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Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown's anime-inspired art was led by a new generation of animators

Dragon Ball, One Piece and Demon Slayer were all big touchstones, the devs tell me

A close up of Sargon knee kicking a guard in Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Ubisoft

When I visited Ubisoft Montpellier to play Prince Of Persia: The Lost Crown the other week, the developers spoke extensively how about anime and comic books had been a big inspiration for them in creating the game's visuals. As you'll have seen from my big preview, the game itself is a 2.5D platformer that mixes 3D character models and environments with sidescrolling action and dramatic camera movements as hero Sargon doles out his suite of special attacks. But as I was playing I became curious whether the team had ever experimented with going all-in on the anime visuals to create a more illustrated look akin to their excellent Rayman games. So I put the question to art director Jean-Christophe Alessandri and game director Mounir Radi after my demo session.

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"Not flattened, no," Alessandri tells me when I ask if they ever considered using cel-shaded anime visuals at the start of development. "Because it's really important to keep that [sense of] depth. As you've seen, we use a lot of camera movement, and we can do that with 3D," he says, referring to Sargon's special moves and parry attacks that see the camera swoop in close for added dramatic flair.

"In 2D, I think it's more limited in terms of movement and the dynamics of the framing," he continues. "But keeping the overall 3D environment or representation, we thought it was very interesting to put some 2D elements [in], and I think our signature [style] comes from that: mixing the 2D elements and this kind of aesthetic with 3D character art."

Game director Mounir Radi agrees, adding that the decision to double down on its anime-inspired visuals was partly spurred on by his own deep love of Japanese animation (he even mentioned that he gets his children to sing anime opening themes at home), as well as the interests of his animation team. Characater statues, artwork and reference poses from popular anime such as Dragon Ball, One Piece and Demon Slayer could be seen everywhere in the Ubisoft Montpellier offices, and I also clocked a Dragon Ball mural on one of the windows as well.

"In Ubisoft Montpellier, we've always had a great history with animators," says Radi. "It was the first studio that brought people who weren't from the video game industry onto the floor, so we decided to do the same thing. When you have to work on animation, your first reflex is to find someone who's used to working on animation and game design. But we decided to go with people who are more experienced in cinematic graphics and animation. They're our youngest [developers], and are a new generation who have their own culture.

"But their culture also fit mine," he continues, "and it was super important to have these animators understand what we wanted to achieve. If you don't have this culture, it's super difficult to have it [reflected] in the game."

As a fellow, if somewhat lapsed, anime liker myself, I certainly enjoyed the sense of energy its anime poses bring to the game's combat. Executing a special attack and seeing the camera come in close to hug Sargon's face as he charged up his sword swings never got old - even after using it multiple times in a very intense boss battle that handed me my arse on a plate almost a dozen times in a row.

It's a style that's very much up my street, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it when the game launches on January 18th 2024.

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