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            Can you handle it?
by Ethos

12/22/2010 – At Least the Prince Still Loves Me

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

Even after all these years. When did Sands of Time come out? 2003? As in, almost eight years ago? God damn, how the time flies.

I seem to recall first playing it on the GameCube way back in the day. I’d heard of the game before, and I think I might have played through a demo at Wal-Mart or something. So one day, I rented it from the local GameCrazy.

I kinda miss you, sometimes.

If you don’t know what a GameCrazy is, don’t feel bad. It’s a long-defunct second-tier videogame retail chain. Oftentimes they were inside Hollywood Video stores, which is an even more-long-defunct movie rental outlet.

Needless to say, I loved the shit out of it, and immediately after being forced to return the rental, I bought the game. Then a few years later I re-bought the game on PS2 and gave my GameCube copy to some chick I liked at the time. Didn’t turn out to be a worthwhile investment, all things considered, especially since she forgot that I gave the damn thing to her. I know this because six months ago or so I was talking to her and she was all like, “hey, I just found out I have a copy of Sands of Time for GameCube! Awesome!” And I was all like “Yeah, I fucking GAVE IT TO YOU AS A HEARTFELT GIFT SOME YEARS AGO, BITCH”

I didn’t say that, actually, but I was thinking it. I was thinking it very hard.

On that note, I just remember that same individual now has my copies of Persona 3: FES and Shadow of the Colossus. Both of which happen to be among my very favorite games of all time, and neither of which were intended as gifts.

Guh. Take my heart and rip it to shreds, but don’t take my videogames.

But yeah, cry me a river, I know. The point of this entry was to talk about how I recently completed Prince of Persia: Sands of Time HD. I wrote a short blurb on my website about a month ago, mostly just complaining about the game’s newfound audio issues. And, after having completed the game, I can safely say that those audio issues indeed suck. A lot. In fact, they suck so much, I wouldn’t recommend Sands of Time HD for anyone who hasn’t played through the original release already. Why? Because you won’t be able to hear 90 percent of the dialog between the Prince and Farah. The audio is so damn echoy and sporadic, you won’t even notice they’re having a conversation until halfway through. Granted, I’ve memorized every line in the game, practically, so I can fill in the blanks. But if you haven’t, then you won’t be able to.

Oh, and another thing: why are the fucking Scarab beatles so loud now? If you’re standing in a room that’s even connected to a room where those little shits are lurking, the game assaults your ears with this awful CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK noise that I think is supposed to be the sound of their insect-y little footsteps. But its loud and obnoxious and OBVIOUSLY a major glitch. But then, so is the entire audio track for Sands of Time HD. Literally, the only time there aren’t issues is during cutscenes. And, save the beginning and ending of the game, Sands of Time doesn’t have that many cutscenes. Most of the dialog is spoken in-game.

But, eh. I still enjoyed the game. I mean, it’s still Sands of Time. And it’s still 38482 times better than the shitty movie that Jerry Bruckheimer released last summer. (Ironically enough, I saw that damn movie with… ah, nevermind.)

Seriously, fuck you Jerry. And you too, whoever directed the movie. And then blamed its shittiness on the source material.

But yeah. I’d like to download Warrior Within HD now, and see if it’s any better or worse. I’m a big enough fan of the series that I don’t mind dropping the cash even if the product is broken.  And, to be fair, Sands of Time HD did look pretty nice with its 720p overcoat. I’d like to see the Island of Time given that same makeover.

BUT

I can’t.

Because my stupid-ass wireless router is broken.

And I don’t even have a cable long enough to stretch to my PS3.

I’m actually sitting on the floor next to my front door right now, because that’s where my stupid router is.

Ah well. I gotta work soon. And… buy shoes. Yeah. Signing off.

Prince of Persia HD has issues (Welcome to SACITSOTW)

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Well, here we are. It’s technically Thursday at this point, and at 2:01 AM, even my bedtime is fast approaching.

In any case, welcome to Screw Assassin’s Creed, It’s Sands of Time Week. Or, simply, SACITSTOW.

You may ask, “why? Why give Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood the cold shoulder? You love Assassin’s Creed, don’t you?”

Well, yes. I do love Assassin’s Creed. I was excited for the third installment. I still want to play it, eventually. But, there are three reasons that I decided to drop the game for the theme week:

1. I’m still addicted to Black Ops, and I’d like to finish/review the game

2. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time HD was released over PSN two days ago. As many of you know, the Sands of Time is one of my all-time favorite videogames. An HD re-release is like Christmas come early for me.

3. I resent Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood for releasing only a year after Assassin’s Creed II. Give me some breathing room, man

4. I’m kinda broke. Oh wait, that’s four reasons.

So, yes, the theme week has shifted its focus to the Sands of Time. And why not? It’s a great game, and it has new relevance. And it only costs $15, which is four times less than the new Assassin’s Creed.

I downloaded the game on Tuesday night, and tried it out on Wednesday morning. I didn’t play too far; I stopped shortly after releasing the sands. Initial reactions? Well, unfortunately…

The game, for whatever reason, is plagued by audio issues. Voices in cutscenes always seem to work fine, but aside from that, it’s a crapshoot. Footsteps are muffled, sound effects for smashing objects has a weird echo, as do enemy voices. Sometimes, the audio cuts out entirely. (Or perhaps it’s just so horribly muffled I just can’t hear it.)

