Wednesday, July 20, 2011

VGR:Quickies Ports of Persia

As you've probably seen on the blog, I've reviewed most Prince of Persia games already. (and comics...and movies..)

But this isn't all of them yet.
During this long running franchises, most episodes have known various releases on several platforms. If most releases nowadays are pretty similar to one another it wasn't always the case "back in the ol' days".

For this occasion, I decided to make this new Quickies installement! 
To have a look at some iterations of the original Prince of Persia games by Jordan Mechner. As well as another bonus quick review.
Originally, the Prince looked like this! True story!

The original Prince of Persia, released on Macintosh and Dos systems, is regarded as a classic nowadays.
It launched a genre of more realistic platformers, sometimes referred to as "cinematic platformers".
Unlike Sonics and Marios it wasn't as surreal and was based around real physics. The acrobatic character of PoP was couldn't jump over enemies. Nor double jump. But he was able to grab ledges, roll under small passages, walk carefully to avoid setting off traps.

It was original designed by Jordan Mechner after a moderately successful Karateka.
Both titles were adapted over all of their current video game systems, countless ports. PoP even ported to this day on most consoles ever released.
Most of those ports were done by the small studio Brøderbund, who alongside Mechner took a great care keeping the games faithful and the experience similar. Yet using each system's specifics whenever the need arose.

The story is a classic now.
You play as the unnamed Prince, trying to get back to your Princess trapped by the evil Vizier.
The Prince gets thrown in the jail caves. The game is a journey, which has to take less than a real life-hour before it's too late and the sands of the giant hourglass ran off.
The directly sequel The Shadow and the Flame sees the Prince expelled from the palace and losing himself in the seas. Now wandering in another island, the Prince is castoff the palace, needs to fight back his inner demons (represented by an evil doppelganger), find his way back to the palace and clean up his name!
The sequel isn't as much puzzle/platforming oriented but a tad bit more combat focused, featuring lots of new various enemies often attacking in groups.

Now, let's dig into these games, shall we?

Title: Prince of Persia Collection
From Brøderbund Software

Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1999

This compilation runs on most modern computers easily.
Sometimes going by the name Prince of Persia Collection, Prince of Persia CD Collection, Prince of Persia: Collector's Edition or even Prince of Persia 1 & 2 (like mine). It was released on 1999, around the release of the 3rd game.
It contains the original Dos versions of both first games. Playing with the settings you can play the original Dos or VGA enabled versions. The music added later on by Brøderbund is available but you can also play it old school with the old chiptunes and no musical ambiance.
All the original levels are present.

Overall: Want to play the real original Prince of Persia games? This release is a must have!
Both games are fluid, fun and huge to explore. PoP2 looks more colorful and complex graphically, it even contains all its cutscenes and voices!
I said in my earlier review of PoP2 I didn't like it as much as the original, wasn't as perfect gameplay-wise, rushed, awful music and wasn't that well adjusted in its platforming sequences...but the original Dos version is far more suited to play.
Since this was released to promote PoP3D, it even contains a preview, making off (in an awfully small resolution quick time video) and a behind the scenes look at Prince of Persia 3D/Arabian Nights!

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software

Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1992

The SNES port of PoP1 was an enhanced version sporting all-new graphics.
It features 20 levels instead of the usual 13. Though some big edits were given to the level design.
It is also the only version were you're given 2 hours instead of the usual one hour to complete the game, making it a bit easier (even counting the extra levels).

Overall: I'm honestly not a big of this version, not because of its quality but because how different the whole game feels.
The music's good. (even if I admit I'm not a big fan of it)
There's some extra plot in this one. The graphics though are the part that suffer the most. It's just so dull and colourless..  I like the new ideas and design, adding wood here and there, putting more designs across the levels. (even splitting screens in 2 to add extra room to run around) But why's everything so brown and mushy? And the Prince looks like Vectorman, like he's composed of smaller parts/spherical objects to mimic the original game's motion capture while they designed new graphics.
Sidenote: It was censored in the US and Europe, thus my Japanese version (picture above)

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software

On Megadrive
Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1993

Covered in the main Prince of Persia Review.

Overall: Not playing on the SEGA side against Nintendo above. But this version is a much better and faithful version of the original game.
Like the SNES, but featuring its own original art, it also uses enhanced graphics. It even contains 4 additional levels. (but here the original levels weren't cut down or edited)
The Pal release has its share of own differences, like new kinds of potions, some that can freeze time, others give you additional minutes to complete the game...

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software/Titus Software

Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1996

Covered in the main Prince of Persia 2 Review.

