Sky Rider and Dark Dragon's Rider Theory

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Here you'll find another comprehensive theory concerning the true nature of the Sky Rider and his dark nemesis, which runs down a long list of reasons explaining why the two masked riders were drones.

Contents

Introduction

Although the Panzer Dragoon world is filled with puzzling events and strange enigmas, the character known as the Sky Rider represents one of its greatest mysteries. This individual, who appeared during the opening sequence of the very first Panzer Dragoon game, plays a unique role in the storyline of the series. He was one of the dragon’s riders, but - unlike Lundi, Kyle, Edge and Orta - he was not the central character of a game, and his story has never really been told.

The Sky Rider.

The Sky Rider.

The Panzer Dragoon series may be notorious for providing the player with mysteries, but at the same time it offers up a wealth of information from which we can draw our own conclusions. Although the Sky Rider’s true nature has not been confirmed, this article will look at what we can deduce about him from information found in the games themselves.

First though, it is worth recapping and keeping in mind what little we know for sure about this mystifying individual, and what the opening sequence of Panzer Dragoon revealed about him.

The Sky Rider’s Role in Panzer Dragoon

The first Panzer Dragoon game introduced us to Kyle Fluge, a young hunter who lived out in the wastelands of the Frontier. The game’s opening sequence followed Kyle as he and his companions rode through the desert one day, but when their hunting trip went awry Kyle ended up being separated from his friends. Exploring alone, the young hunter ultimately chanced across two mysterious dragons, which seemed to be locked in a mortal struggle.

At this time, it was the Sky Rider who rode atop the back of the armoured Blue Dragon. Together, the Sky Rider and his mount were pursuing the massive Dark Dragon, desperately trying to stop it from reaching its destination; currently the Dark Dragon had turned on them though, and a fierce duel had commenced.

The Dark Dragon chases the Blue Dragon.

The Dark Dragon chases the Blue Dragon.

The Sky Rider evades a fireball below him.

The Sky Rider evades a fireball below him.

These two deadly creatures did battle in the open sky as Kyle watched, and sadly the Sky Rider became distracted for a brief moment: as punishment, he received a fatal laser blast through his chest. The Dark Dragon sped away, and the Blue Dragon with its wounded rider descended from the sky, landing on the plateau before Kyle. The Sky Rider knew that he had little time left, and he asked the young hunter to continue his mission: to stop the Dark Dragon from reaching the ancient Tower that was its destination. His message imparted, the Sky Rider fell lifeless to the dusty ground - and of course, Kyle did take his place as the rider of the Blue Dragon.

A laser goes straight through his heart.

A laser goes straight through his heart.

The Sky Rider has enough energy left to land.

The Sky Rider has enough energy left to land.

The brief but important part the Sky Rider played in Panzer Dragoon provokes many questions but, taken alone, it provides few answers. As mysterious as the Sky Rider seems though, it is important to remember that another puzzling character made a brief appearance in this opening sequence, an individual who is intriguingly similar to him: the rider of the Dark Dragon.

Comparing the Sky Rider and the Dark Dragon’s Rider

While many players may have noticed the Sky Rider’s strong resemblance to the Dark Dragon’s rider, a closer look at the opening sequence reveals an interesting truth. As the zoomed-in screenshots below illustrate, Team Andromeda literally created these two characters from the same 3D model, with only three differences setting them apart.

The Dark Dragon's rider has orange eyes.

The Dark Dragon's rider has orange eyes.

The Sky Rider looks very similar to his nemesis.

The Sky Rider looks very similar to his nemesis.

Most obvious is that the armour worn by the Dark Dragon’s rider - pictured on the left above - is a dismal grey colour, while the Sky Rider’s armour is white. The eyes of the Dark Dragon’s rider also appear to glow intensely with an unnatural light, which is strange to say the least; when we see the Sky Rider close up near the end of the sequence, he has quite normal looking eyes.

The third difference between the two is perhaps the least obvious, but closer inspection reveals that the Dark Dragon’s rider is a “mirror image” of the Sky Rider in all other respects. The dark blemish on the Sky Rider’s right-hand chest plate appears on the left-hand chest plate of the Dark Dragon’s rider; similarly, the huge armour plate on one of the Sky Rider’s shoulders appears on the opposite side of his dark counterpart’s body.

