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A Platformer series created by Jordan Mechner. Though not the first to use motion capture through rotoscoping to create fluid and realistic character movement (Mechner's earlier game Karateka also used the technique), Prince of Persia's advanced graphics and gameplay were widely praised. The license remains creator owned, a rarity for video games outside of the Indie Game scene.
Prince of Persia
The first installment, Prince of Persia (1989) followed the story of an evil vizier who, in the absence of the sultan, threatens to kill the princess within an hour unless she agrees to marry him. The princess's one true love has been thrown into the dungeons, and must run, jump, climb and fight his way through a series of passageways filled with traps, guards and other surprises, while the minutes tick by at the bottom of the screen. It was one of the first games to have a health bar. The SNES remake of it (by Konami) extended the time limit to two hours but raised the difficulty through the roof at points (in addition to adding 7 levels for a total of 20).
Its huge critical and financial success led to a sequel, Prince of Persia: The Shadow and the Flame (1992), which had significantly more detailed characters and backgrounds, greater variety in villains, and a more fleshed-out story (it even clarified the first installment's story in its opening narration).
The series made the leap to 3D in the Third Is 3D installment with the unimaginatively titled Prince of Persia 3D (1999).
Sands of Time Trilogy
A new Continuity Reboot game series was created, beginning with The Sands of Time. Originally Mechner intended it to be a vague prequel to the other games, but his input was left out of Warrior Within, which firmly established it as a new continuity. The new series is also well-known for popularizing Le Parkour moves as a refinement to the Platformer genre, something that has been duplicated to a limited extent in several recent ninja-themed (or, you know, assassin-themed) games.
It began with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2003), which reproduced the series' popular combination of combat and climbing puzzles, and added what is still the most successful use of time-distortion effects (previously seen in such games as Max Payne and Blinx: The Time Sweeper), as well as creating an entirely new story with a more complex hero, an expanded role for the princess and one doozy of a plot twist.
After the immense critical success but modest sales of Sands of Time, the game was followed by Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (2004), which Ubisoft hoped would be more financially successful by giving the sequel one of the most amusing Darker and Edgier twists in history. The storybook "Arabian Nights" feel of the first game was replaced by sexual content (including several Stripperific female characters, graphic violence, language and heavy metal music by the band Godsmack. While the gameplay was refined and improved (especially the combat), the Prince himself was reduced to an arrogant thug instead of the more cheerful character of the first game.
Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones (2005) attempted to balance it out by returning somewhat to the original's fairy-tale tone (with the arrogant Prince as a "dark side" of the character). It retained the basic combat changes made in Warrior Within with minor adjustments, but toned down the graphic violence. As well, the Prince was much more likable, and even had regrets over his behavior in the previous game.
A new game, Prince of Persia is another Continuity Reboot. It made radical changes to the platforming, similar to Assassin's Creed. The new game was given a new art style, similar to Cel Shading, to give the impression of a colorful "Arabian Nights" story book feel, compared to the more realistic feel of the Sands of Time trilogy. Combat was also reworked. Rather than facing hordes of Mooks as in previous games, it instead focuses upon 1 of 4 boss monsters, each with a distinct personality and Backstory.
The Sands of Time Return
A film adaptation of The Sands of Time was released in late May 2010, with the involvement of Jordan Mechner. The aim, according to Mechner, was to use the broad story elements of the The Sands of Time game, to "take the cool elements of the game and use them to craft a new story."
Due to the movie's release, Ubisoft has apparently abandoned the new Prince of Persia storyline in favor of a new chapter in the Sands of Time series, entitled Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands.
There is also a strategy game Battles of Prince of Persia for Nintendo DS. Set after The Forgotten Sands, the Dahaka has just started stalking the Prince, forcing him to wage war against various nations and armies just find a way to get rid of it.
- Ascended Fanboy: A 17 year old John Romero wrote 21 year old Jordan Mechner a letter about the original game.
- Charles Atlas Superpower: All the incarnations of the Prince are inhumanly agile.
