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Retro Greats: Alisia Dragoon

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@_Kimimi writes: Released in April ‘1992, Alisia Dragoon took a genre that was at the time dominated by either robots or impossibly muscular men (quite possibly referred to as “dudes” in their manuals) and added its own fantasy twist. Although by and large Game Arts’ (Thexder) baby, Gainax (Princess Maker series) were brought in to handle the visual design work and Mecano Associates (Silpheed, FireHawk, etc) handled music composition. The result was an excellent action game that still remains unique to this day.

Alisia herself is quite simple to control – she can shoot lightning from her hands, jump, switch between her mystical partners and… that’s it. Like any good action game though the joy comes from how these actions are applied.

Lightning automatically homes in on enemies and also splits itself into multiple bolts if needs be, so long as Alisia is facing the enemy. While this sounds like a fantastic crutch for unskilled players these attacks need to be carefully timed and sparingly used as they rapidly deplete Alisia’s lightning meter – overuse can soon leave her without any way to defend herself until her power recharges. The final three icons in the lightning gauge are a different colour and charge up far slower than the others, the reason being that once they are filled they allow Alisia to unleash a powerful blast that damages everything on screen. This little addition gives gamers some strategic depth to play with – do they stay safe and destroy enemies with the standard shot, or do they trust in their ability to dodge and wait to clear the whole screen at once? The lightning power naturally starts at level 1 and can be increased in strength up to level 8 – if you can find the hidden power ups, that is.

Alisia’s creatures also create another layer of choice and customisation, each having their own attacks, weaknesses and behaviour to consider. More than mere glorified “options” (to use a term borrowed from Gradius), these creatures have their own health and power bars and will die if they take too much damage. Each creature can be powered up twice through the use of items hidden throughout the game. We’ll look at each one individually below (Japanese name in brackets) –

Photobucket Dragon Frye (Fire Dragon “Owaro Chiguzasu”): Something of an all-rounder, with high intelligence. His fireballs do reasonable damage and he can handle a beating better than the Thunder Raven or Boomerang Lizard. Dragon Frye is the only partner creature to actively turn around and take out enemies that Alisia isn’t already facing.

Photobucket Ball O’Fire (Burning s’Fire “Ru Mardkia Rui”): The defensive choice, and the toughest of them all. This creature has no actual attack however unlike the others any enemy that touches him receives damage so long as he has some energy in his power meter.

Photobucket Thunder Raven (Thunder Bird “Fel Dars Mei”): This one has a brilliant screen-clearing attack, although his delicate body makes him a bit of a glass cannon. He’s also rather lacking in the intelligence department and doesn’t do much other than keep close and unleash his (impressive) attack as soon as it’s lengthy charge is ready.

Photobucket Boomerang Lizard (Boomerang Lizard “Lance Ania”): Small and quick, his attacks recharge faster than anyone else’s and his accurate boomerangs hit anything in their path rather than disappearing on contact with the first thing they hit.

The game takes place across eight stages; the first taking place in a rather typical fantasy setting – lush forests, ancient ruins, some sort of fortress… this level features plenty of interesting but not unexpected organic monsters and humanoid opponents to dispatch, and things progress in a similar manner across the swamp-like second stage until you encounter a new type of adversary riding a futuristic hovering platform. Thinking little of it, the stage then carries on with the organic monsters from before, but then ends with Alisia jumping onto a flying fortress just before it takes off into the skies.

This mixture of traditional fantasy and science fiction continues throughout the rest of the game – sometimes you’ll be dodging eruptions of fire in underground caves, then in the next stage making your way through the wreckage of a crashed spaceship. The bosses likewise change between the monstrous and the mechanical, with the occasional human fanatic thrown in for good measure. This progression is something that set Alisia Dragoon apart at the time – each stage starts and ends with a short scene showing Alisia moving from one stage to the next. The intro and a few scenes contain text or dialogue – while the English version isn’t as verbose as the Japanese original it’s actually quite accurate in overall meaning if not in style, the only real “Westernisation” occurring when the Japanese version uses words like “god” and “shrine” – these become “leader” and “palace” respectively. These scenes may be basic by modern standards but they do give the game a sense of coherency and a communicate to the player a desire for Alisia’s world to be seen as a place instead of a series of levels.

At the end of the game, or when the player dies and has no lives left, a ranking screen shows the shot down percentage and a rank for the player. Although the game never explains it, there are two ranking tables you can end up on, depending on a variety of undocumented factors. The tables are as follows –

Magic User Beast Master
Ultra A Rank “Efreet”
“Salamander”
“Phoenix Master”
“Griffon Master”
Special A Rank “Wizard” “Dragoon”
A Rank “Sprite Sorceress”
”Thunder Unicorn”
“Pegasus Master”
Eagle Master”
B Rank “Elven Mage”
”Ogre Shaman”
“Falcon Master”
”Anaconda Master”
C Rank “Goblin Magician”
”Electric Slime”
“Frog Master”
”Worm Master”
D Rank “Magic Bacteria” “Micro Bee Master”

This is the part where I wanted to talk about the lasting impact of this fantastic game… the truth is it sadly hasn’t had any. Even though it received a warm welcome from gamers and reviewers at the time and continues to be something of a favourite amongst Mega Drive fans Game Arts haven’t revisited the setting at all and there have been no sequels or remakes, official or otherwise. Having said that Game Arts at least still acknowledge Alisia Dragoon’s existence, the official webpage can be found here.

Box insert scan originally from http://inugamia76.web.fc2.com/alisia.html

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One comment on “Retro Greats: Alisia Dragoon

  1. Looks like a great game. Gonna check out some gameplay videos soon.

    Like

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