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Prince of Persia - 3DS VC Review

Game Info
Prince of Persia

3DS Virtual Console | Ubisoft | 1 Player | Out Now | $4.99 / £4.50
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31st July 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

There are multiple conditions with which to define the heroic archetype, yet in contemplating how certain characteristics and behaviours are used as a point of identification, focus tends to be placed on clear displays of courage. A protagonist, for example, rushes head-long into a battle where the opposition is visibly stronger in number than the defensive force. But as it is the absence of fear that is more defining than any brazen course of action, someone who cautiously maneuvers his or her way through a treacherous environment can also fall under this category, even if they are not disposed to aggression. Evoking this very quality as well as hammering in the idea of slow and steady is Prince of Persia -- a tale that's representative of a time in gaming that was marked by greater, almost bane-like levels of aptitude verification and the confirmation of certain player deficiencies. With frustration being a close companion of the exploration-based mechanics seen here, Prince of Persia is not for the faint of heart. But anyone with a penchant for performing their best in challenging environments will want to give this a shot.

    As the story goes, you're a royalty figure who takes it upon himself to rescue the Sultan's daughter -- a beautiful princess dressed in traditional Persian garments -- who has been snatched away by the power-hungry Vizier. Making your way through trap-infested dungeons, against you are not only the Sultan's men but also the sands of time. Players have a 60-minute time limit to work with and with there being more than ten levels to get through, you'll have to act in a decisive manner if you hope to beat the clock to the punch. However, the game is organized in such a way that the presence of booby traps will slow you to a crawl on your first go, and this is something that not everyone will find likeable from the start. Still, it is this type of slow exploration and experimentation that can breed feelings of great satisfaction, so it would be unwise to count the game out on that point alone. 

In getting around to the different parts of the environments in this side-scroller, pushing the Circle Pad (or +Control Pad) to the left or right will make the prince walk two steps forward or, when facing an opposite direction, get him to turn the other way. Pressing the B Button will allow you to tiptoe to one space in front, while the A Button allows you to jump either in place or in the middle of a running motion to soar over gaps or deadly traps. When you have ledges situated higher up, pushing the Circle Pad upwards will get your character to jump up and grab onto them. The tricky part is when they are situated below you or even on an adjacent screen that the camera has to adjust to for you to see. This will require you to position yourself just so by turning your back towards the edge and pressing down on the Circle Pad. Learning all this comes with time and to be honest, you may find the controls will act up at first. There were definitely times in my own experience where I felt like the prince had a mind of his own, crashing into walls after releasing the Circle Pad or running too far into an enemy encounter. But I later learned that going at a slow pace helped, except in the case of running jumps -- those still proved troublesome.

    The health system put in place here has you working with three life points initially, but this can be expanded upon through the collection of potions found in later levels. If you fall down one storey too many, your legs will break your fall but you will suffer an injury and lose one of these life points. This is why it's important to recognize areas where you can safely scale down by the slower method instead of just jumping from a higher point and hurting yourself. On an exploration level, the sorts of elements seen include plate-triggered gates and doors, platforms that fall as soon as you walk over them, guillotines that require you to jump through at the right moment, automatic spike traps that only damage hasty explorers, as well as disguised potions that aren't actually healing elixirs but poisonous concoctions. As far as combat, once you equip yourself with the sword in the first level, you can engage in short duels with the Sultan's men that appear over the course of your journey. These aren't anything deep, but the timing involved during these encounters makes them entertaining, especially in cases when they take place by surprise. The combining of the different aspects as they are explored in this game is actually quite enjoyable and makes for very challenging, maze-like scenarios. But it bears repeating that you probably won't take such a liking to the game right away.

    Besides just the controls and the systematic process involved in the exploration of the different dungeons, it can be painful to inch away at attempts for progression, never mind getting sent back to the start after all your hard work. And with the threat of time breathing down your neck constantly, it's unlikely that anyone would even reach the very end on their first playthrough. Armed with the knowledge of how to traverse each environment in the most effective way possible, you will of course be better prepared to face these tests a second time. And even after the game is over and done with, this is something that will remain. However, this whole process is one that will be perceived as off-putting to many, and with the amount of things that can deter you from moving forward, I honestly wouldn't blame such persons for feeling this way.

    Some will simply not be able to bear what this game asks of players with its often punishing trials of having everything come crashing down from one false move. Not to mention, too, that with the emphasis on trial and error, anyone with little tolerance for that type of gameplay execution will not have a good time here. Prince of Persia is a game that forces you to be patient but it does so in a way that may rub you the wrong way at first. Nevertheless, there's something about the exploration component that makes you want to see how the game will develop, and this really helps put the game in a better position than it otherwise would be in had its polarizing components completely crowded out the desire for determination in the likeness of a real hero.

    There's an interesting point of contrast in the types of feelings that players will sense as they move forward in the experience. Although the elements lack forcefulness despite their clever organization, the frustrations of having a strategy backfiring on you is enough to make you look away from the screen as your character suffers defeat. This isn't because the death scenes are particularly gruesome; they're just hard to watch as you realize your progress has left you in a gutter, even though not all of it is down the drain. There's nothing creepy or dark about the game's atmosphere -- sorry, but random piles of bones don't count for much -- but the style they have going on is very much reminiscent of a Commodore 64 game. There's a nice colour palette that's used as you get to the later levels, and the occasional decoration of the environment and textures on those elements do help carry the feeling that you're exploring not just dungeons, but palaces as well. Music is kept to a minimum with sound effects being the most of what you hear, but generally speaking the audio is average. I did encounter a glitch where I went right through a wall and fell to my death in a black pit, but that's about as far as the technical problems go.

    If you typically dislike trial and error, the exploration component won't sway you to the other side as it is really designed with slowness and patience in mind. As a result, playing this will be a rude awakening for those who want to get into a game without the hassle of learning tricks or wrestling with things right from the get-go. Prince of Persia is definitely not for everyone, but even with its at times frustration exploration of meticulous game design, it controls players in ways that bring about mostly rewarding levels of challenge. And in the eyes of some, that will make all the stress and fragility worth it.

20/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Punishing traps force you to move at a slow pace, light button presses needed to position yourself correctly, fun combat and exploration
Presentation 6/10 - Atmosphere lacks a forceful feeling, good organization and layout, audio is mostly sound effects, one or two technical flaws
Enjoyment 3/5 - A great challenge that some will find off-putting, frustrating if you're an impatient person, tolerance for trial and error a requirement
Extra Content 3/5 - Will last longer than expected, a number of levels to get through in a short period, first playthrough will be about learning the ropes

Equivalent to a score of 67% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Prince of Persia
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