Ads are gone. We're using Patreon to raise funds so we can grow. Please pledge support today!
Google+   Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | DS | PS3 | PS4 | PSP | VITA | WII | WIIU | X360 | XB1 | All
Dragon Blaze (Arcade) artwork

Dragon Blaze (Arcade) review


"Let me make one thing absolutely clear: Iím not a shooter expert. I wish I could assert my credibility with a list of titles that Iíve conquered on one credit or a table of high scores that would make your eyes widen with admiration. But I canít do this, and Iím not going to pretend. My humble efforts are usually shot down in flames by an impenetrable burst of neon pink bullets. I never seem able to muster the concentration required to memorise these patterns, let alone understand the intricate ..."



Let me make one thing absolutely clear: Iím not a shooter expert. I wish I could assert my credibility with a list of titles that Iíve conquered on one credit or a table of high scores that would make your eyes widen with admiration. But I canít do this, and Iím not going to pretend. My humble efforts are usually shot down in flames by an impenetrable burst of neon pink bullets. I never seem able to muster the concentration required to memorise these patterns, let alone understand the intricate (i.e. confusing) scoring systems that accompany them.

Itís not that I havenít played enough shooters. Iíve enjoyed the whimsical humour of Gunbird 2, relished the destructive power of the DoDonPachi weapon system and invested hours in GigaWing without really understanding the logic behind its million digit scores. I even bought the Sega Direct version of Under Defeat, complete with the collectible poster and sticker! Despite this, Iíve never really felt that Iíve been playing these shooters properly. My casual approach and superficial appreciation have prevented me from comprehending the true intensity of a high score run.

As with most rules, thereís a lone exception to this tale of scoring inadequacy. That exception is Dragon Blaze, a shmup I return to again and again in the often futile hope of bettering my hard-fought score. I think Iím addicted! Iím hooked on its dark fantasy world, uncompromising bullet patterns and, crucially, the transparent simplicity of achieving a high score.

Psykioís penultimate arcade shmup features an unconventional scoring system that rewards your ability to Dragon Shot enemies. In this exuberant realm of goblins, monsters and bullet-spewing fungi, your avatar is an heroic knight who sits atop a mighty dragon. The Dragon Shot is a destructive move that sees our intrepid hero thrust his steed towards the creatures that litter the screen, obliterating everything in its path. The rider is then left alone to glide through the electric storm of projectiles until the dragon is recalled, at which point the process can be repeated. The value of the Dragon Shot is in the gold coins left behind by the enemies it slaughters, as opposed to the silver coins yielded by the normal shot. If you want to score well, you must rely heavily on this technique. Aside from two extra tricks that reward you with bonus points, this is the extent of Dragon Blazeís scoring system. Dragon Shot enemies for gold coins. Thatís it.

But any illusions you may have about the ease of collecting gold coins will be shattered by the lightning-quick ferocity of the bullets that dot the screen. The simple and accessible scoring system is transformed into a compulsive, white-knuckle thrill by the bullet hell that characterises Psykio shmups. Herein lies the terrific intensity of playing for score in Dragon Blaze. You need to stay close to your enemies in order to keep them within Dragon Shot range, but doing so poses a massive risk given how fast and intricate the bullet patterns can be. The Dragon Shot does enable you to take down certain enemies in an instant, which is a huge relief when you manage to destroy the larger creatures before theyíre able to deliver even a single bullet onto the screen. Yet this approach forces you right into the thick of the action as you weave through the fluorescent pellets left by smaller pests in order to collect precious gold coins. You could hold back and settle for silver coins, but scoring only becomes more difficult as the game wears on.

Dragon Blaze is given extra depth by the Coin Heads hidden in each stage and the Technical Bonus awarded if you manage to survive the daunting patterns emitted by the bosses and Dragon Shot their weak spot. But these are unrelated extras that donít drastically affect your run if missed. You donít need to chain coins or worry about multipliers in Dragon Blaze Ė just Dragon Shot enemies for gold coins! Itís simple, but itís so intuitive that playing for score becomes second nature as you Dragon Shot your foes and collect their gold coins almost by instinct. The clear, uncomplicated brilliance of this system allows you to devote maximum concentration to your Psykio Pattern Memorisation. If youíve played a Psykio shmup then you might feel a deep sense of foreboding at the mention of pattern memorisation. Bullet formations in Psykio titles tend to be elaborate, plentiful and fast, which makes dodging them on reactions alone almost impossible. You need to have some idea of whatís going to happen if youíre going to survive the neon pink storm!

