgius, over which Shelcoof was destroyed at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, and where - on an island - the wreckage of Shelcoof came to rest. In the forty-eight years that have passed since Panzer Dragoon Zwei though, Shelcoof’s broken bulk has been heavily restored by automated repair systems. The vessel - or at least, the front half of the vessel - is hovering over the waves once again.
Edge is able to destroy the repair mechanisms immediately, but it is not until the third disc of the game that he can gain full access to the interior of the flying wreck. When he does, he is greeted by a very strange and very striking apparition.
A spectral dragon.
Edge finds himself at one end of a very long passage, and at the other end of it is the room where the great carved dragon crest lies, the artefact that Lagi’s spirit disappeared into at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei. As Edge watches, slivers of bright energy emerge from that room, and they materialise into the shape of a dragon: a spectral dragon in the Solo Wing form, exactly the same form that Lagi’s body was in when it passed away.
Needless to say, it would be odd if we were not meant to make the obvious connection here: to think of this ethereal dragon as Lagi’s spirit. Lundi’s diaries did state that Lagi died in this very place, and we can deduce that Lagi’s spirit - or whatever essence remained of Lagi at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei - entered into the dragon crest in the room that this ghostly dragon just emerged from.
What would this be...
...if not the spirit of Lagi.
The spirit then turns and heads back towards the dragon crest room, clearly wanting Edge to follow it; he does so, and he finds the massive artefact that Lagi’s essence disappeared into forty-eight years ago. What happens next is perhaps even more striking than the appearance of the spectral dragon, which has by this point vanished into thin air again: something emerges from the dragon crest.
Edge approaches Lagi's dragon crest.
The dragon pup from inside the crest.
It is a small creature, struggling to fly on tiny wings: it is a little grey-green Coolia pup, which has a bright green light glowing in its throat. After it emerges from the crest it follows Edge and his dragon wherever they go, flapping along through the air behind them and resting with them when they camp out in the wilderness. It is a cheerful, playful little living being, and it looks and acts exactly like Lagi did when he was a pup.
Who could this be...
...if not Lagi reborn.
The implications seem to mount up around this small creature. We know that whatever essence remained of Lagi entered into that dragon crest at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei. We know that Lagi was always destined to return to the world. We know that Edge was greeted inside Shelcoof by a spectral dragon that looked exactly like Lagi used to, right before his body died. We know that this ghostly dragon led Edge back to the room with the crest, clearly wanting him to find it. We know that a little winged coolia pup emerged from the crest, a pup with a green glow in its throat and tiny wings: a pup that looks and acts exactly like Lagi did when he was young.
Given all this, it seems surprisingly likely that Team Andromeda wanted us to think of this creature as Lagi reborn.
There is a small epilogue to all of this too, as the young Lagi pup is not doomed to follow Edge and his dragon around forever. There is an Ancient Age facility in the Forest of Zoah known as the Red Ruins, and when Edge activates it, some intangible function of its Ancient technologies creates a blinding flash of light. When vision returns to Edge and the player, Edge’s dragon and the reborn Lagi have become as one: what was once two minds and two bodies is now a single dragon, and it has taken on the Solo Wing form that Lagi knew of old.
When two dragons become one...
...the Solo Wing dragon is created.
These events, combined with Lundi’s diaries, would seem to explain the ending sequence of Panzer Dragoon Zwei at last. They reveal to us the significance and the meaning of the glowing dragon crest, because they also reveal what emerged from that crest decades into the future. As was shown at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, it was Lagi - or rather, whatever essence remained of Lagi - that entered into that dragon crest inside Shelcoof, and it would seem that Lagi emerged from that artefact in Panzer Dragoon Saga.