- Cinematic Platform Game: The first game was the Trope Maker.
- Continuity Reboot: Happened twice, first in 2003 with the release of The Sands of Time, and then in 2008.
- Death's Hourglass: The hourglass which contains the Sands of Time is not an example of that trope, but the first Prince of Persia game from '89 evidently does include a countdown timer.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "He Who Would Steal The Flame Must Die". This isn't a threat, it's the instructions for how to finish that level. You have to die in order to steal the Flame.
- Fake Difficulty: The controls in The Shadow and the Flame are less forgiving than the original. There are several places where you need to make a running jump exactly off an edge which turns out to be nearly impossible to time right; it feels like the previous game assumes you want to jump from the edge and gives some tolerance, whereas the sequel prefers you to either jump too early or miss it completely.
- Fight Like a Card Player: At least one game.
- Genre Popularizer: The first game started the Cinematic Platformer genre, and the Sands of Time trilogy was responsible for allowing Le Parkour as a means of getting around in video games.
- Giant Space Flea From Nowhere: The "six-armed muscleman" boss in the SNES adaptation of the first game. This guy isn't even mentioned in the manual, much less given a name.
- In the games sound test, his name is given as "God Vishnu".
- Giant Spider: One of the rooms near the end of The Shadow and the Flame looks somewhat like one (though with legs sticking out at weird angles).
- Guide Dang It: In the second game, obtaining The Flame requires you to get yourself killed by a weak random mook, as opposed to by the bottomless pits. The sign "He Who Would Steal The Flame Must Die" should be taken literally.
- Also in the second game, transforming yourself to The Shadow in the final level is probably not something you would have figured out for yourself...unless you read the manual. It is also quite lethal if you haven't picked up enough health potions in the game. Fortunately, there is an infinite supply of health-enhancing potions in the final level to prevent the game from becoming unwinnable at that point (provided you can fight well enough to get them).
- Hand in the Hole: In Prince of Persia 3D.
- Hypnotize the Princess: Prince of Persia 2 begins with the princess convinced you're a poor mad beggar. Naturally, fleeing the royal guards quickly ensues.
- It's a Wonderful Failure: In the first two games, you can play to the end of the game after running out of time, only to find that the princess has died (or been married to Jafar). The only true Game Over in these games.
- Leap of Faith: Used several times throughout the series, such as with an unlabeled potion in the first two games (it turned out to be a slow-fall potion), to a daring leap in the second game off a ledge into the next screen to land on a horse statue (which promptly comes to life).
- Le Parkour: Probably the defining game of the genre.
- Malevolent Architecture: Horrible splatty demises are freely available in most localities even without you encountering any enemies. Try spike pits, buzzsaws, sets of scimitars on revolving axles, collapsing floors, bladed pendulums, and enormous drops — many of which may be found combined as death courses. Fortunately often overlaps with Benevolent Architecture, or else you'd never get anywhere.
- The Many Deaths of You: The above-mentioned selection box of unpleasant exits gives rise to an exciting assortment of death animations. The original game alone memorably had nightmare inducing clanging metal jaws in mid-corridor that guillotined you in half if you mistimed stepping through them. Alternatives were being run through by enemy swords, impaled on spikes and hitting the bottom of deep pits with a skull-cracking smack.
- Mind Screw: The final level of Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame.
- Nominal Importance: Averted. The Prince is never named except in The Movie, and several of the games have the majority of characters go unnamed.
- No Name Given: The Prince.
- Poison Mushroom: The first game has healing potions and the occasional poison potion that looks nearly identical. The SNES version also has two life increasing potions placed together, one of which will actually kill you instead.
- Puzzle Pan
- Real Time: In the first two games, anyway.
- Recycled Title: The original and 2008 games in the series share the name "Prince Of Persia".
- Spiritual Successor: Karateka was the initiator of the rotoscoping technique used in the first Prince of Persia and the sprites are very similar looking.
- The Walls Are Closing In: Prince Of Persia 2 has crushing walls in its later levels, some of which are situated in inescapable pits under Fake Platforms.