The Prince of Persia trilogy is a series that grows tremendously while for the most part still managing to stay very close to it’s roots, both in terms of style and game play.
The first features the Prince being pursuaded by the Vizier of a neighboring kingdom to invade it, imprisoning some of it’s people including it’s princess Farah, and steal a magical artifact, an hour glass holding the Sands of Time. The Prince is then tricked into releasing the sands of time, turning everyone in the vicinity except him, Farah, and the Vizier into sand zombies. He and Farah go on a journey through the castle to undo the damage that was done, ultimately through using the powers of the Sands of Time. The tone while not absolutely lighthearted, is still pretty light, around the lines of a fairy tale like Aladdin, with an art style and soundtrack to match. I liked this style reasonably enough, though I had no special attachment to it.
The second features the Prince being hunted by a monster that wishes to kill him for altering the flow of time, and hence he journeys back to before the creation of the Sands of Time to prevent them from ever being created, and thus him from ever having used them. This involves travelling to an island and dealing with the Empress of Time, who has foreseen that the Prince will kill her in the future, and hence despite not believing in the ability to alter one’s fate, does her best to kill him. The tone in this game gets dramatically darker and downright edgy compared to the first. There’s a hard rock soundtrack, a generally more grim aesthetic, actual blood and other content leading to an M rating, and a somewhat dark story if you don’t get the secret ending. Many hate this change in style, and while I did find it jarring at first, overall I would have to say I liked it more than the first game.
The third directly follows the second game, opening with the Prince returning to Persia to find it in flames, taken over by the Vizier, who then uses what the Prince brought back from the island to release the Sands of Time once more, and begins a complete takeover of Persia. Furthermore, this ends up awakening a dark side within the Prince that’s more brutal and highly sarcastic and manifests in the form of a voice in the Prince’s head, also giving him the ability to transform into a sand monster himself under some circumstances. He meets up with and once again journeys with Farah to stop the Vizier, fighting his own dark side in the process. Here the tone is a lot less dark as compared to the second game, though it still isn’t anywhere near the first game. In my opinion it’s the entry with the best sense of style in terms of art, designs of enemies and characters, location design, soundtrack, etc. Furthermore, it seems to retroactively substantiate the major changes that occurred in the previous game, with the Prince essentially facing the darker prince that he had become in the second game head on and defeating him. The story across the series may have been pretty simplistic, but it wraps up tremendously well in terms of character development, story, and just all around bringing things full circle, resulting in an incredibly satisfying ending, which is a major part in what makes this series so good.
As for game play the platforming in the first is solid, though somewhat rough. However, it introduces the signature time reversal mechanics that act as a sort of crutch to get around how it can control somewhat finicky at times. The combat however is awful and downright annoying with no good boss fights.
As for the second, the platforming is a solid improvement over the previous game, though still lacks a certain fluidity. The combat is also improved, but still pretty bad. It also includes a somewhat open world with more exploration and back tracking, but to be honest, the world wasn’t anywhere near interesting enough to warrant that and it felt unnecessary.
The third had platforming about as good as the second, still good but lacking fluidity, though it didn’t really add much over it’s predecessor. The combat is also about the same as well, however it introduces the ability to use stealth to platform around most enemies and avoid combat completely if you’re so inclined for the majority of situations, which was incredibly welcome, much more enjoyable, and makes combat no longer an issue. The bosses are also a decent amount better than the previous games. A negative point however, is that it introduces random mechanics like chariot racing which are down right annoying and pointless. Ultimately though, I would have to say that this is a solid step over the previous game, and a great finale for the series.
Overall, a solid series that has good platforming but terrible combat that gets better and better with each entry and holistically is even better than the sum of it’s parts.
This game is a lot like the Jak series in its progression. I suppose those were the market conditions at the time.