We've been everywhere from ancient Japan to an alternate post World War II setting. Now, Psikyo's latest classic shmup to hit the Switch will have you mounting a dragon in order to deal with mythical monsters.
Before I get to the review, I figured I should share a little story. I took a trip to Portland for my birthday a few years back and found an awesome bar / arcade where I played a few pinball tables and arcade games. While I was there, I saw a game that looked like a Psikyo shoot 'em up that I've never seen before. I asked the dude who was playing it at the time if I could join him as player 2 and we had some fun tackling a few stages together. By the way, if you're reading this, fellow shmup fan, leave a comment below! Anyway, that game turned out to be Dragon Blaze and it's one fantastic arcade shooter.
Dragon Blaze's core mechanics are what you'd expect as you shoot a stream of projectiles while weaving through clouds of bullets and occasionally deploying a bomb. However, it features a couple of truly awesome mechanics that'll help you strategize how to thin out the hordes and topple the enormous bosses. For starters, you can dismount your dragon which generally makes it stay in place while you can freely move around on your own. This allows you to cause much more damage if you plan it right. Whenever you want to rejoin, simply fly over to your dragon and you'll automatically mount it again. The other nifty mechanic is the magic system. Basically, you charge your magic gauge as you play then you can unleash spells by holding down the shoot button.
As always, there is an array of unique characters who each have their own abilities and attacks. Whether you're playing as Quaid and his Fire Dragon, Sonia and her Aqua Dragon, Rob and his Thunder Dragon, or Ian and his Skull Dragon; you're bound to have a rewarding time taking on the super-challenging stages and diverse cast of memorable bosses.
Speaking of which, the visuals in Dragon Blaze are quite detailed, especially the massive bosses. However, even though fighting these hulking bosses is highly enjoyable, the stages themselves aren't very memorable. You mostly fly over hazy brown or grey environments that don't stand out at all. The best stage is the underwater one which is detailed and pops quite well but the fact remains that most of the environments are disappointing. Also, the sound effects are spot-on and satisfying but the music is pretty lame as it primarily consists of similar sounding instrumentation and it adds up to one repetitive soundtrack that verges on being annoying.
Finally, if you've read any of my previous reviews about these arcade ports then you're well aware how much it annoys me that they don't include any bonus content. I won't rant and rave about it again but I'll just say that I hope the developers of these ports start to add some worthwhile bonus content sometime soon. It's such a wasted opportunity that they don't.
Simply put, Dragon Blaze is one of Psikyo's best shmups. They clearly make much better vertical shoot 'em ups than they do horizontal and what we have here is a shining example of a challenging classic arcade shooter that's definitely worth downloading.
- + Tight and super-challenging shoot 'em up action that'll put your skills to the test
- + Awesome characters and boss fights
- + Incredible supplementary mechanics
- - For the thousandth time, there are no extras and it just contains the short arcade game
- - Stages aren't very memorable
- - Unvaried and repetitive music