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Page 1:
Introduction
Prince of Persia (1989)

Page 2:
Prince of Persia (SNES)
Prince of Persia Classic
Screenshot Comparison

Page 3:
The Shadow & The Flame
The Shadow and The Flame

Page 4:
Arabian Nights
Harem Adventures
Special Edition

Page 5:
The Sands of Time

Page 6:
Warrior Within
The Two Thrones
Battles of Prince of Persia

Page 7:
Prince of Persia (2008)
The Fallen King

Page 8:
The Forgotten Sands (Consoles)

Page 9:
The Forgotten Sands (Portables)

Page 10:
The Graphic Novel
Before the Sandstorm
The Sands of Time (Movie)

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Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed

Concept Artwork

When Ubisoft released the game that would launch their new mega series Assassin's Creed, many players noticed a vague resemblance to Prince of Persia - not only did the first game take place in a Middle Eastern environment, it also had a strong focus on climbing and a somewhat similar approach to sword fighting. All the similarities are no accident: The project was once again helmed by Sands of Time creative director Patrice Dōsilets at Ubisoft Montreal. In 2004, "Team POP" even had an early presentation of the game under the title Prince of Persia: Assassins. The short video still shows a few elements that didn't make it into the first Assassin's Creed - the hooded player character is seen choking a knight from a first person perspective, and at the end, he hops on the back of another assassin's horse to make an escape.

The idea behind the game was a more historically sound (yet still decidedly fictional) approach, where the player would control a member of an order of assassins, who were sworn to protect a still young Persian prince. In tone and gameplay, the demo definitely appears closer to the final Assassin's Creed than any actual Prince of Persia game, so it probably was the right decision to start a new franchise - it certainly didn't do Ubisoft any harm. On the other hand, maybe if a Prince of Persia Assassins would have spared us the stupid half-assed sci-fi metaplot...

Things have gone rather quiet around the Prince of Persia after the overkill production to accompany the Disney movie apparently didn't deliver the results Ubisoft had hoped for, but the 2015 game Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China is a more than welcome substitute. While it takes place in the Assassin's Creed universe (though without Animus plot), set in China and comes with the usual stealth assassination mechanics, the 2.5D platforming feels decidedly Prince of Persia like.

Prince of Persia Assassins

Prince of Persia Assassins

Assassin's Creed Chronicles: China (Windows)


Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel - Comic Book (2008)

First Edition Cover

Reprint Cover

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel

It all starts with the face of a man who is being drowned in a pool. It turns out that the man who has him drowned is his step brother, who got adopted after the drowning man's father had conquered the kingdom of his father and adopted him as his own son. A military coup had forced him onto a throne he didn't want after their father died, but now he's all pissed because his stepbrother tried to stab him in his sleep. The execution, however is interrupted by the drowning man's sister, who is also bearing the other man's child and threatens to kill herself with the offspring.

The story then cuts to the daughter of a corrupt politician who is given dancing lessons by the leader of a secret rebel organization against her father, but after her instructor is fired she cuts her hair, runs away from the city and meets a young man who was raised hidden away in a well. A magical peacock also figures heavily into the plot.

Confused yet? Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel focuses on two points in the history of the fictional city of Marv, playing ball in the power struggles of several mighty empires and the intrigues of local officials. The novel constantly switches back and forward between what seems like parallel time lines, always pacing forward one step ahead of the reader who is trying to string together a coherent narrative he's given. During the climax, it's almost on a per-panel basis.

However, it wouldn't be quite fair to say that there is no red string to tie all the events together. There is a way it can all make sense, but it is extraordinarily confusing and requires to buy a plot driven by dreams and prophecies more than characters or action. There isn't even one (or two, considering the two timelines) protagonist for readers to cling to. The novel should be rightly called Princes of Persia, as there's a whole bunch of them, and until the end, there is not a certain eponymous one. Only one of them is nameless, but that'd be the last one to pick as a protagonist. Another suffers from constipation.

The project Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel was helmed by Jordan Mechner himself, but the actual script was written by an Iranian poet only known as A.B. Sina. The artwork by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland thankfully feature clear lines and a solid focus on important elements, so there's at least something to hold on in the visuals. There is a simple charm to the art, which doesn't even clash with the medieval painting-style flashbacks within the timelines. Some scenes are very gruesome, though, even moreso than the first two Prince of Persia games.

The coloring by Hilary Sycamore mimics the flat shading and contrasting colors of the French old school, which always makes for a more classy look than the typical American comic book coloring. It also makes clever use of tones to convey to readers which timeline they're currently looking at.

The story wants to be confusing, wants to elude being grasped on a logical level. The aim clearly was to be a construct of loose fit fairy tale-like parts, to be magic. And it can succeed at that, but it requires an admission by the reader - a willingness to just go with the flow and allow the entrancing drawings to guide through the labyrinth.

