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Prince of Persia exists in such a strange place for me. I’m a huge fan of Assassin’s Creed, a series clearly built on the bones of a Prince of Persia sequel we never got, but I’ve never played any of the original Prince of Persia games that inspired that first Assassin’s Creed. So to see the series return in 2024 with Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is exciting–I can finally see why people liked the lore and mythology of this series without going back to play games over two decades old (and even older if you’re counting the original Broderbund titles).
I got to play just under four hours of The Lost Crown during a preview event and thoroughly enjoyed it. The game’s first hours feature frenetic combat that encourages you to master cool-looking combos, challenging and intense boss battles, atmospheric music, and memorable characters. And that “The Eye of the Wanderer” feature that pins your screenshots to your in-game map, providing a visual reminder of chests you plan to return to, hidden traps you wish to avoid, and secrets you want to remember? That needs to be included in every metroidvania game from here on out. It’s fantastic.
Following my time with The Lost Crown, I sat down with cinematic lead Joseph-Antoine Clavet to discuss the game’s inspirations, narrative themes, and The Eye of the Wanderer feature. Our conversation touched on shōnen anime more than I expected, with the likes of Dragon Ball and Naruto popping up. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is scheduled to launch for Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, and PC on January 18, 2024.
GameSpot: What did y’all want to invoke with the visual direction, especially with so many vibrant and bright colors?
Clavet: You can really see the influence of shōnen anime where the topics are heavy, but it’s still this poppy color. And I think this counterpoint sometimes [helps the game] be more accessible, where it’s visually pleasing and it’s not too dark. But you also still have this deep meaning of existence to it.
And shōnen anime is a great example of that. Something that [Mounir Radi] would always say, [Radi] is the game director, he would always say, “Sargon is our Vegeta. He’s not supposed to be Goku, he’s Vegeta.” The anime inspirations have always been there.
So it’s going to be [visually] colorful, but [narratively] there’s this sense of anger and there’s this sense of wanting to be so strong that maybe you forget other aspects of being strong. It’s like when you watch Naruto, Naruto has some deep dark topics, but it’s always [presented] in a poppy way.
And also, when you make a metroidvania like this one where you’re going to have some really fast-paced action and a lot of elements off-screen, this division in color just allows you to be able to read the screen a lot better.
I did get a bit of that shōnen anime vibe with the Manticore boss fight and seeing Sargon just catch and toss the beast after it charged at him.
Sargon uses the equivalent of chi, or ki, or life essence. And he channels it from his anger, from this rage within. So that gives him superpowers.
And there’s something super cocky about him, and that is what we wanted… That was the goal, finding the right balance [in the protagonist] between, “I’m super cool,” and “How can you be better?” Being super cool is nice, but what does it mean to be strong?
And that was a question we’ll always bring back to the table: “What does it mean to be strong?” The warrior’s journey was super important in this. I don’t know if you know Miyamoto Musashi? Well, Miyamoto Musashi, through his life, was one of the greatest swordsmen, killing over 60 men in duels. But at one point you realize being really strong is knowing calligraphy, doing poetry, being kind to others, creating relationships. And this is what we wanted, a kind of Miyamoto Musashi-esque Sargon, who’s going to have to grow stronger as more than just a fighter.
In that respect, are there abilities in the game geared towards acquiring knowledge or bettering one’s mind? Or, like most metroidvania games, are most of the upgrades combat-focused?
No, you won’t acquire powers that make you a better calligrapher. It’s not going to be something like that. But we wanted the [narrative] elements, the relationship between [Sargon] and the characters to better him too.
Because in the end, a metroidvania still needs to have this tight feeling of pure gameplay. And the reality is, I think it’s a great game that you can experiment by going full on in the story and all the little lower details. And it can be great just going through the main path–it feels fine. But I think that the side quests are a good place to define a bit more of Sargon.
Where did the idea come from to just be able to quickly take a screenshot and put that image on the map? Because every metroidvania from here on out needs that feature. I wish I’d had that for Hollow Knight.
Everybody loves that.
We were just like, “What if we alleviate the memorization of the map?” Because the reality is, a lot of us on the team don’t have as much time as before to play games. We make games now, so sometimes you don’t play the game for a week, two weeks before you get back to it. And then you’re like, “Oh man, this chest, where was it?”
So we just wanted to give players a tool to alleviate this, to always have the story moving forward. Since this is a really narrative-driven structure, we want the story to always stay fresh to the player, where you don’t come back and think, “I don’t understand where I’m at.”
And the memory charts were one of those tools that just makes it easier to pick up. Some people don’t use them at all. Some hardcore Metroid fans, they’re like, “Nope, I’m not using this.” And yeah, that is fine. But if I think for players who don’t care, I think everybody will be enchanted by having that in the game.”
This interview was edited for both brevity and readability.
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