3) The Identity of the Panzer Dragoon Dragon
Returning to the events of Panzer Dragoon Zwei for a moment, the “true” ending of that game saw Lagi in the Solo Wing form: this final transformation was directly linked to gameplay, as it occurred only if the player had taken the most difficult route in every one of the game’s episodes, and only if the player had shot down every one of the game’s enemies in the process. Panzer Dragoon Saga confirms this as being the real version of storyline events, as opposed to Lagi finishing the game and destroying Shelcoof in one of his lesser forms, such as the Windrider. Needless to say, the dragon in Panzer Dragoon - the next part of the series’ greater storyline - is also in the Solo Wing form.
The armoured blue dragon.
Despite the rather hefty implication that Lagi did not emerge from the dragon crest inside Shelcoof until the time of Panzer Dragoon Saga, many fans have assumed that the physical similarity between Lagi and the Panzer Dragoon dragon shows that they must be the same creature. Although this is an understandable deduction, the above evidence seems to imply that it cannot be the case, and that there must be another explanation for the similarity between these two creatures.
Fortunately, it is not necessary to search far before an alternative arises: we have been shown that different dragons can indeed take on the same physical form. In Panzer Dragoon Saga, it is revealed that the “spiritual” sub-form of the Solo Wing is the physical form that the Dark Dragon had taken on in Panzer Dragoon. In Panzer Dragoon Saga though, Edge’s dragon can take on this form - and needless to say, that does not mean that Edge’s dragon must be the Dark Dragon. Looking at the previous evidence, we have reason to believe that Lagi and the Panzer Dragoon dragon are not the same creature either.
Completely different dragons...
...can clearly take on the same form.
Remember that Lundi confirmed in his diaries that Lagi’s previous body - his Solo Wing body - did die at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei. Lundi was quite clear that Lagi had “discarded his body” and that he would rise again only with a “new body”. It would seem that the baby coolia pup that emerged from the dragon crest in Shelcoof was this new body, as it literally appeared to be a fresh, healthy, reborn version of Lagi’s previous body.
To assume that the Panzer Dragoon dragon was Lagi would be to assume that Lundi’s testament - that Lagi’s Solo Wing body died, and that Lagi would return with a different body - was quite wrong, yet we have no particular reason to believe that it would be. It would also be necessary to assume that Lagi had left the crest in Shelcoof before the events of Panzer Dragoon took place, even though it seems he was still in that crest decades later at the time of Panzer Dragoon Saga.
The alternative to all of this is that the Panzer Dragoon dragon was simply a different physical creature - a second dragon - and going by what we know, this would seem to make sense. If the Heresy Program existed as bodiless energy at first before it entered into Lagi, and if it eventually managed to transform his humble body into an Ancient Age dragon, there’s no apparent reason why it couldn’t ultimately repeat this process.
The blue dragon dodges a fireball.
When Lagi’s body died, his own spirit or essence was evidently preserved inside Shelcoof’s dragon crest, but as Panzer Dragoon Saga apparently showed us, Lagi himself was only able to rise from that crest forty-eight years afterwards. The Panzer Dragoon dragon existed eighteen years after the events of Panzer Dragoon Zwei though, so it seems reasonable to assume that the Heresy Program had simply gone its own way and found a second host, after it stored Lagi’s essence within that dragon crest.
Ultimately, the fact that the Panzer Dragoon dragon is a Solo Wing, exactly like Lagi’s final form, makes sense even if these two dragons are not supposed to be the same physical creature. We know that the Heresy Program prefers its host to have the Solo Wing form above all others, as in all of the games it never evolves into a different form after reaching this one. We can gather that the Panzer Dragoon dragon was travelling with the mysterious Sky Rider for some time before Panzer Dragoon actually took place, and that the two must have undergone some considerable hardships together during that time: the anguished wail that this dragon shrieks out when the Sky Rider dies indicates that they had grown very close to one another.
The blue dragon mourns his rider's death.
The Sky Rider and this dragon came out of the Frontier, out of the vast unknown, uncharted, unobserved wastelands beyond human settlement. They were likely travelling through this wilderness, travelling towards their destination - the Tower off the Imperial coast - for months before Panzer Dragoon took place. That would certainly be time enough for the Heresy Program to evolve this second dragon from whatever it had been into the Solo Wing form, just as it had done with Lagi.
