Friday, April 19, 2013

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Playstation 2, 2003)

2003 was the year of the U.S. invading the Middle East. It was also the year of Prince of Persia, a game that didn't sell well in Alabama, nor did it ever sell as well as Call of Duty anywhere. Time to play it. Major story spoilers in this one.

NOTE: Due to current events, this post will be a bit more succinct than my usual fare. Big shoutout to Boston (where I live) for being unshakable even when it seems like bombs and gunfire are going off everywhere.

This game is a loose reimagining of the original Prince of Persia that achieved cult status back in the day... and apparently existed on EVERY GAME CONSOLE of the 80's and early 90's. That has got to be a record for most versions of one game.

Most notable about this game: the graphics. They still look impressive for a PS2 game, and back in 2003 they were majestic. I got about halfway through the game back then and shelved it. For a long time I wasn't planning on replaying it, but this project has brought it out of the woodwork.

The game begins with The Prince (does he have a name?) hanging out on a balcony at night. This is quite the scene, and it's my primary memory of the game.

The game takes place in this Angkor Wat esque city. Unfortunately, you don't see very much of the exterior; most of the game transpires in the various hallways and temples.

THE PRINCE. This game does tutorials right by giving you non-intrusive messages while you play. One could just as easily ignore them as anything else, while people new to the game can pick up some info as they go.

First-person view is great for looking around at the sweet environments, but doesn't have a whole lot of practical application in the gameplay.

The Prince moves very fast, so it's hard to get shots of him in action. Suffice to say, he can climb walls, run along walls, wall-jump, hurdle obstacles, swing from beams, and sword-fight in the most acrobatic way possible. This is damn near a Mirror's Edge style parkour game.

The controls in this game seem complex, but they flow pretty naturally. It's a fairly impressive game, I'll give it that.

Here we see The Prince checking out a sexy statue... WITH NIPPLES~! You wouldn't see this on the Gamecube! ...wait, what? This game is on that system as well? Oh. Nevermind.

One of the highlights of the early game is the climbing of this huge statue. At the top, The Prince finds...

...the Dagger of Time. This is where the game really begins. From here on out he dual-wields (sword and dagger) and you can attack with both weapons independently of each other. But more importantly, the Dagger of Time has all kinds of sweet powers. You can slow down time, freeze time, and - here's the big one - reverse time. Fall to your death? Reverse time. Lose a swordfight? Yeah yo, reverse time. Ask a girl out on a date and trip over all of your words, and since you aren't a character in a movie who has everything go unnaturally well for him, she politely declines? NO PROB, REWIND TIME~!

The Prince is all "HUZZAH". Aside from getting the dagger, the big story of this game is that the Prince's kingdom has been taken over by the nefarious Vizier. He was the king's advisor, and tricked said king into unleashing a curse upon the kingdom. Now the king's army (and the king) are all undead thralls of the Vizier. Basically, everyone except the Prince, the Vizier, and... that one lady from the intro. Who was that?

The Vizier, seen to the left here, is basically Jafar from Aladdin.

Seriously, take a look at this guy! That's Jafar! It's a wonder Disney didn't sue Ubisoft for copyright infringement. Then again, it's entirely possible that both stories have the same source material.

Worth noting: the pause screen fills the screen with mist and rain. Definitely one of the best pause screens I have ever seen.

Every so often in this game, you may find a hidden area that looks like this. These areas are home to the Fountain of Life, which extends your maximum life meter. Sorta like finding a heart container in a Zelda game. This is one way to do it. The most noteworthy thing about these areas is that they have insanely awesome ambient music. Unfortunately, I can't find it anywhere to supply a link.

The full moon is out. The rare times when this game takes you outside, the view is usually amazing. Especially for a PS2 game from 2003. Gotta say, this game aged well. Still looks good on an HDTV, which isn't often the case with PS2 games. I've been playing 2002's Vice City a bit as well and it... does not look good on said TV.

The lady from the intro finally appears at this point: the bow-wielding Farah. This supple lass is pretty much your sidekick for the majority of the game, and you need to look out for her to an extent in battles.

She doesn't have a whole lot of health, and if she dies it's game over. Luckily, she usually keeps her distance from enemies and snipes at them. Between battles, she's useful for getting into crawlspaces and unlocking doors. Other than that, her and the Prince basically just bicker with each other ad nauseum like a married couple. Yay.

