In the early 2000’s development studios who had already established themselves had only two possibilities when it comes to video games. They could either continue a well established franchise or attempt to create a new one. However some developers decided to take the third path and asked themselves what makes a good game, realizing that one of the key components is the story. Back when Ubisoft was thinking about the gaming community, yes I’m looking at you Watch Dogs and Assassins Creed Unity, they took an already great game and rebooted it in 3D. It’s the 2003 title Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.
In 1989, Brøderbund developed and released a small platform game called Prince of Persia for the MS-DOS, that was ported on multiple consoles in a short period of time it’s most notable on the SNES. Do to the sheer popularity, the game garnered multiple sequel’s and was even transitioned in 3D. However, Ubisoft in the 2000’s was one of the most popular development companies having multiple franchises under their belt, but the studio was out of ideas and wanted to committee themselves to new projects. They were intrigued by the peculiar title and thought on expanding and bringing the game to the newer audience. Prince of Persia would gain new graphics, visuals and a new style of gameplay, while retaining the elements of its predecessor. The game was originally just titled Sands of Time, but the studio added the Prince of Persia in the end, and released the game on November 6, 2003 on PC, Playstation 2, Gamecube and Xbox.
The story of the reboot mostly follows the original while expanding with new ideas. The prologue of the game starts with the Prince (Yuri Lowenthal) fighting in the war against the Indian empire. While fighting the palace guards, he comes across the Maharajahs treasure room, where he finds a mysterious dagger. After stumbling onto a trap the Prince unknowingly rewinds time and prevents his own death, thus realizing that he found the ancient “dagger of time“. Once the war ended the protagonist alongside his father went to the city of Azad, to pay tribute to the Sultan giving him the treasures and riches from their glorious battle, among them was the Maharajahs daughter, Farah (Joanna Wasick) and a giant sand hourglass. The hero tempted by the Vizier (Barry Dennen) puts the dagger into the hourglass and unleashes a terrible curse app-on the land. The entire inhabitants were turned into sand monsters with the only survivors being the Prince, Farah and the Vizier. The protagonist than forms and uneasy alliance with the princess in hopes to defeat the evil Vizier and bring back Azad to it former glory. Throughout his adventure the Prince is forced to kill his father and the players were able to feel the burden that he carried all the way to the games conclusion.
One of the aspects that Ubisoft paid attention in the reboot is the personality of the characters; fleshing them out for the modern public. The relationship the Prince and Farah have is stronger and has more emotional depth then the original, similar to that of the drama “Romeo and Juliet“. The protagonist is depicted as a brash, stubborn young man who changes over time thanks to the princess, but at the end of the game the two finale form a romantic interest in one another, which makes the situation all the more tragic when one of the characters dies. Opposing the heroes is the evil adviser of the Sultan, the Vizier, who is willing to do anything to overthrow his ruler and take the throne for himself, even if it means releasing death and decay upon the land. Jordan Mechner, the scenario writer and developer was heavily inspired by an old persian poem “Shahnameh” and even put some parts of set poem in the characters dialogs. The developers made sure that throughout the entire journey the players would connect with the characters even with the antagonist of the game, making the adventure more intense and immersive as if you are reading a book.
The gameplay has also increasingly changed for the better as it transitioned from an ordinary platformer to a action-adventure game with incorporated puzzle-platforming. One of the best innovations the studio did was the use of parkour styled elements, which saw the player preforming various acrobatic abilities such as wall-running, jumping from different poles, preforming deadly leaps from one platform to the other. It is this style that was used for their future installment, the first Assassins Creed, as well as for the sequels for the titular title. The game also added health replenishing by drinking water and the use of the dagger of time, which would rewind or slow time for a few seconds when the player makes a terrible mistake. This gaming mechanic was well praised with in the community and recent development studios hang on to this formula when creating similar games. The combat isn’t boring and repetitive and borrows the style from a well-known game called Legend of Zelda, while also adding a new flavor to the mixture. As the game progresses the protagonist unlocks different types of swords and upgrades for the dagger, as well as some kick-ass moves and powers.
As for the visual style of the game it’s heavily inspired by real-life locations from India, as well as the culture of the Middle East. The graphics are way better than its retro predecessor and everything is rendered in HD, while also adding a touch of that mystic beauty that the eastern culture is known for. Although the game is linear, Ubisoft made sure that the players loses track of this do to the beautiful landscapes, that gave a certain feeling of freedom as it turned the entire map into a one big playground. All of this is accompanied by an amazing soundtrack provided by Stuart Chatwood (musician for a Canadian rock band The Tea Party), that truly gives the player the feeling as he was witnessing this epic tale in person. Prince of Persia was ultimately designed on the Jade engine, which was used for the development of Beyond Good and Evil which came out only a few days later. The enemies in the game do get repetitive through time, but they still provide a descend challenge, while the last boss fight was truly both emotional and action packed. The players were in the end treated with a truly magical experience worthy of its title.
In the end Prince of Persia is a truly delightful tale of love, adventure, deception and even loss. The game got positives reviews and expanded the story with the creation of an entire trilogy. Even tho the other games improved a lot in terms of gameplay, the first entry in the rebooted series is without a doubt the best. In 2004 the game was awarded multiple awards for best story, best design, best narrative and it was even nominated greatest game of the year. Jordan Mechenr even went on and adapted it into a movie in 2012 which was awarded best video game movie of all time, while the portrayal of the Prince (by Jake Gyllenhaal) was nominated. Today the series has drifted away from the timeline and Ubisoft hasn’t revealed if they are planing on returning to the series, tho we believe that this isn’t the last time we will see one of their most successful franchises.
Overview: Prince of Persia: Sands of Time is a great game, however mostly due to the popularity of the Assassins Creed franchises players usually run by this diamond in the rough. The gameplay is easy to pick up for all newcomers that aren’t well-versed in games in general. The story and the characters are unique in their own way and it is easy to draw similarities between the player and the protagonist. The well-balanced narrative, the likable character, a griping adventure, it can’t be considered the best game out there but it is defiantly the best game in its respective series and one of the best reboots ever done. For all player craving for a good adventure tale, we advise them to pick up this old jewel and polish it, it defiantly deserves the attention.