Prince of Persia Classic Xbox Live Review
Thinking back roughly 20 years I am almost sure the original Prince of Persia was the first game that made me say ‘wow!’ At the time, the clutter of pixels I could see on screen honestly looked like a person to me. And in an even better turn of events when I moved that clutter of pixels it actually seemed to move like a person as well. Unfortunately, back in the day I had just turned five years old and POP, being the bloody hard game it was, was nigh on impossible for me to finish. In fact even to this day I don’t think I have ever gone back and completed it. Nevertheless, those few levels that I played (over and over again) found a place in my heart and the POP series, through all its various incarnation, has become a favourite franchise of mine. As a result, when Prince of Persia Classic was announced, it goes without saying that I was very happy. Now I finally have a chance to rescue The Princess… I am very sorry for making you wait 20 years!
Just as you’d expect POP pretty much plays like it did all those year ago. It is still a 2D game, you still control The Prince and you still have only a certain amount of time to reach The Princess. Impeding you in this task, you still have a multitude of jumps, traps, blades, spikes, sword wielding guards and other obstacles in your way which still are arranged over the game’s 14 levels. Another notable facet of the game that has not changed since the ’89 version is the layout of the levels, and quite honestly, even though they are now nearly 20 years old, I am glad they did not choose to mess with them as they are almost perfect for a game of this type. However, don’t go expecting the game to be a simple rehash because of this, in fact it is far from it as it goes great lengths to be deserving of the ‘classic’ subtitle.
From there on a few notable changes are seen with new gameplay types, gameplay changes and a few tweaks to the game’s combat system being the ones that really stick out. First off I’ll speak about the combat which makes use of just two buttons… X button sees you attacking while A is for defence. At first this seems very simple but after a few run-ins with the guards you will notice sword fights can have many different outcomes depending on when and how you use each button. For example if both you and a guard attack at the same time your swords will clash but if you defend as he attacks, you may shield yourself against the blow, or if you time it right parry the blow. The other gameplay changes on show are ones that make the main game slightly more forgiving than it once was. These changes are checkpoints (which appear mid-level when the game is played on normal mode) and a ‘butterfly guide‘ which is basically a tips system to help you find you way should you get stuck for to long.
The other changes are the two new game modes which are offered in conjunction with the game’s main mode… the new modes are Time Attack and Survival. Now, any seasoned gamer will most likely know what these are about but I will go ahead and explain anyway. Time Attack alters gameplay to make the game play like the ’89 version by forcing you to reach The Princess in less than one hour before she meets her death at the hands of the, still brilliantly named, Grand Vizier Jaffar. A nice extra for this mode is that a ghost of The Prince appears each time you play to showcase your best performance which will aid you should you want to try and beat your best time. Then there is Survival mode, easily the hardest mode in the game, which sets you the task of beating all 14 levels with one life, no checkpoints and a one hour time limit. If you die in this mode (via a trap, falling into spikes or dying at the hands of a guard) then it is back to the very start once again.
Leaderboards are another new addition for the reworked 360 release which will track your progress against others worldwide to see how you compare to the best in the world in the three main modes. More longevity comes from the game’s long list of Achievements which are well laid out. Many of the points are gained from venturing through the game’s main mode but others have to be gained by collecting all the potions and finding items. Without doubt the hardest one to attain is to complete Survival Mode. The developers knew this would be a hard task so they have offered 45 points should you do so. Just like the game itself, the Achievements are hard but fair and need some work put in if you are looking to get 200/200.
Just like they did all those years ago, the graphics of Classic still impress. The game is now presented in a style similar to that of the recent POP trilogy with beautiful looking environments and characters that have been rendered in full 3D. Also, some nice use of dramatic lighting is on show which aids in the game’s environments feeling very much alive at all times. In-game animation is also top-notch with The Prince acting very realistically. Although you only get to see fights from a 2D-plane they still manage to look spectacular. The same goes for all the jumps, grabs and little twists and turns The Prince makes throughout his adventure.
With many companies choosing to release frankly embarrassing versions of their retro titles on the XBLA, Prince of Persia Classic truly is a shining light and a great example of how companies should treat the games we loved all those years ago. Sure it has a few niggles that could have been ironed out with a few more weeks of work but the core gameplay is top quality, and in the end that’s what counts the most. So the final question would have to be; is it worth 800 MS Points? You’re damn right it is!
The best reworking of a retro title released on XBLA so far.