After the success of Shrek - Fairytale Freakdown,
TDK Mediactive have opted for an original character
for their GameBoy Advance debut. Lady Sia is a Warrior
much like Zena. She can run, jump, climb, fight with
a multitude of powerful weapons. She can even do magic.
The question is, does she make for a good game?
Lady Sia is set in 24 very varied levels of platform
adventure spanning over four worlds. Actually terming
it a 'platform' title is possibly doing it an injustice
as there really is far more to it than that. In the
first world things start simple, finding everything
and completing the objectives set should provide little
problem. It's also very difficult for the main character
to fall to her death as she appears very athletic. Altitude
alone will not damage you at all. Water, fire and spikes
all will though, and water in particular will kill you
instantly. The levels do get increasingly difficult
as you jump from world to world and even though your
main character can look up and down you'll still, at
times, employ a leap of faith. This won't always be
a success and can make levels a little repetitive when
starting over a number of times but, hey, that's what
platform games are all about.
One thing that all levels do have in common is their
core objective i.e. to get 100 percent on completion
of a level. It doesn't matter if you don't but doing
so opens up even more levels. To achieve this you must
collect the various crystals and rescue all the hostages.
The games map does, however, allow you to return to
any level to have another attempt at a perfect score.
There are some minor problems with Lady Sia and unless
you're watching what you're doing the whole experience
can become very frustrating through no fault of your
own. Firstly, whenever Sia gets hurt she won't scream
or stumble but her health will deplete and unless you're
aware what's happening you'll find yourself dead in
no time at all by standing on something you believe
is completely harmless. There's also the attack mode.
Occasionally you may have to perch yourself on a rock
or pole in order to attack an enemy. The problem here
is that when you swing your sword you move forward,
three or four swings and you're in the water, on the
spikes or falling miles away from what you're trying
to hit. Finally, end of level bosses are a little easy
and rather than employing the right combination of jumps
and sword swings, it's usually a matter of finding the
weak spot and hitting it 3 times. It can all be over
in a matter of seconds.
The gamescreen contains a great deal of information
but never gets cluttered. There's your life, which is
represented by a heart, actual lives left and hostages
rescued. TDK have wisely taken the best option for saving
and provided the game with a built-in battery which
saves your progress automatically after the completion
of each level. There are four save slots and one 'guest'
slot which has no save capability.
Your general controls are pretty simple to master
and as well as the usual 'D-pad' for directional use,
'A' and 'B' for jump and action are in use here. Things
get a little more complicated as you progress through
the game. For example, holding down the 'L button' allows
you to creep around so as to not wake sleeping guards.
You'll also have to master various button combinations
for casting spells in order to complete your quest.
There is, however, a wonderful little option which allows
a tutorial mode to be switched on or off. This can be
of great use when you first play as a whole range of
gameplay tricks will be shown to you including advanced
movement. The 'help' in question actually materialises
as a cloaked figure who follows you around, just don't
do what I did and kill him.
The graphics throughout are wonderful and although
a great deal of the media and even the TDK promotional
material lead you to believe that they are anime-style,
they're not. They actually resemble classic 'Asterix
the Gaul' artwork from the various environments Sia
will encounter to the characters on screen. The use
of colour is extremely pleasing to the eye and you'll
be convinced at times that you're actually playing a
living comic book. The animation is also of a very high
quality with the main character doing a variety of moves
with ease and smoothness. In addition to this, sections
of the background are animated such as rope bridges
that sway and flags that flap in the wind. Even when
the on-screen sprites become larger there's no feeling
of slow down or compromise on the quality of the game.
Sound & Music
There's a very cinematic theme to all the music,
which is incredibly clear and every track appears to
have been composed to match a given level theme. The
various incidental sounds that you sometimes have to
rely upon to indicate that something dangerous is lurking
around the corner are also very well done. A really
nice feature here though is in the options where you
can not only turn the music and sound effects on or
off but can even alter their volumes to get the sound
just right. Developers take note.
Overall, this should be just what you're looking
for in a GBA platform game. Great graphics, sound and
gameplay. Everything appears to be pitched just right
and, minor niggles aside, this would be hard to improve
upon. It also features some of the best dialogue I've
seen in a game which helps to push the story on at a
very pleasing pace. This is a great start to the GameBoy
Advance game catalogue from TDK and remember, this is
the first generation titles so just imagine what we'll
be in for in a few years time.