We’re continuing our coverage of Gainax’s video games, be sure to check out Part 1 if you haven’t already! While they are best known for their groundbreaking anime series such as Gunbuster, Gurren Lagann, and, of course, Evangelion, the plucky otaku studio got into the games industry in a big way starting in the late 80s, producing many titles, primarily eroge and visual novels for Japanese PCs. In this second article, we’ll be touching on their major releases from the 90s onwards. Let’s go!
5. Fushigi no Umi no Nadia (Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water)
- System: NEC PC-98, later FM Towns, Sharp X68000
- Publisher: Gainax
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: February 27, 1992
Starting off with something more recognizably Gainax, Fushigi no Umi no Nadia is a graphical adventure game based on the Gainax anime series of the same name which, in turn, is loosely based on the works of Jules Verne, particularly his classic sci-fi adventure novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. The game’s story follows the later episodes of the anime after teenage protagonists, French inventor-adventurer Jean and mysterious runaway circus girl Nadia, have joined forces with Captain Nemo aboard his marvelous submarine, Nautilus.
Unlike many of Gainax’s previous games, Nadia eschews sexual content to faithfully adapt one of their first big anime hits. With striking graphics and masterful character design by the illustrious Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, who is also a founding member of Gainax, the story of Nadia works well as an adventure game, making this a fun way to re-experience the story.
4. Alisia Dragoon
- System: Sega Genesis/Mega Drive
- Publisher: Game Arts (JP), Sega (NA), Tec Toy (BR)
- Developer: Game Arts, Gainax
- Release Dates: March 1992; JP: Apr 24, 1992
Besides the Princess Maker games, Alisia Dragoon is probably the game most likely to be recognized outside of Japan that Gainax has worked on as well as their first title to get a console release in the West. Alisia Dragoon represents a pretty big departure from what both Gainax and Game Arts are known for making, that being visual novels and RPGs respectively, and is a unique game in and of itself. A fast-paced shooter-platformer with a cool selectable monster companion system and science fantasy/steampunk-ish setting, Alisia Dragoon is a very solid and challenging experience.
You play as the titular Alisia, a beautiful badass sorceress with lightning magic fighting to avenge her father who was killed by an evil god called Baldour. With the help of four different monster companions, Dragon Frye, Ball O'Fire, Thunder Raven, and Boomerang Lizard, players have to manage Alisia’s magical attacks, which autofire on enemies and charge up over time, in order to make their way through the environments, defeating baddies and collecting power-ups along the way. With gameplay that feels both innovative and decidedly classic in 16-bit action fashion, great music, and cool character designs, Alisia Dragoon had the makings of being a big hit but, unfortunately, is more of a hidden gem thanks to lackluster marketing in America and the small Mega Drive user base in Japan. Nevertheless a great game, and one with fantastic Japanese box art we might add!
- System: Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System
- Publisher: Asmik
- Developer: Jorudan, Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: April 24, 1992; US: 1992
While Gainax only provided assistance for this game, we still think it’s worth mentioning this “mechavania” title. Xardion takes place in a sci-fi universe where three previously-warring alien planets—Aquata, Zikar, and Feira—have come to a truce in order to fight an even greater enemy that threatens them all, horrific invaders from NGC-1611. Each planet sends a mech and pilot to fight that each has their own style ranging from a pretty standard but still cool humanoid, a bright red insectoid that attacks with antenna, and a lion-like quadruped that can fit under low places like Samus’ morph ball. Overall, Xardion is really ambitious with multiple characters, a dark and serious story, RPG elements, and cool visual design and music but suffers from some design flaws that lead to excessive grinding to hide its otherwise short length.
- System: PC-Engine CD
- Publisher: NEC
- Developer: Gainax, Studio Alex
- Release Dates: JP: November 25, 1994
The curiously named Götzendiener, which means “idolator” in German, is a quirky isometric dungeon-crawler most notable for its story (and Gainax involvement). An abducted princess named Misa is trapped deep within the Demon God’s dungeon, leading the king to send his knights to rescue her. A dramatic final battle with the Demon God leaves both him and the king’s army defeated so the princess herself picks up the sword of the slain knight commander to escape the dungeon. Götzendiener is an interesting game with some unusual design decisions that make it play more like an adventure title. While combat is real-time, other things, like jumping, are all handled automatically and there’s also a focus big on environmental puzzles and some RPG elements.
Götzendiener might not be a masterpiece but is definitely still a cool part of Gainax’s legacy and a great reversal of the played-out damsel in distress narrative. It also features nice graphics that remind us of some modern indie titles going for the retro look and a pretty cool magic system that lets you do stuff like possess enemies.
1. Shinseiki Evangelion Koutetsu no Girlfriend (Neon Genesis Evangelion: Girlfriend of Steel)
- System: Windows, later Saturn, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PSP
- Publisher: Gainax, Sega (Saturn), CyberFront (PlayStation 2 and PSP)
- Developer: Gainax
- Release Dates: JP: July 11, 1997
One of many, many Evangelion games that would follow in the wake of the iconic mecha series, Koutetsu no Girlfriend is actually the third Eva game after the Saturn titles simply called Shinseiki Evangelion and SE: 2nd Impression. Those games were developed by SEGA-AM2 and did not involve Gainax beyond using parts of the original anime. Koutetsu no Girlfriend, however, was a proper new game, a visual novel telling an original story set in the Eva universe where Shinji encounters a new transfer student named Mana Kirishima who is romantically interested in him and turns out to be part of a similar group of test pilots competing with the Evangelions. Koutetsu no Girlfriend was well received, even winning "Best Interactive Software" Award at Animation Kobe in 1997 and remains one of their most well-known games.
It’s a bit beyond the scope of this article to include every other Evangelion game but some other highlights made by Gainax include Ayanami Ikusei Keikaku (Ayanami Raising Project), a Princess Maker-esque simulation game where you raise Rei Ayanami, a spiritual sequel to Koutetsu no Girlfriend that plays out in the romantic-comedy Eva universe from the end of the TV series, and Ikari Shinji Ikusei Keikaku (Shinji Ikari Raising Project) which basically fuses the above games into a raising sim set in that same universe but this time with Shinji.
Wrapping it Up - Final Thoughts
Without going into too much detail, Gainax would be involved in a handful of other projects down the line including an original adult title called Animal Magnetism ~Pochi no Daisuki~, an eroge game with animal girls that called back to Battle Skin Panic with card battle mechanics, Mahoromatic ☆ Adventure, another visual novel based on Mahoromatic, and a Seikai no Senki (Banner of the Stars) visual novel based on the anime series. The studio has also contributed animation work to games such as Magic Pengel, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, and Jeanne d'Arc. Gainax’s latest game release was Princess Maker 5 in 2007 which also got an English release on Steam in 2018!
Gainax is one of the most intriguing anime studios out there and their games are certainly part of that! While it seems they’ve slowed down a bit in modern times, we’d love to see what the new talent at Gainax might bring us. Let us know your own thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, obscure anime video games and otherwise! Take care of yourself!