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PC video game, 1990. One of many games to be released in America through the partnership of Sierra and Japanese publisher Gamearts, Zeliard was either an RPG with heavy platform elements or a platform game with light RPG elements. Zeliard introduced the player to the magical kingdom of Felishika, in the holy land of Zeliard. After two thousand years of imprisonment beneath the earth, the demon Jashiin began to wake, and sent a burning rain of sand to blight the holy land. He turned King Felishika's daughter Felicia to stone, and stole the Tears of Esmesanti, the magical crystals which Felicia's ancestors had used to imprison him long ago. The holy spirit of Zeliard heard the King's prayers for the return of his daughter, and answered them in the form of a wandering knight, Duke Garland, who took on the sacred mission of retrieving the jewels, defeating the demon, and, yes, saving the princess.

The player controlled Duke Garland through eight side-scrolling caverns of monsters, each with a unique theme: dirt, stone, forest, ice, blood, gold, fire, and wind. The interesting thing about these labyrinthine caverns is the way they looped: Garland could make his way to the left side of the cavern by moving constantly right, and to the top side of the cavern by moving constantly down. The caverns were, in effect, mapped onto a torus. This, coupled with the irregularity of the caverns, made it seem as if they went on forever. Oddly enough for a Japanese game, the caverns were named in Spanish. Each cavern had its own theme-appropriate boss monster, also with a Spanish name.

Serving as buffers between the caverns and as places of rest were a series of towns - some aboveground, and some buried beneath the earth by Jashiin's evil power. Many of the people in these towns were willing to help you, especially the village sages, but as the player progressed closer to Jashiin's palace the locals became less and less friendly.

As Garland, the player used a number of pieces of equipment and magic spells to progress in the caverns. The obligatory sword and shield were present, along with an eight-item inventory that could hold one-use items like the sword-honing Sabre Oil or the protective Magia Stone barrier. These could be bought in town with "almas," the life-forces of monsters the player had defeated. After completing each cavern the player could pay a visit to the nearest village sage to receive a few more hit points and a new magical spell - in effect, a level-up. The magic spells had diverse effects: while espada, the first spell, projected a weak magical blast a short distance, the last spell, guerra, killed every enemy on screen. The spells, like the caverns, had Spanish names. In addition to all this there were a series of garments for the player to collect, which eased his journey through the game.

On the whole, Zeliard was a lot of fun, but extraordinarily difficult. Players had to be almost supernaturally agile to pass some of the later caverns, and the mazelike nature of the levels made navigation without a map nigh-on impossible. I started playing it on and off in 1991, and only finished it recently. Though it's largely forgotten even by the Internet, it can still be found for download at some abandonware sites.

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