One of my favorite games, from both a story and a gameplay standpoint, is Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. I played through it on either Xbox or PS2, I forget which, but it was a great time. The gameplay combined platforming mechanics and traditional combat to create a kind of gameplay that was extremely fun. The enemies provided a way for the Prince to make his platforming easier, turning creatively acrobatic combat into a crucial gameplay component.
Where the game really shined for me, however, was the story. Shortly before the end of the game, you find out that the game you’ve just played, deaths and all, was not a game– it was a story that the Prince was telling Princess Farah, the daughter of the Maharajah. There are a number of twists involved, but what it boils down to is that, due to an error, the princess died. The Prince reversed time, and now he must convince her of what happened and save her life. So, he told her the story of his adventure.
This wasn’t exactly out of the blue. The Prince narrates the game, and every time you died, he’d say something to the effect of, “No, that’s not how it happened,” and begin again from just before your death. It turned the story of the game into a story within the game, and it’s a plot twist that I greatly appreciated. If anything, it heightened my love for the game and hooked me for life.
First Second Books released a Prince of Persia graphic novel late last year. I picked it up and read it a couple months after release, but never really got around to talking about it on here.
Rather than do a straight adaptation of any of the handful of Prince of Persia titles, writers Jordan Mechner and AB Sina and artists LeUyen Pham, Alex Pulvilland, and Hilary Sycamore instead told a tale that spanned two timelines under the loose umbrella of being about a “prince of Persia.” There is a nice nod early in the novel to the way that the Prince of Persia series has changed over the years. A king calls for his son, the prince, but all three of his children, two sons and a daughter, come together, rather than the prince he wanted. When quizzed about why they all came, they respond, “For I am the prince!”
In a way, I enjoyed Prince of Persia more due to Sands of Time. They both showed a deft way of telling their story in a way that I didn’t expect at the time. The story takes place over two timelines, and they tend to blend in and out of each other as the book goes on. It can be confusing, but not in an off-putting manner. It simply gives the book a different tone than I’d expected. It’s much more whimsical, or fairy tale-like, in tone than a straight up adventure novel. It isn’t quite magical realism. Everything that happens fits within the story and is perfectly believable. However, there is a definite dream-like quality to the story.
The graphic novel is a continuation of the Prince of Persia mythos in more ways than one, though it wasn’t a direct sequel. It played with the idea of all of the Princes being the same person, or at least the same idea, complete with a twin climax at the end of the book. It also has a distinctive visual direction, something that’s very important for standing out. The art is very cartoony, and almost animation-ready. It’s very easy to look at it and see a feature length Prince of Persia animation, from the art to the vibrant (and varied!) colors. Each scene has its own mood, and Sycamore’s colors deliver on just about every level.
It’s a very handsome volume, and a worthy part of the Prince of Persia mythos. I like that :01 went for the “Tell a story” kind of video game adapting, rather than the almost universally boring “Here is a direct video game adaptation.” As always, what you get out of a work is in direct proportion to what you put into it. :01 put the creator of the franchise and other talented people to work doing a story that they cared about telling. It shows in the craft. I was inclined to like this book just because of the Prince of Persia connection, but if the craft wasn’t there, it would be worthless. Fortunately, that ended up not being true.
While doing some research for this, I was pointed to Jordan Mechner’s site, which includes his old journals, which are a must-read for any fan of the Prince of Persia series. His new blog is pretty good, too, including this piece about reinventing the Prince of Persia.
The Uncharted 2 Beta code contest is done! There were a lot of good entries, particularly this amazing one from HitTheTargets, but the winner is the simply-named j, who posted this bit:
The game I think would make a great comic is Shadow of the Colossus. For those who don’t know it is the story about a lone rider trying to bring his dead girlfriend back to life by killing 13 colossi. There are no mazes, side quests,or even dialoge just a guy and his horse. You ride around to find a colossi figure out how to climb up to its weak spot and kill it. It seems basic but what makes the game great is the beautiful scenes and amazing colossi. As you go through the game you feel bad for the colossi. They are just trying to fight off some crazed guy trying to destroy them.
I think it should be a semi-direct adaption of the game. Stay with having no dialoge since it lends weight to the story. I think the perfect artist would be Becky Cloonan (Demo, American Virgin). Her black and white art can easily tell the heaviness of a lone man doing anything he can to try to get back his love. She also seems to have a knack with the supernatural and fantastical. Her drawing the colossi would be great so see.
You would need to cut a couple of colossi so it wouldn’t be to monotonous. Keep the good, if not some what predictable, ending and you would have a pretty good comic.
A video game adaptation that banks on the art like this would be fascinating, and probably well worth a read. True story: Shadow of the Colossus is a game I never played, despite working in video games. I get grief over it all the time.
Anyway, j, expect an email with the beta code from me this afternoon!
Thanks for playing, everybody.