RALEIGH, North Carolina (Reuters) - Long before Jake Gyllenhaal mastered parkour and sword fighting to bring Prince Dastan to life in new movie "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," video gamers held sway over the acrobatic hero.
In 1987, Jordan Mechner released his adventure "Prince of Persia" for Apple II computer users, pushing video game animation forward by using a new technology called rotoscoping in which he taped his brother wearing white clothes jumping and sword fighting then replicated those movements for his game.
"At the time, I was watching movies like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and the 1940 'Thief of Baghdad' and I wanted to get the spirit of those types of films in the game," said Mechner.
Over the years, "Prince of Persia" became a huge success on multiple gaming platforms, spawned sequels and this Friday in the United States, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced movie starring Gyllenhaal in the title role hits theaters.
But it wasn't until 2003 that new technology enabled Mechner to bring his true vision of Prince Dastan to life with fleshed-out characters and 3D environments.
Mechner collaborated with game publisher Ubisoft on the first "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," which introduced a new story and propelled the acrobatic action forward on PC, Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube.
"In both the game and the movie, the Prince is tricked by a villain who wants to possess the Dagger of Time," said Mechner. "To set things right, he has to team up with the princess of the kingdom he's mistakenly helped conquer."
"The Sands of Time" games now number four, in all. Ubisoft has sold over 14 million copies of them since 2003, and they are now available for PCs, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, PSP and Nintendo DS.
The newest, "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands" takes place during the seven-year period between the first game, upon which the Disney movie is based on, and the second game, "Prince of Persia: Warrior Within."
In "The Forgotten Sands," Prince Dastan visits his brother Malik's palace in a far away kingdom only to get mixed up first in a civil war and then in a battle against an ancient evil sand army that threatens the kingdom.
The game introduces new gameplay elements, including the ability to not only control time -- a key special effects marvel in the new movie -- but manipulate nature's four elements to defeat enemies and explore the world.
Movie buffs interested in the first game can download a recent Gameloft update, "Prince of Persia Classic" on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. Ubisoft also has released a free Facebook game that harkens back to the original 2D version.
All four of "The Sands of Time" games are available at retail outlets to take advantage of the new audiences who see the big screen adaptation.
"I hope gamers who approach the new "Prince of Persia" movie will find it entertaining and that audiences will be transported to another place and another time," said Mechner. "For me, this is the type of movie I've loved since I was a kid. It's a great adventure story that's true to the spirit of the game universe."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte