Released in 1988 for the MSX and PC88 in Japan, XZR introduces the anti-hero and protagonist of the series, Sadler, a Syrian Assassin (a Shia Islamic sect) on a journey to kill the Caliph, his father. This is the only game in the XZR/Exile series to never receive a North American release and therefore does not have Exile in its title. The gameplay included action-platform elements, switching between an overhead perspective and side-scrolling sections, while the plot has similarities to the present-day Assassin's Creed video game series.
The game centers around Sadler and his mission to assassinate the Caliph. The intro sequence briefly covers the history of the Middle East from 622 CE, the first year of the Islamic calendar, including a brief description of the Hijra, up until 1104 CE, the year of Sadler's birth. The game then starts in Baghdad, where Sadler rescues Rumi, and follows Sadler to Persia and then Babylon, where he must defend the Euphrates River from pollution by an oil magnate, encounter the Assyrian queen Semiramis and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, and visit the Tower of Babel in search of unicorns, before heading to Alexandria, becoming baptised in a Jewish village, and searching for Ouroboros. Eventually, Sadler makes his way back to Baghdad and murders the Caliph. It is then revealed that the Caliph was his father and they were separated when Sadler was kidnapped as a baby by the Assassins. The game then switches focus and enters a subplot about a Mongol invasion before Sadler is warped to the 20th century, where he must assassinate Soviet Russia's General Secretary and America's President, ending the game.
The main character throughout the XZR/Exile series is Sadler, a young Assassin from Syria. He is depicted as someone who fights against oppression and eventually seeking world peace in the sequel Exile. He is often seen smoking a cigarette. The pink-haired Rumi is Sadler's main love-interest. She is repeatedly kidnapped throughout the series.
Each game in the trilogy is an action role-playing game. The player controls Sadler from a top-down perspective and is able to explore towns and other environments. There is no fighting in the top-down segments. Side-scrolling areas are where the player combats the games' enemies. By fighting enemies, Sadler gains experience points, which increase his attack power and hit points. The player can also purchase items or find them in chests. In addition to hit points and magic points, two more statistics are represented on screen: AP (Attack Power) and AC (Armour Class), which are represented by two wavy lines that move and undulate like a heart monitor. These lines are a visual representation of the randomisation during combat, in contrast to later action RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls series where the randomisation is invisible.
Alongside the religious themes, one controversial aspect of the game is Sadler's usage of drugs. Instead of potions, medical herbs, etc., Sadler uses narcotics such as hashish, coca, opiates, LSD, marijuana and peyote to heal himself or increase other attributes. The player's AP and AC statistics, represented by a heart-monitor, are also affected by the drugs.