by Matthew Thompson
(I am counting down my 25 favorite games of the last console generation. I explain a little about how I put the list together in this introduction. And you can see a collection of all my articles on the Best of 7th Gen compiled here.)
Making the choices for this list and then ordering it was not easy. Some were particularly problematic to place and Ubisoft’s 2008 Prince of Persia reboot was one such game. Looking at it objectively there are a lot of issues here. The platforming is too automated, the input windows too forgiving, the combat too repetitive. And yet from a purely subjective standpoint, I just enjoyed it so much. So at times I wanted it to be higher, at others I felt it should be lower, but ultimately here at number 16 feels like a good landing spot for The Prince.
I remember my first exposure to this Prince of Persia was through leaks including some concept art showing a Prince with a much more ninja-esque appearance and a new magical female companion. The actual game really brought this stunning artwork to life in a way few have. PoP’s unique take on cel-shading gave way to some truly splendid art direction that had the appearance of a moving painting. It is a look that I wish we’d see more of in gaming. But it was more than the style. Everything from the fantastical setting to the character designs to the Okami-style rejuvenation of areas was just a feast for the eyes. While there are certainly more technically proficient games last gen, I think Prince of Persia is still as beautiful as any.
I really fell for the characters too. Some seemed put off my Nolan North’s performance as The Prince. Some felt he was playing him a little too modern. Others were just a little sick of Nolan North, but I dug his performance. Watching him and Elika (superbly voiced by Kari Wahlgren) bond over the course of the game was a joy. I made sure to exhaust all the optional conversations. I loved watching the attention to detail in the animation system that helped express their growing relationship. While the plot isn’t that great, the characters make the journey worthwhile. It is capped off by an extremely bold ending, one that marks an important moment for these characters. It shouldn’t have been the end of the road for them (and technically it wasn’t), but I think as the ending to single game it is pretty special.
Despite the issues I mentioned earlier, I had a lot of fun playing it too. I think there were a lot of cool new ideas here for the series. The non-linear structure allowed you to play the game in the order you chose, but kept the kind of linear level design that suits platformers best. Incorporating new magical powers helped mix up the gameplay. I loved the Elika-aided double-jump and screeching down walls with your gauntlet. The one-on-one fights were a good way to separate PoP from some of its contemporaries. And the way you could link together wall-runs was just plain cool. Again there were some problems at the core of these gameplay systems, but I saw a lot of potential here. I still wonder what could have been if Ubisoft had given this game the sequel it deserved. Maybe we could have seen the kind of jump in quality that we witnessed in Ubi’s second stabs at Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry last gen.
There is no arguing that 2008’s Prince of Persia was flawed. Maybe more potentially great than actually great at times, but it still resonated very strongly with me. You can tell the developers put a lot of love into it and despite the rough edges, I will always remember it as a beautiful experience and one of my favorites from the seventh generation of consoles.
A few more things:
- While it wasn’t as good as the sixth gen for The Prince, there were certainly quite a few games on seventh gen for fans of the series. The Forgotten Sands had a number of versions. The HD one felt a little phoned in by Ubi’s Montreal Studio who is capable of better, but it had some really awesome platforming sequences. The Wii version was a more ambitious effort by the less experienced Quebec Studio. More flawed too, but it felt like their heart was definitely in it. And you can’t go wrong with Prince of Persia Classic, a great remake of the original PC game.
- This PoP’s ending wasn’t actually the end for the Prince and Elika. The DLC and DS game take place after the main game, but both leave things in a worse spot. Really wish we had gotten a true sequel!
- The four recurring villains were actually pretty interesting too. Especially The Concubine.
- Like almost every Prince of Persia game it had a fantastic soundtrack.
- This game had some all-time great trailers. The art and music just came together perfectly. They are where I discovered both Sia and Sigur Ros too!
- Clue for #15: It is the first of four Wii exclusives on this list.