Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
-Also on: PS2, GameCube
A Persian Prince with a cool goatee accidentally brings doom to the land and destroys everything he loves by stabbing a mystical hour glass with an enchanted dagger.
I loved the first Prince of Persia. You had one hour to escape the dungeons and rescue the princess. One hour is not a long time, but that hour really lasted because there was no way you’d figure out how to get past all the traps and open all the doors the first time through. Once you memorized what to do in each level, being able to cruise through the game in one hour was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
The Sands of Time is a tremendous accomplishment in itself. The graphics are just beautiful. If you have played through the great game of Ico, there will be places in The Sands that look familiar. I often found myself letting the Prince stand in a spot for awhile so I could admire the scenery, especially near the end of the game when you are climbing about the outside of the castle. There you will see some gorgeous landscape shots. It’s the kind of stuff you want to frame and hang on your wall.
Along with the great images there are some truly excellent lighting effects. Candles give off a soft glow, sun-light beams through windows, and light bursts from your enemies as they evaporate into sand when you defeat them. It all looks so delicious.
The music fits very nicely into the game. As you figure out how to get through each room, all that is heard are your actions, the crumbling of ledges, and the alterations made to the room when you pull a lever. When you start fighting the sand-saturated monsters though, battle music that perfectly fits your fighting mood fades in. When the sand creatures are defeated the music fades out and you’re left to the subtle sounds of the Prince in motion. Or you may be hearing a conversation between the Prince and his companion, Farah.
Early in the game the Prince meets Farah, a strong-willed princess who helps the Prince with room puzzles with her smaller size, and combat with her bow-and-arrows. As the Prince and Farah do their things in the rooms they will talk about their pasts, and the events progressing where you learn a little more of the story. They will mention a switch they just pulled to let the other know when to try something. They also give each other some little smart-ass remarks too, which adds to the real-feeling and well-written dialogue. The Prince will also talk to himself sometimes, and the some of the stuff he says is pretty funny.
The Prince himself is telling the player his story so parts of the game are narrated by him. When he dies he says he got that part of the story wrong and wishes to start over. When saving he says he’ll start the story from that point next time, and when the game is paused he asks, “Shall I go on?” These little snippets of dialogue really add to the story-telling experience. Thankfully, the voice-acting is excellent. This is high-quality stuff.
The Sands of Time gives some of the best multi-enemy combat you’ve ever played. The Prince can fight multiple enemies at once with his quick, agile, and easy to do moves. He has a nice selection of fighting moves at his disposal. You can also take back a mistake with the rewind function of the dagger, which is useful in battle and when navigating the perilous rooms and dungeons.
The dagger of time has a few various functions: The afore-mentioned rewind to take back that death-bringing mistake, a freeze ability to stop an enemy while you take care of some others, a fast-forward ability to make the prince move quicker in combat and dispatch enemies faster, and a slow-motion to see everything that’s happening so you can see the enemy behind you going for the a hit as you’re fighting his friend. Although, I feel the dagger's abilities make the game a little easier than it had to be. You use a "sand tank" each time you use the dagger, but when you defeat an enemy it refills one sand tank, so the dagger rarely runs out of its magical abilities.
Another cool thing about combat is that the enemies aren’t impervious to other enemies’ attacks. If they get hit from a fellow beast, they’re going down. Of course it also means the Prince might get hit by arrows that Farah is shooting, so watch her attacks as well.
Sometimes the combat can seem long with monsters constantly showing up for the brawl, but it makes sense when you think about it. You have long periods where the Prince will be navigating rooms and figuring out puzzles, so then you have long periods of fighting. The only boss in the game is the final, and he’s not particularly a challenge. Many of the multi-monster fighting sessions are more difficult and some become very intense.
The camera can get a little tricky at times, but I've come to expect that in all 3D platformers. I don't think I have ever played a 3D platformer with a perfect camera, so I have no problems with the camera in this game.
As you near the end of the game you’ll be treated to more CG cinemas that give more of the story. The ending is one of the better endings I’ve seen in a game. The Prince does a spectacularly smooth move on Farah that made me laugh out loud. It’s a very rewarding end. The end credits song was pretty good, too.
When you beat the game you open up a veritable DVD of extras. You unlock the original Prince of Persia game, and five “making of” movies that give details on the production and looks at a lot of the concept art, some of which wasn’t even used. You can also unlock the complete Prince of Persia 2 game, but only on the Xbox version. Perhaps the best extra is the first level of the original Prince of Persia redone with the new game's graphics and moves. It’s very cool and has a room at the end with some amusing stuff inside.
This game is by far one of the best games I have ever played. It’s beautiful, has an incredible combat system, and is an absolute masterpiece. If you have all three systems then get the Xbox version. It has slightly sharper visuals and gives you an extra bonus. You simply must buy this game.