Landstalker was developed by Climax (the Japanese one- who I think were responsible for the Shining Force series as well), and released in 1993 for the Sega Mega Drive. It was one of the first 16-Mbit cartridges for the system, and was touted as the answer to Sega-owning RPG fans' prayers (anything would be better than Sword of Vermillion!). The game is actually more of an action-adventure than an RPG, with platform elements and real-time combat as well as stats, exploration and puzzles.

The developers wear their Zelda influences on their sleeve (hell, they could probably tailor a dinner suit out of them), from the elf-boy hero (Nigel of Maple) and his fairy assistant (Friday), right down to the "found item" sound effect (da-da-da-DA!). Shigeru Miyamoto must have felt extremely, well, flattered.

Luckily, Landstalker is a damn fine game in its own right. The graphics are absolutely superb, pulling off an isometric effect that's always on the right side of 'boxy', with dozens of detailed characters and monsters. The world, though a little simplified, feels a lot more lived-in than the usual INN-SHOP-CHURCH affairs that grace most console RPGs (although there are still Inns, Shops and Churches. Doh). The music is superb, with the exploration themes being pleasantly hummable and the dungeon music haunting and oppressive (at one point one of the characters even plays you a song he's composed on the piano.... no reason for it, but it's a nice touch). Any game collector looking for a long and challenging adventure (although one requiring a bit of patience) should check this out. (IMHO, current G/MD emulators don't really do the game justice)

Sequels (of sorts) appeared for various platforms, including Lady Stalker for the SNES, and Climax Landers for the Dreamcast.

Bonus Trivia Fact : Apparently, the game was a bigger headache than most for Sega's localisation department. For a start, the game includes copious amounts of text (including written puzzles which had to be creatively translated to something that would be meaningful to a Western audience). There is also one sequence where, in the international versions, the player witnesses events hinting that one of the characters in a town is running a brothel, only to find out that it's all been a humourous misunderstanding and she's really running a ballet school. However in the Japanese version, as legend has it, it turns out to be exactly what you were expecting...