Karateka, Commodore 64

Karateka was Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner‘s first published game. He programmed it (originally for the Apple II) while attending Yale University in 1984.

It’s a simple martial arts fighting game that uses rotoscoped graphics to create realistic animation. Back in 1984 they were pretty revolutionary.

The aim of Karateka is to fight your way into a guarded fortress to rescue your love interest, Mariko. Using well-timed punches and kicks you defeat waves of opponents; defeat attacking hawks; and make your way past deadly falling portcullis – until you reach the boss, Akuma. Who of course you have to fight to free Mariko.

Karateka is – I think – a better-looking game on the Commodore 64 than on the Apple II. Both versions play quite slowly (frustratingly slowly for some, although you can boost the speed in an emulator), but the underlying gameplay is still sound.

Jordan Mechner himself was involved in a 2012 remake of Karateka, released for XBox 360, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and iOS.

More: Karateka on Wikipedia

Raid on Bungeling Bay, Commodore 64

Raid on Bungeling Bay was Will Wright‘s first ever video game and it was released for the Commodore 64 by Brøderbund in 1984. Will Wright – in case you didn’t know – was a co-founder of Maxis and also designer of SimCity and The Sims.

Raid on Bungeling Bay is an overhead helicopter shooter and the basic aim is to set off from your aircraft carrier to bomb six enemy factories found located among a chain of islands. They’re of course heavily defended, and they also ‘develop’ as the game unfolds, giving you a time limit to stop them from taking over the world.

You have a front-mounted cannon which can blast boats, ground emplacements, aircraft, and other ground vehicles, but you need to drop bombs on the factories to destroy them. The process is to find a factory, clear the area of enemy defensive positions, then place yourself carefully over the top of a factory, before dropping your bombs. You can hold nine bombs per sortie and each factory pretty much takes a full payload of nine to destroy. Landing back on the aircraft carrier will replenish your bombs.

Other things to watch out for: enemy aircraft attacking your carrier (you have to go and fight them off), and an enemy battleship that is gradually built, before setting off to intercept your carrier. The battleship resents your presence and will fire homing missiles at you if you are within range.

I have a soft spot for this game, even though it looks quite dated now. I played it for hours as a kid. I just loved the feel of flying around in the chopper – viewed from overhead – blasting stuff on the ground. And it still feels good to play now… I picked it up and played it recently and almost completed it. It’s a nice little self-contained action game with some interesting mechanics and a wonderful control system.

MSX and NES versions of Raid on Bungeling Bay exist, but – rather strangely – none anywhere else. I say “rather strangely” because Bungeling Bay is a great game and would probably have worked well on other platforms.

More: Raid On Bungeling Bay on Wikipedia

10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

LISTS: as decided by His Majesty The King of Grabs, in order of greatness:

1. Super Nintendo (1992)
2. PC Engine/Turbografx-16 (1991)
3. Commodore 64 (2011)
4. PC MS-DOS (1990)
5. Atari ST (1990)
6. Amiga (1990)
7. Sega CD (1992)
8. Sharp X68000 (1991)
9. ZX Spectrum (1996)
10. Megadrive/Genesis (1993)

And of course there’s always the Apple II original, which is ‘The Daddy’ of them all.

All Hail The Prince of Persia, and all hail Jordan Mechner!

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

All versions of Prince of Persia on The King of Grabs:
Apple IIAmiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, PC MS-DOS, SAM Coupé, Sharp X68000, PC Engine/Turbografx-16, Sega Master System, Sega CD, Game Boy, Super Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System, Megadrive/Genesis, Game Boy Color, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum

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Prince of Persia, ZX Spectrum

Since I’ve included one ‘unofficial’ port in our Prince of Persia Special (the Commodore 64 version), I’ve also got to include this 1996 ZX Spectrum conversion by Nicodim (because it’s so good).

The Russian coder has done a remarkable job of converting Prince of Persia to the Spectrum and the game conforms to all the important PoP rules (like: not falling off the edge of a ledge if moving carefully towards it). The levels are authentic (with the odd subtle change here and there); the graphics are excellent with good use of colour; and the sword fighting requires some skill and isn’t a walk-over, which is good.

On the downside: the game does slow down quite a bit when there’s a lot going on on-screen, and also the controls don’t seem responsive enough when you need to make a succession of quick jumps. Plus: there are the odd bugs (I fell two screens in height and landed on my feet with no health loss on more than one occasion), but nothing that really badly dents playability.

Prince of Persia on the Spectrum requires a 128K machine to run, but it’s well worth finding and playing – especially as it’s free to download and play.

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

Prince of Persia, Commodore 64

The Commodore 64 version of Prince of Persia is not an official release, but a 2011 ‘homebrew’ game created by Nostalgia (not the perfume – the team). And it is quite astounding!

