If you are a retro-gaming fan, the words Prince of Persia
(PoP) should instantly evoke memories and feelings relating to cinematic atmosphere, quality animation and an overall excellence in visuals. And those feelings will likely wash over you faster and more clearly than any of your non-gaming friends would ever understand.
While created on an Apple IIe by Jordan Mechner, it was soon ported to the Amiga by Danny Gorlin. The Amiga conversion was certainly one of the best, if not the very best, of the original platforms.
On a side note, Mechner’s published personal journal
from that time, The Making of Prince of Persia
, is a must read for gaming fans. The Amiga story is a bit of a side note from his perspective in the journals, but the overall thought process and day-to-day stress of creating this classic is absolutely fascinating. You get the chance to peer inside the thoughts of a pioneering game designer genius soon after finishing Yale (where he’d already created and published the best-selling Karateka
before graduating), and the human element he brings to the process makes for a very interesting and enjoyable read.
First and foremost, PoP has insanely fluid and realistic animations. This is due to the fact that Mechner rotoscoped his animations. He filmed his litte brother leaping, running, and other basic moves for the game. Then, frame by frame, he traced the footage for his animated character in order to match the motion and create extremely realistic physics. While rotoscoping can eliminate the exaggeration of animation techniques popularized by Chuck Jones, it can produce incredibly lifelike and believable animation. At the time, this type of motion was simply unheard of on home computers (with the exception of Karateka, of course, which also employed rotoscoping).
Here is actual footage
that Mechner took of his brother, which is quite obviously The Prince climbing, running and leaping, all later digitized straight into the game almost verbatim.
As a result, controlling the Prince in the game can actually make some serious getting used to. Unlike most platformers, you can’t just move your joystick left or right and expect your the character to move and stop in lockstep with your commands. The character actually leans and lurches forwards instead, or stops with an extra step when you stop running, which adds a lot to your calculations. Otherwise you risk falling and taking unwanted damage if you don’t plan for the extra animation frames accordingly. But this also adds to the realism, which at the time was revolutionary.
Back of the box:
It's amazing! Working from hundreds of movie clips, Jordan Mechner, author of the acclaimed Karateka, breaks new ground with animation sequences so uncannily human they must be seen to be believed. Sword fighting, running or jumping, the action is awesome.
You take the part of a young adventurer attempting to save a beautiful princess. The Grand Vizier, an evil and sexually deviant man, is about to pounce on her. Only you can come to the rescue!
Time is ticking away, you'll have to move fast to escape your cell and evade the many cunning traps placed in your path.
Non stop action is combined with the exploration and puzzle-solving challenge of a top flight adventure game. With hundreds of fantastic rooms to explore, you must use all your sword fighting skills to do battle with violent opponents and foil the Grand Vizier's despicable plans.