Dragon Blaze is an old-school shooter from developers Psiyko. In fact, it hails from the year 2000, an arcade game that’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch as part of a stream of Psiyko re-releases. After 18 years – and no shortage of shooters already on the Switch – how does Dragon Blaze hold up?

To start with, Dragon Blaze involves a vertically scrolling screen, full of enemies shooting pink bullets at you in all directions. So far, so typical. The game offers several weapon styles to take down these enemies, including the usual bullets and bombs. There’s also a meter that, once full, provides an extra-strong weapon. But there’s one thing this game offers that’s unique to the genre: dragons.

Dragon Blaze screenshot 1

In Dragon Blaze, you can choose between four characters, each with an agenda – and a dragon. There’s Quaid and his Fire Dragon, Sonia with her Aqua Dragon, Rob with his Thunder Dragon and Ian with his Skull Dragon. Each comes with its own abilities – you can guess the style based on the dragon names. Most importantly, as a rider you can separate from your dragon at any time. This leaves your dragon in a strategic position, rapid-firing ad infinitum while you manoeuvre elsewhere. It’s like your dragon is covering you while you take a tactical position on the side, and it adds another layer to the game.

The game’s simple story involves your rider collecting four magic stones to save the world, while the mysterious God of Sun taunts you. Collecting them opens up an even more treacherous path to an even darker world. There isn’t a huge amount of content, but with each character’s unique dragon, there’s an incentive for repeat plays as you find the best fit for you. You’ll probably need to replay anyway, given how many times you’ll die en route to the finale. Yes, this game is HARD.

Dragon Blaze screenshot 2

There are seven difficulty levels to choose from, ranging from Monkey to Very Hard. Even at its simplest, this is no walk in the park. The game provides a limited number of lives and only one continue. Like I said at the outset, this is classic arcade shooting, complete with the genre’s obligatory difficulty.

The play area is very small, given it’s a vertical scroller. One nice touch is the ability to change the screen’s orientation so you can take up the whole screen. This is really only useful in tabletop mode, with your Switch vertically positioned in front of you and Joy-Cons detached, but it improves the experience significantly.

Dragon Blaze screenshot 3

There is co-op multiplayer, which adds to the fun too. An online mode – even just for high scores – would add more longevity to the game.

Overall, Dragon Blaze offers classic arcade shooting with plenty of action and a high level of difficulty to test even the most adept players. The dragon aspect adds a new spin on the genre, and, despite the short play time, there’s plenty of score chasing to do if you’re looking to scratch that shooter itch. Check it out.