A Reflection for Prince of Persia
Written on Aug 10, 12 4:01 pm | Musings/Thoughts 6 comments | Like (1) +my favs (1) | tags: prince persia 2008 thoughts
When I say Prince of Persia, I mean Prince of Persia 2008. Before I go on, let me give you give you a bit of history about the series and about my experience with it. The PoP series came back to life with the game Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. It was a magical game, one that stole the hearts of me and many gamers out there. Combining slick combat, awesome platforming, clever puzzles, and the ability to manipulate time, the game quickly became a success. The story followed the Prince and his companion Farah, who both trying to stop the villain who has unleashed the Sand's of Time upon the world.
The popularity grew with it's sequel, Warrior Within. Warrior Within was a much darker game than the first, featuring a prince that was rough, edgy, and a bit more brutal. It takes place seven years later and shows the repercussions of the Prince's exposure to the Sands and what he did in the first game. The whole game took place not in Persia but an island where the Sands first originated. The game remained the same to it's core, and featured some cool gameplay moments like being chased by the dreaded The Dahaka, a guy you simple cannot kill. Only thing you can do is run in terror.
Finally, the trilogy ended with The Twin Thrones, a game that combined the light hearted, whimsical tone of the first game with the edgy darkness of the second. Twin Thrones goes full circle, as it returns the Prince back to Persia to fight the villain from Sands of Time. This time the game shows the physical side effects of exposure to the Sands, as the Prince developed a dark alter ego, who you could play as!
Each game I loved and played the crap out of. These three games all happened on the Xbox and PS2, with the Two Thrones being released towards the end of the Xbox's life. With the Two Thrones rapping up the story nicely, Ubisoft decided to reboot the franchise for the next generation. So in 2008, Ubisoft released the rebooted titled simply called Prince of Persia.
This game featured a Prince (voiced by Nolan North) who wasn't actually a prince but a thief and a wanderer. The Prince is teamed up with the elegant Elika (voiced by Kari Wahlgren), a woman who wield's the power of magic. The story involves a land that is corrupted by an evil force, slowly being consumed by darkness. The Prince and Elika race to stop it, while trying to get along with each other. Prince and Elika were the staple in combat, with one being able to do physical attacks with a sword (Prince), one with magic (Elika) and acrobatic (together). You could combine these in to any combination, thus making fights look different each time. But the main staple is the platforming and puzzles, which I'm happy to proclaim is not just intact but better than ever.
In many ways, Prince of Persia tried to make things simple, rather than complicate them. While the combat I described could be a bit complicated, the fights were always one on one. You never fought a room of enemies like you did with the first game. The story was simple, with the basic plot of boy meets girls, there is an overwhelming evil and it needs to be stopped, blah blah blah. Funny enough, there were almost no other characters in the game. Even the villain didn't have a real personality. In fact, 95% of the game was just Elika and the Prince. The visuals were simplified, compared to trying to boost the graphics with detail. But I will get to that later. What of the platforming? The platforming became less freestyle and became a bit more streamlined. But that didn't mean you couldn't fail. Finally, the game decided to remove the time powers, being the first in a very long time. Instead the mechanic was replaced with Elika's magic.
While the game was still the same at it's core, many people thought the game was a major step back. In each PoP game for the Xbox and PS2, the game got more and more complicated. Combat, visuals, and even the story became more complicated with each game. There were some hurt PoP fans out there and many of them just couldn't get in to this new PoP.
But it is with great sadness that I state what I think the game will be remembered for one thing: the inability to die. You see, Elika was able to use magic to pull off some incredible stuff. And one of the ways she used her magic was to save the Prince's life. Say you fell off a ledge to your death in Sands of Time. You'd use your powers to rewind what just happened. If you were out of sand, you'd die and reload at the last checkpoint. But with Prince of Persia, Elika always saved you and brought you back to the beginning of the ledge or the start of the string of platforming. You literally would fall off and a cinematic would start up of her catching your hand. Even against enemies, she would save you.
This feature was probably the most disliked by fans. Simply put, the game babied you. And not just fans, but the gaming media as well. I've read articles from gaming websites to this day that still reference that mechanic. And to tell you the truth? It is a feature I still don't fully agree with. Death keeps us on edge. Why be on our guard when we got magic woman to save us? It didn't bother me as much, though. I think of it like this: in Sands of Time, you fall of a ledge and "die", you go back to a certain point. Same thing here, except you never "died". You were "rescued". Is there that much of a difference?
And I love the game. But I will admit I was a little...bitter about the game at first. I was a big fan of the Sands of Time trilogy and this was kind of an outrage. But as I continue to play the game, I fell in love. In my mind, simplifying some aspects of the game was for the best. It was still PoP at it's core and in some ways the simple nature helped to get back to the roots of why we loved those mechanics.
What was once thrashing a whole room of baddies became a one-on-one choreographed fight. It made fights more personal when it was one-on-one. The simple story, combined with great voice acting and even greater dialogue, got me emotionally invested in the Prince and Elika. And seeing what happens with them was my drive to find out what happens to them. I could care less about the land being consumed by an evil force.
However, one of the best things about this game was the visuals. They were amazing. It is probably one of the best uses of cell shading I've seen so far. it wasn't just the graphics but it was the overall design of the environment and characters. The game was colorful, beautiful, bright, dark, and stunning, all without being demanding on hardware. I would go as far as to save it is one of my favorite graphics in any game I've played. Top 5, at the least.
So what happened? Why no sequel? The game did well in the financial and critical department for the most part. Well a couple of things happened. The first big thing is Hollywood. Disney was making a Prince of Persia movie, which I personally loved. It did okay critically and financially but didn't make a big impression. The movie kind of caused Ubisoft to go back to the Sands of Time formula and with the sequel The Forgotten Sands. Secondly, while there are many of us who embraced the new style, many people didn't feel the same way. So this was an attempt to going back to a know working method. I'll let you in on a dirty secret: I haven't played the the Forgotten Sands. Not even for a second. I've read about it and seen videos. What I saw was a PoP of the past and to me it was a step backwards. It also took place in the Sands of Time trilogy, thus acting as a big ass pimple on the forehead of a supermodel's face. I probably will never play that game.
We pop forward to today, and things look more and more dim of there being a sequel. Ubisoft seems pretty content on focusing it's time and attention on the guaranteed money bag franchise games like Assassin Creed, Splinter Cell, and other Tom Clancy titles. There hasn't been a lot of words on the Prince of Persia franchise altogether. Some talk has happened but some of it has been about a whole new reboot altogether. So the 2008 Prince of Persia will probably never get a sequel. The cliff hanger of an ending will never be concluded.
In some way, I can live with that. While I would love a sequel, I can live with the game being a moment in time. A game in the generation of the 360 and PS3 that stood out from the rest for what it did right or what it did wrong. A game that can be an example of something unique that may influence other games. A game that wasn't perfect but was perfect for me.
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