Prince of Persia (1989 video game)
|Prince of Persia|
Cover art used for Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST and MS-DOS versions
Prince of Persia is a 1989 fantasy cinematic platformer originally developed and published by Brøderbund and designed by Jordan Mechner for the Apple II. In the game, players control an unnamed protagonist who must venture through a series of dungeons to defeat the Grand Vizier Jaffar and save an imprisoned princess.
Much like Karateka, Mechner's first game, Prince of Persia used rotoscoping for its fluid and realistic animation. For this process, Mechner used as reference for the characters' movements videos of his brother doing acrobatic stunts in white clothes and swashbuckler films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood.
The game was critically acclaimed and, while not an immediate commercial success, sold many copies as it was ported to a wide range of platforms after the original Apple II release. It is believed to have been the first cinematic platformer and inspired many following games in this subgenre, such as Another World. Its success led to the release of two sequels, Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame and Prince of Persia 3D, and two reboots of the series, first in 2003 with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which lead to two sequels of its own, and then again in 2008 with the identically-titled Prince of Persia.
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. His 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 to become his wife, or she would die within 60 minutes (or 120 minutes in the Super Nintendo version, which has more and harder levels). The game's nameless protagonist, whom the Princess loves, is thrown prisoner into the palace dungeons. In order to free her, he must escape the dungeons, get to the palace tower and defeat Jaffar before time runs out. But 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 lead the nameless protagonist out of a dungeons and into a tower before time runs out. This cannot be done without bypassing traps and fighting hostile swordsmen. The game consists of twelve levels (though some console versions have more). However, 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 the protagonist 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 if time runs out, the princess will die and the game will be over.
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 obtains a sword in the first stage, which they can use to fight these adversaries. The protagonist's sword maneuvers are as follows: advance, back off, slash, parry, or a combined parry-then-slash attack. Enemy swordsmen also have a health indicator similar to that of the protagonist. Killing them involves slashing them until their health indicator is depleted or by pushing them into traps while fighting.
A unique trap encountered in stage four, which serves as a plot device, is a magic mirror, whose appearance is followed by an ominous leitmotif. 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 stealing a potion and 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.
Once they have merged, the player can run across an invisible bridge to a new area, where they battle Jafaar (once the final checkpoint is reached, the player will no longer get a game over screen even if time runs out). Once Jafaar is defeated, his spell is broken and the Princess can be saved. In addition, the in-game timer is stopped at the moment of Jafaar's death, and the time remaining will appear on the high scores.
Development for the game began in 1985, the year Jordan Mechner graduated from Yale University. At that time, Mechner had already developed one game, Karateka, for distributor Brøderbund. Despite expecting a sequel to Karateka, the distributor gave Mechner creative freedom to create an original game. The game drew from several sources of inspiration beyond video games, including literature such as the Arabian Nights stories, and films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Mechner used an animation technique called rotoscoping, with which he used footage to animate the characters' sprites and movements. To create the protagonist's platforming motions, Mechner traced video footage of his younger brother running and jumping in white clothes. To create the game's swordfighting sprites, Mechner rotoscoped the final duel scene between Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone in 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.
For the Japanese computer ports, Arsys Software and Riverhillsoft enhanced the visuals and redesigned the Prince's appearance, introducing the classic turban and vest look. This version became the basis for the Macintosh version and later Prince of Persia ports and games by Brøderbund. Riverhillsoft's FM Towns version also added a Red Book CD audio soundtrack.
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (February 2011)|
After its release on the Apple II, Prince of Persia was ported to a variety of platforms. Below is a list of the ports that were developed.
|NEC PC-9801||July 1990||Arsys Software||Riverhillsoft|
|Sharp X68000||April 30, 1991||Riverhillsoft|
|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)
|Arsys Software||Masaya (JP)
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 3DS||January 19, 2012|
|Nintendo Wii||January 19, 2012|
|Electronika BK-0011M||1994||Evgeny Pashigorov, Pasha Sizykh ||Flame Association|
|ATM Turbo||1994||Honey Soft, Andrey Honichem||Moscow|
|ZX Spectrum||1996||Nicodim ||Magic Soft 
MC Software 
|TI-89, TI-92||2003||David Coz|
|Commodore Plus 4||2007||GFW & ACW |
|Commodore 64||2011||Andreas Varga |
|Linux, Microsoft Windows||2014||David This port, called SDLPoP, uses SDL.|
|This section requires expansion. (February 2011)|
Charles Ardai of 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. He wrote that Prince of Persia "succeeds at being more than a running-jumping game (in other words, a gussied-up Nintendo game)" because it "captures the feel of those great old adventure films", citing Thief of Baghdad, Frankenstein and Dracula. Ardai concluded that it was "a tremendous achievement" in gaming comparable to that of Star Wars in film.
In 1992, The New York Times described the Macintosh version as having "brilliant graphics and excellent sound ... Sure, you could do all this years ago on a Commodore 64 or Atari 400. But those games never looked or sounded like this". Reviewing the Genesis version, GamePro praised the "extremely fluid" animation of the player character and commented that the controls are difficult to master but nonetheless very effective. Comparing it to the SNES version, they summarized that "the Genesis version has better graphics, and the SNES has better music. Otherwise, the two are identical in almost every way ..." Electronic Gaming Monthly (EGM) likewise assessed the Genesis version as "An excellent conversion of the classic action game", and added that the game's challenging strategy and technique give it high longevity. EGM's panel of four reviewers each gave it a rating of 8 out of 10, adding up to an overall score of 32 out of 40.
In 1991, the game was ranked the 12th best Amiga game of all time by Amiga Power. Prince of Persia would go on to influence cinematic platformers such as Flashback as well as action-adventure games such as Tomb Raider, which used a similar control scheme.
Despite a positive critical reception, 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.
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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- Prince of Persia Apple II
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Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner believed that the source code to the game's original Apple II version was gone when he failed to find it in 2002. Ten years later, Mechner's father uncovered a box of old games at the family home, and among them were disks containing Prince of Persia's bedrock program.
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- Mechner, Jordan (12 October 1989). "Prince of Persia Technical Information" (PDF). Retrieved 6 October 2014.
- Official website
- Prince of Persia at MobyGames
- Prince of Persia at World of Spectrum
- Prince of Persia can be played for free in the browser at the Internet Archive
- Prince of Persia 1 page at PoPUW.com