The evidence surrounding Lagi’s fate is reasonably extensive), but the question remains: what exactly happened to the Panzer Dragoon dragon at the end of its game? Was its body exhausted as it appears that Lagi’s was, and was the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon simply another dragon, a third dragon guided by the Heresy Program? Alternatively, were the creatures seen in these two later games simply the same dragon - or is the truth once again not quite so simple?
4) The Form of the Panzer Dragoon Saga Dragon
The most striking difference between the Panzer Dragoon dragon and the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon lies of course in their physical forms. While the Panzer Dragoon dragon was last seen in the Solo Wing form at the end of its game, the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon starts off in the form known as the Basic Wing. The Basic Wing is a much weaker and inferior form, as the Solo Wing also exists in Panzer Dragoon Saga, once again taking the position of the ultimate dragon form (while the Basic Wing is the lowest). It takes this dragon almost the duration of the entire game to evolve its body step by step to the Solo Wing form also.
Kyle meets the armoured Blue Dragon.
Edge meets the dragon in Basic Wing form.
It would seem that the Panzer Dragoon dragon did not simply survive the end of its game and go on to become the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon, then: after all, there is no clear reason why it would metamorphose its body into an immensely inferior form. Before jumping to conclusions though, it is important to consider what the ending sequence of Panzer Dragoon tells us about that second dragon’s fate.
A close up of the Blue Dragon.
A close up of the Basic Wing.
5) The Panzer Dragoon Ending Sequence
At the close of Panzer Dragoon, Kyle’s dragon entered into the ancient Tower situated off the Imperial coast. The dragon sealed Kyle within a protective sphere of energy, as Lagi did with Lundi decades previously, and it left him behind as it went into the depths of the structure. The Tower then detonated in an enormous blast of light.
Kyle is protected by a bubble.
The Tower explodes.
At the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, this same act of physically destroying a Tower was too much for Lagi, and it exhausted his body to the point where his spirit was forced to abandon it and find sanctuary within a dragon crest. It does not seem that the same thing happened at the end of this game, though; at least, not quite the same thing.
When Kyle awoke on dry land again, just as Lundi did, he was surrounded by footprints that his dragon had made in the sand. After destroying the Tower, the Panzer Dragoon dragon’s body clearly survived longer than Lagi’s did after he destroyed Shelcoof: it had returned to its rider in this evident gesture of farewell. Despite the fact that it had survived the Tower’s destruction though, it does not seem that this dragon was going to live on indefinitely.
Kyle wakes up on the beach.
There are footprints, but did the dragon survive?
Firstly, if the dragon was going to simply survive, it would have no reason to part company with Kyle on that beach: he was presumably a loyal and experienced dragon rider by that stage. The dragon would also have no reason to disappear from the world for the next thirty years or so (which it ultimately did), because if it was able to continue, it would logically go after another Tower instead. On the other hand, if this dragon did go on to play the role of the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon, the fact that the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon is in the far inferior Basic Wing form would still not be explained.
Fortunately though, there is one more important piece of evidence that would appear to shed light on the Panzer Dragoon dragon’s fate: one more item that, surprisingly enough, seems to make sense of all of this.
6) The Dragon Crest at the Beginning of Panzer Dragoon Saga
Edge looks up to see a dragon crest.
The first playable area of Panzer Dragoon Saga is the bottom floor of the ruins beneath Excavation Site #4, and as most fans who have played the game will surely have noticed, this area contains something quite intriguing. A large dragon crest is mounted on the wall of the ruins, an artefact like the one seen within Shelcoof at the end of Panzer Dragoon Zwei, which would later be revisited in Panzer Dragoon Saga. It is a dragon crest like the one that Lagi’s spirit entered into when his body was exhausted, all those years ago.
