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Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown (NS)

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown (NS) - Review

by Paul Broussard , posted on 23 January 2024 / 3,497 Views

It continues to be Metroidvania month around here, with Ubisoft of all companies now throwing its hat into the ring. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown was announced last year to a chorus of “eh” from the general Prince of Persia fanbase, who were all presumably still drinking themselves into a coma after hearing that development on the Sands of Time remake was being rebooted. It feels particularly odd to see Ubisoft investing in what has tended to be a niche genre, but you know what, I’m willing to let the last decade of ruining Assassin’s Creed and throwing Rayman out with the trash be bygones. Show us what an AAA Metroidvania that isn’t made by Nintendo looks like.

Taken literally, the answer to that question is “not great.” Lost Crown has fairly unappealing art direction and looks quite ugly in general. The various human characters in the world look, for lack of a better way of putting it, like they belong in Fortnite, or even worse, one of those awful mobile games with fake advertisements. Non-human characters are thankfully better in that they’re merely fine, although they still have a cheap, almost plastic look. The game also has a bad habit of displaying oddities in its in-engine cutscenes, like when the camera cuts to an animation of a boss character charging up a powerful attack, but it still shows the player moving in the background. One area where I will give it credit is the background detail for the areas you explore; nearly every room in Lost Crown is absolutely packed with completely unnecessary but awesome details like giant statues, trees, rivers, ancient machines, and more, but on the whole the visuals get a pretty thorough thumbs down.

The plot is also fairly bland. You play as Sargon, one of the seven “Immortals,” which feels like a rather ironic title for a character who starts the game with a health bar that can take a handful of hits from standard enemies at most. After saving Persia from an invading force, the titular Prince of Persia is kidnapped by one of the immortals and taken to the mystical Mount Qaf, prompting Sargon and his comrades to pursue them. Arriving at Mount Qaf quickly reveals that not all is as it seems, however, as they're sealed inside by magic and time distortions begin popping up routinely. It’s a cool concept, but the game doesn’t do a whole lot with it, and I do think there was some missed potential to craft a more interesting narrative around such an intriguing idea.

Mixed visuals and story aside, the gameplay of Lost Crown handles very well. Sargon, the main character, has a moveset inspired by a variety of Metroidvanias from recent years, including Blasphemous’ slide, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night’s backstep, a counter system reminiscent of modern Metroid, and a standard sprint filling out the diverse starting toolkit. One of the game’s unique inclusions is a sprinting kick that launches smaller enemies into the air and allows for continued combo strings. Combat itself mostly revolves around standard melee attacks from Sargon’s two swords, and while you start off with one ground combo and one air combo, it gradually opens up, with pause combos and optional equippables that allow for extra hits with precise timing.

The strong handling foundation translates directly into excellent platforming and environmental puzzles. Lost Crown is a Prince of Persia title, after all, and it wouldn’t be Prince of Persia without some fast-paced platforming over spike pits. Many of the game’s various optional upgrades require solid platforming chops, and this is only possible with a great control scheme. The level design shines at its brightest on the occasions when the game throws in some kind of puzzle to solve as well. There’s one segment leading up to acquiring a powerup which tasks you with entering four mini-challenge rooms and solving timed puzzles with various duplicate copies of yourself. It’s a really unique and interesting way of pushing the mechanics to their fullest, and it’s something I would’ve liked to have seen more of.

Combat is the other half of the control aspect, and it’s handled quite well, offering up a good amount of depth. Sargon’s kit is heavily melee focused (utilising his dual swords), with a sprinkling of ranged attacks from a bow that he acquires as the first major upgrade. The aforementioned counter system plays a big role, with most melee attacks being counterable, and specific yellow attacks resulting in a cinematic playing out and killing regular enemies outright. One of the more unique additions that Lost Crown’s combat brings to the table is a meter system, where you build meter primarily through successful counters and can spend it on a variety of super moves that deal a huge amount of damage. This creates a good risk/reward proposition that keeps combat entertaining and adds a layer of strategy to things, as you need to figure out when it’s worth countering and when it’s worth backing off.

