Prince of Persia’s timeless platforms
28 years after the original release, Prince of Persia continues to be the obsession of a community made up by enthusiasts that never forgot their first, stunning encounter with Jordan Mechner’s platform game. And they are not just freaks like yours truly, who considers PoP his first computer love and that is still trying to beat his own personal record by playing the game every now and then under DOSBox. Nope: here we are talking about developers that are capable, determined and willing to dig the secrets hidden in the code of an ancient software to keep alive a myth that doesn’t fear the effects of obsolescence.
Lately the good old PoP was in the news for the release of a new version of SDLPoP, an open source conversion of the MS-DOS version of the game based on the disassembly of the original code. Showing a multi-platform vocation made possible by the Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL) library like the aforementioned DOSBox, SDLPoP removes the need to use an emulator or a virtual machine with a native conversion (for Windows, Linux, OS X and OS/2) faithfully recreating the smallest details of the gaming experience from the Eighties.
Actually, leaving aside the debate about a possible copyright violation of an FOSS project that seems a bit too much faithful to a 30 years-old commercial software, SDLPoP 1.17 is capable of offering a lot more than the official executable file like modifying the graphics aspect ratio, recording/playing replays of the most spectacular actions, access to the classic level series or to a completely new one, support for modifications of the aforementioned levels and much more. The conversion doesn’t miss support for cheats either, through the immortal “megahit” option to type on the command prompt like in the good old days of DOS.
If the idea of running an old game on modern hardware and operating systems could then be less desirable for true fans of retro computers, another developer decided to modernize the Atari version of PoP by improving compatibility and sound on the Atari STE - a machine where now the prince runs and fights more smoothly than ever thanks to the use of the advanced multimedia features of the historical home computer by the American company.
Going even further back in time, lastly, there is someone that decided to focus his development work on the original release of PoP by making a new editor for the Apple II version of the game: leapop (0.8) runs on Windows or Linux, is open source like SDLPoP and features the same graphical interface of another level editor for the DOS (PoP 1 and PoP 2) and SNES releases of the game (apoplexy). In conclusion: even though Ubisoft doesn’t seem interested in commercially exploiting the Prince of Persia series at the moment, fans of the first cinematic platformer ever created continue to keep alight a torch in the dark dungeons where everything began.
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