Wednesday, September 21, 2011

VGR PoP Forgotten Sands [Wii Version]

The Sands of Time Trilogy might have been closed with Two Thrones but with a new interest in the series thanks to a movie adaptation, Ubisoft thought it was a good commercial move to bring the series back in an all-new episode just for this time.

The game was released amongst most systems. In what I like to call the "Forgotten Sands chapters" (which would have made a much better title for this game IMO).
Like Untold tales or Missing chapters, all these games across the different consoles aren't the same but instead different episodes taking place in the 7 years gab between The Sands of Time and Warrior Within.
This is a review of the "Wii version" available exclusively for the Wii system.

VGR: Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands
From Ubisoft/Ubisoft Quebec
Played on Wii
Also available on /
Type Parkour/action platformer
Year 2010

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands on the Wii system is another "interquel" episode in the Prince of Persia series taking place in the time gap in-between Sands of Time and Warrior Within.
It is unrelated to the other Forgotten Sands game on the HD systems and can be seen as yet another separate adventure with no clear ties to the main series.
I would consider this one to take place right before the HD version, as the Prince seen here as clearly never seen such strange creatures or magic at work on this scale. (in Sands of Time, things were much simpler as well so were creatures confined to mostly human-sized revived sand creatures before Warrior Within and Two Thrones introduced more fantastic elements)
And the motivations behind the Prince in this game could tie-in easily in the reason why the Sultan sent him to see his brother Malik in that other game. (to learn leadership)

With this game not developed by the usual Ubisoft Montreal, it was up to Ubisoft Quebec to bring this original entry to the Wii system.
The game is also back to using the more familiar JadeEngine from Ubi's last generation of titles, making this game feel and look a lot closer to the Sands of Time trilogy. The gameplay is also back to a more traditional 3D platformer vibe over the free running and lose control of the next gen version.

Enters a familiar face in an unfamiliar place..

The game follows our unnamed Prince one more time as he travels throughout a mystic lands to conquer a kingdom, with the help of a genie-like being acting as sidekick.

The story starts "in medias res" as our Prince is seen escaping some collapsing ruins. The Prince follows the lead of a djinn named Zahra. She guides him through a jungle to escape the perils. Finally they arrive at an oasis where she offers a deal to the Prince through a mystical pact. The Prince kisses Zahra by the way of a statue she possesses which grants him magical abilities and she promises him a Kingdom.
With the dialogue being played as the game progress, we understand the Prince was able to get this djinn in a market.
With this magic pact in effect, their union permits the Prince to see what Zahra sees. The Prince finds his way to a gateway leading to the "Kingdom of Izdihar". But once there, he discovers only ruins and desolation. This once fantastic realm his now a deserted place, filled with posonous vines and decay everywhere.

The Prince sees a sword stuck on stone, pulls it out....which frees a sort of Witch.
Then as quickly as it took the Prince to find this place, another monster pops up. The Prince stabs it, but the blade breaks and gets stuck on the giant monster, who flees the scene with the impaled weapon.

She just wants to make out with the Prince that much.

Zahra explains to the Prince was has just happened.
It seems Izdihar had been invaded by corruption called The Haoma a long time ago.
That sword was used to contain the poisonous spread of those vines, taking it off released the Haoma.
The genie wasn't obtained by coincidence by the Prince, she allowed herself to be captured and to be found in a marketplace on the path of our hero so she could trick him into helping her out. The Prince himself was seeking a Kingdom of his own, a Princess and mastery over death itself to impress his father.
A long time ago, there lived many djinns in these mysterious lands, but only one survived the Haoma.
Now the Prince has to find back that monster, regain the sword and forge it to save Izdihar.

Most of the game is spent chasing the giant creature from place to place.
The monster is finally revealed to be the former King of Izdihar cursed by the Haoma.
He makes our hero promise to save his daughter the Princess Nasreen.
Finally on the path to defeat the Haoma, the Prince needs to clear four trials imposed by the Gods.
After a final confrontation which reveals the true nature of the witch released much earlier, the Prince transfers the powers of Zahra (magic, immortality,..) to the Princess with another Kiss...
In the end, the loop is broken.
The game surprises the player by taking him back through a familiar scene.
The Prince is seen escaping some collapsing ruins... The Prince follows the lead of Zahra... She guides him through a jungle to escape the perils....
The Prince discovers Zahra offered everything he wished for...and so much more. He had been living for various lifetimes this adventure. She offered the Prince a Kingdom he could never have, was fighting for a Princess corrupted and was offered immortality through a loophole.
When the Prince kissed the Princess he broke the cycle.
Now in a spiritual real Zahra wants the Prince to stay with her forever. The Prince escapes this realm.
He finally arrive at the oasia from waaaay back at the beginning of the tale. Nothing happens with the union broken. The Prince leaves into the desert...

The game plays mostly like you'd expect a modern Prince of Persia from Ubisoft to play like.
It was built upon the series' last gen engine, so it feels exactly like past games.
Despite the Wii's own original controls, after some getting used to in the earlier easier levels, you'll pretty much get a hang on this game very fast.