My only complaint on the combat side is that some of the regular enemies can get a bit frustrating; the limited range of the sword and the miserable damage output of the bow mean that the bevvy of enemies who either operate from a distance and/or actively run away from you are often more annoying to deal with than fun. Enemies also have a bad habit of stunlocking the player, and in a crowd, one hit can often snowball into you getting ping-ponged back and forth for a huge chunk of your health bar.

The real star of the show that is Lost Crown’s combat has to be the selection of boss fights. I will say up front that this is another title that leans into the increasingly popular trend of “bosses you will likely have to die to a couple times in order to learn their patterns,” and I know that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. For me, though, nearly every single encounter was a treat, and I think Lost Crown is up there with the absolute best in the genre in this respect. There are some truly unique and elaborate fights that do a fantastic job of putting every single skill you’ve acquired to the test, and by the end of the game I can safely say that if there are any post launch plans for Lost Crown, one of them absolutely needs to be the addition of a boss rush mode. 

The boss fights aren’t the only element of Lost Crown that’s ambitious; the world is probably one of, if not the biggest I’ve seen a Metroidvania launch with. There's a ton to take in here, and a variety of diverse environments, each with their own sets of obstacles, enemies, and unique platforming challenges. The point where I thought things were wrapping up and I was about to take on one of the last bosses turned out to be a set up for three more bosses in brand new areas. I can’t believe I’m saying this in the year 2024, but Ubisoft clearly put a lot of thought into crafting the areas that make up Mount Qaf. It really is a shame that the game looks as shaky as it does, because nailing this element really could’ve made this absolutely massive world come to life. Even with the dubious visuals, though, there’s still a ton to take in here; if you’re someone who frets about getting enough content out of a game, rest assured, you’ll find plenty of it here.

Powerup design is also pretty inventive, with a lot of experimentation being on display in terms of the different abilities you collect. There are, of course, your seemingly pre-requisite upgrades for the genre, like an air dash and a double jump, but there are also some entirely new and unique upgrades, like the ability to create a memory of your character and later revert back to the point on screen where that memory was saved. This is put to great effect in both the game’s boss fights and puzzles, and it’s genuinely impressive how far the concept gets pushed. This isn’t just for optional stuff either; the solution to progress to the next mandatory area often requires you to really think about everything in your kit and intuit creative ways to use your abilities, frequently without any prompts or hints. And, again, I can’t believe I’m saying that about a Ubisoft release in 2024.

Environmental design as a whole is one of Lost Crown's strengths. There are some really unique themes to the areas, ranging from a spike-filled industrial site with moving pistons (or whatever the ancient equivalent is), to a desert with giant centipedes and sandfalls that can be moved up and down, to a raging sea battle between ships, all stationary, frozen in time. I’ve never been one to get excited by the deployment of standard environmental themes like “cold area” and “lava area,” but I can definitely appreciate a developer going the extra mile to make a game's environments stand out, and Lost Crown definitely does that. It’s a shame the game looks as shaky as it does, as even halfway competent visual design probably would’ve made these areas really stand out. Nevertheless, even with the present artstyle, Lost Crown's environments are praiseworthy.

There’s only one major problem with the core gameplay, and it’s unfortunately a big one for a game based around exploration: most of the rewards for exploring… kind of suck. If you’re extremely lucky, completing a platforming challenge or exploring a tucked away corner will reveal a fraction of what you need to improve your life bar, or an item that you’ll need several of to upgrade your weapons. And those are quite rare. Much more likely is discovering one of the game’s several dozen amulets, 75% of which you will never, ever use. The maximum number of equippable amulets is pretty small, even with upgrades, and there’s no reason to remove one of the handful of actually good ones for something as situational as “decreased frost damage” when only like two enemy types even use ice attacks.

