Sands of Time preserves the original spirit. It has sword-finding and sword-fighting; it has numerous traps; it has long jumps (though now, I don't have to start the level from scratch if I make a false move); it has a princess. But it also has 2 things that most games don't have: an appealing story and a beautiful setting.
The story is laconic. There isn't much that happens while the Prince and Farah dance around their mutual attraction, other than their witty banter--but somehow, through this witty banter, and after a few instances of separation and reunification, the writers and voice actors successfully expressed the growing attraction between these two characters. Yahtzee was right: subtlety is often key. If Farah had hugged the Prince after every vision, then it would've been too much; but doing it only twice somehow makes her seem more human. And of course, the ending was brilliant: the Prince reverses time, returns the dagger to Farah, and leaves her (and the players) wondering about what all of that meant. It wasn't a blunt Il Mare-type ending, nor did the screen go blank immediately after the Prince finished his story. The ending was satisfying despite not describing every single thing about the future. I guess there's some semblance to real life.
The scenery is good for the most part--but the last 10% of the game I consider great: standing up above the clouds and jumping from beam to beam made my palms sweat. Not many games have done that. I must admit that standing above the clouds in "Gateway to Na Pali" (level 21 of Unreal) was more breath-taking--but still!