Overall: Missing some features as well as some levels (including the actual last level!), PoP2 may not have been as good as the original, but on the SNES it's a whole different level altogether!
I blame this on the co-developer, Titus.
The music is really annoying, enduring it through this longer sequel is one heckuva challenge, at least the game features a password system to help out!
The game seems to be on speed compared to the original Apple/Dos version.
Which is quite annoying to avoid some precise traps and segments...

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software/Microïds

On Megadrive
Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1996

Covered in the main Prince of Persia 2 Review.

Overall: Like I wrote in the original review, this one wasn't actually released originally. But the game was completed anyway!
The game contains its own share of problems though. If Sega prevented its release due to quality concerns (those were the days, right? :P) it's a miracle Nintendo didn't.
Anyway, the graphics are the same as the SNES port and similar to the PC version.
But the game is buggy (around traps, like the released SNES version), the controls aren't as precise as on the computer... Try it or skip it!

I give this one a: 1.5 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software

On Master System
Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1992

When the home console systems starting picking up in the early 90s, Prince of Persia 1 was converted to almost all systems. If some, like the NES port, were simple copy/past of the original game with lower settings, other were proper adaptations by Brøderbund.

Overall: Strangely good for an 8-bit system.
It is a lot truer to the original game in colors compared to, say, the Atari or NES port.
The game feels also pretty right, the Prince moves well if a tad bit slower. The proper physics were well implemented for such a simple system. Most cutscenes were cut down though.
The Prince was given brown hair for a change! (due to the limited color palette no doubt)
I'd say, try it if you can!
A pretty good port given the circumstances.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software/RIVERHILL SOFT 

On PC Engine
Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1991

CD format meant improved graphics and all-new music back then!
It's from this port that the Prince started sporting a turban and colored clothing (a green jacket!).

Overall: Pretty good. The controls feel different but the overall experience is still good.
It was based, from scratch, on the Macintosh release.
The music is pretty impressive and the new redone cutscenes look great! It evens features voice tracks!
It's the most Arabian Nights-ysh version of the game in my eyes.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia
From Brøderbund Software

On Mega-CD
Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1992

The Sega CD version, mostly an upgrade version of the PC Engine. Reusing all its assets as basis.

Overall: This one's the one I like to call the "Prince of Persia: ANIME! Edition".
If the PC Engine version was more colorful this one's like a rainbow enhanced version of the previous one.
The Prince who was getting a lot more colorful in the previous iteration (green jacket, blue turban..) is now a fully Japanese anime character. And for good reason, the game features now (slightly) animated cutscenes!
And the worse part is that the boxart doesn't give any hint to its new direction at all.
The cutscenes are funny though. Even if out of place.
This is another one of those "on speed" versions. (like PoP2 on the SNES), even when running on 50 Hrz.
The music doesn't make good use of the Sega CD system that much...but it works in this cracked up ort.
The game itself is good, don't worry. But the over-saturation of colors and animesque Prince makes this one feel either really funny or pretty bad.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

Title: Prince of Persia: Rival Swords 
From Ubisoft Montreal

On Wii also available on PSP
Type Sidescrolling platformed
Year 2007

And finally, you probably didn't expect it, here's the alternate release of a modern Prince of Persia. (something that tends to happen less often these days.. we usually get completely different games, not alternate editions)

I've already did a review of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within here.

Overall: Rival Swords is an upgrade/new edition of Warrior Within which saw the conclusion to the Sands of Time series.
 Rival Swords tweaks some gameplay elements of the original Warrior Within. Mostly in-combat and related to the AI of the enemies. It also fixed and changed some gameplay details and added some zones (nothing that noticeable). Before the recent HD remastered release, it was seen as the definitive version of this game.
It was released on Wii and PSP.
The Wii version doesn't bring new changes from the overall look of the Gamecube version. It could look a bit cleaner I'd say.
Though it adds the brand new motion-sensing functionality. It's all gimmick, I know.
It may be annoying in the gameplay (since the game wasn't designed around it), but the combat gets easier (probably on purpose by Ubisoft) and the instant kills are finally easy to pull off.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

And that is all for this time!
Of course, it's not all the versions of the original games nor all the current alterations of the recent episodes.

The original Prince of Persia as since its release been made available on almost virtually every system ever.
Phones, iPhones, Xbox, PS2, etc..
Often simple re-releases of the original game, other times remakes using the Sands of Time engine. (as the Xbox 360 port on the Xbox Live Arcade)
But most of those, besides the facelift, often uses the original game as basis and frame, keeping either the original level design of physics intact.

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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