But at least charms are something tangible. The most common “rewards” that you’ll find while out exploring are little fragments of lore that you can pick up, which will provide some detail about the area and what events took place there. While I’m all for leaving tidbits of lore around as breadcrumbs for the player to assemble, this has to be one of the least inspiring rewards that I can think of. Overcoming a tough optional boss or going through a long platforming challenge over spike pits only to be rewarded with yet another bit of text that does nothing to improve my character in any tangible way is probably as close as any game has come to replicating the feeling of being blue balled. And this happens all the time, to the point where I genuinely started to wonder if the developers were trying to make this some kind of message about the futility of looking for help in a lost world. 

Another point against the game is how technically shaky it is; this is a title that, at least for me, was filled with glitches and bugs. Some were weird but mostly harmless, like a cinematic from much earlier in the game replaying after re-entering the room where it had played the first time. Others were a bit more detrimental to the experience, like a bug that made character’s voices almost impossible to hear in cutscenes, even with volume turned up to max. The worst were the glitches where Sagron would clip into a wall, or a quest line animation wouldn’t load properly, effectively softlocking the game. The worst one of these cost me about 20 minutes of progress, and while that’s hardly the worst glitch I’ve endured in a title I’ve reviewed, it’s hard to see why a 2D platformer struggles so much to just keep things running smoothly, even if it is one as big as The Lost Crown.

Conversely, one area where The Lost Crown massively succeeds is its quality of life options. This is the first game I’ve seen in the genre since the Metroid Prime titles to allow for a completely optional hint system that points you in the right direction if you get lost, and with “getting frustratingly lost” being such a large barrier to entry for the genre, it’s kind of amazing that it’s taken this long for such a feature to be re-implemented. Another incredible and, to my knowledge, entirely unique addition is allowing players to take pictures of areas they find but aren’t yet able to access, so they don’t have to waste their time doubling back to a point on the map that they still can’t access while looking for where to go next. 

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown would be an excellent first attempt at a Metroidvania by any company, and is an especially pleasant surprise coming from Ubisoft. If you’re a fan of the genre, it’s hard to not recommend this to you. It's also a pretty good starting point for those new to the genre, thanks to a bevy of optional systems that make the Metroidvania learning curve a bit less steep. The puzzles, combat, boss fights, and general progression all make The Lost Crown a joy to play, notwithstanding some frustrating technical issues and lackluster optional discoverable items.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a copy of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown for the NS

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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HoloDust (on 23 January 2024)

I would like to play this game - I am a fan of PoP ever since Amiga in 1990 - but every time I look at that bland art and that ugly hairdo, I wonder what were they thinking. Eventually, I really hope they do The Sands of Time a justice, and don't pull similar crap in the remake.

  • +5
hellobion2 HoloDust (on 23 January 2024)

More remasters of said games would be nice

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m0ney (on 23 January 2024)

the lost clown

  • +4
hellobion2 (on 23 January 2024)

Great review of the game and my question for anyone who comments on this game. Do you thinkn this game lives up to the original?

  • +4
MTZehvor hellobion2 (on 23 January 2024)

I do think it's a high enough quality game to be worthy of the series, but "lives up to" is maybe not the phrase I'd use considering how different the two play. It'd be a bit like asking "does Super Metroid live up to Super Mario World?" Both great games, but largely doing entirely different things, even if there are some commonalities with having a 2D perspective and platforming.

  • +4
coolbeans (on 23 January 2024)

I know we just finished a doozy of a year, but 2024 is holding some genuine promise if Ubisoft is showing some creative ingenuity with a once-dormant franchise.

  • +1
UnderwaterFunktown (on 23 January 2024)

It's great to see the Rayman Legends team hasn't lost their touch during their long hiatus from full scale games. Going on the way too long list of games to try out at some point

  • 0