The Fresh Prince!
Nintendo fans have waited years for an old-school Prince of Persia (PoP). After a very successful, cross-platform trilogy in the third dimension (not to mention the latest next-gen release), the Prince returns to the 2D plane for classic PoP gameplay with a DS twist.
The Fallen King closely follows the story of its console counterparts. Corruption has overtaken the land, and it’s up to the Prince to rid the kingdom of this ominous presence. However, rather than partnering with Elika (the Prince’s counterpart in the latest console outing), the DS game has the Prince accompanied by a magus of the fallen king. Now possessed by Corruption, the king must be stopped before his evil spreads across Persia.
The game’s story centers around the God of Light, Ormazd, and his brother, Ahriman. They are extreme opposing forces, as Ormazd is a heavenly being and Ahriman calls himself The Betrayer of All. You’ll learn bits of the story by way of scrolls discovered throughout levels, and it’s a fairly interesting tale based on traditional mythologies and religions. However, the dialogue is pretty poorly written, and exchanges between the Prince and his magus companion feel out of place with the more serious and elegant story of the two warring gods.
But Prince of Persia is, and always has been, about the platforming, and we’re pleased to report The Fallen King brings to DS some classic goodness fans can truly appreciate. There are many familiar elements, but the all-stylus-control scheme definitely breathes new life into the Prince’s move set.
Movement of the Prince is done by guiding him with the stylus, and he features full analog control. Keep the stylus close to him, and he’ll walk; move it a bit further away, and the Prince will walk fast; even further, and he’ll run. To jump, the Prince will require a destination, and by simply tapping where you want him to go, he’ll jump to that area. When jumping to walls, the Prince can run up slightly by tapping the area just above him. This is one of the key features of the game (and past PoP games), and you’ll navigate many areas of dungeons by moving from wall to wall in like fashion. Jumping from poles and ropes also plays a prominent role in The Fallen King, and like past games of the franchise, timing is often crucial when traversing obstacles.
Surprisingly, the stylus controls match up really well with the PoP gameplay, but there are still plenty of frustrating moments along the way. All of the game’s mechanics fit wonderfully with the actions they’re associated with, but often screen sensitivity and poor input recognition cause the Prince to miss intended platforms.
However, you’ll not only control the Prince during the adventure, but you’ll have direct control over his magus companion as well. By simply pressing any button on the DS, you can then take control of the magus and his powers. When controlling the magus, if you simply tap on the screen, he’ll shoot energy orbs, which can be used to push enemies back or aid in opening passageways. Additionally, there are myriad interactive objects that have been “corrupted,” and as you progress through the game, the magus will gain new powers that will allow you to manipulate objects or propel the Prince upward to otherwise unreachable platforms.
In addition to platforming, you’ll be engaging in a fair amount of combat. It’s kept simple, but it’s surprisingly entertaining. Like Phantom Hourglass, the Prince can attack enemies by simply tapping on them. Tapping on enemies multiple times allows the Prince to pull off basic combos, and by slashing across enemies (or objects), the Prince can perform a powerful sort of charged attack. Later, enemies will sport shields, which you can pull away by using the powers of the magus. Some enemies will guard against your attacks, and only by having the Prince, himself, guard and then parry can you defeat these later foes. You’ll also come up against a handful of clever bosses, and though a few bugs in the system make for awkward moments, the boss fights are good fun that will require players to use their noggin.
The only issues we had with combat are that the game often sandwiches you between two enemies with little room to maneuver. Additionally, when attempting to attack, often the Prince will roll (normally performed by double tapping the ground) instead – or vice versa. Lastly, though the game generally does a fine job of explaining the basics to you as you progress, there were a handful of pertinent details we missed along the way – specifically, how to command the Prince to guard. However, as we trudged through bouts of frustration and figured certain things out for ourselves, the combat proved to be some of the more enjoyable moments of our journey.
The game is broken up into several large areas, with multiple levels per area. When you first start out on your adventure, the platforming is kept relatively simple. As you progress into later levels, however, The Fallen King ramps up to offer some challenging yet truly inspirational platforming fun. For the most part, all of the game’s many elements – platforming, combat, and controlling the magus – come together to make for very entertaining gameplay. The levels are creative and often pure joy to play through, but it’s not all roses. Some level elements feel arbitrary, and others are mere throwbacks from previous levels. Additionally, the game will often force you to repeat levels in order to rescue the magus or acquire jewels, yet little new is offered when revisiting these areas.
On the presentation front, The Fallen King is an attractive package. There are some rough patches – not least of all the game’s dialogue – but on the whole, it’s a good-looking game with a story that feels distinctly Middle Eastern.
Though played from a side-scrolling perspective, The Fallen King offers fully 3D visuals. The art style will likely remind most folks of Phantom Hourglass, yet the colors and environments do a fair job of mimicking the latest console Prince of Persia. The character models look good, though some bosses are a bit uninspired. There are also quite a few instances of slowdown throughout the game, even when there aren’t many objects onscreen. Our biggest complaint, however, is that some platforms and/or walls blend in too well with backgrounds, and you might occasionally find yourself stuck or perplexed by certain areas due to a nondescript key element in the environment. No matter, the game still offers some very attractive and detailed 3D on DS, and the dialogue stills and overworld areas lend an elegant touch to the overall experience.
There’s no voice work here, but the Prince makes a few utterances when either taking damage or attacking. Probably the most enjoyable sound you’ll hear, though, is when collecting coins (there must be something magical about coin collecting in a video game). You’ll hear a pleasant chime as you grind down walls, collecting coins as you fall, and buying your way through locked doorways (which contain health upgrades) is also incentive to collect all the coins you can.
The music, however, is pretty disappointing. You’ll hear many of the same themes repeatedly, and what’s worse, most loops are little more than 10 seconds in length. Luckily, the music is unremarkable enough that it generally sits in the background without being disruptive. Of course, there are options to both raise and lower the music and sound effects.
All told, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King isn’t quite the triumphant return of the Prince The Sands of Time was. There is some great platforming here, and there are many varied levels to traverse, all open for repeat visits at your leisure (though once you move on to another overworld segment, there’s no going back). However, though the stylus controls fit the gameplay surprisingly well, the execution doesn’t always match up. Issues with input recognition, as well as the omission of a few key bits of info, cause unnecessary frustration.
All that said, this is still very much a Prince of Persia game, and fans of the franchise shouldn’t think twice about checking it out. The choice to go (almost) all-stylus was not a bad one, and barring a few frustrating flaws (that are likely the result of rushing the game out to market), players should find a fun, handheld PoP experience here.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
A very nice style for DS, one that matches the gameplay perfectly. Smooth textures, lots of detail. There is, however, a bit of slowdown, as well as a few graphical artifacts here and there, and some bosses are lackluster in appearance. 3.7 Control
The game’s touch controls work great…when they work. There are issues with input recognition that will inevitably cause frustration. 3.4 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The musical variety is sparse, and loops are short and repetitive. Sound effects, however, add a great overall feel to the experience. 4.1
Though there are issues with the game’s controls – and character dialogue is often dreadful – there is, undeniably, a wealth of PoP goodness here.
3.8 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.