In memoriam, Donald Sutherland

Prince of Persia

aka: Jordan Mechner's Prince of Persia, Pers Prensi, PoP, Prince de Perse, Prince of Persia Retro
Moby ID: 196
Apple II Specs
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Conversion (unofficial) Included in See Also

Description official descriptions

While the Sultan of Persia is fighting a war in a foreign country, his Grand Vizier Jaffar orchestrates a coup d'état. His way to the throne lies through the Sultan's lovely daughter. Jaffar kidnaps her and threatens to kill her if she refuses to marry him. Meanwhile, the man the Princess loves is thrown into the dungeon. He has only one hour to escape from his prison, defeat the guards on his way, and stop Jaffar before the terrible marriage takes place.

Prince of Persia is a 2D platformer that is commonly regarded as a progenitor of the cinematic platformer genre. Rather than following the more common jump-and-run mechanics, it focuses on careful advancement through fairly complex levels, emphasizing the protagonist's vulnerability and survival aspect. Rotoscoping technique is used to give more realism to the animation of the characters' movements.

The protagonist must avoid deadly traps, solve some simple jumping and environmental puzzles (such as stepping on pressure plates to raise portcullis), and engage in sword fights with the guards. The player character has an infinite amount of lives, but has to restart at the beginning of a level each time he dies, and must complete the game within an hour. The hero starts with three units of health, which can be replenished with small health potions or permanently increased with large jars.

The Game Boy Color and SNES versions of the game feature additional levels and new enemies. The Genesis version has a new intro, an altered set of graphics and four new levels.

Spellings

  • הנסיך - דו קרב בארמון - Hebrew spelling
  • הנסיך הפרסי - Informal Hebrew spelling
  • プリンスオブペルシャ - Japanese spelling

Groups +

Screenshots

Promos

Credits (Apple II version)

19 People (12 developers, 7 thanks)

Original game design by
Original programming by
Original graphics by
Produced by
Music composed by
Live-Action Footage Modelled by
Special thanks to
Disk routines by
Sound routines by
Title screen by
Cover artwork by

Reviews

Critics

Average score: 81% (based on 83 ratings)

Players

Average score: 4.1 out of 5 (based on 526 ratings with 13 reviews)

A great game, with one exception

The Good
The animation of the player character is great. The graphics for the levels themselves are rather plain, but I really didn't mind as they're clear and easy to navigate. I loved the feeling of exploring and finding my way to the exit. The few puzzles that are included are decent and not that difficult to figure out, but there should have been more of them.

The Bad
The one thing I didn't like was the time limit. Personally, I've never liked games where you can do everything right, but you get penalized for not doing it quickly enough. It's a lame attempt by the designer to generate a sense of urgency and it almost always ends up just being frustrating rather than adding anything to the game. Since I could never finish the game within the time limit, I used the cheat to give myself more time, so that I could explore at my leisure.

It also should have had a few more puzzles, since many of the levels are very repetitive.

The Bottom Line
Prince of Persia is a great dungeon exploration game interrupted by the occasional sword fight or puzzle and it still holds up well today. I first played this on the Amiga, but the DOS version is pretty much the same.

DOS · by Rekrul (49) · 2005

The Omega Port of the 16-bit lot

The Good
When you start up the game you’ll be amazed by the rich colours, especially if you grew up with earlier ports. Intensive care has been put into the new graphics with textured backgrounds, foregrounds, props and animated objects in both the dungeon and palace levels. This game doesn’t just add a splash of colour, but adds to presentation. The NTSC version has text telling the story, but the PAL version has numerous dark cutscenes. The game over screen is pretty chilling. Pity that the boxart doesn’t resemble what you see in-game, but it looks okay. Finally the level music tracks blend well with the deadly atmosphere and are faithful to Francis Mechner‘s composition, though they are only in the PAL version.

Gameplay for the most part is faithful to the DOS port, apart from the sword fighting. In this PAL version, you get four extra challenging levels. If you’re used to puzzles in Prince of Persia 2, then these levels will be a real treat for you. Of course if you’re not up to the challenges you can enter a password to skip levels. Other extras include new exclusive types of potions with incredible effects.

The Bad
You might be awestruck by the brilliantly coloured and painted makeover, but careful attention to detail wasn't really applied everywhere. The guards are all the same colour, just like the Atari ST and Amstrad CPC versions. And for the Prince's shadow, the artists lazily did a recoloured palette of the prince and nothing that even resembles a shadow. The potions are coloured in such a way that you can’t tell exactly what they do, so you might accidentally poison the prince, though you can memorise the good and bad potions since they stay the same every new game.

