Review by WingedMasamune

Reviewed: 01/26/09

With its beautiful art style, unique characters, captivating story, and addictive gameplay...Prince of Persia has struck gold.

…and Darkness shall envelop the fading Light…

How about that for foreshadowing!? Seriously though, I’ll let you in on my thoughts and general judgments on this latest addition to the Prince of Persia franchise in just a moment.

I’m going to throw this out here first and foremost. I have never played any of the other games in the Prince of Persia series. I never got into the Sands of Time trilogy, and in some ways I regret that decision. Then again, I also feel fully satisfied that I did in fact miss out on those games. Since this is my first experience with the franchise, I feel that I can have an unbiased outlook on the game on its own. It’s a new story, new setting, completely…well nearly, entirely independent from the franchise…I’ve got zero pre-conceived expectations, and I’m ready to start reviewing. So here we go…

Presentation - Graphics -

Keeping with the flow of my review, this game has decided to take the beloved series in a new art direction. Gone are the rendered polygons, or what-have-you. Say hello to Cel-Shading! From the artistic nature, the game’s style is simply stunning. It’s not on the same level as say Okami, with its brush-style painting…but in its own way the blending of the characters to their environment, even in their contrasting ways flows rather uniquely, and for me at least, that was a brilliant decision.

I know some of the complaints; I’ve heard a few from close friends, even before the game was released. The characters simply don’t match their realistic artsy backgrounds. But you know, I think that’s the point of it all. Using the distinct clashing of the background and characters, more directly puts the focus on the characters. The backgrounds have served their purpose exquisitely, breath-taking while gazing from afar, yet keeping the characters in the spotlight. Even for those that still don’t like the art style, once you get into the flow of acrobatics the gameplay throws at you, everything begins to flow together in harmony…so I really don’t see any reason to bash the game on its artful direction.

In short, from the characters you meet, enemies you face, and the dark to lush environments you traverse…cel-shading was certainly the way to go, and they pulled it off.

| 8.5 out of 10 |

Sound - Atmosphere/Voice Acting -

I really don’t have too much to say on the sound of the game. Basically, the atmosphere of the areas you travel upon is reflected quite well to where you are. Spawning enemies roar out, sometimes breaking the tranquility of the area. Battle effects are done rather nicely, clashes, slashes, grunts, pain…all melding perfectly.

As for the Voice Acting, my hat goes off to the Voice Actors. Not necessarily for their roles as the characters, merely derived from just the required cutscenes…but really the extra effort they took to record the various optional conversations you can partake in. No matter how insignificant the line, they do a fine job performing for us.

| 8.5 out of 10 |

The Story

Oh where, oh where, shall I ever begin to talk about the story? I supposed the very beginning isn’t that bad of a place to start….

The game will begin with the “Prince” wandering alone in the middle of a sandstorm. Searching for “Farah” (If you are a fan of the series, you’ll catch the subtle reference) You’ll be shown some scenes involving a woman being pursued by some armed men, guards of some sort. The Prince stumbles down a cliff thanks to the said sandstorm, girl falls from ledge above. Just like that, our two protagonists meet. Though it’s a rather rough meeting, the whole falling down upon you thing…

After the guards turn back, you’ll be treated to some cheeky dialogue, and surprise! Farah’s just a donkey…yep, that’s right, a donkey. At this point the girl runs off, you have to follow her, (Following her is basically the in-game tutorial of the controls), you’ll have to defend her from some of the guards when they catch up to you. But in the end, you accompany her to this Temple she’s been heading toward.

Without going too much further into the specifics of the story, I do want you to experience it for yourself…Basically girl’s father is the King, King fights the Prince, Prince kicks King’s butt, King in desperation frees super-evil dark god Ahriman, and darkness overtakes the land. Seems like you two have gotten wound up in something sinister, now you have to help her set things right…It’s only the right thing to do.

Anyways, in general, in order to fix the damage the King dealt when he freed Ahriman, and in order to put an end to Ahriman’s escape. You and Elika (That’s her name) have to go all throughout the land, purging the corruption from every Fertile Land.

I got to say, the ability to explore the characters’ relationship, or rather the building up of their relationship and the feelings toward one another, definitely is a high-point for the story. It makes for a fuller story, a more attached feeling toward the characters, and brings a well-rounded sense of interaction.

In short, I loved the story, the ending’s unexpected, and I can’t wait for a sequel.

| 9 out of 10 |

The Gameplay

Now we get into the gist of the game, and I’m only going to say this once…there’s a lot that I could talk about, but I’m going to keep it as simple as I can.

Starting with the controls, early on you learn how to control the Prince. Analog sticks to move and control the camera, Start Button to pause or save the game, Select to bring up the menu, pick your destinations and see the mini-map. Every time you reach a new aspect of the gameplay or the controls you’ll be taught how to progress through those types of areas. So really, the game has a tendency to walk you through a lot of things. Not that that’s a bad thing mind you.
Also early on, you learn how the combat works. Which is something I found to be exciting. The battles feel so epic, every enemy feels like a miniature boss, and it’s not just a button masher either. You can string combos, some of the actual bosses get harder as you fight them more often. Enemies eventually get tougher as well. The sense of epic just grows as time goes on. The ability to eliminate a spawning enemy prior to actually having to fight it, is another choice I enjoy being able to make when I feel like doing so.

But, in all, there are really two main aspects of the gameplay that I’ve heard a lot of people complain about. The inability to die, and the repetitiveness of go here, heal the land, collect light seeds, gain power, rinse repeat, rinse repeat.

First, the inability to die. No, you’re not immortal, no you’re not invincible. If you take too much damage during battle, you have to escape the enemy’s attack with a button prompt or even a Quick-Time Event, fail to do so…and Elika will save you. The saving is the equivalent of dying. As a result of having to be saved in battle, the enemy will regain their health, inevitably drawing the battle out longer.

If you miss a jump, or fall too far, or just plain screw up, you will be saved by Elika, and land safely back on solid ground at the last checkpoint you had reached. I’d much rather have that happen, then have to deal with a “You have died” screen popping up every time I make a mistake. Though, they could refine the process slightly.

Now to put to rest why I think the game isn’t monotonous at all. Yeah the general concept of what you have to do to set things right is the same, and the process never changes throughout the game. Yet the thing that kept me playing, was that the areas were not simply carbon copies of one another. There’s enough variety of tasks, acrobatic moves, pacing, and just in general the surrounding areas, to keep the game feeling fresh. If you take the time to drink it all in.

In short, while they could refine some aspects of the gameplay, as a stand-alone title from the franchise, it’s a fresh new direction and I think it’s a step on the right path.

| 8.5 out of 10 |

Final Thoughts

If you’re new to the Prince of Persia series, or if you happen to be a big fan as well, this game is a must play. Total gameplay time will vary with the individual, and replayability will fall under similar circumstantial situations. However, if you take your time with the game, keep an open mind about all that you’ll be playing and doing, this game will not disappoint. In all, I’d recommend buying this title.

Final Score 9 out of 10

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Product Release: Prince of Persia (US, 12/02/08)

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