After it had been originally released in 2008, publisher First Second books timed a second print roughly around the release of the Sands of Time movie, now subtitled The Original Graphic Novel and with a new (inferior) cover. The content, however is exactly the same, down to the afterword by Jordan Mechner about the history of and philosophy behind the Prince of Persia series.

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel

Prince of Persia: The Graphic Novel


Prince of Persia: Before the Sandstorm - Comic Book (2010)

Issue 1 Cover

Frame story

Seso's Tale

The Porter's Tale

Besides the older comic's re-release, there was of course also an official tie-in with the Disney movie. This time Mechner wrote the story himself, with six different artists contributing the illustrations. The reason for that? Before the Sandstorm is a story of stories in stories in best Arabian Nights tradition, and so five tales are told within an overarching narrative, each drawn by a different artist. There's even some real star power involved: Todd McFarlane created the cover used for both the first issue and the TBP anthology.

The frame story shows a shady merchant named Sheik Omar, his African companion Seso, two female acquaintances and their hired porter arrested because their where caught partying and spending treasures of royal possession. The culprit's claim they got the riches send as a present from prince Dastan, but are short of any explanation to the governor as to why the prince should throw fortunes at "such rogues".

So Sheik Omar sets out to tell his story about how he met prince Dastan - who is depicted like the Prince from the original 1989 game, with the old white clothes. Omar helps and accompanies him on his escape from the prison so he can rescue the princess from the evil vizier Jaffar. As they eventually part ways, when looking back he just gets a glimpse of the prince jumping through the mirror and the Dark Prince (in his The Two Thrones design) emerging, then he flees. The pencil strokes by Bernhard Chang (The Second Life of Doctor Mirage) focus on clear character lines accompanied by sketchy hatching in the background, and convey a nostalgic charm befitting of a retelling of the classic game's story.

The governor of course is having none of it, as every Persian knows the traditional tale, after all it has been passed on for centuries. So all the other characters jump in to try and prove Sheik Omar'S trustworthyness: Seso tells the story about his enslavement and subsequent rescue by Sheik Omar. His euphemistic narration of the events creates a most amusing dissonance with what is shown in the panels. The Spaniard David Lopez (Espiral, Fallen Angel) is responsible for the distinctly European style in the art, and draws Seso in the clothes of the Macintosh version Prince during the middle section of the tale.

Next is the courtesan Dinarzad, who in tones of orange and blue with elaborate hatched shading by Niko Henrichon (Pride of Baghdad), tells of her days as a harem girl. In the harem she once heard a story from an old woman named Farah (not related to the Farah in the games). Farah was sold in her youth to the Hassansins to serve in a fake 1-day paradise for the brainwashing of their new recruits. She eventually gets saved by the servant of the trader who sold her there, who upon seeing her once fell in love with her and in the end sacrifices himself for her escape. He originated from the tribe of the Ngbaka - just as Seso.

Eventually the stories grow more and more desperate: The other woman, Sharzad, tells about a word-of-mouth anecdote from the youth of prince Dastan's future bride, princess Tamina of Alamut, and how she was once saved from a boy with a stolen pony - stolen from Sheik Omar, who of course let the boy escape intentionally, putting the boy - and in consequence the princess - in his debt. Drawn by Tommy Lee Edwards (Marvel 1984), this story has the most realistic look of the lot and very low-key coloring. It also gives interesting insights into the myth of the Hourglass of Time.

When the governor grows more and more annoyed with all the tall tales, finally even the porter, who thus far had done his best to distance himself from the rest, comes up with a tale about his brother's wife's cousin Roham, who once helped prince Dastan to defeat a demon king on an island they were both stranded on, upon which the prince rewarded him princely. The art this time comes from Cameron Stewart (Seaguy, Assassin's Creed: The Fall).

This final anecdote, supposed to prove to the governor the worth of prince Dastan's gratitude, fails to impress, either. The angered governor sends the women and the porter away, but orders Sheik Omar and Seso to be executed. But all the talking has left the two with ample time to cook up an escape plan, and they get away.

In the end, it turns out that even the frame story (there is no direct credit given in the book for the frame story artist, but it appears to be Tom Fowler, creator of the Monroe strips in MAD and the last remaining name among the author biography blurbs at the end) was contained in yet another one: It is told by the Governor's wife to their grandson. "The story's not over!", he complains, "What did Sheik Amar and Seso do that made prince Dastan reward them?" "That is a story for another night", is her answer. A story for a night at the cinema, to be precise...

Sheik Amar's Tale

Dinarzad's Tale

Sharzad's Tale)


Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - Movie (2010)

Poster

May 18, 1992
I had lunch with Doug. He suggested making Prince of Persia into a feature film. He thought we could raise a lot of the money from licensees. In a year or two, it just might be within the realm of possibility.

It took a bit longer than first expected, but by 2005 Jordan Mechner had written a screenplay for a movie based on the highly acclaimed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The script was picked up by Disney, who after the success of Pirates of the Carribean apparently were just in the right mood for more fantasy adventures with cocky swashbuckling protagonists, and only five years later the final product appeared on the silver screen.