Although it does require use of an ‘Easyflash’ cartridge on real hardware, most C64 emulators will run it with no issues.

Commodore 64 Prince of Persia could well be the best 8-bit conversion around – I can certainly find little wrong with it. It plays perfectly well (there are none of the control issues seen in some of the other conversions), and it looks great – even adding more colours to the different levels (which is welcomed).

Although team Nostalgia had time on their side when they made this game (it coming almost three decades after the peak of C64 software releases) there is no doubting that Prince of Persia on the Commodore 64 is a fantastic piece of programming and design. Not only have they managed to convert the game faithfully, but they’ve also managed to improve on it too.

See also: The 10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

Prince of Persia, Megadrive/Genesis

The Sega Megadrive/Genesis version of Prince of Persia was developed and published by Tengen and Domark in 1993. It is another great conversion – unique to all the rest.

Graphically: it is one of the best, with really nice texturing, lighting and animation. Gameplay-wise: I did have a problem with grabbing ledges.

In Prince of Persia it is a fundamental part of the gameplay, to be able to grab ledges when jumping. And usually you can run off the edge of a platform, with the fire button held down, and simply grab a ledge. Not here. Or at least: not consistently. Which is incredibly frustrating because it means you can’t play the game as it’s meant to be played – you have to work around the problem.

Apparently the Megadrive version of Prince of Persia contains four levels exclusive to this release although I couldn’t really tell you which ones they are. All 12 levels can easily be accessed with codes. See if you can tell. 🙂

Ledge-grabbing issues aside: Megadrive Prince of Persia is a fine game that stands-out, at least visually, among the many other versions out there.

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

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Prince of Persia, NES

Developed by Motivetime for Virgin Games and released in 1992, the NES version of Prince of Persia is unfortunately another flawed conversion.

My main gripe is with platform edges. Normally in Prince of Persia the main character should shuffle slowly to a platform edge and stop (if using the slow walk method). Then you can turn him around and press down to climb down off the ledge. In this: stopping the poor feller from falling off the edge to his doom is sketchy at best; at worst: a poorly implemented game-ruiner…

Another weird feature of the NES version of Prince of Persia is that the levels scroll sideways. Only slightly, but at the scale the game is presented this feature I guess is necessary. It does mean, though, that enemies can hide off-screen and surprise you, if you’re not expecting them.

The levels in this are faithful to the original in essence, but do have some subtle (and some not-so-subtle) changes to them. These changes neither enhance nor detract from the game, but if you are an experienced Prince of Persia player you will probably notice some differences.

Overall: Prince of Persia on the NES is not a bad game, but it certainly isn’t the real deal.

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

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Prince of Persia, Super Nintendo

Developed by Arsys Software for Konami and published in 1992 this Super Nintendo conversion of Prince of Persia is arguably the best out of all of them.

The game has been expanded and seriously enhanced with superb graphics and stereo sound. The levels follow the original Prince of Persia relatively faithfully, but have extra areas to make the tower seem bigger and the task in hand more grand and heroic.

The task isn’t impossible however, and the SNES version features possibly the easiest gameplay – at least in terms of gradually building up the difficulty. I particularly like the first level which has been expanded to included a short cave complex en route to your first sword. Sword fighting is easy to control too, which is not always the case with Prince of Persia conversions (or even the Apple II original), but in this is simple to execute and not too troublesome.

The variety of the levels as you progress is impressive too. There are even some cool boss battles; a ‘best time’ scoreboard for level times; and a password feature that contains a few interesting cheats.

Overall: Prince of Persia on the SNES is a brilliant game and a brilliant conversion. Arguably one of the best games on the SNES, and that is saying something.

In fact: in my mind the only thing close to this in the Prince of Persia canon is Prince of Persia 2. It’s that good. Find it; play it; enjoy it.

See also: The 10 Best Prince of Persia Conversions

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia

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Prince of Persia, Sega CD

Another Japanese conversion of Prince of Persia; this one done by Bits Laboratory for Brøderbund and released for the Sega CD in 1992.

Graphically and sonically it has been ‘enhanced’ to take advantage of the Sega’s CD‘s capabilities, but thankfully the developers resisted the temptation to fill the game with loads of Full Motion Video, which was prevalent on the format at the time.

The graphics – it has to be said – are kind of cartoony, which doesn’t sit too well with my view of Prince of Persia, but are okay nonetheless. Nothing special – just okay. The animation and movement isn’t as smooth as you’d expect it to be either.

Still: Prince of Persia on the Sega CD is one of the better conversions around and is definitely worth playing if you’re a PoP fan.

More: Prince of Persia on Wikipedia