Dragon Blaze originally hailed from Japanese arcades (courtesy of, who else, Psikyo) in 2000. Continuing the ongoing trend of making sure the Nintendo Switch gets as much of Psikyo’s back catalog as possible, Zerodiv re-released this title as part of the lineup for the platform. The only time Dragon Blaze got any time in the spotlight outside of the arcade is through a Playstation 2 compilation. Even then, it’s hard to ever spot one of these things; I doubt most of PS2 collections of Psikyo shooters ever saw a release internationally. Either way, it’s here on Switch in affordable fashion, so all is well.

Graphics

Once you get past the large borders that surround the left and right sides of the game window, you’ll see that the graphics consist of excellent spritework and animation alike. The game impressively maintains a steady framerate in spite of everything that happens onscreen, and Dragon Blaze is actually closer to that of the bullet-hell variety than Psikyo shooters usually are.

Audio

Well, the music is certainly more notable than that of Tengai’s. This SNES-style orchestra sound brings in an atmosphere that’s topped by the intensity of the projectile-fueled situation onscreen. It’s not the kind of OST that will stick with you, but it sets the mood for the adventure properly enough.

Gameplay

Given the emphasis on bullets flying everywhere, you could expect this one to be one of the more challenging shoot ’em ups from Psikyo’s library. There are four playable characters this time around, each with their own unique special attack and projectile style. As per tradition, you have the standard projectiles and special attacks, but new to this game are charged shots and dragons you can ride. The dragons make for useful weapons and can even be used to collect items dropped by enemies. These are just for extra points, but they are no less satisfying to collect.

I cannot play this beyond the easiest difficulty. I know I say that a lot, but the bullet-hell emphasis truly ramps up just how many times a casual player is bound to die from being corned by a horde of purple circles. There are so many ways bosses would produce their attacks that this would very likely be a major turn-off for those looking for anything that isn’t an auto-scrolling gauntlet. Sure, you could max out the starting life count and amount of continues you could use to scrape by, but doesn’t it defeat the purpose of playing through the game if you won’t be able to beat the game any other way?

Verdict

Shooter fans will dig this one, especially those already into dodging hundreds of bullets simultaneously. Passersby can still get by well enough with the lowest difficulty, but anything beyond that could be a death wish. There’s certainly a lot of effort put into Dragon Blaze, as with all the others in Psikyo’s line of shoot ’em ups. For my money, though, I might suggest picking up a Psikyo game that’s a little more possible to beat.

Review copy provided by Zerodiv