Little oddities: Early Alisia Dragoon?

I’ve always been a big fan of Game Arts Mega Drive action-platformer Alisia Dragoon, an excellent action game that’s sadly fallen down the retro cracks. Although it’s not been re-released in some form (possibly due to the Gainax/Mecano Associates legal wrangling that might cause) or even turned up as some phoned-in iOS sequel it’s not been forgotten by its creators, still having a little webpage all to itself twenty-one years after it was first published.

Knowing Game Arts still acknowledge its existence gave me that nice fuzzy feeling inside, but what really caught my eye were the three screenshots they used – they all look like they’re from an unreleased and undumped early version of the game! They’re irritatingly small, but there’s still enough in there to make them more than worth looking at. I’ve had a play through the Japanese and PAL versions of the game on normal and hard before writing this as well as what’s described as a Japanese beta just to make sure I’m not mis-remembering anything, but do correct me if I’m wrong.

(Beta images on the left)

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First off we have this scene that matches up most closely to stage 1-1, but there are still plenty of changes here -

Alisia herself has a different standing pose, and her outfit throughout all these early images appears to be entirely pinky/orange rather than blue at the top.

The background trees are in the same sort of position but far less detailed and missing the green highlights in the beta. The err… back-background is an unused green instead of the blue mountains from the text intro at the very start of the game. Possibly even less interesting than slightly different tree trunks is the ground – it’s much higher in the early screenshot and slopes up at the left.

The enemies pictured here don’t appear at all in stage 1-1 but later in 1-3 and even then they look like they’ve had a recolour and a redesign. They also never jump (see the enemy on the left in the beta screen) and they don’t appear in a flash the way the chap on the far right of the beta screen appears to be doing. Have a look at the final version below for comparison -

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Still with me? Good, because there’s two more screenshots to go! Next up is the neat little “cutscene” bit where White Robed Priest Guy taunts Alisia and then takes off with Evil Egg full of Sleeping Super Bad Guy. As before, beta/early/mockup/whatever it is shot on the left.

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There’s one massive hit-you-in-the-face difference here, and that’s that Alisia never fights in this place, while the beta screenshot makes it look as if she was once meant to. White Robe Guy has also impressively gained the ability to fly in the final instead of standing on a little spikey hoverpod-thingy (which is in itself different from the hoverthingies used in stages 2 and 3 of the final), and his sprite is completely different.

The background seems identical or as near as dammit, although the UI obscures the top of it in the final – perhaps indicating that the UI was missing in the early version rather than the image coming from a cropped screenshot. Other scenery changes are the Evil Egg plinth, changed from smooth brushed metal to something more Aliens-like and Evil Oppressive Folks have had the time to go and retile the floor between builds.

The orange enemies themselves bugged me for a bit because they looked familiar but I couldn’t place them… until I remembered the end of stage 1 bosses.

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They’ve been reworked and had their weapons changed but they’re definitely what became of the two seen in the beta egg chamber.

If you’ve made it this far – congratulations! You’re either incredibly patient, polite, or a gamer that can’t resist peering at bad images of beta content, thank you! The final image is from stage 2, and looks at first glance pretty much the same as the final. There’s one glaring difference though…

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Look at the yellow Pacman guy! He’s not in the final game at all! Looking at the way he’s constructed and the leaping arc he seems to be making he *might* have ended up looking a lot less colourful and a lot more like this -

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- but that’s just a guess on my part. The lily pads are also rearranged and the water’s lower in the final (and the fog appears to be missing in the early version); Alisia’s jumping pose looks different too.

Ooh wait one more thing – there’s a decaying tree trunk missing on the left of the beta! Be still my beating heart! *faints*

Got any further information? Corrections? Want to talk about how ace Alisia Dragoon is? Leave a comment below!