Just like the game, the film starts with the Persian siege of a city - only here it is not the nameless Prince with his father leading the attack. First of all, a nameless protagonist just doesn't fly in a Hollywood movie these days, so we meet Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan, the good-for-nothing youngest of three brothers. Once adopted as a street kid by the king after impressing his majesty with his cockiness, he serves as a mere lieutenant over a band of pioneers in his father's army. The command lies with crown Prince Tus (Richard Coyle) and the middle brother Garsiv (played by Toby Kebbell - he is fusioned out of a pair of snobbish twins and the captain of the guard from Mechner's original script), who are advised by their uncle, the vizier Nizam (Ben Kingsley). Under false reports of secret weapon forges in the mountain fortress of Alamut (oh, the cunning allusions to real-world politics!), they're tricked into attacking their former allies. It is Dastan who makes the attack a success by breaking into the fortress and opening the gates from inside, and during his battle with an escaping rider he gets hold of a mysterious dagger.

The the protagonit's relationship with the brothers adds a great deal of depth to the story. Also, since the oldest brother Tus shows a keen interest in Dastan's new dagger, and gives him the fine robe as present for their father that ends up killing the Sultan (in the most involuntarily comical scene, with smoke coming out of his clothes) and turning Dastan into a fugitive, he could have made for a great decoy to keep the story a little less obivious. However, since Ben Kingsley is there to play the bald, evil-bearded uncle who is also the vizier, he couldn't make any more obvious villain if he had "EVIL" tattooed in big red capitals on his forehead. This makes for an awful dissonance between the viewer and Dastan, who spends the next half hour running around wondering who might have set him up.

During his escape he meets Talmina, the princess of Alamut, who happens to be on the run as well. Gemma Arterton plays a terribly annoying character. While Farah in the game was reasonably supportive even when she distrusted the Prince, Tamina makes it her sole purpose to bitch and moan all the time - until her reveal as one of the Guardians of the Hourglass of Time, cause then she never stops babbling about her duty and her purpose to protect the Sands. When Dastan first finds out about the time-rewinding powers of the Dagger of Time, it is actually in reaction to Tamina's attempt to kill him.

Dastan totally has the viewer on his side when he finally sells her off to the Shady businessman Sheik Amar (played by Alfred Molina - Mechner was thrilled to have a mook from Raiders of the Lost Ark in the movie), who hosts illegal Ostrich races in the desert. However, Dastan and Tamina get in trouble again and have to escape together after all. Yet somehow they manage to win Amar and his companion Seso (Steve Toussaint) as allies when they go up to the showdown against the Hassansins, hired by Nizam. The original Assassins here are hyped up as monstrous warriors, who preferably use perfectly trained venomous snakes for their killings.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time turned out to be a rather typical summer fantasy action-adventure movie. It's filled with silly side plots, suffers from the usual over-edited Hollywood fights where you can never really see what's going on and are just shown seperate, "awesome" movements. As a film, there's not much special about it, but it definitely has one thing going for it: It proves that movies based on video games don't have to be utter garbage and boasts the production values of any hollywood fantasy blockbuster. It won't disappoint anyone who saw an appeal in Pirates of the Caribbean beyond Johnny Depp's shenanigans.

At the same time it stays remarkably true to the spirit of the game even as a big Hollywood studio production. Sure, the setting was changed quite a bit, since a movie about three people locked in a palace full of sand creatures wouldn't work out quite as well as it did in the game, and especially later edits by other authors have added lots of unnecessary stuff (both the ostrich race and Hassansins subplots were not included in Mechner's original screenplay). But the visual design, the acrobatics and the rewinding effects are spot-on, and most new characters would fit in nicely with the game universe. There are even subtler nods to other games in the series, like a villain using the Dark Prince's weapons, or a shot that conspicuously features a round flask that looks just like the potion bottles in the classic games. So while not an outstanding movie, it's at least an outstanding game adaption.

This being a Disney movie, it of course got the whole range of merchandise; novelizations, choose-your-own-adventure books, McFarlane toys, even its own set of Lego packages - far too much stuff to deal with here, especially because it's all only of marginal relevance to the game franchise.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time


Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Introduction
Prince of Persia (1989)

Page 2:
Prince of Persia (SNES)
Prince of Persia Classic
Screenshot Comparison

Page 3:
The Shadow & The Flame
The Shadow and The Flame

Page 4:
Arabian Nights
Harem Adventures
Special Edition

Page 5:
The Sands of Time

Page 6:
Warrior Within
The Two Thrones
Battles of Prince of Persia

Page 7:
Prince of Persia (2008)
The Fallen King

Page 8:
The Forgotten Sands (Consoles)

Page 9:
The Forgotten Sands (Portables)

Page 10:
The Graphic Novel
Before the Sandstorm
The Sands of Time (Movie)

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index