So yeah. Obviously, this is pretty unforgivable. Couple it with loading hitches (which never occurred in the original game) and the occasional game crash during loading times, and you have a game in desperate need of a patch.

However. Aside from these rather damning issues, I still found myself enjoying it for the visuals alone. Make no mistake, the game looks nice running in 720p. It’d look nicer running in 1080p, but I’ll take what I can get. Everything is (obviously) much crisper and cleaner looking, with more vibrant colors and much improved textures. Stonework, in particular, looks fantastic – text and symbols etched into the walls of the Maharaja’s castle pop out nicely. Even the character models, which were subpar even by PS2 standards, clean up very nicely. The Prince has never looked better.

So yeah. It’s pretty enough. But, as much as I hate to say it, you might want to wait for a patch with this one.

More to come.  I have some ideas for the week. Not all of which involve Black Ops.

~Riddles

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Review – Honor and Glory

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

Ha! Didn’t see THIS one coming, did you? I know the game’s 7 years old or so, but hey; it’s a classic, and in spite of all appearances, this IS Prince of Persia week. And, unlike Ethos, I actually managed to finish the game this week. In fact, I sat down yesterday and beat it all in one sitting. Because I’m awesome. Anyway. Um. I should probably get to the review. Though, I admit, I’m actually enjoying this little italicized intro a bit too much. I fucking miss you guys! I haven’t talked to you all week! How’s it going? Good? Good. How’s it going for me? Ah… well. Let’s just, uh. Get to the review.

LIKED:

-Unparalleled platforming mechanics

-Flawless level design

-Brilliantly constructed storybook-esque, Persian atmosphere

-Subtle, sweet, and engaging storyline

DISLIKED:

-Shallow, repetitive combat

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and its two sequels, are by far the best action-adventure games of the previous generation. Apologies to Kratos, Link, Dante, and plenty of other action heroes with quality games, but Prince of Persia takes the proverbial cake. It began with 2003’s Sands of Time; and while Sands of Time is (unfortunately) plagued by a rather shallow combat system, its unparalleled level design, platforming mechanics, and atmosphere set it apart as not just one of the best action-adventures ever made – but one of the best videogames, period.

Story

I hope that everyone’s at least somewhat familiar with the story behind the Sands of Time trilogy. When it comes to time-travelling epics, it’s probably the best thing the world’s seen since Back to the Future. (And I don’t say that lightly, because I fucking love Back to the Future.) The Sands of Time is only the tip of the iceberg, but it’s still one hell of a ride. A young, unnamed Prince gets his hands on the Dagger of Time; a magical weapon with the power to (you guessed it) control time – soon afterwards, a traitorous vizier tricks him into using said dagger to unleash the destructive Sands of Time. Everyone turns into monsters, buildings crumble, sand flies everywhere – basically, everything turns to shit, and it’s all the fault of our Prince. So, with the help of the gorgeous Farah – the only other survivor of the sands – our unnamed protagonist sets out to make things right.

The storyline in Sands of Time isn’t that deep, and the game isn’t laden with cutscenes or dialog. But, really, the subtlety of it is what makes it so beautiful. I’ve written about the romance between the Prince and Farah before – remember Romance Week? They scored the #4 spot on my Love Story Hits countdown, and for good reason. There’s something universally charming about the two of them and their constant back-and-forth banter that gradually leads to their falling in love. Oh yeah, and the dialog is endlessly entertaining and well-written.

Gameplay

After all of these years, The Sands of Time still has the most brilliantly conceived platforming mechanics ever seen in a videogame. There are two basic reasons for this: the Prince is one of the most versatile and acrobatic characters ever seen, and the level design is, in a word, flawless. Every seamless environment is designed to allow for the Prince’s unique methods of transportation – wall-running, death-defying jumps, pole-swinging – the list could go on. But, while they may be contrived in such a way, they don’t look like they are – they look almost entirely organic. There really isn’t a single other game in the world where it’s such a joy to simply move.

Unfortunately, the Sands of Time is plagued with a shallow, repetitive combat system. Combat was drastically improved in the two latter entries of the trilogy, but it’s still pretty lame in Sands of Time. The Prince has a single-button combo attack, the ability to vault over enemies, and the ability to freeze enemies in place. It all looks freaking badass, but it’s somewhat boring to actually play. Not awful, not broken… just kinda boring.

Graphics

Upon its release in 2003, Sands of Time looked gorgeous. Character models were lacking even for their time, but the beautifully inspired Persian storybook aesthetic was a literal joy to behold. And, believe it or not, it still is. Sure, it looks last-gen, and it’s pretty damn jaggy on a 42″ HDTV. But it’s the artistic vision behind Sands of Time that really defines the visual experience. Think Lawrence of Arabia, or Disney’s Aladdin. The Sands of Time presents a seamless world where it’s easy to lose yourself.

Sound

Just to round out the near-perfection, Sands of Time has very competent voicework (especially for its time) and a top-notch musical score. In fact, it’s such a good musical score, you’ll wish it appeared more often than just during combat sequences. Yuri Lowenthal has always been one of the favorites in the business, and his role as the titular Prince will always remain my favorite of his.

Final Thoughts

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is, simply, timeless. It’s a game that will always be recalled with the same fondness as, say, Indiana Jones, or to cite a more similar example, Back to the Future. Sitting down and playing through the game again yesterday was the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time. If you haven’t experienced this masterpiece for yourself, I can’t recommend it strongly enough. It’s one of the definitive interactive experiences.