Saturday, January 21, 2012

Prince of Persia (2008)

A fun but misunderstood game!

I don't know if I'm getting old or what, but the idea of "difficulty" in a video game seems to be something that I've developed a large dislike for, though maybe not for the right reasons. Lots of games seem to think the only way to challenge a player is to piss them off to no ends, resulting in screaming and broken controllers. Prince of Persia is not one of those games, but that's not a bad thing. 

GRAPHICS: Even the people who dislike Prince of Persia seem to agree that it's art design is amazing. And it is. I've combined the Presentation and graphics categories into one for this review because Prince of Persia's graphics -are- it's art design. The game looks like it was all hand drawn, as if it's some sort of more respectable sibling to the ever-popular cel-shading. The views in the game are varied and beautiful, and it definitely has it's share of areas to make you stop for a moment and just check out your surroundings.

The animations follow suit, proving to be very flowing and smooth. The prince, while extremely skilled in what he does, stumbles as he jumps from wall to wall and it all looks very believable. If you've played Uncharted, you may get the haunting feeling while watching the prince move that he's really just a time-traveling Nathan Drake (more on this when I discuss sound). The combat in the game is also a visual treat, ending up looking very cinematic. The boss fights look as boss fights should: epic struggles and not just some guy slashing wildly at a bigger guy for five minutes. 

SOUND: The music is pretty good, for lack of a better description. It matches the theme and feel of the game nicely, though it's nothing pulse-pounding. The voice acting is great, for one reason: Nolan North. This is the man, and I'm beginning to think I'll end up buying every game he voices a main character in. However, as I noted earlier: if watching the prince move makes you think you're really just Nathan Drake, hearing the prince talk will convince you that you're really just playing Uncharted 2: Prince of Persia. 

North has used the exact same tone, sense of humor, wit, and everything else he used to create Nathan Drake. The strange thing is that it works, extremely well. If you enjoyed Uncharted then you will instantly like the new prince, and if you never played Uncharted then you will still like the new prince (given a little time to get used to him). Music and voice acting aside, the sound effects in this game are great. The sound of launching off walls and landing into a slide on a ramp is very satisfying. I couldn't get enough of the grinding noise the prince's gauntlet makes as he slowly "gripfalls" down a wall.

GAMEPLAY: So, why is this game disliked by so many? Because they expected something they didn't get, that's why. I've been reading a lot of peoples reactions to the game and it seems like the call for "more challenge" was unanimous. However, I died a lot during the game. The mechanic remains in place that you need to find the correct use of techniques and chain them together in order to traverse an area, and it still works well. So why is it different from Prince of Persia games of old? 

Because it's no longer frustrating. Gone is the idea that if you fail so many times it's all over, and now you can continuously try until you get it right. This is where the complaints of "you can't die!" come in, claiming the game has no danger or consequence. If danger and consequence are defined by failing something 20 times in a row, becoming extremely frustrated, and returning the game to the store, then I'd rather play something "easy" any day.
 
Prince of Persia takes its platforming roots and refines them into something much more fluid and smooth. Something that, while still requiring multiple attempts at times, translates into a much better-flowing experience with less interruptions in the gameplay. Because let's face it, challenge is good but when the pace of gameplay is sacrificed for cheap attempts at difficulty, the game's overall quality suffers. I already mentioned combat, and it's not very common so I don't think there's much to say about it. It's simple, fun, cinematic, and the enemies provide interesting challenges. My only complaint is that you can only walk during a sword fight, no running allowed, which can be somewhat annoying at times.

STORY: I only comment on story in reviews if it's an exceptionally relevant part of the game, and in Prince of Persia, it's not. The story is quite generic and obviously a tool to get you to continue on, feeding you the whole "we must seal a dark being (not Gannon) by visiting various locations (not temples) to reassemble some magical relic (not the Triforce)" routine. So why am I writing a section on story? The ending. 

While a majority of the hate for this game is directed towards it's gameplay, there seems to be another school of nerdrage directed at it's ending. Read user reviews and internet forums and you're likely to soon dig up complaints that the ending "undoes all the work I did during the game!" People who complain about this seem to be missing the point of the games story, a point that I myself didn't even grasp until I reached the end. 

The story about the evil being needing to be sealed may be the plot of Prince of Persia, but it's not the focus. The real focus of the game is the characters. When this realization comes to you, assuming it comes to you at the same time it came to me, you'll appreciate the story so much more. Not since Metal Gear Solid 3 have I had a game ending stuck in my head for days after beating it, but Prince of Persia pulled that off.

REPLAYABLE: I see no real reason to play this game more than once. The developers claim that you can tackle the areas and bosses in a different order for a different experience but it seems minute to me considering you'll still reach the same end. Unless of course you never grasped the real intent of the story, in which case yeah, you should probably replay the game.

OVERALL: I'm beginning to believe that, much like with movies, expectations are everything in gaming. Everyone seems to already know what they think of a game before they play it. People expected Prince of Persia to be thumb-numbingly difficult, hoping (again, I must be getting old because it baffles me as to why) for an experience where the slightest mistake in timing would cause them to have to repeat one small segment of the game an infinite number of times. 

Well, I for one am glad that has been done away with. Prince of Persia is a great game, the art design and characters are great, the boss fights are great. But perhaps most importantly, the main gameplay experience is fluid and flows as it should, without interruption. If I wanted to get angry at a video game, I'd go play Devil May Cry 3.

NAME: PRINCE OF PERSIA
SYSTEM: Play Station 3, XBOX 360, PC, Mac OS X

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