Release Date: Q4 2008
Prince of Persia's revival on the console market was nothing short of fantastic. Some might argue that Ubisoft's gem of a game reinvented the 3-D action platformer, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong in that regard. It's difficult to think of many titles that haven't borrowed at least some of Prince of Persia's ideas, and the Sands of Time trilogy was among some of the best titles in the last generation. Yet what a lot of people forgot is that Prince of Persia's reboot also included a few handheld titles. The original Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time actually had a Game Boy Advance port that was quite fun, but it got completely lost in the wake of its console brethren, except for the handful of people who purchased it to unlock things in the GameCube version of The Sands of Time.
Prince of Persia's follow-ups on the handhelds were a bit more lackluster, such as the completely inexplicable Battles of Prince of Persia, which decided that the action-platformer needed to be made into a card-based strategy RPG. Thankfully, with the newest reboot to the franchise, Ubisoft realized that the Prince of Persia is at his best when swinging from ledges and sword-fighting monsters, and The Prince of Persia: The Fallen King looks to ensure that DS gamers won't be left out of the upcoming Prince of Persia revival.
Like the new Prince of Persia: Prodigy, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is part of a reboot of the franchise. The prince from the last titles is nowhere to be found and is replaced by a new prince, with new abilities and powers unlike those gifted to the hero of The Sands of Time. The story opens up with the prince on the run from the mysterious Corruption, a powerful distortion that is spreading across the land, corrupting everything it touches into a horrible twisted evil form. Naturally, he has no interest in becoming the latest addition to Corruption's collection, so he is seeking a way to fight the seemingly unstoppable force. It isn't quite as easy as wandering to the local corner store, and the prince is going to have to jump, climb and fight his way through the most dangerous locales in the world to escape the Corruption.
Unlike the new titles, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is a return to the series' origins with a 2-D side-scroller as opposed to a 3-D platformer. The prince is controlled entirely by the stylus: He moves wherever you point the stylus, jumps when you tap the stylus and rolls when you quickly double-tap. Tapping in certain locations allows you to perform acrobatics, such as leaping from wall to wall or simply climbing up a location. Even combat is stylus-controlled. Tapping enemies causes the prince to do a weak slash, while drawing a line across them does a powerful smash attack, which is great for finishing off weakened enemies. However, this prince also lacks any sort of magical powers, and his physical skills, while numerous, are not enough to defeat the forces of Corruption on his own. This is where the magus comes in.
Like the new console Prince of Persia title, Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is built around the idea of a prince and his sidekick. Elika from the console game is not making an appearance in this handheld iteration; taking her place is a magician named Zal, whose gimmick is that he is Corrupted. For some reason, he has not descended into the same darkness that plagues the others and has instead been granted a wide variety of special powers. He is immune to damage, so Corruption doesn't faze him, enemies don't pay attention to him, and since he is capable of flying around, not even long falls can bother him. Unlike Elika, however, Zal can't touch the prince due to his Corruption. This means that if the prince gets into a fatal jam, Zal can't rescue him. Falling off a cliff or into a spike pit is fatal, and you'll have to restart from a checkpoint instead of being instantly revived by magic.
Zal also has the ability to control Corruption. By holding any button on the DS, you switch control from the prince to Zal, and the touch-screen functions change. Touching a blank space on the screen causes Zal to shoot out magical bolts of energy, which do minimal damage but can stun enemies and allow the prince to swoop in to deliver the coup de grace. If there are Corrupted objects on-screen, Zal can interact with them by using the stylus to solve puzzles. If you find a boulder covered in Corruption, Zal can lift it from the ground and move it around, allowing you to place it in another location, such as at the top of a cliff or on a switch. However, some Corruption is elastic, which means that it can't be relocated, but it can be stretched downward for a variety of uses. In the E3 demo, we saw that elastic corruption could be dragged down to a stone to pick it up, allowing the prince to pass by. Far more useful, however, was to lure an enemy under elastic Corruption and grab them, which instantly defeated the foes with little risk to the prince. Zal could even use Corruption to move solid objects or grapple from location to location.
The prince and Zal will need all of their powers to advance through the various levels of The Fallen King, as Ubisoft is promising over 50 unique levels to explore, each more difficult and challenging than the last. The levels that we saw in the demo were interesting and showed off the combination of abilities in interesting ways. The prince was as acrobatic as his console counterpart, able to jump over pits and run up walls to perform flying leaps with the smallest stylus movement. Combat was a simple matter of repeatedly "slashing" enemies with the stylus, although using the prince's sword and Zal's Corruption abilities in combination made fights much shorter. While the levels appeared fairly linear, we saw the Golden Doors that housed secrets that have yet to be revealed. Throughout the levels are scattered gold coins, which the prince can collect with clever acrobatics. At certain points in the levels, you can find Golden Doors, which can be opened by paying a certain amount to unlock health power-ups or other secrets.
The most obvious thing to notice about Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is that it uses a very different art style from the console game. Although it still stars the new Prince and uses many of the same stylistic elements as the console title, The Fallen King has decided to go for a significantly cuter design by using a super-deformed art style that is absolutely adorable. The prince is tiny and well animated but also undeniably huggable, as opposed to his slightly more rugged console counterpart. This same art style fills the entire title, with everything looking quite a bit more bright and cheerful, although it retains much of the same Prince of Persia flair. It may be a bit disappointing for gamers who were expecting something more in line with the new console game, but it also happens to make the title a lot more accessible for the younger crowd. And to be honest, it makes the game look very cute.
Prince of Persia: The Fallen King is targeting a younger crowd than the new console title, but that doesn't mean that it's going to be a bad game. The differences are numerous, and while they both feature the new prince battling Corruption, the games seem almost incomparable otherwise. They have different controls, different story lines, different features and different sidekicks. Assuming that Ubisoft manages to bring the same extremely high level of polish to Prince of Persia: The Fallen King as it does to the console versions, you can expect it to be a superbly fun title.
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