Review done by TheChoujinVirus
Disclaimer: The reviews I do are based on my opinions and experience with the game. Do not take it
Hey, it’s your boy, Choujin, here!
Everyone remembered some games of their childhood that they’ve played. A lot of people also remembered how some of these games did have female protagonists. Nintendo had Samus Aran as their female protagonist, so what did Sega have in the role of female protagonist games? One game stands out in Sega’s library that does have its own female protagonist called Alisia Dragoon. Created by Games Art (the creator of the Lunar series) and Gainax (creators of anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion) in 1992, the game is for some and timeless experience for childhood, and something overlooked.
Like all games in my time, the lore of it is explained in the instruction manual. Don’t worry, it’s a pretty simple story. You play as Alisia Dragoon, the daughter of a heroic spellcaster who banished an evil god called Baldour to space in a cocoon. In retaliation, Alisia’s father was murdered by Baldour’s followers, the young Alisia’s life spared. Now the dormant god has returned from space, and the remaining forces of Baldour now led by Ornah want to revive their dark master. It’s up to Alisia and her magic to defeat Baldour’s forces and avenge her father’s death.
The game’s mechanics are simple enough, Alisia can attack with lightning magic that can home onto her enemies without needing any form of aiming. If they come into her line of sight, just press the fire button, and the attack will home onto wherever the enemy is. Though holding it for too long can cause her to run out of juice and just humorously shoot tiny sparks in futility. Though if Alisia doesn’t fire her magic, she can unleash a “Rolling attack” where her lightning magic will span across the screen wiping out small enemies and dealing with tremendous damage to more sturdy foes.
Alisia’s journey against the forces of evil isn’t one done alone; Alisia has help from four familiars that travel with her: Dragon Fyre, Ball O’ Fyre, Thunder Raven, and Boomerang Lizard. Each has their own gimmicks and powers to aid to Alisia. Enemies come in the droves and can do damage to Alisia Dragoon and her companions. Run out of HP, and it’s game over for the sorceress (and if your companion is killed, they stay dead for the whole game.) The game provides some items found in winged orbs that will help Alisia and her companions. Potions and Meat heal wounds for the sorceress and her companions. Some power-ups like the HP UP raises Alisia’s health by a new bar (going up to six full bars). The Level Up provides an HP boost and power upgrade (going up to level 3) for the four companions and the rare Revive that can bring back dead companions killed in battle. Other power-ups can turn the tide battle such as fairies that can provide her with temporary invincibility, an unlimited rolling attack for a short duration, even forming platforms to other areas of the map. Lastly, Alisia’s magic can be boosted by an item known as the “lightning power-up” that not only makes her attacks stronger but also changes the lightning’s color. These power-ups and items are vital for your survival through all eight stages in the game.
Shocking Fun: The Good
The game’s pretty simple and doesn’t require you to do anything complex like managing ammo (save for the lightning bar), puzzles, or combos. The auto-aim of Alisia’s magic allows her to kill enemies on screen, and some of her companions’ attacks either home onto enemies or delivers an area of effect. The game’s stages are pretty unique and don’t feel like your normal biomes in some games. You have exciting levels that take you through areas like a swamp, aboard an airship, traveling through a volcanic cave, and even though the bowels of an alien spaceship. Another thing is the enemies in the stage do fit the stage biomes such as robots in the spaceship level or even prehistoric beasts in the mountain stage. Other times, you might find some enemies that are found in multiple stages, but they too are different with some new bag of tricks such as enemy mages that will either pop out of the water in the second stage or a mage that goes full Gemini Man and creates a duplicate to throw fireballs at you. More about the enemies, they can come in droves, like full on rushing droves. It’s a good thing Alisia’s lightning magic doesn’t need aiming. Another great thing about the game is the bosses! A lot of games have innovative bosses, but some that can be forgotten in some games. Alisia Dragoon’s bosses come in different forms that either fit the biome or serves as a transition to the next stage. Some bosses I personally like are Stage 3’s boss, which has you fighting biomechanical creatures that serve as the airship’s defense system, and Stage 6’s boss; a mage who can summon guns against you. Finally, the music of the stage is something I’m fond of. In some games, music is essential for setting the ambiance of a game, and the one thing I like about how the Genesis does with this game’s soundtrack. Each stage (and sub-stage) provide their own soundtrack that gives some unique themes. For example, stage 2’s music has a watery feeling that fits the stage while Stage 4’s music has a bit of a prehistoric/wildlands vibe with the trumpets and even Stage 6’s themes fit entering an abandoned alien ship, the sudden danger of the enemies inside and escaping it. Finally, the game’s cutscenes (though minimalist) do try and give some explanation and even transition to the next stage. Something that’s so simple that doesn’t require some extravagant cinematic experience.
Static Flops: The Bad
Though the game has its benefits and fun, there are some cons to this game. For starters, the game has no save function that lets you pick up where you left off. Should you turn off the game, you have to start all over from stage one (one can complete the game in around an hour, so it’s not something to sneeze at). Though the areas are beautiful biomes that transport you to this mystical world, some levels can be a hazard hell. So if you’re one of those no damage runners who dislike getting hit, this might not be for you as some stages like the second part of Stage 5 can be a nightmare for some people.
Though Alisia has some interesting companions, only one of them I found to be viable (that being Boomerang Lizard and some occasions Thunder Raven. Ball O’Fyre behaves like the one person in a sports game you know isn’t the best but is just there for morality (though he’s good in some neich areas and bosses you don’t want the others to be hurt). Dragon Fyre, though awesome as he is, can only shoot in one direction. He can be useful if you can hit the enemies in front of you.
Otherwise, Thunder Raven or Boomerang Lizard seems to be your better option.
One nagging situation is that some areas can feel very padded through either multiple stages such as Stage 5 and 6 or have very damage sponge soaking bosses (I’m looking at you Summoner from Stage 7). These things can be frustrating if you’re on a tight schedule or a speedrunner, and without a save feature, it can be annoying. One frustrating thing about Alisia Dragoon is that you only have one life, and that’s it. Die, and it’s a game over for you unless you can find those very rare continues that are off the beaten path. Combined with the game’s difficulty (even on Normal) and you have to “git gud” real quickly without getting killed by hazards or being enemy rushed.
Even this game has a unique secret that even I never knew. According to GameFAQ users AlaskaFox and BolerosCloud, if you hold the A button when the Sega Logo vanishes and up until the Games Arts logo shows up, followed by Holding B until the Gainex logo vanishes then lastly holding C until the “Music Composed by” logo disappears. Then requiring a second controller, you can do some things like skip levels, invincibility, and other perks too, though I never got a chance to see it, a Youtuber by the name of digituba managed to show off how it works. It does make things a bit easier by skipping levels, however, requiring you to connect a second controller (or tailoring your emulator to a second controller) can be a pain.
In retrospect, Sega’s the game has some sparks of success and some shortcomings that are like a bad case of static cling, however, I’ve found the game to be an enjoying part of my childhood that reminds me of what made the game and its protagonist exciting to look at. Sure it may not seem like much, but it was one reason why I liked this game.