Until recently, my only experiences with Prince of Persia were the standalone 2008 release. I remembered that there was a Prince of Persia trilogy, and went off to eBay where I purchased the Gamecube versions of The Sands of Time as well as The Warrior Within. Why didn't I play this game sooner?!
The Sands of Time is a reboot of the franchise, and the first 3D Prince of Persia game. You control The Prince, son of King Sharaman. In the beginning, you are passing through India on your way to Azad, and are at war with the Maharajah. Seeking glory in his first battle, The Prince heads for the treasure vaults. After tussing with a few guards to learn the basic combat mechanics, and traversing some crumbling terrain to learn the platforming aspects, you find the Dagger of Time. After conquering the Maharajah, King Sharaman takes the Hourglass of Time to present to Azad's king. He also captures the princess pf Maharajah, Farah, and their Vizier mysteriously defects to King Sharaman. Upon arriving in Azad, the Vizier tricks The Prince into inserting the Dagger of Time into the Hourglass of Time, which unleashes the Sands of Time turning everyone in the kingdom into what are effectively sand zombies. The only survivors are The Prince, Farah and the Vizier due to their possessions of The Dagger of Time, a magical medallion, and a magical staff. Eventually, The Prince teams up with Farah to bring down the Vizier and reverse time to fix the problem.
The graphics in Sands of Time never ceased to amaze me, even in spite of their age. The characters animate smoothly, even though some models are a little rigid, and the environments are endlessly impressive, especially the outdoor areas. Lighting plays a big role, and Ubisoft capitalized on it perfectly.Courtyards are vibrant and lively, while cavern systems are naturally dank and uninviting. The biggest drawback to the graphics is lack of detail on certain models, but for their time everything looks splendid. Effects are particular impressive, such as The Prince getting dirt spots on his pants., or water dripping from him when he has been in water.
Combat and platforming make up equal parts of the game. Fighting is strategic, and fun but does wear thin sometimes. Th Prince can attack with both his sword as well as the dagger of time. He can also vault over enemies, or off of the environment. While early enemies are defeated with simple hack and slash tactics, later in the game honing your defensive skills becomes mandatory. With the Dagger of Time, you can freeze enemies in place in order to deal with others, or to take them out in style if you wish, but this will deplete a part of your sand gauge. You can also slow time, to dodge more effectively, and if necessary reverse time to undue a fatal error. All of The Prince's fight animation are elegant and flow with finesse,and the occasional dramatic camera angles make them a joy to witness. Unfortunately, I often had problems with the camera during combat, but since it can be manually adjusted, this is alleviated easily.
Platforming consists of everything from long jumping, to pole swinging, to wall running and more. The Prince is a nimble fellow, and can get just about anywhere he wants as long as the environments provides adequate enough tools. Despite the multiple maneuvers learning to control The Prince takes only a few minutes, and he controls very responsively. The Sands of Time takes groundwork laid by games of the PS1 era such as Tomb Raider and Legacy of Kain and hones them to ear perfection. It is easy to see this game's influences on many modern adventure games, most notably Assassin's Creed. Earlier, I mentioned a sand gauge, which consists of two parts. One section of the gauge is used up for slowing time down or reversing it. The other section is used mostly for combat purposes, such as freezing enemies or unleashing Prince's devastating special attack. You can use the Dagger's power outside of combat, so if you make a jump incorrectly, you can reverse time to give it another go providing you have enough sand. Eventually, you will run out of sand and perish, but it's a great way to give you another shot without babying you through the experience.
The game's music is an delightfully unique mixture of heavy rock guitar and traditional Arabian and Indian instruments. It sounds a lot better than you may be thinking. The voice work is very well done, and the Prince speaks not only as a character, but as the narrator of his own story, even stating "Shall I go on?" at the pause screen. The biggest problem with the sound is that a lot of the sound files were compressed. While the music and some of the dialogue sounds crisp, other portions of dialogue and the majority of sound effects sound muddy and washed out.
The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is not that long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. I got the game yesterday and also yesterday in only 2 sits, but they were very long play sessions. I am so glad that I went back to experience this marvelous game, and despite aging graphics and questionable sound design, I enjoyed this experience a lot more than I even expected to. This game has all the makings of a classic, and hopefully in the future it will be recognized as such.