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How Ubisoft Is Bringing Prince of Persia Back as an Anime-Like Metroidvania

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A brand new Prince of Persia was fully revealed at this year’s Ubisoft Forward, and it’s quite literally in a different dimension to the beloved Sands of Time games. Made by the folks behind Rayman, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is a 2D game that revisits the series’ platformer roots.

To find out more about this unexpected return we spoke to three developers from Ubisoft Montpellier, who told us how they’re relaunching Prince of Persia as an anime-inspired Metroidvania.

“At Ubsioft Montpellier we have the experience of 2D games on Rayman, of course,” says world director Christophe Pic about the decision to go back to two dimensions for The Lost Crown. “So first of all it was [that] we had the experience, for us it was natural to make the choice for the game. And we also wanted to come back to the original Prince of Persia, because it also fits with the kind of structure we have and with the kind of controls and gameplay.”

“But it's also in 3D,” he notes. While viewed from a 2D perspective, the world is built in a 3D space, and so the camera can make full use of that. “So when we have dynamic combat and we have specific combos, we sometimes take control of the camera and we have this specific point of view [where the camera moves inside the game world]. So we want to keep something immersive, of course, and modern.”

When those special camera moves trigger, the world switches colour palette from a stylish-but-traditional middle eastern swatch to a bold, vibrant, anime-inspired design.

“We love modern pop culture, we love anime,” says art director Jean-Christophe Alessandri. “We love comics, superheroes. And this is really an act of love of fans. We are fans and we wanted to put that into the universe of Prince of Persia.”

“Our own formula, I can say, is to get some strong inspiration and references from the mythological Persia, from history, which is a bit unknown,” he says. “But it's very rich, very inspiring. And [we] allied that with more modern inspiration and references.”

It’s not just the visuals that combine ideas from different genres. The gameplay pays homage to both the 1989 original Prince of Persia and the beloved Sands of Time trilogy, and blends those elements with the core concepts of Metroidvania games.

Prince of Persia: The Complete Playlist

Here's the entire Prince of Persia gameography, from Mechner/Broderbund's original to Ubisoft's many sequels. Log in to mark your play and completion status.See All

“We tried to go back to the roots of the series,” explains Mounir Radi, game director on The Lost Crown. “Because there's a lot of signatures, trap sequences, movements, etc. Without forgetting what the 3D episodes had built, because it is super important to respect each episode.”

The very important thing in this kind of structure is the empowerment of the player.


“Players who played the original game will find in some areas [in The Lost Crown with] this feeling of the Arabian Nights, with big palace, open areas and with nice landscapes, and everything,” says Pic. “But also, like in the first Prince of Persia, some places with a lot of traps, and small corridors with traps, and things that are sometimes difficult to anticipate. And we have a lot of gameplay sequences that are cameos to the first Prince of Persia.”

For the Metroidvania elements, Ubisoft wanted to pull on all the classics of the genre: an interconnected map, challenging combat, and powers that unlock new opportunities.

“Our purpose was to capture this feeling of isolation,” says Radi. “To have a black box, and to be smart.”

Ubisoft has used the term ‘black box’ during development of the Assassin’s Creed series, and it refers to the mission structure first seen in Unity in which an assassination could be approached in several different ways. It seems, then, that The Lost Crown aims to allow players to solve situations in a variety of ways.

“We have a lot of rewards and shortcuts that we tease the player [with] to come back with new abilities,” says Pic of the Metroidvania structure. “The very important thing in this kind of structure is the empowerment of the player. Also it’s very important when you come back to have the ability to pass through a fight easily and to access treasures that were not accessible previously.”

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown – screenshots and concept art

In traditional form for Prince of Persia, you have the power to manipulate time. For example, you can create a shadow marker and rewind back to it, and so you can pull yourself out of danger at the last moment. Or you can speed yourself up and dash through hazards. As cool as these are, though, they are purposefully very different to the Sands of Time powers that you may remember.

“We are toying with the time theme, and this is not a prequel,” says Radi. “Of course, we use ideas and signatures because as a developer, when we begin to think about this new chapter – Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown – it was very important to try to twist with all these things. So something like simple ideas: imagine that the time powers are back, the ones that you know from the trilogy, but this time they won't be in your hand. They will be in the hands of the main antagonist.”

It’s currently unknown how many time powers will be available beyond the shadow and the dash, but Pic promises there will be at least one more that has the potential to change your approach to almost everything.

“I don't want to spoil it but you will later in the game unlock a specific ability that will allow you to have a very different approach, even in fights, the puzzles, everything,” he says. “It's a combination of abilities that give a lot of creativity to the player.”

While The Lost Crown is a traditional Metroidvania in many ways, Ubisoft Montpellier decided against the genre’s typically light touch approach to storytelling. You can expect 3D animated cutscenes as well as 2D dialogue sequences, and a dedication to character growth. That all begins with your protagonist, Sargon: a member of the superhero-like Immortals. That means, in a surprise turn, you don’t play as the Prince of Persia himself. Instead, you’re searching for him.

We didn't want to play as, let's say, Son Goku, but Vegeta.


“You know, when you have to deal with this Prince of Persia, it's super easy to make the same recipe,” says Radi. “And it's kind of the same thing with every idea we had. I talked about simple ideas. It was like ‘This time you won't play as the Prince. You won't be alone, you will be part of a group.’ Why we did that, it was to this time create a closer connection with the player. I don’t think we have so many princes in our audience and we wanted to be sure that every player feels a connection with Sargon. And that was super important to create a story that allowed the player to grow with Sargon. This is a coming of age story.

“We took a lot of inspiration from anime,” he explains. “We didn't want to play as, let's say, Son Goku, but Vegeta. We wanted this because it was a matter of, you know, make him grow all along his journey. And Vegeta cannot be… he's a prince, of course! But we wanted to have someone more, you know, rough. We took a lot of inspiration from Miyamoto Musashi history, because this is a journey for Sargon to understand ‘What does it mean to be strong? What does it take to be strong?’”

With Sargon effectively being an anime hero, it was important to convey his power through the game’s visuals. And so Ubisoft Montpellier studied numerous artforms, from anime to comic books to street art, to inform how Sargon looks when he fights.

“When Sargon, our main character, unleashes his super power, we wanted to give this feeling of epicness by creating an impactful image,” says Alessandri. “So we're using vibrant colours, modern patterns, lines, bold colours, and everything to make a memorable moment for the players.”

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is planned to release on January 18 next year on Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox consoles, Amazon Luna, and PC. For more details on the Prince’s return, check out our hands-on preview. You can find everything else shown at Ubisoft Forward right here.


Matt Purslow is IGN's UK News and Features Editor.

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