SAN FRANCISCO--These days, any big-name fantasy or science fiction "event" film is going to have a video game attached to it, and the upcoming Disney film Prince Caspian is no exception. The follow-up to 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian follows the narrative thread that will be found in the movie opening this May, which, in turn, is based on the classic C.S. Lewis novel. We got a chance to see the game for the first time today, as well as check out the new DGamer social gaming service that will be packed into a number of Disney Interactive-published Nintendo DS games this year.
Prince Caspian for the Nintendo DS is a role-playing game that will have you playing as 18 characters throughout the game. It starts with the titular Prince Caspian escaping from his cruel uncle, then follows the adventures of Caspian and others as they attempt to rescue a Narnia that has seen 1,300 years pass since the events in the first game.
Played from a top-down perspective, Prince Caspian mainly uses the lower screen of the DS for gameplay, while the top screen is used to show either additional environments around the player or a map. You move your character either using the stylus and touch pad or with the directional buttons. Creature combat makes liberal use of the stylus and touch pad combo, however, with different character types using different motions to strike out at opponents.
For example, when controlling a swordsman, you swipe the stylus across the lower screen until a number of swords move to the center target on the screen. Casting a spell with a magic user brings up an arcane grid with various points that light up. The game here is a simple memorization puzzle that requires you to tap the points that light up in the correct order. To shoot arrows with an archer, you fire arrows at a moving target on the lower screen. For all of these combat moves, the more successful you are on the lower screen, the more damage you'll cause your opponents. In addition, there will be cooperative attacks between characters--the example given was Peter Pevensie climbing up on his brother Edmund's shoulders and launching off as an attack, though we didn't get to see it in action.
Though you start the game as Prince Caspian, you'll eventually add new characters to your roster. You'll also be able to swap characters in and out before each encounter, though some characters won't be compatible with others. In addition, the game will let you upgrade items found during the game's many quests in a forge. Before upgrading items, you'll need to collect items to fulfill certain upgrade requirements. There are also the numerous items you can collect to be used in the DGamer application that will be introduced with Prince Caspian.
What is DGamer? Well, the short answer is Disney Interactive's Nintendo DS answer to Sony's Home service for the PlayStation 3. It will be available both on the DS and the Web once Prince Caspian is launched in May. DGamer will let players create online avatars, chat with friends, and deck out their online personas with items unlocked in the various DGamer-supported games. For example, at one point in the game, a helmet worn by Edmund was unlocked. If you head out to the DGamer menu, you'll see that helmet available to your avatar. There's more to it than simply playing dress-up; DGamer will keep track of stats complied in various games, as well as "honors" you earn in various games (think of them as the Disney version of Xbox Live achievements or the still-mythical Sony Home trophies).
Disney Interactive reps hope to have DGamer packed in as a free application with as many as 10 Nintendo DS games this year, with the DGamer Web site going live with the release of Prince Caspian. Narnia fans won't have long to wait, because the game and the movie on which it's based is due for release this May.