Monday, June 7, 2010

Favorite Games: Prince of Persia - The Sands Of Time

In 2004, I was on the verge of dropping video gaming forever. It seemed to me that every game out was either some new variation of a sports game based on the fact that it's a new year and everything was different based SOLELY on that fact, or some variation of the first person shooter where the point was to kill everything you saw and move to the next room to do the same thing. No one seemed interested in compelling stories, or any type of creative product anymore. Originality in gaming was dying for me. Then I saw a commercial for the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time for the PS2.

I was a big fan of the original PC game. I burned a good deal of my youth in front of my public library's computer playing Prince of Persia. I liked the control scheme, the story, and the exotic graphics that reminded me of a world that I'd never seen before. When I heard about the new version, I decided to check it out in depth. Everything I learned just built up the game in my mind. When I finally got to play the game, it was a revelation! It was an example of the best kind of remake. One that takes the spirit of the original and re-expresses it with modern sensibilities while at the same time, extending the original concepts into brand new areas that weren't technologically available in the past while keeping the original style. For example, in the original version of the game, the prince had the ability to hang and/or drop off of ledges as well as being able to pull himself up. In PoP:sands of Time, they kept that, but rather than just have it be a quirk of the game, they used it as an essential skill needed to pass certain sections. Plus, why limit it to just ledges? He could hang off of poles, ropes, etc.

But the single most impressive point of the game was the reason WHY the Prince was in trouble this time. Being young & brash, he screws up royally causing the release of the Sands of Time and the consequent destruction of the kingdom of a friend. Now, he has to FIX that mistake. There are tons of stories of heroic people or soldiers fighting to save loved ones or their world, even more of people DESTINED to participate in events, or being ordered to participate by some higher power. But there are exceedingly FEW stories in video games of the "hero" screwing up and getting tons of people killed and working to fix that mistake. In fact, the only other game I can think of with that kind of storyline is the PC game Thief. (The main "hero" steals an object for a client, only to find out later that the client was the Devil and the item was the last piece he needed to open a door to hell. So the Thief decides to steal the item back and close the door to hell.)

And seemingly in response to the "gotta kill them all" attitude of the time, PoP:Sands added a puzzle concept. To continue not only do you have to kill everyone in the room, but after you're done with that, you ALSO have to figure out EXACTLY HOW to get OUT of the room!

I loved it!! The only downside was the final boss battle wasn't to the same level as the rest of the game. After such an amazingly difficult journey, I was expecting a mind-bendingly extreme fight with the final boss, instead it was just a couple of hits and it was over. Given that the final boss was an old man, I can understand why they did it, I just wish it had been more difficult. But overall, Prince of Persia:The Sands of Time has become one of my favorite games ever. And it single handedly saved my interest in video gaming in general.

1 comment:

  1. I went through the same apathy towards video games as you did, and it began in 2004 too!

    However, PoP: TSoT only added to my malaise. Where you saw innovation, I saw repetitive platforming. Don't get me wrong, I like that game a lot. And in the beginning it was indeed a breath of fresh. A shot in the arm to gaming, if you will.

    But halfway through the game I started realizing how damn sick I was of the same mechanic. Approach new room, camera zooms around revealing all the niches and crevices and clues for how to proceed. Step into room, spawn enemies. Fight enemies to the last. Exit room. Rinse and repeat. By the 20th time this happened, I was ready to hang the "prince" from a flagpole myself.

    No, for me, the true revelation that made gaming new for me came in early 2005. And it was God of War. I had given up on gaming at that point, in fact. But then GoW brought me back in with a vengeance. Besides Ninja Gaiden, GoW is my next favorite and most influential game.

    Btw, I blogged about all this sometime last November. You might have read it already, but here goes the link if you haven't:

    There's a reason most people call the first two games the best games of the PS2 era.