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

The remake follows the same plot of the original 2003 release, which itself was a retelling of the 1989 classic by developer and gaming luminary Jordan Mechner. In 1984, Mechner was already 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 revolutionary, detailed animations of the original 1989 release through rotoscope animation, a storytelling technique created in 1915 and later used by Walt Disney in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The original game is a milestone in platformer adventures, going on to inspire “Another World,” “Flashback,” and other 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 formula. Through the team’s research, they became fascinated with the history of assassins. The project eventually morphed into a new intellectual property, “Assassin’s Creed,” a series that has since become the centerpiece of Ubisoft’s catalogue.

It’s safe to say that gaming wouldn’t be the same without “Prince of Persia.”

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

There was also 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. This allowed the game to even frame 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 didn’t mention whether Mechner was involved in this project. But Mechner has shepherded the brand for the last 30 years. He even co-wrote the 2010 movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and has recently released a book of the journal he kept during the 1980s while developing the original game.

In the meantime, ever the artist, Mechner has spent the last few years posting sketches while living in France. The pandemic reality has found its way into his art.

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