The Prince of Persia trilogy on PS2 certainly made a mark on the world of video gaming by bringing great story telling, epic action, fluid platforming, and time manipulation mechanics together in a way that was just undeniably fun. Since then numerous franchises have followed suit by mimicking the platforming mechanics found within, with varying degrees of success. Now that the original Sands of Time PS2 trilogy has been resurrected in HD format for the PS3, we can find out if the games can stand the test of time, or if their positive traits have eroded in the face of newer technology.
Even if you’ve never played a game from the Prince of Persia Trilogy before, you’ve probably experienced a bit of what it has to offer by now, since nearly every action platforming game released today shares common elements with it. A core element of the series is the Prince’s acrobatic skills, which can be used for everything from doing battle with multiple enemies at once, making complex jumps and maneuvers to exit a seemingly inescapable situation, or quickly navigating a trap filled hallway before a door slides closed at the last second. When you combine that agility with the power of the Sands of Time, which allow you to manipulate time in a number of ways such as rewinding it to undo your mistakes, the result is a gaming experience full of intense battles, daunting puzzles, and dangerous scenarios. You rarely need fear taking a major risk, and the softer blow from making a mistake makes the game more about having fun than just facing impossible odds.
It all begins with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, where the Prince (who’s real name is never revealed, so we always refer to him as the Prince), is traveling with his father, King Sharaman, and his army to Azad in India. Along the way they encounter a city where the local Maharajah’s traitorous Vizier convinces King Sharaman to attack the palace. During the attack the Prince seeks to prove himself by being first to reach the treasure vault, where he finds the fabled Dagger of Time, which is the true goal the Vizier seeks. When the Vizier realizes he cannot have it for himself, he tricks the Prince into releasing the sands of time, turning everyone around him into sand monsters, except the Prince, the Vizier, and the Maharajah’s daughter, Farah.
The Dagger of Time is more than just a story line element. It also provides the power to rewind time, slow time, and even stop it briefly. This core mechanic made Prince of Persia famous, since it gave the developers the ability to create increasingly difficult situations without making them impossible, effectively setting the game apart from its competition in a very fun way. The dagger is also the primary means for defeating most enemies in the game, since when stabbed into them it absorbs their sands, and it also gains more power as a result. A downed enemy will not stay down for long, and will continuously revive until absorbed into the dagger. The prince will almost always face multiple waves of sand creatures at once, and constant use of his flips, dives, rolls, jumps, and other acrobatic maneuvers to handle them all are required. Unfortunately, by the end of the game this absorption mechanic gets a bit tired, but luckily that fact is recognized by the developers, and relief is provided by the conclusion.
The Prince and Vizier are not the only ones who have reason to obtain the Dagger of Time. The maharajah’s daughter, Farah, does not trust either party and wishes to obtain the dagger herself to return the sands to where they belong. Seeing no other option, she accompanies the Prince, despite her hatred for what his kingdom has done to hers. As the Prince navigates balance beams, wall runs across great chasms, and maneuvers himself to more solid ground via rope swings and jumping from column to column, Farah follows while pushing switches and activating other mechanisms to help out. Conversations between him and her keep the well written plot moving along at a good pace, and keeps players engaged in the character’s train of thought through out the adventure. As a result of these dynamics, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ties all its elements together for a seamless adventure, with arguably the most well written plot of the series.