Return of the Prince
July 29, 2008 – Rejoice, DS owners – the Prince is on his way! Yes, we heard the news of a current-gen Prince of Persia (PoP) game in the works, but what is possibly more exciting, for fans of the old-school, action platforming, is the announcement of a unique PoP game for DS: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King.
In more recent times, PoP is likely best known for clever, acrobatic, 3D adventuring, with the The Sands of Time being a modern classic known to almost every hardcore gamer. But the series got its start as a side-scrolling, action platformer, and the DS version is going back to its roots…well, mostly. In The Fallen King, players will once again be treated to some wonderful, side-scrolling acrobatics – with a fair amount of combat thrown in – but this time around, most of the action will be controlled using the DS’ touchscreen. Many players may recall the control system of Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS), and The Fallen King will be played much the same, but on a 2D plane. Players will guide the prince by simply dragging the stylus along the touchscreen and attack by tapping on enemies. It’s still uncertain how all the many elements of gameplay will work out, but we’re excited by the prospect of classic gameplay fully embracing the DS hardware.
The very first Prince of Persia game came to us on an old PC you might remember called the Apple II. At the time, that game was quite a feat, and up-and-coming developers took notice. So impressive was the gameplay, PoP eventually found its way onto almost every major gaming system of that era, including the NES and Gameboy. The series saw some large gaps between games, but in 2003 Ubisoft rebooted PoP with The Sands of Time. Making the transition from a great 2D experience into 3D has proven difficult for many developers, but there’s no denying the series struck gold with the evolution in gameplay and perspective. However, seems there was still much greatness to be mined from the old-school style, and Gameloft gave fans a special treat when making Prince of Persia Classic for Xbox Live Arcade. Back to the roots, back to 2D, Classic was the perfect title for the game, and fans seemed to agree – there was still life in the original PoP formula.
Fast forward to the present, and Ubisoft is once again bringing the classic PoP gameplay to DS – classic yet new. The touchscreen control promises to offer more of that intuitive but tactile enjoyment games like Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was able to bring to DS, and that’s something to get excited about. No, we offer no guarantees The Fallen King will, in the end, turn out great, but our latest eyes-on with the game has, at the very least, gotten this previewer feeling confident about the promise that it will be.
Some additional, new aspects folks may want to take note of regarding The Fallen King include the decidedly chibi / cartoony look of the game and its characters. The prince, this time around, is squat and sporting some fanciful colors, almost something right out of Disney’s Aladdin. But, mark this as a plus. The DS is never going to produce great photo-realistic graphics, and for this style of game, in particular, the more playful theme seems a sound choice for The Fallen King.
Also new is the addition of a helper character, the corrupt magician (the Magus). He’ll follow the prince wherever he goes, and by holding down any button on the DS, you’ll command him (also using the touchscreen) to aid the prince in navigating various puzzles and obstacles. The Fallen King’s theme seems to revolve around a substance known as “Corruption” (original, no?) overtaking the land. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the corrupt magician possesses unique powers, which can help the prince in his quest to rid the kingdom of this menace. Additionally, the prince will sport a sort of claw hand, which will allow him to slow his decent along slopes and perhaps cling to walls and objects, though the latter is unconfirmed.
Graphically, the game is shaping up nicely. The visual perspective, as mentioned, is from a side-scrolling view, but The Fallen King is still very much a 3D game. From what we’ve seen, there are no blocky textures, and the framerate looks fast and smooth, which is important when acrobatic platforming is one of the main selling points of the experience. Though we’ve only taken a peek at a small portion of what the game has to offer, there seems to be a nice variety, with respect to environments and character models. The audio package, too, is falling into place, with yelps and battle grunts from the prince adding a wonderful bit of excitement to the gameplay. All the presentation elements we’ve seen and heard, including atmospheric themes and cinematic camera pans, promise to beef up The Fallen King’s production into something of a DS-blockbuster experience.
Sounds great, right? That is the hope, anyway. But, if there is one thing to perhaps be wary of it’s the pedigree of the game’s developer. The Fallen King is being created by Ubisoft Casablanca, known for bringing us the DS versions of Peter Jackson’s King Kong and Rayman Raving Rabbids, as well Star Wars: Lethal Alliance (also on DS). If you know anything about those games, it’s cause for concern when pondering the finished product of The Fallen King.
But, let’s not get down on ourselves after contemplating the many wonderful possibilities Prince of Persia: The Fallen King may bring to DS. It’s been a long while since the original, 2D action has made its way onto a Nintendo platform, and the DS has a magic that can really bring gameplay like this to new heights. So, keep your fingers crossed and hope the prince doesn’t fall into any nasty traps. Expect to see The Fallen King on store shelves this November.