This is not unreasonable, however. Stages in Dragon Blaze are short and tend to feature around five unique enemies per level, which makes recognition easier as most patterns are repeated. It doesnít make the game easy, mind you. Quick reactions are still required to evade the monstrous patterns, especially when youíre forced to squeeze through the tightest of gaps. But it does at least make the game manageable. Dragon Blaze is a demanding shooter that punishes sloppy play and requires dedication if you want to achieve a good score, but itís never unfair. Youíre never bogged down by an incomprehensible scoring system or absurd patterns. Towards the climax of the first loop the action becomes truly manic, but even here there are still slower moments. (The second loop, however, is completely insane.)

Perhaps the most telling appraisal I can make is that Iím not done with Dragon Blaze. Despite my track record of quickly losing interest in any attempt to really understand a shooter, I keep coming back to Psykioís hostile world of dragons, monsters and copious gold coins! My efforts often result in failure, but I persist for those rare occasions when I manage to forge on and beat my previous record. Improving a high score by as little as ten thousand points feels like an achievement in Dragon Blaze because Psykio make you work bloody hard for those points. My personal best of 583,400 is not going to have people clamouring for a Super Play, but the very fact that Iíve devoted time and effort into achieving this is a testament to the compelling excellence of Dragon Blaze. Psykioís shooter is something different. It does dark fantasy without resorting to cutesy themes (it even makes goldfish seem fearsome!) and its scoring system is unique yet simple to grasp. Dodging murderous patterns of neon pink bullets is still an arduous task, but itís a task I will continue to take on. The allure of thrusting my dragon into an armoured turtle or giant mosquito for a treasure trove of gold coins that will tip my score over the 600,000 mark is just too enticing. This is the intensity of a high score run.

Rating: 10/10

JANUS2's avatar
Community review by JANUS2 (February 18, 2009)

A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.

More Reviews by JANUS2
Rez HD (Xbox 360) artwork
Rez HD (Xbox 360)

In 2007, long after the demise of the Dreamcast, a port of Rez was announced for Xbox Live Arcade. Mizuguchi told reporters at the Tokyo Games Show that he ďalways dreamed of high-def wide screen and very good sound. Now the future has come." Rez HD was released in 2008 with high-definition wide-screen vi...
X-Men: The Arcade Game (Xbox 360) artwork
X-Men: The Arcade Game (Xbox 360)

X-Men: The Arcade Game could not possibly be a more dated game, one that has no hope of satisfying the modern gaming expectations that have evolved in the eighteen years since its original release. How could it when itís little more than a humble beat Ďem up? This is a genre that modern video game journalists in...
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360) artwork
Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox 360)

Every Castlevania has its iconic hero, a lone warrior whose duty it is to follow in an ancient tradition of vampire killers. Simon Belmont. John Morris. Richter Belmont. Alucard. Each one of these heroes has made the solitary journey through the horrors of Castle Dracula, fighting valiantly through the Clock Tow...

Feedback

If you enjoyed this Dragon Blaze review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

board icon
zigfried posted February 18, 2009:

I was really glad to see you review this! I remember you talking about it a while back, and reading that you're STILL playing it is pretty awesome. I haven't played it in a while (packing and moving does that) but it's definitely one that I plan to pick up again someday. I think you did a great job at getting the heart of the game -- and your feelings for it -- across.

//Zig
board icon
JANUS2 posted February 19, 2009:

Thanks, Zig! I tried to get into some other shooters, but I kept coming back to Dragon Blaze. Probably because I made the effort to learn it (for that scoring thread aggges ago), but also because the scoring system makes it so simple to pick up and play (or insert credit to play?). I tried chaining coins in Gunbird 2 but I just couldn't get the hang of it. Concentrating on a more complex scoring system was just a pain given how difficult Psykio bullet patterns are. I dunno. Maybe I just need to try harder.

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

Info | Help | Privacy Policy | Contact | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2014 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Dragon Blaze is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Dragon Blaze, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.