Lady Sia is an underappreciated platforming gem with fun gameplay and beautiful art that easily makes it worth playing.
In Lady Sia, you play as the warrior princess that the game is named after, Sia. The story begins with Sia in her castle, having a meeting with the leaders of the three other realms about the attack of the T'soas. As you learn, a powerful wizard named Onimen decides to use the T'soas, who are anthropomorphic enemies modeled after different kinds of animals, to take over the kingdoms of the magic continent of Callyge. During the meeting, Sia is told by her adviser, Barthes, that there are enemy T'soas outside of her castle, and she storms out to combat them. However, it turns out to be a trap, as Sia is ambushed from behind and locked up in a prison. The story in Lady Sia is nothing special, with no noteworthy twists and many hackneyed cliches, but it serves the purpose of the game quite well. It adds to the atmosphere of the game, giving valid and agreeable reasons for why Sia is fighting. And while the story itself is nothing to rave about, the characters of the game, as little as there are, are all very likeable and memorable. Lady Sia does not bring anything new to the table as far as platforming stories go, but what's there is good, and allows the player a larger amount of immersion than he or she would have without it. Combined with the likeable characters, the end result is nothing special, but well done in its own right.
Lady Sia is a very visually appealing game. The art style is a well-concocted mixture of bright colors, fantastical backgrounds, and anime-inspired character designs. Every level is distinctive looking and has a wonderful amount of variety in its color schemes, enemy designs, and level design. Animation is extremely fluid and helps to give enemies more personality in the way they move and attack. In general, the look of the game is simply fantastic, especially considering the game's early release in the GBA's lifespan. There can sometimes be a problem with not being able to tell what can be stood on and what cannot, but this problem does not arise often enough to make a difference, and is not enough of a hindrance as to effect gameplay. Lady Sia, as a whole, excels in the graphics department, treating the player's eyes to a delectable treat as they play, and adds to the charm that the game has to offer.
Lady Sia sounds very good, but has nothing memorable to give. Sound effects, such as the sounds made when landing on a platform or attacking an enemy, are clear and easily distinguishable, but are not excellent enough to go on about. Music presented in Lady Sia is very good, never becoming annoying or angering, but does not give any memorable tunes. While the player will likely enjoy all of the levels' songs when playing, they're nothing that will be stuck in his or her head for weeks to come. In summary, Lady Sia's sound effects are clear, and while the music is of high quality, it is nothing so amazing that the player will have go and download the OST.
The gameplay in Lady Sia is incredibly fun and packs a large amount of action and variety into each level. The main chunk of the gameplay is nothing groundbreaking and has been done before; simply progress through the level, attacking enemies when they come near, and reach the end (and, quite often, fight a boss battle) without dying in the process. While it has been done time and time again, the gameplay is so fun, simple, and enjoyable that unoriginality is easily overlooked. And while a large portion of the game is spent partaking in the normal "jump, attack, repeat" formula, there is enough variety to keep the game interesting. There are many segments that include using a bird to fly around on, avoiding enemies in the process, including a boss battle that consists of racing your bird against your opponent's. There are also larger boss battles where you use Sia in a "Sasquatch" form, in which she becomes much larger and much more vicious. These gameplay mechanics all work quite well in action, and never feel like a chore that you'll simply do to go back to the main gameplay. Bosses as a whole are some of the brightest highlights of the game, as all are very inventive and require a good amount of thinking to overcome.
Another interesting aspect to the gameplay is the ability to use magic in battle. One type of magic you are able to use from nearly the beginning of the game is the ability to hold down the B button and shoot a burst of light that damages any enemies in its path. This attack is incredibly useful, and is often necessary in order to pass many enemies without taking damage. There are three other, more complex types of magic that can be used; the water spell, which makes Sia invincible for 10 seconds; the fire spell, which creates a large explosion that damages all enemies on screen; and the air spell, with targets the nearest enemy and kills it in one hit. Unfortunately, these abilities aren't necessary to use in order to advance in the game, and are more of a hassle to cast than anything. Each spell must be cast by entering a specific combination on the D-Pad, which can be quite inconvenient to do when in combat with an enemy, or when standing on a small platform, where a slight movement can move Sia off the platform. Also, after the initial telling of the combination, the player will be unable to see what the combination is again, meaning that if he or she forgets the combination, the magic will be unusable. The game is also easily finish-able without the magic spells being used, meaning that the majority of players will likely not use it throughout the game. However, despite the uselessness of many of the abilities, Lady Sia still stands as one of the most well-controlled, diverse, and outright fun action platformers on the GBA, and is a blast to play no matter what it is in the game the player is doing.
Lady Sia is not a long game, taking 6 or less hours to beat for many. However, the enjoyment the game brings gives it a high amount of replay value, especially given that the player can unlock a new level on each stage by finishing all of the previous levels on the stage perfectly. Lady Sia also goes for extremely cheap these days, given as how its obscurity does not leave it in high demand. All in all, while not perfect and sticking to a formula without much innovation, Lady Sia is an absolute blast to play through, and anyone that is willing to give this game a chance is likely to be highly charmed by its fun gameplay, beautiful environments, and likeable characters. Lady Sia is a polished, enjoyable title that should not be missed by platforming fans and GBA owners alike.