It was the late 80’s and a truly awesome time to be a gamer with many gaming systems readily available for play from the comfort of your own beanbag. Sure, mention early consoles – and even platform games – and most will recall the likes of those pixelated, cap-wearing, moustache-faced plumbers looking for the princess (but she is in another castle!). Due to the overwhelming popularity of Nintendo, and of course their Super Mario Bros., similar, and somewhat better titles, slipped through gamers’ paws and barely received any noteworthy praise. I know this was the case for myself and my small gaming community growing up as it is only in recent years that I’ve come across the little gem that is The Great Giana Sisters. Yes, you read that right – SISTERS! Not brothers, men, guys… Sisters. Bring on the girl power!
Released in 1987 by Rainbow Arts for the Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, and Commodore 64, The Great Giana Sisters follows the tale of Giana and her sister Maria (of course) who are literally trapped in a nightmare world full of monsters as Giana cannot wake up. It is your job to lead your heroines as they leap through the side-scrolling platform action to find the mystical diamond that will awaken Giana from her frightening slumber while collecting treasures along the way.
Play it solo or take it in turns as each sister, this game’s aesthetics are quite pleasurable: from gameplay, visuals, sounds, music, and controls; anyone can pick up the controller and play with ease as the difficulty slowly increases with level progression. Most importantly, this game is addictive and fun, which makes it a huge shame that a great game such as this was so easily overlooked at the time of release. The developers, Time Warp Productions, were accused by Nintendo under copyright laws for likeness to their pride and joy – Super Mario Bros. – and just as a port to the Spectrum was planned for release, The Great Giana Sisters was pulled from retail shelves to save everyone from the pending lawsuit.
Admittedly, the first stage does really resemble Super Mario Bros. in layout and design. However, one does wonder how much of Nintendo’s forceful legal action was due to their desire to dominate the market and keep those brothers jumping through television sets worldwide.
If you are lucky enough to own an original copy of The Great Giana Sisters on any of the first systems it was released on, treasure it! Due to the withdrawal of sales and therefore limited availability, there are definitely not many in circulation these days. But, remember: “treasure” also means enjoy it! This is a platform game deserving of a full play through. And thanks to a cult following of sorts, many unofficial ports of the game have been released over the years for home computers such as Windows, DOS, Mac, and Linux, after the 1993 version on the Sony MSX. Even a mobile version is currently available for Android phones. Ironically, Nintendo has also recreated the game for the NDS. Thanks to a successfully funded kickstarter campaign, the modern sequel, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams is worthy of play, capturing the essence of the original and launching it into the world of high definition gaming on PC, XBLA, PSN, and Nintendo eShop.
4/5 for diamond-hunting, girl power!