Reviewed: October 27, 1999
Released: September 20, 1999
About ten years ago I remember getting my shiny new 386 computer with Adlib sound card. At the time Adlib was just about the only sound card you could get unless you wanted the fancy $700 MT32 midi card from Roland. Adlib offered great FM-synthesized music and sounds and life was just about as good as it could get.
Then one night a guy in the frat house wanted to show me something. He had just gotten a game called Prince of Persia and a new sound card called the SoundBlaster. I had been playing Prince of Persia on my Adlib for a few weeks already, so the game didn't look any different, but the sound I was hearing was incredible. Gates slamming shut, blades cutting the prince into pieces, swords clashing together, were all perfectly digitized and synched with the action. I immediately ran out and got a SoundBlaster the next day.
The next month of my life was consumed with Prince of Persia as I fought my way through the seemingly endless levels of mazes, traps, and sword wielding henchmen. I missed many nights of sleep and even a few classes until I had finally conquered this amazing game.
A few years later (1993) the sequel arrived and once again I was consumed by this amazing adventure. Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame set a new standing in 2D side-scrolling action adventure. The graphics were improved and those digitized sounds were just as good as the first installment.
Now, after six long years we are finally privileged to witness the evolution of the Prince of Persia saga as it enters the world of 3D in an all-new and incredible adventure that spans over 14 amazing and detailed levels. Just as the original Prince of Persia was the very first game to use the digital capabilities of the SoundBlaster, this third sequel makes use of all the latest 3D audio and video hardware available today to bring you the most realistic action/adventure title you can play today.
From Red Orb Entertainment, the Prince of Persia 3D (POP3D) storyline is pretty much the standard fare. Bad guy kidnaps princess - bad guy throws prince in jail - prince escapes from jail - prince kills bad guy - prince saves princess and they live happily ever after. Of course completing those five tasks will take you over 30 hours as you progress through some of the most detailed levels in 3D gaming history.
POP3D plays much like Tomb Raider or any of the other recent action titles. You control the prince from an over-the-shoulder camera, which you can also control independently of the character when necessary. The camera system is one of the most intelligent I've seen in a game such as this. You almost never have to manually tweak your view.
There are your basic obstacles in this game, puzzles, traps, the frequent henchman, and the various bosses whom you must defeat as you fight your way to rescuing your bride. Combat is stunning. All the animation is motion-captured from actual stuntmen performing with real weapons. Motivate, from the Motion Factory, is used to create the incredibly life-like animation. In the previous games you only had your trusty sword, but in POP3D you now have your sword plus, assassin daggers, staff weapon, and a bow with a wide assortment of magical arrows.
The same person who choreographed all the action scenes for the Mortal Kombat movies also choreographed all of the combat and stunts for this game. You can be sure you will have some exciting battles ahead of you. You cannot jump into this game and just start slashing away or you will soon die. You must learn to actually fight and use various combat styles based on your weapons and your enemy.
Learning when to block, parry, and count-attack is crucial in beating the enemies in the later levels. Most of your opponents will always have twice your health so if you start "trading blows" you will lose. Despite the graphic nature of the traps and battles and even some of the finishing blows, which include impaling and decapitation, there is no blood in this game except for some dark stains around the hidden traps. Even with the Gore setting turn all the way up there is no blood. This didn't really take anything away from the game and hopefully it may encourage parents to allow the younger kids to play this title.
There are plenty of those notorious jumping and climbing puzzles. In fact; two levels are nothing but jumping, climbing, grabbing, shimmying, etc. POP3D allows you to save at anytime and I highly recommend you do. Sometimes a missed jump will just mean you have to repeat a portion of the level, but often it means you plummet to your death. Saving often will reduce the frustration factor considerably.
The puzzles in POP3D won't tax your adventuring skills as they consist of mainly "find the key to unlock the door" or "flip the switch to open the gate". If you do happen to get stuck you can always use Sinjin's Guide to Save the Princess. You will find the combat is the most challenging part of this game. Until you learn the art of sword fighting or combat with a staff or knives, you will find these frequent encounters to be very intense. The game does offer you three skill levels from the options menu, which you can use to fine-tune these battles.
The 3D accelerated graphics (3D card required) are stunning. The game uses very high-resolution textures to create photo-realistic environments. There are a few clipping problems but these are minor visual glitches and do not affect the game play. The detailed lighting adds color and depth to an already impressive visual feast and every step has been taken to recreate a 12th century Arabian setting.
The character animation is incredibly lifelike. Every move is detailed to the extreme; even to the extent of seeing the Prince's chest rise and fall as he breathes. When he starts climbing ledges and swinging across ropes you will think you are watching a real action star in an actual movie.
Deadly traps are almost as abundant as the henchmen you will encounter. These traps are often cleverly concealed and almost always fatal. Sometimes you can easily spot the raised floor trigger or dart launcher in the wall, but many times the deadliest traps are the decapitation blades in the walls, the spikes in the floor, or even the floors themselves that break away beneath your feet, sending you into a spike-filled pit.
Interspersed throughout the game are fantastic cinematic movies, which move the story along and motivate our hero. The opening movie with the belly dancer will quickly become a favorite that you will want to show to all of your friends.
The sound and music are excellent. Each sound effect is perfect and accurately synched with the action while the background music is authentic for the 12th century period and locale. Some of the chanting is almost soothing and will relax you on some of the more stressful levels.
You can expect 15-20 hours of swashbuckling adventure and sword swinging action with this title. You can tailor the skill level using the option settings, thus offering a bit of replay value if you want to replay the game on a harder setting. Otherwise, there is no real reason to replay this game after you finish it.
So Prince of Persia 3D offers a great story, incredible graphics, realistic 12th century locations and technology (giant Dirigible being the exception), and fantastic sound and music. There is no multiplayer option and the story is very linear, so once you finish this adventure you probably won't feel the immediate urge to play it again. Given the large selection of 3D games currently available, Prince of Persia ranks right up there at the top of the list. Go get this game today and BE THE PRINCE!