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If you saw Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown’s reveal trailer at Summer Games Fest 2023, I can forgive you for not feeling hyped. Let’s be perfectly clear: it’s a fairly cinematic trailer, zooming in on stylized characters that have an uncanny similarity to Fortnite or a mobile game (a mobile game that, let’s be honest, is probably imitating Fortnite). Couple that with a rap track that just didn’t quite set the mood when punctuated by monologues about “destiny” and you can see why the trailer garnered a negative reception.

It felt like Prince of Persia was being grossly mishandled, especially after the reveal – and indefinite delay – of the Sands of Time Remake. But I’m here to tell you that, despite the slightly sketchy reveal, Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown is my biggest turnaround of SGF 2023. I can’t remember the last time I completely flipped from not caring about a game, to being actively excited to play the full thing.

I was able to play The Lost Crown for about 30 minutes at Ubisoft’s invite-only event space in Los Angeles, held at the same time as the SGF Play Days event. I was given the briefest of introductions and then tossed straight into the action – despite all those zoom-ins of characters and cinematic angles you saw in the trailer, The Lost Crown is a side-scrolling action game, and from the pulled-back side-on angle, the stylized characters make far more sense. The distinctive features are easy to identify from a distance in a way that softer, more realistic proportions just wouldn’t be.

Combat is fast and engaging.

Combat is fast and engaging.

Everything clicked as I went hands-on with the controls — fluid, sharp, immediate. I spent a moment at the start of the demo just jumping and testing the different directions I could swipe in. Four aerial directions, a downward plunge follow-up, and even your grounded attacks can be tilted upwards. It feels a lot like the base moveset for a Smash Bros. character, but faster.

A dash is included – it goes fast, and can be used often, so you’ll be speeding through stages as you get the hang of it. A forward-slide gives you a burst of momentum and also caps off in an upward kick, pushing foes into the air, where you can then jump and use your blades to cut them apart, or fill them with arrows to keep them airborne. It’s honestly one of the most immediately satisfying control systems from recent memory.

Once I’d adjusted to the array of combat options, I began cutting down foes with as much style as possible, as well as swinging and dashing through platforming challenges as quickly as I could – just because it looked cool. You can string your dash into an air dash, a wall jump, swing from a pole, dash again, and so on. It feels like you can combo your movement abilities just as much as you can your combat options.

Prince of Persia: The Last Crown screenshot

Platforming challenges feel like stringing together movement combos.

About halfway through my demo I discovered the parry, which builds a power meter and makes opponents easier to attack. Yes, a parry, and yes, meter. In the demo I could store up to two bars of meter, one bar being spendable on a big special attack, and two bars able to spawn a healing circle to give you full health. I didn’t need either of these abilities even once for most of my experience, but I needed them both for the boss enemy at the end.

The large boss, a chimera-like creature with a scorpion tail named Jahandar, came with an equally large health bar. Taking it down felt like a battle of attrition at first – especially since Sargon only starts with a single heal item – but using your special abilities is the key to winning. The special attack I mentioned earlier bursts forward, and Sargon is totally mobile during the animation, meaning he can dash up and attack the boss while the special attack has him stuck in hit stun. It’s very cool. You can also parry almost every attack it performs, including a bull rush, which you catch on your blades before pounding the beast into the dirt.

The demo concludes with Sargon taking down the boss, which for me took five tries (during three of which I hadn’t been told about the special abilities). I came away impressed, and if anything here has reminded you of Metroid Dread, it’s for good reason. This game feels almost like a direct response to Metroid Dread’s fluid and fast combat. It’s hard to say if the level design will also follow a Metroidvania format, but after my short play session, I’m eager to find out for myself.

The boss chimera was a tough but enthralling fight.

The boss chimera was a tough but enthralling fight.

Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown might secretly be one of the best games announced at Summer Games Fest 2023. Trust me on this, Ubisoft Montpellier is crafting the best Prince of Persia game we’ve had for years.