Review: Prince of Persia (SNES)

Worthy of the throne

Most gamers are familiar with the original Prince of Persia. Its incredibly realistic animations, created by Jordan Mechner from hours of video footage of his brother running and jumping around, made it an instant hit, and it's still one of the most well-known western game franchises today.

Most people, however, are only familiar with the game's original version, released on the Apple II computer and then subsequently ported to pretty much every platform under the sun. Until the recent release of Prince of Persia Classic on XBLA and PSN, this SNES version was the only actual remake of the game around, and it still delivers in spades.

Strangely enough created by Masaya, of Cho Aniki fame, the SNES version of Prince of Persia is essentially the same game as always, but with many, many new features that make it a must-play even for those that know the original inside out. Of course, nothing has changed story-wise: you still play the role of a young man thrown in the palace dungeons by Jaffar, who intends to marry the princess you're in love with in order to seize the throne.

Of course, you can't just allow him to do that, so you'll have to use your athletic skills to acquire a sword, escape the dungeon and subsequently make your way through the palace to defeat him. You'll have to run and jump across gaps, climb up ledges and dodge traps, many of which mean instant death. Of course, the prince isn't like Mario, so falling from too high up will also make your life expectancy shorter. A lot shorter.

It's not just a platforming affair, because you'll also have to solve a lot of puzzles and fight Jaffar's loyal henchmen (as well as the undead) in sword combat. Puzzles basically only come in the form of slightly raised tiles will open certain gates, but you'll often have to figure out a quick way to the gate after stepping on the switch before it shuts. In some cases, you'll even have to find a tile higher up to drop on the switch to keep it pressed down, because the gate shuts too fast otherwise.

Combat is rather simple but nonetheless thrilling, with both you and your enemies having the abilities to attack, move around and parry blows. Most of the guards in the first few levels will hardly even attempt to avoid damage, but you may have to exchange ten or more parries before you can finally land a hit on the stronger guards, indicated by their different colour schemes. Of course, if the environment allows for it, you can also force enemies into traps or even push them off ledges.

Skeletal enemies, on the other hand, will almost never be truly defeated; they'll often simply crumble into a pile of bones only to spring back to life later, so make sure you do what it is you need to do quickly before they come back while you're busy — if an enemy hits you when your sword is sheathed you'll be killed instantly, no matter how much life you have left.

Speaking of life, it can be increased by finding one of the scattered vitality potions. Some are in plain sight, but you'll have to look very carefully for others, for example by visual hints in a room indicating the existence of a secret room beyond a wall. There are also smaller potions which simply restore your life rather than increase it, as well as subtly different small potions which damage you instead. There are other unusual potions to find too,

Since Jaffar has been defeated some 20-odd times on different platforms, for the SNES version he has seen fit to do a bit of redecorating. Instead of the original 13 levels, this version boasts an impressive 20, with two hours to make it to the princess before you lose. Jaffar has also been kind enough to include an optional five level training mode for the new players. How generous.

Of course, you can still proceed through the palace even if you do run out of time, but it'll be for a hopeless cause, as you'll be met with a bad ending after all is said and done. Thankfully, if you get stuck on one level and lose a lot of time before finally figuring out the solution, you won't have to start all over to get the good ending, as the game has a password feature that remembers your current level as well as the remaining time when you entered it.

Many of the game's 20 stages are completely new, but there are also a bunch of levels you might recognise from the original in there. They have been redesigned however, and as such there are some new rooms and rearranged traps, as well as completely new types of traps. While the original also had a handful of bosses, there are a couple more here, including one very unique new one who doesn't actually fight you with a sword.

The SNES version of the game also looks and sounds fantastic, with each level being fairly detailed and accompanied by a range of music, from atmospheric to foreboding, that appropriately changes to a fast-paced battle theme when you fight an enemy.

The level design and music changes completely after every few levels as well, which means you end up going through about eight different areas rather than the two almost identical looking ones from the original. And although the original game was completely silent save for sound effects, the music Masaya created here is spot-on and accentuates the rest of the game perfectly.

Conclusion

Originally, the SNES version of Prince of Persia was announced to be included with Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands on Wii but, for unknown reasons, that ultimately didn't happen. Thankfully, Ubisoft has now redeemed itself by releasing the game on the Wii Virtual Console instead.

With more and larger levels, great graphics and music and many other new features, this is easily the best version of Prince of Persia ever made, and comes highly recommended.

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