Although it is now a mega selling 3D adventure franchise for current generation systems, Prince of Persia came from rather humble beginnings. The original Prince of Persia was a much-celebrated 2D action/maze game released back in 1989 on Apple II computers. With the help of its amazing animation and creative use of time limits, Prince of Persia quickly became one of the best games of the era, influencing everything from Out of this World to Flashback. To this day the importance of Prince of Persia is still felt in games like Ico and Tomb Raider, not to mention UbiSoft's very own 3D Prince of Persia titles.
But while everybody is falling head over heels for the brand new Prince of Persia games, there is an entire generation of gamers who are too young to remember how amazing the original 2D game was. Despite the fact that this game has been ported to nearly every game system of the 1990s, there are still people out there that think that Prince of Persia started with The Sands of Time, the 2003 adventure game released on the PlayStation 2 and Xbox. Thankfully UbiSoft is here to teach those youngsters a history lesson, as well as give some of us more experienced gamers a chance to relive this wonderful adventure in a brand new way.
As the name implies, Prince of Persia Classic is a remake of the 1989 game. All of the level layouts, enemies and traps remain the same, only this time you'll see the game using glorious 3D graphics. This new graphic engine is able to make every inch of Prince of Persia look better than it ever has before; giving new details to even the most inconsequential parts of the environments. But don't worry, just because they've upgraded the graphics and given everything a 3D look, that doesn't mean that this is not a fully 2D experience. The game still plays like it did in 1989, all of the classic 2D moments are accurately recreated, and the castle setting remains the same ... only much, much better looking.
In Prince of Persia you play a nameless orphan living his life on the streets of Persia. After catching a glimpse of the beautiful Princess, our hero knows that he must do everything in his power to win her love and live happily ever after. There's only one problem: The evil Vizier Jaffar seizes control over the throne and gives the beautiful Princess two choices - either marry him, or die! She has sixty agonizing minutes to decide whether or not she's going to live a life of misery, or meet her fate at the hands of the evil Jaffar. Thankfully sixty minutes is more than enough time for our hero to make it through the castle and save this damsel in distress.
The real novelty to Prince of Persia is that you have sixty real-time minutes to save the day. This timer goes a long way to emphasize the urgency of the situation; you don't want to dilly dally around in one spot too long because you never know how much time you'll need to kill Jaffar and convince the Princess that she deserves to be with you. If you know what you're doing you could conceivably beat this game in no more than twenty minutes, yet if you're new to this game you may run out of time long before you even come close to killing Jaffar.
Prince of Persia Classic is split up into fifteen different levels, each area giving you a new set of puzzles to solve and enemies to kill. At first the game is nothing more than just opening up doors and finding the exit, but it won't take long before you have to go up against castle guards, find the right kinds of potions, and figure out how to open the doors without automatically closing them again. The puzzles in this game are never so difficult that you'll be stumped for too long, but remember, you don't have all that much time to spend thinking things out and experimenting ... time is of the essence.
Like its computer counterpart, Prince of Persia Classic has some rather interesting control choices. Because the game's emphasis is on the Prince's amazing animations, the controls can be somewhat unruly. The control is a bit fidgety, and moving our hero into specific locations is often tricky (sometimes to the point of you accidentally falling into a giant hole and dying). But the good news is that it doesn't take long to figure out how the Prince moves and play this game like a pro. This remake also gives you a few different choices on how you control your character, so now you aren't forced to push up to jump, you can simply push the jump button and pull off the move. The fact that so many of the moves are mapped to the various Xbox 360 control buttons makes this a much easier game to get into, had they left the controls as they were back in the Apple II days I suspect that nobody would want to play this game.
Although most of the game is spent running around the castle, Prince of Persia Classic also has a lot of one on one fight sequences. When you run into an enemy your character automatically pulls out his sword and goes into combat mode. Combat was never Prince of Persia's strong suit, but UbiSoft has done quite a bit to improve the overall fighting experience. For the most part the combat requires you to mash the buttons and look for openings in your enemy's defenses. When you aren't mashing and slashing, you can avoid enemy attacks by pushing the A button, which slows down time a little and allows you to dodge the guard's sword swipe. It's imperative to your success that you learn how to successfully dodge the enemy attacks; it's the only way you're going to be able to beat this game (especially when you get to the final two levels). While combat isn't perfect I found this new style of fighting a lot more enjoyable than the simple one on one battles found in the original game. My only real complaint is that no matter how far you are in the game, Prince of Persia Classic continues to remind you to push the A button to dodge the attacks.
If you've gone through Prince of Persia before then you'll feel right at home with the castle's layout. With only a few minor exceptions, Prince of Persia Classic uses exactly the same level designs as the original game. Every enemy, trap and falling walkway has been recreated in this brilliant update, which goes a long way to prove that this 18 year old level layout is relevant. UbiSoft takes some liberties towards the end of the game, but for the most part it's not on anything that drastically changes the game ... and personally I thought that the slightly changed boss fight is a vast improvement.
One thing you can't say enough about is the amazing graphics. While this retains that original 2D look, the polygonal graphics really shine. I dare say that this is one of the best looking Xbox Live Arcade games yet, from beginning to end this game looks absolutely fantastic. This game was never about huge bosses and Hollywood-style explosions, so it shouldn't surprise you that the best parts of the graphical update are the minor things added to the backgrounds. For the first time ever this castle actually has character, from the dreary swamp-like basement to the top of the castle (that stands above a major city), the backgrounds shine every step of the way. Couple this with the amazing animation and you have one hell of a great looking game.
But Prince of Persia Classic isn't perfect; there are a few problems with the game that keep this from receiving and even higher score. For one thing, the game itself is not very long. While you might not get through it the first time through, chances are you won't have too much trouble on your second of third attempt. Getting through the entire game won't take you more than an hour or so, so don't expect to go into this game and have a lengthy adventure. It's also worth noting that after you've beaten the game you probably won't want to play it again ... unless you're one of those people who really want to get the best times on all of the levels.
The game isn't without a couple new modes, but neither of them extends the longevity of this game out as much as one would like. There's a Time Attack mode that is basically the same as the normal game, only this time with even more of an emphasis on the time limit. There's also a brand new Survivor Mode, which requires you to beat the entire game without dying ... that's right, without dying! This is no easy task, to say the least. These slight variations on the original game are a night touch, but they probably won't keep you busy for long. At $10 (800 Microsoft Points) this game may not seem like a good value, however the game is still a lot of fun to go through and, judging by how well it's aged, it'll probably be fun every time you come back to it in the future.
My final complaint is that this game doesn't come with the original Prince of Persia game, using the non-enhanced graphics. This seems almost crazy given the small amount of space it would have taken up. I still have the original game at my house that runs off of a standard floppy disc, so there's no way adding it would have required more than a few kilobytes. It's nice to have the new graphics (I don't think anybody is going to complain about the way this game looks), but it would have been a more complete package if they also added the original game.
Regardless of whether you've never played the classic before or you're a seasoned veteran, Prince of Persia Classic is definitely worth checking out. The graphics alone are worth the price of admission, but beyond the visuals this is still a compelling action game with plenty of worthwhile puzzles and a whole lot of combat. The original Prince of Persia is one of the best games of all time, and this enhanced remake only improves on the classic.