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Zeliard (DOS)

100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  *Katakis* (37800)
Written on  :  Apr 14, 2014
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars

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Get into Zeliard --- because you can

The Good

Zeliard was developed by Game Arts and published by Sierra On-Line. It was originally released in 1987 for the Sharp X1 and NEC PC-8801 computers, but due to the licensing agreements between Sierra and Game Arts, it saw a release in both North America and Europe in 1990 for MS-DOS computers.

In this game, the player controls Duke Garland, a knight who is called upon by King Felishika to recover the Nine Tears of Esmesanti that will lift the curse set onto his daughter by the ancient demon Jashiin, who also causes a sandstorm that has turned the Kingdom of Zeliard into desert. In addition to recovering the Nine tears, Garland must also defeat Jashiin and put him to sleep for another two-thousand years, to restore Zeliard to its former beauty. There is an excellent introduction you can watch before you start the game, which is well written and lasts for ten minutes.

The game reminds me a bit of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, a Master System game that I played years before this one. You enter towns and talk to people, purchase equipment (with golds), and do other tasks like saving your game, doing bank transactions, and resting for your journey ahead. However, the majority of the game takes place inside the caverns filled with Jashiin's minions. Deposing of them leaves behind a thing called almas, which can be exchanged for golds at the bank. There are keys needed to be collected, as well as any miscellaneous items that can help you survive the terrain. A boss needs to be defeated at the end of each cavern to get one of the Tears.

There are about nine caverns, and the first few caverns that you venture through are easy so that you become familiar with their layout. Later caverns become more difficult, with precise timing needed to get to certain platforms. In these caverns, if you mistime a jump, Garland may fall down a great distance, possibly with no hope of returning to that same spot. Enemies in the caverns get more and more difficult to defeat if you don't have the right equipment. I remember these blue dogs in the fire caverns pushing me off the platform I was on, and the only way I could deal with these dogs is to jump over them and kill them with whatever sword I was carrying. Even if you fall off a platform and return to the same platform, the same enemy will often respawn.

Aside from the introduction which also feature nice anime graphics, the graphics (in both the towns and the caverns) are impressive. Most of the towns have mountains that serve as the backdrop, while those located underground have stalactites, and both of these look really good. The status bar tells you how much life you have, your location, and the amount of golds and alma you have. Above the main action area is an indicator of the number of Tears you collected so far. This is very useful as it shows how many bosses you still need to defeat.

Mecano Associates did a wonderful job with the sound. As far as I know, Zeliard was one of the first games where you can use one sound device for music and another for sound effects. (I used the Roland MT-32 and Adlib, respectively). Some of the sound effects are amazing. Giving the player a warning that the boss is behind a locked door, and having the volume of it increasing or decreasing depending on how close you are, is a stroke of genius.

The control system is really simple to learn. You interact with characters, select menu items, and swing swords by pressing [Space] while you press [Alt] to use magic spells. Of course, you use the arrow keys to move your character left or right, and press the up arrow key to make a jump. Swinging your sword while pushing certain arrow keys or jumping causes Garland to swing his sword in all directions, which is most useful for digging through terrain or aiming for a head slash.

Zeliard is the type of game that deserves to be played again, due to the high amount of exploration within the caverns. There are many chests containing health and gold coins that the player might miss the first time, and the player might want to fight through the caverns using swords and magic potions. The more enemies you encounter if you decide to explore the caverns further, the more chance you get heaps of almas.

The Bad

Anytime during the game, you can change weapons, magic, and items if you want a change from using the same ones for quite some time, by pressing [Enter]. However, this becomes tedious because it takes a long time to select anything you want if there are more than ten items in your inventory, and you are likely to select the wrong thing.

In the PC-8801 version, the introduction had the sound of falling rain in the first scene, as well as other sounds such as Felicia's scream as she is turned to stone. This was left out of the MS-DOS version.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, Zeliard is an impressive action adventure game from the makers of Thexder. You start off in towns, buying necessary equipment and other things, then you make your way towards the caverns, finding some way to reach the bosses who hold one of the Nine Tears of Esmesanti. Not only are the graphics great and the sound brilliantly composed, but the text is also in English instead of Japanese, there are more graphics mode, and more than one sound device can be used. All of these accomplishments mean that the MS-DOS version is superior.