These very ruins are also the first place where the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon is seen: the Basic Wing dragon that is so conspicuously inferior to the last known form of the Panzer Dragoon dragon. Could the discovery of this mysterious crest and the appearance of this new dragon in the same location be a coincidence? Possibly, but far more things would make sense if it were not.
A close up of the Excavation Site's crest.
We know that the body of the Panzer Dragoon dragon did not pass away immediately when it destroyed that Tower, but it would seem that this dragon was indeed living on borrowed time. Rather than staying with Kyle at the end of the game, it left him behind on that beach; we can gather that the dying Panzer Dragoon dragon must have had somewhere better to go when it departed, otherwise it would likely have spent its last hours with its loyal rider and passed away peacefully.
Would it not make a surprising amount of sense if the Panzer Dragoon dragon headed for this dragon crest in these very ruins, and that - like Lagi - its spirit left its dying body in order to find sanctuary within this artefact? Would it not make sense if the Panzer Dragoon dragon’s essence entered into a dragon crest so that it might also be reborn one day?
Edge's dragon flies towards his new rider.
When Lagi emerged from his dragon crest in Panzer Dragoon Saga, he emerged with a fresh, young version of his previous body: he was once again a winged Coolia pup with a glowing green light in its throat, rather than the Solo Wing dragon that he had become. If Lagi’s spirit was reborn with a younger body, we cannot really expect something different to happen in the Panzer Dragoon dragon’s case: it presumably would not emerge from its crest with a Solo Wing body either.
If the Panzer Dragoon dragon was to be reborn from this crest, it would have the same drawback that Lagi had: it would start off with a brand-new, weaker, younger body. And what is this brown Basic Wing form but a weaker body that will ultimately lead to the Solo Wing once again?
The Blue Dragon in episode 1 of Panzer Dragoon.
The Basic Wing in the valley.
Of course this dragon is not as young and not as weak as the reborn Lagi, who emerged from his crest as a little Coolia pup, but this dragon had evidently emerged from its crest before the game began - its shadow passed over Edge in the introduction sequence, showing that it was waiting around those ruins - so its body would likely have had time to grow from whatever it had stated off as into the Basic Wing form.
The idea that the Panzer Dragoon dragon emerged from that dragon crest as the Panzer Dragoon Saga dragon seems to tie up these loose ends admirably.
7) Descriptions of the Different Dragons
Lagi runs across the ground.
The encyclopaedia that can be found in the Pandora’s Box section of Panzer Dragoon Orta contains descriptions of the dragons from the previous games, and these are interesting because they support the idea of there being different dragons quite thoroughly.
The dragons from Panzer Dragoon Zwei, Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Saga are referred to as Lagi, the Blue Dragon and Edge’s Dragon respectively, and the passages of text do depict them as being separate creatures. For example, Lagi’s entry implies that he was not also the Blue Dragon from Panzer Dragoon:
A dragon best known for its battle against the ancient cruiser fortress “Shelcoof.” Sightings of this dragon predate those of the Blue Dragon.
The entry for Edge’s Dragon also differentiates between it and the Blue Dragon:
The dragon that chose Edge, a mercenary from the outlands, as its rider. It was observed in connection with the Great Fall that marked the collapse of the previous Empire, approximately 30 years after the Blue Dragon’s assault on the Imperial Capital. Like the Blue Dragon, it boasted white armor and a long horn.
This seems to support the idea that Edge’s Dragon was not simply the dragon from the previous game, correlating with the theory that it was a wholly new incarnation of that previous creature, a new body that carried only the spirit of the Blue Dragon. The Encyclopedia also makes a clear distinction between Edge’s Dragon and Lagi, which supports the conclusions reached in part 1 of this article:
With an even greater spectrum of mutational change, this dragon could transform at will between forms optimized for attack, defense, maneuvering and special abilities, demonstrating a dramatically higher level of flexibility than that shown by Lagi.
Artwork of Edge's Dragon.