A behind view of the Dark Dragon's rider.

A behind view of the Dark Dragon's rider.

A side view of the Sky Rider.

A side view of the Sky Rider.

In all other ways these two riders appear to be exactly the same, though; they even wield identical Ancient Age handguns. As we are trying to uncover the truth surrounding the Sky Rider, all of this could be significantly important. After all, Team Andromeda may have presented us with two very mysterious characters, but they are so very similar that we are surely expected to make the obvious connection between them. It would seem that these two dragon riders are meant to be equals and equivalents of some kind in the Panzer Dragoon world, and while this does not answer any questions directly, it certainly makes the questions more approachable.

Were These Dragon Riders Human?

While the obvious assumption would be that these two riders were simply two humans wearing identical suits of ancient armour, this is quickly challenged by some of the facts at hand. As was mentioned above, the Dark Dragon’s rider had glowing, luminescent eyes; on his simplified in-game 3D model they were distinctly red, matching the glowing red eyes of his dragon. This is presumably no coincidence.

This leads to another important point: if these riders were human, it would make very little sense for the Dark Dragon’s rider to be riding the Dark Dragon in the first place. Unlike the Blue Dragon - a renegade creature that had turned against the will of the Ancients - the Dark Dragon was a deadly living weapon that was still firmly under the command of Sestren.

An in game shot of the Dark Dragon.

An in game shot of the Dark Dragon.

We have been shown throughout the Panzer Dragoon series that pure-type monsters have no sympathy for human beings, and that they are generally inclined to kill any humans who invade their space. The Dark Dragon would presumably be no exception to this rule, so it does not seem so likely that the figure sitting atop its back would be human.

As the Dark Dragon’s rider and the Sky Rider apparently share a similar nature, this would imply that the Sky Rider was not human either. Indeed, the Sky Rider did display some unusual qualities of his own during the Panzer Dragoon opening sequence; most striking of all was the way in which he finally passed away from the wound that he had received in battle.

A trail of light leaves the Sky Rider's chest.

A trail of light leaves the Sky Rider's chest.

Kyle watches the green energy float away.

Kyle watches the green energy float away.

After the Sky Rider had imparted his message to Kyle, his chest began to glow with a greenish light. Suddenly a stream of energy particles burst from his body, which spiralled away into the air as Kyle watched; when this strange life-force had entirely left him, the Sky Rider crumpled to the ground. Needless to say, this seems to imply that the Sky Rider was not human either.

What Was the Sky Rider’s True Nature?

As anyone who has played through the Panzer Dragoon series will surely have realised, Team Andromeda paid close attention to continuity as they developed their fictional world from one game to the next. Events that went completely unexplained in one chapter of the storyline would end up being explained in later games as the story and world developed and grew; even the greatest mysteries would often come to make sense in retrospect.

Although the Sky Rider and his dark counterpart may have seemed like a complete enigma at first, it appears that Team Andromeda made a point of shedding light upon their true nature eventually. After all, Panzer Dragoon Saga introduced a character who had more than a little in common with these mysterious dragon riders - Azel.

A close up shot of Azel.

A close up shot of Azel.

Azel the drone.

Azel the drone.

Just as the Sky Rider and his counterpart seemed quite human at first, so Azel’s face and voice may have suggested that she was merely a young girl. However, just as the facts hinted that the Sky Rider was more than he seemed, so Azel turned out to be something else entirely… and in this case, the truth was finally revealed.

Azel was a drone, one of the most sophisticated bio-engineered creatures that the Ancients had brought into existence. The scientists of the Ancient Age created Azel and her kind to operate their more advanced technologies, and to carry out tasks that were deemed too dangerous for humans to perform. Drones were warriors and workers, but unlike the Ancients’ other bio-engineered creatures, drones could think and communicate more or less like a human would. They had a distinctly humanoid form, and according to information from Panzer Dragoon Orta, some drones were nearly indistinguishable from real humans.

Azel is trapped beneath the floater.

Azel is trapped beneath the floater.

Azel lies in a pod within the Tower.

Azel lies in a pod within the Tower.

