Alisia Dragoon, Megadrive/Genesis

Alisia Dragoon is a fantasy, side-scrolling run-and-gun shooter with platforming elements, developed by Game Arts in collaboration with Japanese animation studio Gainax. It was released exclusively for the Sega Megadrive/Genesis in 1992.

Instead of shooting bullets, though, the lead character (Alisia) fires auto-aiming lightning bolts from her hands. She also has four companion dragons that fight with her as she walks and these can be changed by pressing Select and activating one of them. Each dragon has a different kind of attack, some of which are more effective than others in certain situations, so it’s up to you to work out how best to use them.

Alisia‘s lightning bolts are interesting in that they are most effective when fully charged. A blast from a fully-charged beam will hit all enemies on screen at once. As they are used they deplete in power and this is shown as a bar at the top of the screen. To recharge Alisia‘s beam you simply stop using it for a short while and wait for it to replenish. Alisia‘s beam can also be upgraded by collecting special power-ups – as can the attacks of the dragon companions – and the current weapon level is shown next to the charge meter.

Both Alisa, and her dragon companions, have limited life energy, which is shown as a series of extendable ‘HP’ capsules at the top of the screen. If this reaches zero for either of them, they’ll die, so you have to keep topping them back up by collecting health power-ups. If one of your dragon companions dies you’ll lose them until you can find a revive power-up, so it’s a good idea to swap your dragon for another less injured one until you can replenish its health. You can also choose to fight with no dragon present at all if you like.

There are eight separate levels in Alisia Dragoon and each has a boss battle at the end. The gameplay is fairly straightforward: blast everything in sight; keep everyone alive; don’t fall into any holes, and beat the bosses into submission. Alisia Dragoon‘s first two levels I thought were gradually curved in difficulty, but the third level I found much more challenging. The key to making things easier is to make sure you find all the power-ups that boost your weapon effectiveness. There’s no level timer, so you can take the time you need to explore, but if you miss any weapon power boosts then enemies take longer to kill, which can be a real problem on later levels.

Alisia Dragoon wasn’t a commercial success when it first came out, but it has grown into a cult game over the decades. Graphically, it’s excellent, with colourful, detailed backdrops and first-rate animation. The music is good too. Most importantly: the gameplay is challenging and fun, with responsive controls, plenty of destruction, and some nice touches.

More: Alisia Dragoon on Wikipedia

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