These encyclopaedia entries seem to be a good indication that we are not meant to think of these dragons as one and the same physical creature. After all, these passages are presented as general information on the Panzer Dragoon world, rather than opinions that may or may not be correct.
(While it has been suggested that the encyclopaedia is meant to be written from the Empire’s point of view, and that these descriptions of the dragons may be intended as incorrect assumptions, this does not seem to be the case. The encyclopaedia does discuss many things in relation to the Empire, but it contains knowledge that the Empire could not realistically know, such as information on the program-entities that dwell within the Sestren network, among other things.)
Importantly, no descriptions in the games state that these dragons are meant to be one and the same physical creature, while the opposite is distinctly implied in the above passages. This would seem odd if Team Andromeda and Smilebit had indeed wanted us to think that there was only ever one dragon.
Dragon Growth Diagram.
Looking at all of this evidence offered up by the games themselves, the heavy implication seems to be that there were indeed different dragons in the Sega Saturn Panzer Dragoon games: that there were, in fact, two dragons. The chart here illustrates how these two creatures evolved throughout the games, before they at last merged together into the final Solo Wing dragon from Panzer Dragoon Saga.
In summary, the first dragon guided by the Heresy Program was Lagi, and he began his adventure in Panzer Dragoon Zwei by pursuing Shelcoof, the Tower of the Sky. By the time he reached Shelcoof his body had evolved into the ultimate Solo Wing form.
Lagi as a pup.
Lagi in the Type 01/Solo Wing Normal Class form.
Unfortunately, the effort required to destroy Shelcoof was too much for Lagi; his body was exhausted, but his spirit took refuge inside Shelcoof’s dragon crest. It waited there to one day be reborn.
Shelcoof is taken out.
The crest inside Shelcoof glows.
The second dragon guided by the Heresy Program was the Panzer Dragoon dragon, which was first seen flying towards the Tower off the Imperial coast with the Sky Rider upon its back. This dragon had already reached the Solo Wing form when the hunter known as Kyle Fluge encountered it, and when the Sky Rider was sadly killed, this creature took Kyle as its new rider.
The Sky Rider looks to the nearest human...
...who happens to be Kyle Fluge.
The body of this dragon was also exhausted from the effort of destroying a Tower, but it seems that it was able to reach the ruins seen at the beginning of Panzer Dragoon Saga afterwards, where it entered into a dragon crest also.
The Panzer Dragoon Tower is destroyed.
Footprints in the sand.
Decades passed, and at the time of Panzer Dragoon Saga this second dragon was apparently reborn from that crest, with a fresher, younger, and unfortunately weaker body than it last had. This dragon took the mercenary Edge as its new rider, and set off to continue its campaign against the Towers.
Excavation Site #4's dragon crest.
Edge meets the dragon in basic wing form.
In the course of their journeys, Edge and this dragon eventually came across the remains of Shelcoof. Inside the ship they were greeted by Lagi’s spirit, which guided them to the dragon crest where he had slumbered all those years.
Shelcoof returns in Panzer Dragoon Saga.
Lagi's spirit leads Edge to the Genesis Chamber.
From the crest emerged Lagi, reborn with a new body, an exact replica of the form he had of old: a tiny winged coolia pup with a glowing green light in its throat.
The crest inside the Genesis Chamber.
Lagi reborn from Shelcoof's dragon crest.
These two dragons flew together for some time, and when Edge activated the ancient ruins in the Forest of Zoah they came to be as one: the second dragon and Lagi merged together to form one being, one dragon that took on the Solo Wing form that they had both known in the past.
Lagi and Edge's Dragon merge...
...to become one dragon, the Solo Wing.
At the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga the Heresy Program’s mission was completed, and the program itself was to be deactivated: the physical dragon wished to return to the world, though. The Heresy Program granted this wish, leaving the dragon in the form we know from Panzer Dragoon Orta, and the rest, as they say far too often, is history.
The Heresy Program separates...
...leaving the physical dragon mortal.