War Stories: How Prince of Persia slew the Apple II’s memory limitations

Video shot by Justin Wolfson, edited by Parker Dixon. Click here for transcript.

I remember a lot of things about the summer of 1991 (like sneaking into the theater to watch Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead because my parents absolutely did not approve of movies that so clearly showed teenage disrespect for authority), but the thing I remember most about that summer is spending countless sun-dappled afternoon hours staring at a rotoscoped little dude on my computer screen as he died a million deaths. Sometimes he’d fall. Sometimes he’d be impaled by spikes. Sometimes he’d be chomped in half by giant steel jaws. And sometimes he’d collapse into a bleeding pile after crossing swords with pixellated bad guys.

It was, for me, the summer of Prince of Persia—and I was completely entranced.

Created by Jordan Mechner a couple of years earlier in 1989 for the Apple II, the MS-DOS port of PoP came thundering onto shelves near the end of 1990, just as the Apple II platform was gasping its last breath as a viable gaming platform. Mechner had quite famously spent literally years working on the game’s animations, tracing them from videotaped recordings of his brother (also of Errol Flynn, interestingly enough), but I didn’t learn about any of that until some time later. All I knew was that from the moment that game came into my life—likely purchased from our friendly neighborhood Babbage’s—I was hooked.

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