I haven't played the original, but The Sands of Time, which is now available on GameCube, XBox, and PlayStation 2, is quite possibly one of the most brilliant games ever produced. The camera is one of those rare cameras that doesn't totally suck, and the gameplay is flawless in every aspect. The controls in the platform/puzzle areas make sense, and after a few minutes of play, running up walls should be second nature. The combat manages to be incredibly engaging. The enemies are very unpredictable, and are smart enough to gang up on you. The camera follows the combat very well, almost never giving you a bad view. And let's not forget the fact that you can rewind time so you can block the attack that killed you. Or the attack that took away half your life . . . or the attack that knocked you to the ground . . . or the counter-retrieve you missed . . .
Did I mention it's shiny? Very very shiny. Go get it. Now.
It should also be noted that (in the PS2 version, at least), while the original PrinceOfPersia is an unlockable extra, it is NOT unlocked by beating the game. You have to find it in-game about a third of the way through. And I found this out after beating the game. Dammit. Unforunately, it's not unlockable in the PC version... I've hacked at that wall for several minutes before giving up.
After finishing Sands of Time, I have to say that it is one of the finest games I have played in a long time. It took me around 8 hours of gametime, and it was a gripping 8 hours. I had two favorite areas. The first was when the prince falls into the dungeon, and the rediculous amount of wallrunning and walljumping that is required to get out. By this point, one should be fairly skilled, and it's a beautiful thing, running across switches that extend platforms only to leave the platform to run across another switch to extend the next platform. The second part is also a bit evil. Near the very end of the game, you lose the dagger that lets you control time. That's it, you're on your own (granted, you do get the UberSword? as compensation). It's brilliant, because the game spends all this time training you, and then takes away your safety net for the hardest jumps, swings, and wall runs of the game. Despite the fact that there is only one difficulty and only one unlockable extra, this game has plenty of replay value. In fact, I've already played it three times, and I get faster with each play through. Also, the PrinceOfPersia challenge on GameChallenges is now complete. Anyway, the game is artwork. Artwork, I say.
AlexBobbs: I mostly agree with all of the above, although I have to say I was less impressed with the camera. The auto-camera is pretty good compared to other auto-cameras, but the manual camera controls are rather clumsy. Call me perverse, but I prefer to be able to constantly adjust the camera to suit my will and not be surprised by sudden changes. That said, the game does have a great feel to it. One of the best things is that it takes scenarios that look freaking impossible, but then gives you the skills to conquer them, which is highly satisfying. Anyway, great game, lots of fun, and ultimately kinda easy despite how intimidating certain things look. I think this heals my bitter memories of dying and having to restart over and over and over again in the original (although I've fared a bit better replaying it recently).
On an amusing sidenote, PrinceOfPersia (Sands of Time) teaches us that people living in ye olde Middle East occasionally have British accents.
Sands of Time was immediately followed up by "Warrior Within." Ubisoft tried to rebound off the mediocre sales of Sands of Time by making the sequel longer, darker, sexier, and with more action. Unfortunately, none of these changes really made the game better (the combat is kinda excessive and frustrating, and the game is longer thanks to the fact that you must repeat certain areas several times), and it feels condescending to have them throw bondage chicks at you as you control a stereotypical angry badass who apparently traded his British accent for an American one. I did, however, like the addition of the Dahaka(sp?) chases, which added a sense of urgency. All-in-all, still a good game, at times even a great game, but also an example of why you shouldn't always let the marketing department control the sequel.
Ubisoft continued their new Prince series with "The Two Thrones," which largely fixed the problems with the first sequel. Backtracking was eliminated, steel thongs are gone, and the combat is back to a happy medium level along with the frequent option to use your platforming skills to get the jump on enemies and take them down with "quick kills", which mean less pain for you. You also get some new platforming tricks and the opportunity to drive a chariot (a cute interlude). "Two Thrones" doesn't quite have the style, story, or charming dialogue of "Sands of Time", but they nailed the gameplay pretty well.
The original PrinceOfPersia, mentioned above, is an old side-scrolling Apple II computer game that had ports for DOS as well as various consoles. The story is pretty much the 3rd Act of the Aladdin legend sans genies, and a few aspects of the story were carried over to Sand of Time (mainly the facts that it has a princess in peril, Jafar, and an hourglass of some importance). The word most often used to describe the original game is "hard." Other appropriate adjectives include "sadistic", "unforgiving", and "fucking impossible." Also known for its many tricky traps and memorable swordplay. Anyway, it's a classic that you should all play for historical purposes, although frankly I've never been able to stand the controls.
Now we need someone who played the XBox version to chime in so we can have full platform representation
On February 20, 2004, WillShipley and RichardGarfinkel raced side-by-side through Sands of Time. The race was heated, ferocious, and horrifyingly close--for about 80-85% of the race both competitors remained within 30 seconds of each other, and neither player maintained a lead over the other for particularly long. But in the last half-hour (in the courtyard fight after the prison, and then again when climbing the Tower of Dawn) catastrophe struck Richard; the lead (and the game) shifted irrevocably to Will, who completed the game 100 seconds before his opponent.
Times at Honor and Glory:
At the first scarab fight of the game, both players are out of sync by 0.5 seconds:
RichardGarfinkel: Now I get to show off how fluid the scarab-fighting animation is in this game.
Will sheathes his sword and wall-runs away, while Richard continues fighting.
VictorWang: Why are you still fighting, Richard?
RichardGarfinkel: . . . did he skip the fight again?
WillShipley: You know, the wall-running animation is really fluid in this game too.
The combatants are again 30 seconds apart (Will in lead) at the Halls of Learning Courtyards. Will
accidentally kills the last sand creature while standing where the save point appears.
WillShipley: No! Move away! Don't go in the save point, don't go in the save point . . . arrgh!
Will spends the next 10 seconds frantically telling the game he doesn't want to save.
30 seconds later . . .
RichardGarfinkel: No! Don't kill him there! Get out of the save point . . . arrgh!
WillShipley: 60:00+ (Ran out of time during the fight with Jaffar, but the game apparently decided that time was no longer a factor once I made it to Level 12b)
AlexBobbs: Level 3 Although I've never actually run down the clock...
SkyeBerghel (half-blind): 3rd floor of Level 1 before giving up