Nintendo and Ubisoft revive overlooked franchises in their first games of the year
Ubisoft and Nintendo came out with their first games of the year this week. Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown twists a 35-year-old series into a new format, while Another Code: Recollection updates a forgotten franchise. While both will be available on the Nintendo Switch, The Lost Crown is also on PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
Few legacy franchises have slid from acclaim to indifference quite like Prince of Persia. The iconic 1989 original eventually spawned a beloved GameCube title in 2003, only to dwindle over the succeeding decade of disappointing sequels. Fourteen years after its last main game (and a forgettable Jake Gyllenhaal movie) the series is back with The Lost Crown, which landed without much preceding hype. Gamers looked at its Switch-friendly cel-shaded visuals, its young, reworked hero and gave a collective shrug.
But as it turns out, The Lost Crown is not only a fantastic Prince of Persia game; it's one of the best action-adventure games I've played in years. The talented developers at Ubisoft Montpellier (who also worked on the critically adored Rayman Legends series) successfully revived the moribund series by putting a premium on fun. Everything is fun. The action, the exploration, the platforming — it's all just fun.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown transforms the established series into a "Metroidvania" — a genre in which players have to fight through an interconnected puzzle of a world. It requires good recall and creative thinking. But it's also a frustrating genre that asks players to retread old spaces, often without avail. These games throw roadblocks that can't be solved until much later, and traversal and progression are non-linear.
As an antidote to this, The Lost Crown makes the simple act of movement a joy. New hero Sargon is fast, even before the addition of any of the game's power-ups. He can jump off walls, fast-fall at ridiculous speeds, slide under obstacles, and sprint through an area in seconds. The game emulates action games like Devil May Cry and fighting games like Street Fighter, essentially allowing players to cancel animations before they finish. The result is completely smooth and responsive movement, making traversal — even through those old areas — always a thing to look forward to. It's a brilliantly interlinked world filled with delights, surprises and wicked hard combat encounters.
And those combat encounters! It's become a bit hackneyed to compare games to Dark Souls and Hollow Knight, but The Lost Crown takes its cues from both games. The combat is simple but deep, relying on one-button combos, dodges and parries. But the boss fights are really memorable, and there are a lot of them. Especially on the game's harder difficulty settings, you will absolutely die, and you will absolutely have fun doing it.
There are dozens of clever ways The Lost Crown eases player stress. Frequent checkpoints, numerous fast-travel options, and the ability to link screenshots to the map to avoid needless back-tracking smooth much of the friction that often comes with games like this. The Lost Crown is the Swiss watch of Metroidvanias. It distills what's great about an entire genre into an elegant, cohesive and memorable package. — Vincent Acovino, Producer, All Things Considered
Another Code: Recollection
I can't remember much of my life before kindergarten — few can. Another Code: Recollection, a Switch remake of a DS game and its Wii sequel, spins its emotional core out of this near-universal amnesia. For protagonist Ashley, dredging up her own haphazard early-life memories turns out to be key in mending not just her own broken family, but entire communities riven by trauma. While its themes might be obvious and its dialogue unsophisticated, this quest for remembrance results in a compelling middle-grade mystery only occasionally burdened by dull gameplay.
Recollection opens with two homicides, one witnessed by a boy in 1948 and the other by a girl in 1994. Fast forward to 2005, and the girl, Ashley, now 14, is sailing to the eerie if ludicrously entitled "Blood Edward Island" to meet the father who left her in her aunt's care after her mother's killing. Soon stranded at the abandoned Edward family estate, Ashley is accompanied by the ghost of the boy from 1948 and a "Dual Another System" — an all-purpose gadget bequeathed by her father. This "DAS" resembles a Nintendo Switch (in the original, it looked like a Nintendo DS, naturally) and comes equipped with maps, a camera and an automatically updating web of character profiles.
This first game, Two Memories, presents a Resident Evil puzzle-box mansion without horror or danger. You'll trek from wing to wing, uncovering room keys with help from the DAS and the ghost boy, "D." While Ashley searches for her missing dad and learns about the memory-altering "Another" technology that led to her mom's murder, D slowly recalls the tragedy that befell his great-grandfather, father and uncle.
Sometimes tedious but rarely obscure, this new version graciously provides navigation aids and gentle hints at the press of a button. I cruised through Two Memories in six hours, indulging the former feature frequently and the latter only twice. The next game in the collection, Journey Into Lost Memories, took me closer to eight hours and largely trades these adventure game puzzles for perfunctory quick-time events.
That's due to yet another gizmo — the RAS, a bracelet that lets the now 16-year-old Ashley open locked doors by clearing randomized button prompts. It's busy work, but at least it's usually brief. Journey Into Lost Memories, therefore, comes closer to a visual novel, where the comic-book presentation and bustling cast carry a messier, multifaceted story that veers further toward science fiction. Here, ghosts aren't just literal spirits but also the traumatic memories that haunt generations of families.
It's telling, then, that Recollection is itself born from the past. As what is likely one of Nintendo's last remakes for the Switch, it shows how much care the company can take in repackaging old games, even as it threatens many others with oblivion by closing digital storefronts. Industry amnesia isn't just the consequence of a maturing medium but a strategy that ensures that consumers keep paying for the same titles repeatedly. Yet, if we must ride this cynical cycle, I hope more games get the Another Code: Recollection treatment. It's worth remembering for just a little longer. — James Mastromarino, NPR Gaming lead and Here & Now producer
Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.