‘Prince of Persia’, Ubisoft’s long-missing star, returns for a ‘Sands of Time’ remake

Gene Park

THE WASHINGTON POST – Absent for 12 years, one of gaming’s first action stars returns for a full-on remake of a title regarded as one of the best games ever made.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake was announced at the Ubisoft Forward event. The original 2003 title helped Ubisoft become one of the most successful game publishers this century, boosting the credentials of in-house studio Ubisoft Montreal. Studios in Pune and Mumbai, India, are both in charge of the remake, scheduled for a January 21, 2021, release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC and the next-generation PlayStation and Xbox machines. It will cost about USD40.

The remake follows the same plot of the original 2003 release, which was a retelling of the 1989 classic by developer Jordan Mechner. In 1984, Mechner was credited as creating one of gaming’s first fighting games, Karateka, and was working on a follow-up title. He graduated from Yale University in 1985 and immediately began work on Prince of Persia. Mechner drew by hand the animations of the original 1989 release through rotoscope animation, a storytelling technique created in 1915 and later used on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The original game is a milestone in platformer adventures, inspiring Another World, Flashback and similar platformer adventures. The original Tomb Raider from 1996, one of the pioneers of 3D technology, drew heavy inspiration from Mechner’s work. And after the critical and commercial success of the Sands of Time trilogy, Ubisoft Montreal attempted to evolve the combat and parkour formula of the series into an open-world setting. The team became fascinated with the history of assassins, and the project morphed into a new intellectual property, Assassin’s Creed, a series that has become the centrepiece of Ubisoft’s catalogue.

Gaming would not be the same without Prince of Persia.

The game’s combat moved the 3D action genre forward. This was one of the first big action titles to step away from the ‘targetting’ mechanic of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, allowing for combat with multiple enemies and freedom of movement in the battle arena. This design philosophy would find its way into titles such as the Batman Arkham series.

There was a fairy tale charm and wit to the original Sands of Time. Voice talent Yuri Lowenthal gave a whimsical lilt to the nameless prince’s voice in the original title, and he’ll reprise his role for the remake. The entire story was told like a fairy tale from the prince’s perspective, allowing the game to frame even death as simply the prince botching the narration. This storytelling premise, alongside the ability to rewind time, made for an engrossing and complete package.

Ubisoft did not mention whether Mechner was involved in the remake, but he has shepherded the brand for the past 30 years. He co-wrote the 2010 movie of the same name that starred Jake Gyllenhaal, and he released a book of the journal he kept during the 1980s while developing the original game.

The remake follows the same plot of the original 2003 release, which was a retelling of the 1989 classic by developer Jordan Mechner. PHOTOS: UBISOFT