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by TDK Mediactive

Sia-Transformation.jpg (8197 bytes)Give me a side-scrolling, platform-jumping, kill all enemies game for the GBA, and chances are I’ll give you a sad puppy dog look. We’ve seen so many truly horrible side-scrollers come out for Game Boy systems that it’s almost soured me on the experience as a whole. Even the greats are horribly flawed – I have yet to finish Castlevania: Circle of the Moon for GBA because it’s just way too dark. Earthworm Jim and Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure were beautiful to look at, but featured those horrible password saves. Rayman for the GBA was good, but it was just another Rayman. I know I’m in the minority, but I’m getting bored with the same old same old. And if we go back to the tripe that was released for Game Boy Color, then we’re just going to dig up traumatic memories of repetitive muscle strain and intense boredom. It’s harder than it looks to make a good side-scrolling, platform-jumping, action-adventure game.

Sia-2moleman4.24-01.jpg (4424 bytes)Here’s where TDK Mediactive comes in. Before I even mention Lady Sia, which is what this review is all about, I’d like to note that TDK is new to the gaming marketplace, and they’re definitely one of the publishers to keep an eye on. Their biggest hit this year might be the Shrek title they’re developing for Xbox, or it could be Pryzm: The Dark Unicorn. Regardless of what succeeds or doesn’t, TDK Mediactive has taken a unique approach to developing games. On the one hand, you could call these titles "girl games", some folks will and have. But these are really "people" games – they focus on story and problem solving, and they are unique. Lady Sia is a perfect example of how TDK Mediactive can make a game that appeals to girls without excluding boys and doesn’t rely on a pink box to get the job done.

Sia.dungeon4.24-01.jpg (4673 bytes)Lady Sia is the defender of the world, of course. That’s nothing new. She must fight to save her land and people from the evil T’Soa, beastmen who have invaded and taken over. To do so, Lady Sia travels to four worlds, exploring 36 levels, and making use of a whole arsenal of abilities. She is not the standard large-breasted, scantily-clad superheroine-cum-drag queen that we’re used to seeing in videogames. She is tough, driven, and part Sasquatch. What more do you want?

Sia-battles-Foxwoman.jpg (6525 bytes)Gameplay seems fairly standard at first. You progress through levels by jumping, climbing, hitting switches, and riding pulleys. The first level is a tutorial, which does a great job getting you situated to play Lady Sia. Levels are well-designed and colorful. The graphics are very nice throughout – bright colors make the game easy to play, and the style is similar to American cartoons. That aesthetic choice is emblematic of the game’s resistance of the typical – conventional wisdom would dictate that your fantasy adventure game should have anime styled visuals. Throughout, there are nice little visual embellishments, such as spinning windmills, the way Lady Sia wobbles at the edge of a platform or pulls herself up with her sword, and various other animated touches that make the levels come to life.

Sia-Slash.jpg (5675 bytes)Initially, you have the basic attack and jump buttons at your disposal. You can also throw switches and shoot a wimply magic attack. By the end of the game you will be casting spells, shooting huge energy balls, using attack combos, sneaking around, and even turning into a Sasquatch. If it gets any better, somebody please tell me how. Enemies are not easy, and you are often confronted with several at a time. Rather than the hack-and-slash, charge through the opposition, method of play, a more strategic approach yields much better results. In addition to just walking and jumping around, Lady Sia also rides a bird, and the combination of flying and walking helps to further diversify gameplay.

Sia-dealing-deathblow.jpg (9219 bytes)The game is pretty linear – you move from one level to another, one world to the next. To keep things interesting, Lady Sia’s skills are distributed throughout the game. The new skills allow you to conquer increasingly difficult levels and force you to be aware of your strategy throughout. The storyline is good, although nothing revolutionary, unless you count the fact that the protagonist is female. But that doesn’t come up too much – Lady Sia is, basically, another knight in shining armor (albeit with a skirt). Some reviewers have complained about the fact that Lady Sia moves towards opponents as she fights them, which can sometimes cause her to fall off a narrow ledge or become more entangled in the melee, both with negative results. I don’t see how this is so much different from the fact that Mario skids to a stop, resulting in the same things. It’s a quirk, but not necessarily a bad one, and one that can be worked around.

Sia.lava4.25-01.jpg (9819 bytes)What makes Lady Sia stand out is not so much the "girl power" aspect of the game. That’s great, but not revolutionary. Girls and women are already playing videogames, and they’re playing the same games as the boys. Lady Sia perhaps will appeal more to a female audience, but no less to a male audience, who have embraced characters like Lara Croft and Samus wholeheartedly. What makes Lady Sia unique is how much fun the game is to play. The distribution of her combat skills across the levels, as well as the variety in her strategic options, gives this platformer more longevity than the average. The storyline, while not totally original or inspiring, is thoughtful and cohesive, which gives the player a sense of duty and obligation (gotta save those worlds).

Sia.Air.4.26-01.jpg (8792 bytes)Overall, Lady Sia is a game that any fan of sidescrollers or action-adventure titles should check out. It may hold special appeal for younger audiences or female audiences, but this 26 year old man still had a blast with it. Appealing visuals, a good story, excellent combat system, and lots of play time make Lady Sia a title you don’t want to miss.

Shawn Rider   (11/03/2001)


Ups: Great graphics; excellent combat system; requires thought and strategy; modern sensibility.

Downs: Control can take a bit to get used to.

Game Boy Advance