We recall the history of the Prince of Persia series of games – from birth to heyday and extinction.
Let’s make a reservation right away that our selection includes only parts of the original franchise – all the spin-offs and re-releases that have accumulated over 30 years are too numerous to pay attention to in one selection.
It is noteworthy that both Disney’s Aladdin and the game Prince of Persia owe their appearance to the legendary ancient collection “A Thousand and One Nights”
From there were taken the images of a noble dodger and the name of the main villain. Development of the first game began back in 1985, when Jordan Meckner, a promising game designer, graduated from Yale University.
At that time, his portfolio already had one successful game – the fighting game Karateka , published in 1984 by the California company Broderbund .
The same studio hired Jordan and gave him full creative freedom, thanks to which another iconic title for the history of game development appeared.
PRINCE OF PERSIA (1989)
This game is well remembered by almost all gamers over 30 years old – after all, in the early nineties it managed to visit both the PC and almost all eight-bit consoles available at that time.
In the story, we had to save the princess from the hands of the evil vizier Jafar, making our way through mazes full of traps and traitorous guards.
Starting as a typical plat former, in which you had to jump from one floor slab to another, avoid thorns, abysses and mandibles, and solve puzzles, already at level 1 “Prince” acquired elements of action – finding a sword, our hero got the opportunity to engage in battles with security guards.
As you progress, villains become stronger and more numerous, traps are more insidious, and healing potions are less common.
Prince of Persia can rightfully boast that it was this game that set new standards in the transmission of human body movements.
If earlier the animation was done by artists, guided by their ideas about anatomy and physics , then Mekner simply sketched the movements of his younger brother and reproduced them in his game.
Largely due to this, almost for the first time in the history of platformers, the inertia of movement appeared in the “Prince” – gaining speed, our GG could not instantly stop, so his movements had to be planned in advance so as not to fall into the abyss or not step on the deadly thorns.
Despite the high ratings from critics (the average score was 9 out of 10), the game sold very poorly in the beginning. Only after porting from the Apple II to other platforms did it become financially successful, reaching sales of 2 million copies.
PRINCE OF PERSIA 2: THE SHADOW AND THE FLAME (1993)
The proceeds allowed the studio to attract not only Mekner, but also other specialists to the development of the sequel.
As a result, the project became larger and more ambitious, and the graphics were noticeably prettier and were able to compete with other games released in the same year.
The emphasis in the gameplay shifted a little towards the action – if in the original we never fought more than 1 enemy at a time, then in the sequel the number of enemies attacking our hero at the same time could reach 4, and they interacted with each other and tried to surround us.
According to the plot of the sequel, thanks to the skills of black magic, Jafar manages not only to survive the battle with the Prince, but also to kidnap the princess again.
At the same time, the cunning vizier adopts the image of the Prince, and turns the real hero into a beggar.
As a result, we have to make our way to the princess through the palace dungeons, the ruins of an ancient temple and many other vast locations full of enemies and traps.
Critics received the sequel generally favorably, giving it an average of 7 points out of 10, but the game failed to repeat the success of the original.
The achieved sales mark of 750 thousand copies allowed Jordan Mekner to found his own studio Smoking Car Productions and to develop the The Last Express quest.
PRINCE OF PERSIA 3D (1999)
While Meckner was busy with his project, Broderbund, being the owner of the rights to the series, decided not to sit back and create a new part on their own, only occasionally involving Jordan as a consultant. Another blow to the development of the game was the purchase of Broderbund by the American company The Learning Company and the subsequent large-scale reduction of the studio’s staff. As a result, Prince of Persia 3D went into release with many flaws, which significantly influenced its future fate.
But it wasn’t even bugs that ruined this generally cute action game with an interesting plot, dynamic battles, thoughtful combat, several types of weapons and many puzzles.
Critics forgave the game for its main flaws and gave it an average rating of just under 7 points out of 10.
Unfortunately for The Learning Company, in 1999, gamers began to forget about the Prince of Persia, but the Tomb Raider series of action games was at its peak in those years.
It was with the adventures of Lara Croft that in the end they began to compare the restart of “Prince” – and these comparisons were not in his favor.
Mekner himself called Prince of Persia 3D “Turbanized Tomb Raider” and still does not consider this game part of the Prince of Persia series.
PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (2003)
If the previous restart came out in the golden age of Action-adventure , the “Sands of Time” was created in the years of its decline. Ubisoft bought the rights to the franchise back in 2001 , but for a long time they could not persuade Jordan Meckner to join the development team. Only after the studio showed the developer several concept art of their new project, Jordan agreed to participate in another attempt to resurrect the “Prince”.
The features of the game were not only the usual acrobatics from the previous parts but also the manipulation of time with the help of the Dagger of Time. The prince knew how to rewind time a few seconds back, slow down its flow for everyone except himself and impose paralysis on enemies. To prevent these abilities from making battles too easy, they could only be used by spending the Sand of Time, which was stored in the dagger and replenished when killing enemies.