Jeremy Jastrzab
21 Apr, 2007

Prince of Persia: Rival Swords Review

PSP Review | Like Revelations, not really a revelation.
On the back of one of the more successful revivals of the current generation, there was an entire trilogy spawned for the ever-present Prince of Persia. It may have finished back in 2005, but that hasn’t stopped Ubisoft from spreading the gaming goodness. We’re not quite sure why Revelations - the weakest in the series - was given the double-dip treatment and why the best game in the series, Sands of Time remains under utilised. Still, at least the second best game, The Two Thrones, is getting the remake treatment. While the Wii received a non-budgeted port in the form of Rival Swords, the PSP receives its own port. However, while the PSP version does retail at a price below average, is it enough to make up for some of the shortcomings?

Prince of Persia Rival Swords on the PSP and the Wii is essentially a port of Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, which was released in late 2005. All of these versions will tell you the same story - having defeated the Dahaka and wooed the Empress of Time, Kaileena, the Prince is finally going home to Babylon. Unfortunately for him, it is hardly the homecoming that he could have wanted. The Vizier from Sands of Time who was never actually stopped back then, has taken siege of the city. Once again, the Sands of Time are unleashed, turning the Vizier and his cohorts into an army of immortal sand monsters. Through a journey of self-discovery, internal battle and epic adventure, the Prince sets out to finish this saga once and for all.

Our review of The Two Thrones quite comprehensively went through the game’s intricacies, so we’ll concentrate on the PSP specifics here. As is the case with most PSP ports, there have been some necessary concessions. Thankfully with Rival Swords, the core platforming and combat mechanics that are essential to the game have remained fairly unscathed. In terms of both these facets of the game, you’ll be performing all the extravagant acrobatics and all the combat moves just as you were in the Xbox, PS2 and GC versions of the game.

At least you can still do this well.

At least you can still do this well.
One addition to The Two Thrones was the use of the stealth kills. Given the sensitivity and layout of the PSP buttons, you could almost consider these to be easier to perform on the handheld than it was on the consoles. Given that the combat can sometimes be a drag, this is an addition that was most certainly welcomed. A portion of the game will have you playing as the sand-corrupted Dark Prince, whose sections are rather hectic and in need of some urgency but have the potential to be quite exhilarating. Otherwise, the game successfully replicates the mix of acrobatics, puzzle solving and combat from the first game, with a few other parts added to the mix.

The main issue that obviously comes into play is that of the camera. For the most part, the game requires you to follow the camera in the direction that it points or sometimes it will give you a “landscape” view which zooms out and gives you a whole viewpoint of the environment. However, if you don’t spot the point to go the first time, the camera isn’t as friendly as it could have been, in terms of pointing in the right direction. In normal circumstances, it will follow you quite closely but won’t go back over your shoulder unless you press left on the d-pad. Pressing the L button and using the analog nub will turn the camera but you can’t move when this is happening.

Furthermore, your time-rewinding and manipulation abilities have been mapped to the down button on the d-pad. It’s not ideal and it will take a little bit of time to get used to but for the most part it is functional. The main issue that we encountered was that the movements and precision that was demanded of the player became a little more demanding than what the system could successfully handle in the latter 20% of the game. Otherwise, it was very good to see that in the least, the core mechanics of the game made it through to the PSP version relatively unscathed - this is more than can be said for a lot of other PSP ports.

Prince, you look different. Have you lost weight?

Prince, you look different. Have you lost weight?
Unlike the Wii version, the PSP rendition of Rival Swords has some exclusive content and a lower than usual retail price. According to reviews from the US, at the junctions of the game where you were cutting off the sand portals that were feeding the Vizier's army, there were meant to be a range of challenges. Unfortunately, there was no such distinguishing factor in the version we played. However, there has been the inclusion of three chariot races in the game. Finally, there has been the addition of a competitive multiplayer mode for two people across ad-hoc.

The multiplayer is actually quite clever and well thought out. Two players race from one end of the level through to the other. Each player has three different paths that they can choose: one fast but highly susceptible to traps and with no sand refills, the second allows traps to be set off but also means you can be caught in traps as well and the final is completely safe but quite slow. It leaves a lot of dastardly options and will likely create the same kind of tension that you’d get between buddies after one knockouts the other with a red shell in Mario Kart. Still, unless you’ve got two copies between you, you’ll be stuck with essentially the same 8-10 hour adventure that you had 18 months ago.

Unfortunately, it’s not as good as that. A lot of the latter PSP ports have actually been very solid technically and it’s the gameplay that has not translated well. Unfortunately, with Rival Swords it’s the opposite, with a technical performance that is on the absolute borderline of being shambolic. It’s a real shame because the gameplay itself is good but ends up being dragged down by the number of tech issues. The problem seems to be that the developers just haven’t taken the disparity between console and the PSP into account and have tried to cram way too much into a less capable system, rather than optimising. It’s disappointing, especially when it can be seen how well the PSP does when games have indeed been optimised for it.

Because you needed more chariot races.

Because you needed more chariot races.
Graphically, the game was quite grand on the consoles, while on the PSP it struggles quite a lot. In terms of putting the games next to each other, the character models are a severe downgrade from the console version and many of the intricate details now look murky and indistinguishable. That would’ve been acceptable if it weren’t for the awfully chugging frame rate, which is struggling for over half the game. The environments are OK and are much smoother indoors. However, there are even times where the lower graphical quality will cause you to miss the ledge or point that leads to your next move. The largest problem arises when the game demands much more of the Prince in terms of acrobatics and the game struggles to keep up visually and technically; often leading to many unnecessary deaths. Finally, the game takes some massive hits particularly when the game reaches a cut scene.

Admittedly, the graphics are passable… just. It’s the sound that is pretty much busted. Still, it must be said, the actual quality of the voicing, music and sound effects is quite good. Great in fact. However, the game is virtually never in sync with what is shown on screen - dialogue, sound and music run long after they are actually meant to happen. You’ll break a pot and hear a breaking noise five seconds later. Sometimes, the sound and voices cut out all together and required a restart before they came back. Furthermore, there were two separate occasions where we were forced to restart due to debilitating glitches and once, the PSP shut itself off.

It was a rather difficult decision to come up with a final score. On one hand, you’d expect that the developer would have had enough time to get its head around the PSP hardware, so such a poor technical performance would be unacceptable. On the other hand, the gameplay for the most part, is fairly well intact and can still recreate that feeling of satisfaction as you make a ledge that seems unreachable. Also, save points are fairly constant so most restarts won’t be too distressing and portability is reasonable across lengths greater than twenty minutes. The price is reasonable for a new PSP game and almost acceptable for an eighteen-month-old port. However, if you’ve played The Two Thrones, there is not enough new content to sweeten a seemingly reasonable deal. Overall, Prince of Persia Rival Swords is a title that straddles the borderline of being acceptable, though as long as gameplay is king, it ends up on the right side of that line.
The Score
Prince of Persia Rival Swords has gameplay that has been well translated for the PSP but is awfully dragged down by technical problems. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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7 years ago
After playing the PC version I couldn't imagine myself enjoying this one.
7 years ago
Marka wrote
After playing the PC version I couldn't imagine myself enjoying this one.
really? is it that bad?
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