Strength and honor, LusipurrCom readers! How goes the novelty of gaming this Tuesday?
Perhaps because of nostalgia, or perhaps because of genuinely great games, the previous generation of video games – GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox – is genuinely the favorite cycle of not only this writer, but presumably many readers of this site. It was a generation of great innovations and trendsetters, a generation placed precariously between the foundations of 3D console gaming in the late nineties and the high-definition consoles of today. As such, one can imagine why this writer has such a peculiar fascination with the generation; particularly with one game from this generation that reinvigorated the action-platforming genre. That game is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
Released in late 2003, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a platformer developed and published by Ubisoft. The game is narrated by and focuses on a young man known to us only as The Prince. After winning a major battle against one of his kingdom’s rivals, the Prince finds an ancient and powerful MacGuffin known as the Dagger of Time. After being tricked by a treacherous vizier (who comes complete with evil goatee and a serpentine staff) into opening a magical hourglass that hold the titular Sands of Time, he must team up with Farah, the princess of the kingdom he helped to conquer in order to combat the monstrosities the sands have created and reverse the damage he has done. While the narrative is simple, the game’s story is told very well – much of the exposition is done organically, through in-game conversations between the Prince and Farah. The Prince is revealed to be a fairly deep character: he’s proud, arrogant, stubborn, and gullible, but a good and honest person all the same. During the game, the Prince’s immense guilt can be felt as he narrates his story, often remarking on how his own foolishness caused the ruin before him.
The dynamic between the Prince and Farah is the game’s finest narrative aspect. The only two survivors of the Sands, at first they distrust and even hate each other, since the Prince helped topple her people and Farah continuously tries to betray the Prince and steal the Dagger from him. But as they become closer, their dialogue grows to be sarcastic and playful, as one would expect two spoiled royal heirs to be when forced to team up. The narrative itself does not feel rushed, nor does it overstay its welcome, which is an fantastic quality in a game that juggles so many good mechanics at once.
The gameplay of Sand of Time is addictive. It focuses primarily on two things: the Prince’s almost super-human agility, and manipulation of time using the Dagger of Time. The Prince spends the majority of the game swinging, jumping, and climbing through a palace ruined by the Sands. Occasionally, though, he must combat the hordes of glowing sand zombies that have replaced the former denizens. To aid in the Prince’s considerable athletic ability is the power to manipulate the flow of time with the Dagger: he can undo a mistake he has made within the last few seconds, slow down time to move faster, freeze enemies, or even teleport around a room killing enemies in the blink of an eye. The Prince is able to recharge the limited uses of his dagger by finding clouds of glowing sand around the castle and by successfully administering a coup de grace to an enemy with the dagger–which, in most cases, must be done to defeat an enemy, lest it rise again. As the player absorbs more and more sand, the number of charges the dagger has available increases, allowing for more powerful attacks and more chances to reverse mistakes as the levels become more and more unforgiving. Combat itself is executed in a fun way: many enemies are able to block a forward attack or knock the prince out of the air as he flips, so the player must learn to utilize dodging, attacks of opportunity, and parrying to defeat enemies. The player must also be aware of Farah as a fight goes on, since she can attract the attention of enemies she shoots; her death results in a Game Over, but time can be reversed to prevent this as well.
The Sands of Time‘s focus on agile combat and acrobatics has been an inspiration to many games of today, seen in such titles as the Uncharted series and Prince of Persia‘s own spiritual successor, the Assassin’s Creed series. The level design is superb, even by today’s standards, and is beautiful to look at.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a must-play for anyone who missed the chance to do so when it came out years ago. It plays fantastically, the characters are interesting and dynamic, and the time-manipulation mechanic remains brilliant to this day. The game was originally released for the GameCube, Xbox, and PlayStation 2, but PlayStation 3 users have access to an HD remake of the Sands of Time as well as its two sequels. So, get to it!