The way that the controls work are partly broken for a couple of reasons. One of them is the slow, clunky movement, which feels almost a second late to pressing the D-pad. As a result you can't really mimic the glitchy tricks and moves that you could in the DOS version. At least you can jump past guards if you time your jumps correctly. Running through spikes only works if you're in the middle of the spikes and not running from the edge of them. The other major problem is the combat system. You don't parry using the up direction, but with the jump button, and it's completely useless, because when your parrying is hit, you sail back a bit so you don't get within a striking distance. Instead you have to carefully time your sword blows so that you accurately hit your opponent and hope that you don't get stabbed first. Finally the crouch ability is useless, as it doesn't let you crawl anywhere, you just squat down idly on the ground. What a waste of controls that only do half the functions!

The Bottom Line
The Megadrive version certainly took many steps up from its US Genesis counterpart with impressive added visuals and extra levels. But extravagant graphical makeovers alone are not enough to make a perfectly playable game. While there is added challenge for the hardcore platformer players, it's not going to work in their favour. If the problems with the controls could be fixed and the graphics tweaked a little bit more here and there, I would give this one high praise next to the SNES version. I'm not disappointed, but I'm not content. This title is deserving of being tried and played through, but it will take more time than the limited time before you can get used to the way it works. Similarly to Data East’s SMS port of Captain Silver the European release gets more features and longer gameplay than the US release. Go for PAL if you want to enjoy the full experience of the game. Shame we don’t get to see the Genesis/Megadrive features in POP mods.

Genesis · by Kayburt (33394) · 2022

WOW!

The Good
Having only just found the original disk and manual whilst clearing out the attic, all work had to stop for an hour whilst I was whisked back a few years to when I first played this game. Back then it was on an old IBM PC the size of a house with a rather dull CGA, (remember them - only four colours on screen at once - mostly pink, blue and white?), monitor. Most games that I'd seen reviewed in glorious VGA, (even EGA didn't seem quite as bad), none of them really lived up to their promise in CGA; but Prince Of Persia was even glorious in only four colours. The animation was amazing - like nothing we'd ever seen - and the atmosphere was still there ... albeit pink!

Now, playing it on a machine that not only beats the chunky old IBM, but positively smacks it into the ground, sets it on fire and pees on its ashes; the game is still a marvel - and in full colour! The gameplay is still all there, hunting through endless corridors just doesn't get boring as this are so well thought out that you can forgive the game its' repetitive imagery. Even the password protection is imaginative, asking you to drink a potion matching a certain letter from the printed manual - what other game of the time employed such innovative thinking and technical wizardry?

The Bad
Looking back now I realise the limitations of the game - but is that because we've been 'spoilt' by the developments in gaming since then or is it because my tastes in games have changed? Given that I've just spent an hour jumping over falling stone slabs, jabbing wildly at fat guards and plunging to spiky deaths and then felt compelled to come and write this review; I can't really complain that it's the game. So, really this title should be looked back at, remembered in time and taken in context of gaming development. Also, I couldn't get the digitised sound to work on this new machine - really wish I had that back instead of indistinguishable blips from the PC speaker, (I didn't think they were still in PCs these days as I hadn't heard one for so long!).

The Bottom Line
I'd recommend that anyone wanting to get involved with game development take a look at this game - first play it, get the feel of the game, soak up the addictive gameplay. Forgive it it's dated approach and limited graphical outlook and just immerse yourself in the experience. Then go back and look at it form the point of view of a level designer - see how crafty it is, how it pulls you in to the atmosphere of the locations - how it coaxes you to make those jumps that just look way too big. Finally, follow the path of games since then - see the titles that really worked and were an improvement and don't forget to play the titles that didn't work; we can learn much more from our mistakes than we can from our successes.

DOS · by Adam Jennings (47) · 2007

[ View all 13 player reviews ]

Discussion

Subject By Date
Developed by Mechner or Brøderbund? Игги Друге (46654) Jul 29, 2014
Triangular Version - Info Please Arjon van Dam (1247) Feb 19, 2013
ZX Spectrum UNOFFICIAL port Rola (8482) Aug 5, 2012
Jordan Mechner made the source code available chirinea (47516) May 26, 2012

Trivia

1001 Video Games

Prince of Persia appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.

Animations

The animations were modeled from live video. In particular, the Prince climbing onto a ledge was spliced from two different takes: Jordan's brother pulling himself up a ledge to his chest, and a reversed clip of his brother on top of the ledge climbing down. The technique use to animate the characters is called Rotoscoping. It was also used in one of Mechner's other games, Karateka.

