ZELIARD / Sierra + Game Arts / PC
Sierra partnered up with Game Arts back in the 1990s to port about five of their titles over to the Western PC format. Of these, the only really good one was Zeliard. Zeliard was so good, however, that it totally makes up for the four other crappy games they gave us.
It is one of the rarest forms of game in existence - a PC action game from the 20th century that still plays smooth and is fun in 2008. Think Zelda 2 meets Ys 3, but the gameplay and level design is better than both of them.
The story is that some evil demon turns a princess to stone and causes 100 days of sand rain on some hapless kingdom, just cause that's how evil demons roll. You play as Duke Garland, wandering hero who happens upon the town and decides to kill the demon, because that's how wandering heroes roll. The demon is sequestered in this huge underground labryinth that you will have to slowly make your way through. Conveniently, there are cavern towns in the labrynth and they are arranged just so that there's one between each major boss encounter! Awesome.
OK, so the setup and story are about as generic as they come. Doesn't matter. This game is all about smooth gameplay, challenging mazelike levels and a great soundtrack (possibly composed by the same guy that did the soundtracks for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Alisia Dragoon and Silpheed). The art is really only passable at best, but I like the little details, such as how the people in town react to things that you do and have fairly fluid animation.
The jumping control could stand to be better but that is about the only nitpick I can come up with in what is a really fun action-RPG hybrid that predated the whole Symphony of the Night thing by a good six or seven years. Good job Zeliard, with your crazy dwarf-chasing-frogs box cover.
* Zeliard download page
* Zeliard Fan Site
* Gameplay video