Proof that classics can be reborn as elegantly as a phoenix.
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Despite the fact that the game is now over four years old, I thought that I would review Prince of Persia for two reasons. The first of which is that the series is starting to see a revival in popularity and hype due to both the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer produced PoP movie, and rumors of another Prince of Persia trilogy similar to Ico and Zelda; the other reason is simply because I love the Prince of Persia series, and I don't understand why people who played games like Tomb Raider didn't appreciate them. Hopefully, this review will garner a smidgen of interest and add a fan or two to the Prince's epic adventures.
The plot of Prince of Persia is fairly simple at the onset, but it gets the job done. The Prince and his father manage to conquer and capture the denizens of a nearby India while passing through, aided by a traitorous vizier. In exchange, the vizier asks only for a special dagger, though the Prince's father refuses, as his son was the first to find said treasure. The dagger is the key to unlocking the secrets of a gigantic hourglass which can control the titular 'Sands of Time' themselves, meaning that someone in control of the dagger with the hourglass opened could control time itself. Tricking the Prince into opening the hourglass, all hell breaks loose and soon the only people left unharmed from the influence of the Sands' power are the vizier, the Prince and the Maharaja's daughter Farah.
Ultimately the Prince first starts simply trying to make sense of it all, but eventually the game grows into a quest to set right what was made wrong. The story is fairly standard, but it does take a few unexpected twists and turns that I won't spoil for any potential players. What I will say however, is that the majority of the story is told not through cut scenes, but rather through actions and dialog in the game, making it a far more interactive experience than many other games even now. This is especially evident in the Prince's monologues, as he is apparently telling the story to someone. (You frequently hear "That's not how it happened" whenever the player dies prematurely). It works quite well, and more than a few developers could learn from Ubisoft. It makes me especially eager for the upcoming Assassin's Creed.
Where Prince of Persia: SoT truly shines though is in the gameplay itself. Although the Prince may not have many actual commands on the controller, he is still able to run, roll, duck, jump, swim, climb, fight and perform the unique wall run action. Rather than being completely about fighting sand monsters like in an action game, or doing nothing but going through the environment and solving puzzles like in a traditional adventure game, Sands of Time combines the two genres splendidly. The majority of the game involves using both action and brains, usually just trying to avoid traps and pitfalls while getting to the game's next area. The Prince proves himself to be incredibly acrobatic, and you might find yourself amazed at the maneuvers you'll pull off, eventually managing to get to the top of the Maharajah's castle.
Combat in the game is fairly limited to be honest, which is mostly a downer for the action-heavy fans. The best thing you can usually do in combat is perform a three button combo while occasionally using the Prince's dagger to finish off enemies and of course, dodging. However, players can occasionally get creative with the dagger's powers.
Speaking of the Dagger, it proves itself to be the very tool that sets Sands of Time apart from the pack. Yes it does it's aspects well, but none of those things were truly unique. The dagger however, is a hell of a lot of fun to use. As stated before, the dagger has the ability to manipulate time... to a limited extent. In the beginning, the player is only given the ability to 'rewind' time by a small amount, which often comes in handy when you accidentally fall down a pit of spikes or somehow kill yourself. Believe me, it saves a LOT of headaches. It also regains any health lost, repairs any broken objects, and pretty much completely rewinds time. If only one could use this ability in real life.
Later on, the player gains abilities to slow time down, freeze the Prince's enemies, or simply use it as second weapon, drawing out Sands of Time to use for 'time fuel'. These abilities, while sometimes useful, don't have the level of being essential that the rewind function does. Still, with the exception of Viewtiful Joe, where else can you manipulate time to such an extent?
The audio in the game is absolutely superb. It's given a distinctly Middle Eastern feel that you would expect from a game of this type, and is accompanied by suitable esoteric instruments such as the Sitar. The music only comes when the occasion calls for it though, much like a good movie and sometimes you won't hear any music outside of a battle sequence.
More impressive is the game's voice component. There are really only two characters with voices in the entire game and while Farah gets a fair few appearances, it's the Prince who you'll hear for the majority of the adventure, often voicing his thoughts aloud in monologue (this is changed in the Warrior Within sequel, but comes back in the better third installment, Two Thrones to great effect).
Farah is handled admirably, but a bad actor for the Prince could have broken the game. Thankfully, Ubisoft seems to have realized this and actor Yuri Lowenthal does a such an amazing job that you'll wonder why Ubisoft was dumb enough to leave him out of the first sequel. It makes me wonder though why Yuri doesn't get into roles like this instead of badly dubbed Anime; he does a great job here, but as Uchiha Sasuke? Not so much.
Unfortunately, this game doesn't seem to have sold as well as Ubisoft hoped, which is a shame. At the price of fifteen dollars, it's definitely a great stocking stuffer to give a gamer this holiday season, and while they may complain that it doesn't have the mindlessly repetitive 'fun' of blowing heads off in Halo 3, enough time with it and nearly anyone who enjoys a great game will warm to it. Buy it!
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