Although the Ancient Age came to an end thousands of years ago, many of the Ancients’ creations have survived intact due to their sheer physical durability, and drones seem to be no exception. As the Sky Rider and the Dark Dragon’s rider were humanoid but apparently not human, the deduction that they were drones seems to be quite fair - the question is, would this explanation fit all the facts?

Examining the Evidence: The Sky Rider

The explanation that the Sky Rider was a drone does shed light on many odd things, notably his physical appearance. While neither the Sky Rider nor the Dark Dragon’s rider look really similar to Azel, remember that she herself only bore a passing resemblance to Abadd, the drone from Panzer Dragoon Orta; presumably the Ancients made various different drone “models” as time passed, just as they made many different kinds of other bio-engineered creatures.

The bodies of Azel, Abadd, the Sky Rider and the Dark Dragon’s rider certainly share the hallmarks of Ancient Age design though, as they seem to be composed of the durable white and black substances that all ancient creations were sculpted from. Their physical forms also display the Ancients’ bizarre abstract designs, complete with their curious lack of symmetry. In fact, the Sky Rider’s white armour was very reminiscent of the Ancient Age ruins that Kyle found earlier in the Panzer Dragoon opening sequence, as the screenshots below illustrate.

A close up shot of the Sky Rider.

A close up shot of the Sky Rider.

The ruins where Kyle's life will change forever.

The ruins where Kyle's life will change forever.

Similarly, the parts of the Sky Rider’s body that can be glimpsed beneath the white armour - his chest and arms - appear to be made of the hard black substance that is also used in Ancient Age designs. His body is laced with golden strips, just like the inner workings of an ancient ruin or a battleship’s engine. Again, this metallic component bears a striking resemblance to the mechanical interior of the ruins that Kyle stumbled into, as the following screenshots show.

The Sky Rider's heart pulses.

The Sky Rider's heart pulses.

A monster drops from the ceiling.

A monster drops from the ceiling.

If the Sky Rider and his counterpart were indeed meant to be seen as drones, at least in retrospect, those unusually nonhuman characteristics that they displayed would also begin to make sense. Admittedly we have never seen another drone die as the Sky Rider did though, so we do not know if their bodies would normally emit a glowing energy at the point of death. However, luminous green energy such as this is certainly associated with many of the Ancients’ other creations.

The colour of Lagi's lasers bear a resemblance...

The colour of Lagi's lasers bear a resemblance...

...as do the groves in the Tower as it lights up.

...as do the groves in the Tower as it lights up.

A dragon has a glowing green light in its throat where its bodily energy is focused, for example, and green light crept up through the Tower of Uru at the end of Panzer Dragoon Saga. As most of the Ancients’ creations were built through the same principles of bio-engineering, it would stand to reason that Drones either carry a similar energy within their bodies, or that their bodies could produce such energy under the right circumstances.

It seems that the first Panzer Dragoon game not only indicated that these riders were not human, it did imply that they were products of the Ancient Age, too; their physical resemblance to other ancient creations is clear, even if their true nature was not fleshed out until Panzer Dragoon Saga.

Examining the Evidence: The Dark Dragon’s Rider

This overall explanation certainly seems to make sense in the Sky Rider’s case, but the revelation that the Dark Dragon’s rider could also be a drone offers up even more solutions to mysteries and problems. Importantly, this would explain how and why he was able to ride the Dark Dragon at all; whereas the Ancients’ bio-engineered monsters seem to be entirely hostile to humans, dragon riding is certainly not strange for a drone.

Atolm Dragon.

Atolm Dragon.

Abadd's Mare.

Abadd's Mare.

High-end drones like Azel and Abadd were able to psychologically interface with ancient technologies, including certain bio-engineered creatures. Because of this, Azel was able to soar through the clouds on the monstrous black dragon known as Atolm, and Abadd was able to pursue Orta on his custom-made Dragonmare. It therefore seems very probable that the Dark Dragon’s rider was also a high-end drone, as this would explain his ability to pilot the Dark Dragon towards the Tower.

While neither Azel nor Abadd had glowing eyes like the Dark Dragon’s rider, some of the Ancients’ other bio-engineered creations have displayed similar features. The Dark Dragon itself had red eyes that matched its rider’s, as did the Sky Dart and Light Wing dragon forms seen elsewhere in the series. The pure-type monsters that appeared in the opening sequences of Panzer Dragoon Saga also had glowing eyes. As drones, dragons and the other pure-types were created through the same methods of genetic engineering, there is no particular reason why the Ancients could not have gifted a drone with eyes such as these.

