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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
 Written by Alex Fitzgerald  on August 27, 2003

First Impressions: Brought to you by sand! It's everywhere!

Before we start the preview let's take a quick quiz to determine whether you should be interested in Prince Of Persia or not. Please answer the following truthfully.

1. Do you still play your old NES constantly, or any other systems that are deader than Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's acting career?

2. Have you ever brought a new system in for repairs, only to tell the repair guy the problem is "the controller came with too many buttons."

3. Do you ever use words like "new-fangled" or "doohickey" when describing newer systems?

Well, if you have asked yes to any one of the questions above you qualify as an old school gamer. Even if you play your old systems about as much as one-string guitar though, you should also be gearing up for a little Prince Of Persia action.

The reason Prince Of Persia is set to appeal to both of old school and new school gamers is because Ubi Soft has seemingly performed the impossible. Yes ladies and gentlemen, Prince of Persia, the long dead SNES franchise, has been resurrected for current day systems and not only does it look, sound, and play great at this stage of the development cycle, but it also packs gameplay that is simple enough to appeal to old school gamers (who dream of the days where endless levers were not counted as "puzzles" in games) but complex enough to also appeal to new school gamers (who demand that there be as many worthless switches thrown into a game as humanly possible).

For those who don't know the original Prince Of Persia was a game that came out around a decade ago for the SNES and Macintosh computer (yes young readers, there was a time when games came out for the Macintosh and NOT the PC believe it or not). Though the game was not the end-all for platforming titles, it did attract a fair amount of attention for its quirky game features and earthy adventure feel. You see, in the original game not only did you have to rescue the princess but you had to do it within an hour in order to stop her wedding with the bad guy, which meant you had only an hour in real time to beat the game otherwise (cue slicing sound accompanied by thumb going across the neck) game over.

Though the game was successful enough to warrant a sequel and some spin-off titles for the Game Boy Color amongst other systems, interest in the series waned and eventually games stopped coming out with the Prince Of Persia moniker. As you no doubt have guessed by now though, and if you haven't you're an idiot, a new Prince Of Persia game is coming out for the Xbox, which plans to capitalize on everything that made it cool back in the old days, and complement that with new game features that can only be achieved through today's technology.

The new Prince of Persia's storyline isn't much more advanced than that of its predecessors. Once again you'll play as a Prince saving a Princess, and once again the game's setting will be a Persian-like landscape. Where the plot differs this time around though is in the Prince and Princess's relationship. For one, Princess Farra doesn't need to be saved; she can fight her battles alone. For another thing, Farra doesn't love the Prince right off the bat either. You see, the only reason the Prince and Princess meet is because the Prince, with his allies, pillaged Farra's cities. There, he found a treasure that unleashed The Sands Of Time, a weapon that possessed everyone except for Farra and the Prince and made them evil sand creatures. In the wake of this tragic event you and Farra have to work together to restore order (dangit...and on my day off too).

Though the plot may be trivial and lame to boot, that hasn't ever been the draw of action platformer's anyway. What does matter is the gameplay, the gameplay, the gameplay...and whaddya know? Prince of Persia's got it in spades.

Combat is set to be a very engaging affair, as you get to lay waste to the game's many baddies with your dagger, your scimitar, and the game's Zelda-esque lock-on feature. To further the experience though you can get into prime killing position in a myriad of ways, such as running up and along walls.

The fun doesn't stop there though. Once you combine your acrobatic moves with your gladiator weapon swinging you'll be able to upgrade your scimitar, and gather sand in order to produce five different special moves with your enchanted dagger. "Delay" slows down action into a Matrix-style slow-motion effect, "Restraint" freezes a monster in his tracks, "Haste" speeds our hero up, "Destiny" gives clues as to how to progress through the game, and "Revival" rewinds the last three seconds of the game. Needless to say all of these special powers both make the game easier and help it stand out from the hundreds of other cookie-cutter action games out there. You just have to remember that each time you use a special power your Sand Meter is drained to a certain extent, so you can't go on using every special power over and over.

The combat isn't all there is going to be though to the game when it comes out, as the game will also feature a healthy amount of old-school platforming elements as well. Platform jumping, trap dodging, rope swinging...everything that popularized platformers back in the day is here again, and so expertly crafted that you'll have to use every last bit of twitch gaming skill you have within your gaming soul.

With the upcoming game's combat and adventuring sections feeling very much like an old-school Persia game, I think it's safe to say that Ubi Soft has paid special attention to respecting Persia's hardcore fans by preserving the adventuring spirit that made the original games so special. To further please fans though Ubi Soft has taken full advantage of the Xbox hardware when it comes to visuals.

With gaming environments loaded with castles being basked in radiant virtual sunlight you get the idea that the Prince of Persia's design teams drew heavy inspiration from games like Rygar and Ico. The game's well designed and detailed architecture and character models detail this inspiration, and the game's plentiful smooth animations do their job to bring the developer's ideas to life. Even with all this detail though the game stays at a steady 30 frames per second throughout, there is always an unlimited draw-in distance, and there are no load times within the game's environments, giving the game a Jak and Daxter like feel, in that you feel like you're journeying through one complete world as opposed to several much smaller levels.

Final Thoughts
It's safe to say that no one thought that Prince of Persia was going to look this promising. When the game was shown at E3 back in 2002 it drew little attention. As Ubi Soft's teams stayed in the lab working on the title throughout the rest of 2002 the title still garnered little press when more information was let out about it. Now though, that many gamers have gotten a chance to play the title at E3 this year though, the story has changed. Prince of Persia rocks now, and it will only rock harder when it comes out this November. End. Of. Story.

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