Two noteworthy things here. One, the game tells you how far along you are in the story. This is pretty useful. As of this writing I'm halfway with four hours on the clock. Not a very long game, but hey. The other noteworthy thing about this screen is that I have two saves. This is very much intentional. Keeping alternate save files means you'll be okay if you're affected by one of the game-breaking glitches, which the game has several of. Chances are slim that you'll run into one, but it's better to be prepared.

The Sultan's Zoo is one of the more interesting areas in the game. It's a long vertical passage with lots of things to swing off of. Back to the Parkour nature of this game, the whole thing is more or less one big obstacle course.

This leads to another impressive open area. This one is particularly obnoxious due to the presence of swarms of vicious bats. They're not as bad as the birds in the NES Ninja Gaiden titles, but they have a similar tendency of knocking you out of the air to your death.

Yet another sexy wall-statue. This game has a lot of those.

Speaking of which... while Farah is a sexy character (probably one of the sexiest characters on the PS2, even), it does get a bit tiresome having her around. You constantly need to protect her from enemies, and it makes things more difficult than they need to be at times.

 Also, these two constantly bicker and argue, which gets tedious.

At this point I get the third of the four swords in the game. Not sure how each sword places in terms of damage-dealing, but each one has slightly enhanced abilities otherwise. The second sword can break through weak walls with a few strikes. The third sword can break through those walls with one strike. The fourth sword can one-shot any regular enemy. That last one is pretty huge, given how difficult the battles in this game can get.

 The scenery gets better and better as you approach the endgame. The usage of shadows in this game is very impressive.

 The scenery also improves for the ladies who may or may not be playing this game, as the Prince takes off his shirt for the final areas.

This room is home to the most difficult battle in the game. It's yet another of the standard, tiring battles that you fight so many of in this game; seemingly endless enemies spawn and attack. However, this one almost exclusively features the strongest enemy type, and they tend to go right for Farah. The enclosed space doesn't help either. This room took a number of tries.

The Prince is beaten down and DAMN, Farah has got The 'Bod. I imagine it's even better in HD.

 Soon after this, we get an infamous scene. She's in a hot tub and invites him in. Just when things are about to get sexy...

...he wakes up. Yeah, it was all a dream. Way to cop out, game.

 The last area is the misty Tower of Dawn. It's an incredibly irritating place because you lose your powers. No rewinding, so every mistake you make here results in a death. On the bright side, you get the fourth and final sword (seen here) which is super-overpowered.

 Unfortunately, at the top, Farah falls into a pit. The Prince tries to save her...

 ...which involves a painful and bloody scene where he tries to pull her up by holding the blade of a knife.

 It doesn't work, and she plummets to her death. This was spoiled for me WELL in advance because one of the tracks on the OST gives it away.

The grief-stricken Prince regains his powers and proceeds to go WAY back in time to before the game even started. He warns everyone about the treacherous Vizier. No one believes him.

 ...but then, the Vizier basically proves him right by going rabid and attacking. This is the final battle, and it isn't difficult at all. He summons three clones of himself, but none of them are particularly dangerous.

Winning is a matter of blocking and counterattacking.

After Jafar the Vizier is beaten, the kingdom is saved. ...doesn't this kinda nullify all of the events of the game? Sort of. The Prince still has memories of everything that happened... or didn't happen, now. Wild. In the last scene, he kisses Farah, gets a bad reaction, and rewinds time to take it back. Wow. Now that's a good usage of being able to rewind time! Decent game. Very solid, nothing spectacular. Glad I revisited after ten years and got to the end.

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  1. This looks pretty good. You say there's an HD version?

    1. Yes indeed. It's for the PS3. However, I'm not sure I can recommend it. While it's a good game, it is very frustrating.

  2. You're right, the graphics are great. I rented the SNES Prince of Persia but never got very far with it because the main character can get one-shot-killed so easily--it was too hard for me. Here the one-shot-killable character was Farah, I suppose.
    Sweet idea for a game. Having the main character be speed-based rather than power-based, and having so many movement options, must be a bracing experience.
    Hope Prince doesn't go power-mad and abuse his dagger powers.