An in game shot of the Dark Dragon's rider.

An in game shot of the Dark Dragon's rider.

A pure type's eye gleams in the darkness.

A pure type's eye gleams in the darkness.

As well as his ability to ride the Dark Dragon, there is another piece of evidence that suggests this character was a high-end drone. In the cut-scene at the end of Panzer Dragoon episode 5, we were shown the Tower that was situated off the Imperial coastline. The Blue Dragon and the Dark Dragon were drawing close to the Tower at this stage, and a voice booming from the structure made the following announcement:

Instructions from Unit 01 received and confirmed. All ground units mobilized, initiate operations and secure the area.

The cut-scene proceeded to show legions of bio-engineered creatures pouring out of the Tower, which were clearly the “mobilized units” that its voice was referring to. But what exactly was Unit 01, the entity that commanded the Tower to do this?

Monsters surround the Tower.

Monsters surround the Tower.

This is why you shouldn't let him get back.

This is why you shouldn't let him get back.

We were given more information at the end of episode 6, when another cut-scene showed the Dark Dragon approaching and entering the Tower itself. The voice of the Tower made one final announcement:

Unit 01… Confirmed. After rendezvous, take Unit to full strength.

Immediately after this the Dark Dragon emerged from the Tower with masses of extra armour and weaponry grafted to its body, so the obvious assumption would be that the Dark Dragon was “Unit 01”, which was taken “to full strength” in this manner. Things are apparently not so straightforward, though: it was Unit 01 that ordered the Tower to release its hordes of bio-engineered creatures, and as far as we know, dragons are not capable of interfacing with or operating ancient technologies such as Towers. On the other hand, drones were created to perform this very task.

If the Dark Dragon’s rider was indeed a high-end drone, this sequence of events would suddenly appear to make sense. “Unit 01” was transmitting instructions to the Tower as the Dark Dragon drew nearer to it, so it seems almost certain that Unit 01 was the Tower’s designation for the Dark Dragon and the drone rider that it carried.

Hints from Panzer Dragoon Orta

Importantly, the explanation that the Sky Rider and his counterpart were drones not only ties up the relevant loose ends, it is even literally suggested in the games themselves. The “encyclopaedia” that can be unlocked in Panzer Dragoon Orta contains a great deal of interesting storyline information, and its entry on the Blue Dragon from Panzer Dragoon even mentions the mysterious Sky Rider, whom it refers to as the “fourth rider”:

Reports from Imperial units stationed in the outlands at the time tell of a fourth rider, who entrusted the dragon to the young hunter’s care. Some theorize that the mysterious “fourth rider” was a descendant of the Ancients who created the organic weapons, or perhaps a drone, created as an operator for the ancient weaponry.

The idea that the Sky Rider was a descendant of the Ancients seems to be little more than random speculation, and it is probably meant to be thought of as such. After all, we know practically nothing about the Ancients themselves, and the people of the Panzer Dragoon world (the people who would be doing this “theorising”) seem to know no more than we do. On the other hand, the idea that the Sky Rider was a drone appears to be a logical deduction based on information from the previous games; it seems likely that Smilebit created this entry to put players’ thoughts on the right track.

Conclusion

A beautiful illustration of the two rival dragons.

A beautiful illustration of the two rival dragons.

Looking at how easily this explanation fits around the facts at hand, it seems we can be reasonably certain that the Sky Rider and his dark counterpart were drones. Although Team Andromeda had likely not worked out the fine details of the drone race when they made the first Panzer Dragoon game, it would be quite surprising if they did not want us to look back and think of these characters as drones in retrospect.

This conclusion certainly does not solve the whole mystery of the Sky Rider, though; even if we have knowledge of his general nature, his personal history and motivations are far more enigmatic. Although his life may simply have been a reflection of Azel’s, with his experiences leading him to assert his own free will and to turn against his Ancient duty, the Sky Rider’s true story may have been something else entirely. As it does not seem so likely that a future Panzer Dragoon game will return to this character though, we may have to accept the Sky Rider as the thought-provoking mystery he is.

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