Prince of Persia (1989 video game)
|Prince of Persia|
Cover art used for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST and MS-DOS versions
|Artist(s)||Riverhillsoft (updated character design)|
Prince of Persia is a fantasy platform game, originally developed by Jordan Mechner and released in 1989 for the Apple II, that represented a great leap forward in the quality of animation seen in video games.
After the original release on the Apple II, Prince of Persia was ported to a wide range of platforms. The game managed to surprise and captivate the player despite being at first glance, repetitive. This was achieved by interspersing intelligent puzzles and deadly traps all along the path the player-controlled Prince had to take to complete the game—all this packaged in fluid, lifelike motion.
The game is set in ancient Persia. While the sultan is fighting a war in a foreign land, his vizier Jaffar, a wizard, seizes power. Jaffar's only obstacle to the throne is the Sultan's daughter (although the game never specifically mentions how). Jaffar locks her in a tower and orders her, under threat of execution, to become his wife. The game's nameless protagonist, whom the Princess loves, is thrown into the palace dungeons. The player must lead the protagonist out of the dungeons and to the palace tower, defeating Jaffar and freeing the Princess in under 60 minutes. In addition to guards, various traps and dungeons, the protagonist is further hindered by his own doppelgänger, an apparition of his own self that is conjured out of a magic mirror.
The main objective of the player is to complete the game within one hour. The player must lead the game protagonist out of a dungeon and into a tower. Doing so requires bypassing traps and fighting hostile swordsmen. The game consists of twelve stages (or levels). To complete a game, all twelve stages must be completed in one session. A game session may be saved and resumed at a later time only after level 3.
The player has a health indicator that consists of a series of small red triangles. The player starts with three. Each time he is damaged (cut by sword, fallen from two floors of heights or hit by a falling rock), the player loses one of these indicators. There are small jars of red potion scattered throughout the game that restore one health indicator. There are also large jars of red potion that increase the maximum number of health indicators by one. If the player's health is reduced to zero, the protagonist dies. Subsequently, the game is restarted from the beginning of the stage in which the protagonist died but the timer will not reset to that point, effectively constituting a time penalty. There is no counter for the number of lives but dying too many times will eventually leave the player with very little time to complete the game.
There are three types of traps that the player must bypass: Spike traps, deep pits (three or more levels deep) and guillotines. Getting caught or falling into each results in the instant death of the protagonist. In addition, there are gates that can be raised for a short period of time by having the protagonist stand on the activation trigger. The player must pass through the gates while they are open, avoiding locking triggers. Sometimes, there are various traps between an unlock trigger and a gate.
Hostile swordsmen (Jaffar and his guards) are yet another obstacle. The player has to obtain a sword in the first stage, which he can use to fight these adversaries. The protagonist's sword maneuvers are limited: He can advance, back off, slash or parry. Enemy swordsmen also have a health indicator similar to that of the protagonist. Killing them involves slashing them until their health indicator is depleted.
A unique trap encountered in stage four, which serves as a plot device, is a magic mirror, whose appearance is followed by an ominous musical tone. The protagonist is forced to jump through this mirror upon which his doppelganger emerges from the other side. This apparition later hinders the protagonist by throwing him into a dungeon. The protagonist cannot kill this apparition as they share lives; any damage inflicted upon one also hurts the other. Therefore, the protagonist must merge with his doppelganger.
Mechner used an animation technique called rotoscoping, in which he traced video footage of his younger brother running and jumping in white clothes. Some of the game's sword fighting sprites are from the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood. Also unusual was the method of combat: protagonist and enemies fought with swords, not projectile weapons, as was the case in most contemporary games. Mechner has said that when he started programming, the first ten minutes of the film Raiders of the Lost Ark had been one of the main inspirations for the character's acrobatic responses in a dangerous environment.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2011)|
|Apple II||October 3, 1989||Jordan Mechner||Brøderbund|
|Sharp X68000||April 30, 1991|
|TurboGrafx-CD||November 8, 1991|
|Sega Master System||1992||Domark|
|Sega Game Gear||1992|
|Game Boy||January 1992||Virgin Games|
|FM Towns||June 1992||Riverhillsoft|
|SNES||July 3, 1992
November 1, 1992 (US, EU)
Konami (US, EU)
|NES||November 2, 1992||Virgin Games |
|Game Boy Color||April 15, 1999||Ed Magnin and Associates ||Red Orb Entertainment |
|iOS (Actually "Retro", replaced by "Classic" version on 2011)||May 28, 2010||Ubisoft|
|iOS (Actually "Classic")||December 19, 2011|
|Nintendo DS||January 19, 2012|
|Wii||January 19, 2012|
|ZX Spectrum||1996||Nicodim ||Magic Soft |
|Commodore Plus 4||2007||GFW & ACW |
|Commodore 64||2011||Andreas Varga |
|This section requires expansion. (February 2011)|
Computer Gaming World stated that the game package's claim that it "breaks new ground with animation so uncannily human it must be seen to be believed" was true. It concluded that Prince of Persia "captures the feel of those great old adventure films ... a tremendous achievement", and compared its impact on gaming to Star Wars on film.
Despite critical acclaim, the game was initially a commercial failure in North America, where it had sold only 7,000 units each on the Apple II and IBM PC platforms by July 1990. It was when the game was released in Japan and Europe that year that it became a commercial success. In July 1990, the NEC PC-9801 version sold 10,000 units as soon as it was released in Japan. It was then ported to various different home computers and video game consoles, eventually selling 2 million units worldwide by the time its sequel Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame (1993) was in production. Prince of Persia would go on to influence cinematic platformers such as Flashback as well as action-adventure games such as Tomb Raider.
Remake and modifications
In 2007, Prince of Persia was remade and ported by Gameloft. The remake, titled Prince of Persia Classic, was released on June 13, 2007 to the Xbox Live Arcade, and on October 23, 2008 on the PlayStation Network. It features the same level design and general premise but contained 3D-rendered graphics, more fluid movements, and Sands of Time aesthetics. The gameplay and controls were slightly adjusted to include a wall-jump move and different swordplay. New game modes were also added, such as "Time Attack" and "Survival". The game has also been released on Android.
Reverse engineering efforts by fans of the original game have resulted in detailed documentation of the file formats of the MS-DOS version. Various level editors have been created that can be used to modify the level files of the DOS version. With these editors and other software, over sixty mods have been created.
Source code release
On April 17, 2012, Jordan Mechner established a GitHub repository containing the long-thought-lost original Apple II source code for Prince of Persia. A technical document describing the operation of this source code is available on Mechner's website.
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- October 20, 1985 | jordanmechner.com
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