Tower of Druaga: Aegis of Uruk is an anime based on a very old video-game released in 1984 by Namco, and was a maze-based game that ran on the Pacman hardware. It never found a release in Europe, which is probably why I'd never heard of it, but no matter; the animation's game-based roots are very hard to miss.
The anime starts by throwing a curve-ball at you - it begins as an over-the-top parody of the fantasy genre, with young Hero Gill being bamboozled by all the genre stereotypes, including the infamous "if he has plans after the quest he's probably going to die" scenario, that ends with our party desperately trying to stop anyone from announcing anything they have planned post-adventure.
However, it turns out that our main protagonist has been bumped on the noggin and is having a delusional daydream. Once the series starts proper, it's a more earnest affair, though the jokes do keep coming from time to time. In particular one episode has Gill being remote controlled via an arcade pad and ascending the tower from the original game.
Despite all this jovial atmosphere, the series has a serious agenda. Every few years, the monsters within the Tower of Druaga are weakened thanks to the grace of the God Anu, and brave warriors known as "Climbers" ascend the tower to defeat the guardian and render the city safe once more. For their trouble, they will be awarded the Blue Crystal Rod, which will grant one wish.
Gill isn't much of a hero, but he lives in the shadow of his much cooler brother, the Dragon-Slayer Neeba. We follow the parties accompanying both brothers, but the focus is kept on Gill, whose party consists of a washed up aristocratic mage named Melt, his young and far more practical servant-girl Coopa, Ahmey, an experienced soldier, and Kaaya, a sorceress. Due to their rag-tag nature, their ascent through the tower really isn't as smooth as it might otherwise be, but the humour running throughout is good-natured and genuinely endearing.
Series one ends on a major cliffhanger that sees the rules of the entire quest turned on their head, with the deaths in both main parties and strange new alliances formed. It becomes clear that two of the most likable leads have their own agendas, and this certainly causes plenty of satisfying drama.
The dub for the series is fine, but a few voices are on the irritating side, so the Japanese original may be your best bet. The subtitles are actually quite necessary in some episodes as signs are not translated in the English dub, and are therefore unreadable. This is very irritating if you prefer to watch your anime English-dubbed.
Extras are minimal, but what matters is the quality of the series, and it's certainly high here. Animation is solid, the writing tight and the jokes more hit than miss, as a fantasy anime it certainly ranks higher than Slayers in my mind, and the excellent mix of strong female leads and dashing warriors should provide something for guys and gals.
In short, fantasy enthusiasts should certainly pick this up, and there's plenty here for your general anime fan too. Maybe not a treasure, but certainly a gem.