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Lady Sia (Game Boy Advance) artwork

Lady Sia (Game Boy Advance) review


"Lady Sia is a visually stunning, solid hack n’ slash platformer that has everything going for it except marketability. Perhaps if Sia had looked more like Lara Croft and had been dating a guy with spikey hair named Cloud this game would have gotten more attention, however it seems destined to remain one of those underdogs that not many people know about but those who do feel very lucky to have played. "



Lady Sia is a visually stunning, solid hack n’ slash platformer that has everything going for it except marketability. Perhaps if Sia had looked more like Lara Croft and had been dating a guy with spikey hair named Cloud this game would have gotten more attention, however it seems destined to remain one of those underdogs that not many people know about but those who do feel very lucky to have played.

Sia is a spunky blond swordswoman who can turn into a sasquatch-like creature at will and also happens to be the ruler of a kingdom. When her realm gets attacked by the ruthless T’soas, it’s up to Sia to unite the other kingdoms against the invaders and defeat them once and for all.

The game spans four areas with numerous sub-levels, each rendered in gorgeous water-color style graphics that border on being cartoonish but in an artsy and sophisticated way. Lady Sia is a game that takes full advantage of the gameboy advance’s hardware capabilities and boasts highly detailed backgrounds and characters, independently scrolling backgrounds and foregrounds, and several scaling and rotating effects. The water-color style presents a clarity and lightness that work very well on the gba’s screen, and generally darkness is not an issue except on one or two levels that take place at night.

Unfortunately, the sound is something that does suffer somewhat due to hardware limitations. Although none of the musical themes really stood out for me, and some of them seemed a little on the childish side, they definitely would have made a better impression had they not sounded so crunchy and trebly, for which the platform has to take some of the blame.

Sia’s main method of attack is her sword, and she has several different slashes and chops as well as combination moves. She can also shoot bolts of energy from her sword by holding down the attack button and releasing it, and has limited access to magic (once the spells are unlocked by defeating the relevant boss.) I found that there were only few occasions where I actually used magic; there are only a handful of spells and the game can easily be completed without using them at all. Casting a spell involves a combination of directional pad movements and hitting buttons which I found too bothersome to try and master, given the superfluous nature of the magic in the first place.

I didn’t miss the magic at all though, because the sword is a joy to use and Sia’s movements are very smooth and fluid to watch. Not only that but she has some of the cutest idle animations I’ve seen in a game, including using the tip of her sword as a toothpick, making a call on a cellphone, and fixing her ponytail. It’s the little touches of detail like this that show how much the developers cared about this project, and it shows almost everywhere else as well.

The enemies Sia encounters are mainly the different types of T’soas, which resemble large bipedal rats. They have fairly predictable attack patterns, although there are many different types of them to keep things interesting: some wield sword, others cast spells, and others will chuck pumpkins and other projectiles. There is the odd puzzle, vehicle riding and giant bird racing as well as some other surprises. Sia is not just an average walk-from-one-side-of-the-screen-to-the-other action game.

There are also a certain number of jewels to collect in each level, and getting them all (as well as satisfying some other criteria) will unlock bonus stages. So like Mario World, for example, once Lady Sia has been “beaten,” there are still reasons to go back and play through the levels.

Lady Sia is fairly challenging, and the game automatically saves after completion of a stage (a must for any gameboy game that is serious about itself). My one significant complaint was that the boss battles were a little on the long side, not because they were terribly hard, but because they involved a repetitious attack pattern that could take a while to play out each time, especially given that most bosses required five hits to die. If not this, then it was that the battles required some special technique that was not always obvious and could take time to figure out. Either way, the boss battles were the least enjoyable part of Lady Sia for me.

Overall though, Lady Sia comes highly recommended. Despite the fact that it might not be mainstream enough for some people, it’s a charming and beautiful game that deserves more recognition.

Rating: 8/10

alecto's avatar
Community review by alecto (January 25, 2003)

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