It should be noted here that the American and European versions of the game have a slightly altered story. In these versions Alisia is a gladiator who fights for justice and the good of the people, aided by her four beast friends. When a strange ‘silver star’ falls to Earth a group of power hungry monk-types decide to awaken the evil within, thinking it will help them take over the world. Of course, Alisia rises to the challenge of stopping them.
Looking at screenshots of Alisia Dragoon you can be forgiven for taking it for a fairly standard 16-bit platformer, albeit with a high fantasy setting. Indeed, the platforming in the game is not terribly challenging at all and will most likely give no trouble to those who have played platformers previously. Where Alisia really shines, however, is in its combat. Alisia’s main form of attack are the aforementioned lightning bolts that fire from her hands. These work on a kind of power reserve system. When Alisia is not attacking the bolts power reserves charge. When fired Alisia’s power reserves drain until they are exhausted and you must wait for them to recharge once more. Thankfully this doesn’t take long as it can be quite stressful running out of power during one of the game’s boss battles. When at full power, the first blast from Alisia’s lightning causes a rolling bolt of power which circles the entire screen, killing all it touches. In a nice touch, Alisia’s lightning bolt splits and automatically targets the closest two enemies. Throughout the game you can collect upgrades to give Alisia even more lightning power which not only increases the bolt’s strength but also allows it to split more times and therefore kill more enemies with a single blast.
Added to her lightning powers Alisia also has the help of four ‘beasts’ which assist her throughout the game. Alisia can only have one beast by her side at a time so much of the strategy of the game is based around knowing which beast is the best to use on any given level or boss fight. Each of the beasts have various strengths and weaknesses. For example the dragon has powerful shots but it a bit slow and stupid, sometimes firing when there are no enemies.The raven, on the other hand, has a lot of health but only fires once when its power meter is fully charged, yet his attack wipes out all enemies on screen. Some of your beasts will also open up secret areas if you have them fire in the right spot and different enemies are vulnerable to different beasts. This strategy really comes into play in the boss fights as having the right beast by your side can make things much easier for you. You will find, however, that one best isn’t enough for some of the bosses - particularly the later ones - so you’ll be constantly switching between them during battles. All of this amounts to combat system that, while it may sound a little complicated, is quite fluid and very, very enjoyable. Figuring out which beast to use when is great and when you’ve got it it’s very satisfying to blow through a level using these tactics.
The game’s graphics are quite nice with large, detailed sprites and interesting enemy designs. Some of the environments could have been a little more imaginative but it’s nothing so bland that you’ll find yourself getting bored. The bosses are all marvelous to look at and they give off an appropriate feeling of “oh, shi.....” the first time you see them. The game’s music is also very nice and fits the setting and feel of the game perfectly. This reviewer found himself humming the title tune on more than one occasion. The design of the levels is also quite good with many secrets and some levels having alternate paths. Alisia Dragoon is very much a game you need to explore to find all the power ups and other collectables.
For what the game may lack in platforming action and level aesthetics it more than makes up for with its combat. Alisia is a joy to control and there is genuine fun to be had blasting away at the many, many enemies that face you. Latter levels get quite tough and it’ll take a while for you to discover all of the hidden items the game offers. Add to this a wonderfully complex yet simple to use combat system and you have a brilliant game on your hands that is well worth the $10-$20 it goes for on eBay. If you’re a fan of platforming, fantasy or zap-em-ups then this should be in your collection.
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