Considered by many to be the best game on the Sega Saturn, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a level-grinding RPG set in a world where people fly dragons (so God knows why it is called “Dragoon” – other than bad translation!).
It was first released in 1998 and was in development for two years.
According to Wikipedia: it is the only Panzer Dragoon game that is not an ‘on-rails’ shooter. I can’t yet verify that as I haven’t played the rest, but I do know that Panzer Dragoon Saga is fantastic. And well worth a look-up.