Commodore 64, BBC Micro and Atari 8-bit amateur versions

According to the Prince of Persia Unofficial Website, a Commodore 64 version was not released at time. There was a preview created that played the theme and showed some scenes but the game never emerged. It is unknown why. A Commodore 64 port was made at last by an independent coder in 2011. Information is available at popc64.blogspot.com

Bitshifters also released a port of the game to the BBC Micro. It took advantage of the Apple II game code being made public by Jordan Mechner and the hardware similarities between the Apple II and the BBC Micro, which share the same CPU. It needs 128k of RAM and is available from here.

And finally, on december 2021 yet another amateur version was revealed, this time for the Atari 8-bit computers. It is available here in disk and cartridge formats. It requires 128K of RAM, so it won't work in every one of these computers.

Development and release

An excerpt taken from the, as of 2012, defunct official Prince of Persia 3D web site http://www.pop3d.com/

Today, several dozen artists and programmers are involved in the creation of a computer game. But in the 1980's, computer games were normally created almost entirely by one person. And for Prince of Persia that person was Jordan Mechner, a then 25 year old recent college grad. Jordan created the story, characters, and levels for Prince of Persia. He programmed the game and drew the graphics. And when Jordan needed help, he didn't go far from home. His dad composed the original music. And his brother served as the Motion Study actor for the Prince. Truly a labor of love, Prince of Persia took nearly 4 years to be completed.

Mechner scored gold in 1989 when Prince of Persia was released. Described by PC Review as "an ever-present in any compiled list of classic games of all time," it has sold nearly 2,000,000 copies and won numerous awards, including "Game of the Decade" from Generation 4/Canal+ in 1997. The game was published first on the Apple II platform, but soon made it to virtually all platforms in existance at the time including: DOS, Macintosh, Amiga, NES, SNES, GameBoy, Sega Genesis, Sega Mega Drive, Sega CD, Game Gear, Commodore 64, and FM Towns. It's popularity was not confined to just the United States. In all, the game has been published in the United States, Canada, England, Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, China, Korea, and Israel.

Manual

The manual for Macintosh/IBM release of the game had a figure of Prince in the right bottom corner of each spread. If you flip through the book, Prince would jump.

References to the game

Prince of Persia was alluded to in Episode 705 (Escape from the BronxMystery) of the TV show Science Theater 3000. During an underground chase scene, Tom Servo quips: "It looks like Prince of Persia."

Censorship in the SNES version

The North American Super NES release was censored --- a scene found in the Japanese version's introduction sequence showing the hero being tortured is missing from the US version. As a result, the music loses sync with what is happening on-screen.

Source code

On April 17, 2012, Jordan Mechner released the source code of the Apple II version. You can find it here.

Awards

  • Amiga Power
    • May 1991 (Issue #00) - #12 in the "All Time Top 100 Amiga Games"
  • Computer Gaming World
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #84 in the “150 Best Games of All Time” list
    • February 2006 (Issue #259) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
  • FLUX
    • Issue #4 - #42 in the "Top 100 Video Games of All-Time" list
  • PC Gamer
    • November 1999 - #43 Best Game of All Time
  • Retro Gamer
    • Issue #37 - #9 in the "Top 25 Platformers of All Time" poll

ZX Spectrum version

A version for the ZX Spectrum was in development by the same people that made the SAM Coupé port but it was never released due to licensing problems with Domark. Later a Russian team released an unofficial Spectrum port of the game.

Information also contributed by Big John VW, Chentzilla, leileilol, LepricahnsGold, Mickey Gabel, NewRisingSun, PCGamer77, Sean Gugler, and William Shawn McDonie.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Donny K..

Sharp X68000 added by Rola. Wii added by Charly2.0. iPad added by MrMamen. Nintendo 3DS added by CrankyStorming. Amiga added by Famine3h. SEGA Master System added by Bock. Game Gear added by chirinea. PC-98 added by Infernos. Apple II added by KnockStump. TurboGrafx CD added by Kaminari. Macintosh added by Zovni. iPhone, SAM Coupé added by Kabushi. SEGA CD added by Blood. Atari ST added by Terok Nor. Amstrad CPC added by cafeine. NES added by Longwalker. FM Towns added by Unicorn Lynx. Genesis, SNES added by Syed GJ. Game Boy added by quizzley7. Game Boy Color added by Jim Fun.

Additional contributors: IJan, MAT, Adam Baratz, Roedie, Jeanne, Jalal Noureddine, Kabushi, Henry Calot, Martin Smith, Norbert J, Pseudo_Intellectual, Crawly, Neville, ctrl turk, Cantillon, Patrick Bregger, MrMamen, yenruoj_tsegnol_eht (!!ihsoy), Jo ST, qpossum, FatherJack, ZeTomes.

Game added August 10, 1999. Last modified May 9, 2024.