The game's your typical "action adventure" game (as they call it, but I really dislike this classification since such games never feature any real "adventuring" in the classical sense of the term).
So this means, a 3D platformer with puzzle elements and some combat.
But unlike the lesser good entries of the franchise combat's role mostly that of a background.element. The core gameplay is all about exploration, using the Prince's acrobatic moves to make you way through the mazes and ruined kingdom and lots, and I mean a lot, of puzzles.
As a matter of fact, platforming is also turned into a puzzle element, making your way across the rooms requires a lot of thinking and planning through.

In this way, the game feels nothing like the HD version of Forgotten Sands which emphasized combat.
(with its "free play" combat control)

The game will have you go from place to place, clearing zones of puzzle.
Monsters will often ambush you in small rooms/zones or spawn as you will least expect them to...but they're often pretty easy to dispatch.

Replacing the "stealth kills" of earlier game but serving the same purpose as making your way through the combats quickly to move along, there's a new "leader" mechanic to group of enemies. Some monsters will have a sort of blue aura to show who acts as leader in a group of foes. Kill the leader and the rest of the enemies will scatter. (though you will gain less "energy", which is used to either replenish your lives/health/abilities progression/or unlocking stuff)

There's also a light "co-op" capability in this game, making it the first occurrence of such in the entire series.
But it's really limited, a second player will be able to "freeze" enemies around controlling a kind of djinn/touch-screen feature. Nothing to write about, really..

The "main meat" of the game is in the creation powers.
Zahra offers the Prince the ability to manipulate the environment, making this game the less linear Prince of Persia to move around, environment-wise.

You will gain these powers progressively.
But the Prince will be able to affect the world around him, the way you will "parkour" your way around the rooms/spaces.
There's a Spirit Hook, which allows to wall-grip your way around surfaces, which will deeply affect the way you explore the areas.
The power to create Whirlwind Pillars, which serve as platforms you generate to elevate yourself or jump around.
And finally you will be able to make Spirit Spheres to either avoid falling or combined with Spirit Hooks will provide you a way to fully explore levels.

These powers are to be carefully alternated since you won't be able to duplicate them until these "spirits" regain the Prince's body.
It's all pretty easy to use, just point and click with the Wiimote directly. But the puzzles get pretty clever and some later parts pretty though to clear. (specially around the "Challenges of the Gods")

The game's fairly long.
Not huge mind you, but long enough for this type of game. Specially since some parts will get tricky and quite challenging. (intellectually moreso than platforming-wise)

The game offers a lot of unlockable content.
From developers diaries to concept arts.
There's also some skins to unlock to play as the Prince from a past game.
Various challenges, some based around ideas seen briefly at some point in the game, including my favorites a labyrinth and a whole mini-game played with a sidescrolling point of view (which happens at some rare points in the actual game) making it a very nice reminiscence of the original Jordan Mechner game or the PSP Forgotten Sands as well. (more on that in the later Forgotten Sands-PSP review!)
The old original 1992 SNES port of Prince of Persia is also unlockable!

The game's music was composed by Tom Salta (Red Steel, the Tom Clancy's: HAWX series).
It's simple. It get the mood and the atmosphere right but isn't that remarquable really.
(I'm usually a fan of the series' sountrack though!)
Not really generic, just not that epic. It gets the job done I'd say.

Overall, I liked it.
It is a much better game than main Forgotten Sands game.
It simply feels a lot closer to the originals while proposing innovating gimmicks. (the "creation powers") Which gives a fresh breath to the series mechanics and offers quite a lot of challenges in later parts of the game.
The game is a great entry in the series, despite one might think from the Wii motion controls. It only takes some getting used to. (but it isn't that hard, really)
The only part that kinda annoyed me was to have to use the motion to swing the sword around. But even that, thanks to the "leader" element, enemies never took that much effort.

It is also the first Prince of Persia (Ubisoft and otherwise) to actually introduce a life system mechanic to the Prince.
(people often unjustly bring this point up against the 2008 game, but let's be honest, life has never really mattered in a PoP game, even the original one with its limited one hour-limit)
You start the game with 1-2 lifes. Losing them will GAME OVER you back to a fountain where you can save/replenish your health.
So without a time-rewinding system you have to be careful, take your health into consideration, try to conserve it through the fights.
Later one you will be able to obtain additional lives which make the later harder parts easier.

The game is quite puzzle heavy. And combat barely existent. (thing the Prince will refer to in some of his funnier quotes/breaking the 4h wall almost)
There's some great segments you'll play through a 2D plan, sidescrolling. Easily my favorite moments of the entire game!

At first I didn't like the plot that much, but the more was revealed about it through dialogues and cutscenes, the more I got invested and interested in finding out about this mysterious Kingdom.

The problem is perhaps that it feels so unrelated to the main SoT series it makes you think why this wasn't a new Prince or the 2008 one instead. (but this could be said from all of the Forgotten Sands game)
You kinda wish it had at least some mentions to that storyline (the Dahaka's debut?) rather than being such a self-contained plot.

I give it:
 2 / 3 Bruces!

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