While the interactive toy market has gotten crowded in recent years, the originator of the trend was the Skylanders franchise. While the other franchises have remained static from entry to entry, every Skylanders title has tried something new, and this year is no exception. The latest entry in the franchise is Skylanders Imaginators. The evil Kaos has discovered a way to create his own Skylanders, dubbed Doomlanders, and he wants to destroy the world. The only thing that can stop them is a group of new Skylanders who are a little different.
The big new feature this year for Skylanders is the titular Imaginators. Rather than being pre-created characters, they're entirely customizable. Players buy an elemental Imaginate Creation Crystal to put on their portal, but all the crystal does is determine the element of the character you create. Once the crystal is on the portal, you're asked to choose from one of 10 battle classes. Each class is associated with a certain play style, such as bowslinger or brawler. Choosing your battle class determines how your Imaginator plays, but there's more customization to be had.
Once you've chosen an Imaginator and a battle class, you get to create them from scratch. You pick from a selection of arms, bodies, ears, eyes, heads, legs and tails. You can mix and match any body part you like and even change the size and proportions. If you want to have the head of a skeletal dinosaur and the body of a tiny ninja, then you absolutely can. Weapons and armor can also be customized, but in true Diablo style, you'll have to pick from random loot that changes your character's stats. You also can customize smaller elements of the character, such as their voice, the sound effects that play when they attack, and their theme music.
An Imaginator has a series of abilities tied to their battle class. Most of the abilities are unlocked through the course of play, much like a traditional Skylander, but some are more complex. This is where senseis come into play, which are the "best of the best" of each battle class. Unlike Imaginators, they're predefined characters much like older Skylanders characters. In fact, several of these senseis are villains from Skylanders: Trap Team. Any time you put a sensei on the portal, it has two permanent effects: It unlocks a special ability for the sensei's associated battle class, and it raises the level cap of all Imaginators by one. While Imaginators are powerful on their own, they can't achieve their full power without help from a sensei or two. Senseis are also powerful fighters in their own right, with their screen-clearing "Sky-Chi" attacks.
As anyone who watched the Sony press conference knows, classic platforming hero Crash Bandicoot is returning to video games. In addition to his own remastered games, Crash is getting a cameo as a brawler-class sensei exclusively in the PlayStation 4 version of the game. Crash has all his classic moves, from the body slam to the spin attack. He can even toss out explosive boxes that he can bounce off. We didn't get a chance to see his Sky-Chi attack, but we were told that it should make Crash fans very happy.
Fans shouldn't worry about their old Skylanders, though. They're still available in the new game and are getting a bigger role than ever. Several of the classic Skylanders characters are now NPCs who assist the player and are given more of their own style and personality. Developer Toys for Bob was very clear that all Skylanders, from the classic Spyro the Dragon to the new Skylanders: Superchargers, will continue to be supported in the new game, though the Superchargers vehicles will be restricted to the game's racing mode.
Skylanders Imaginators is shaping up to be another solid entry in the Skylanders franchise. The Imaginators are cute and enjoyable, and in terms of bang for your buck, they're easily the biggest offer from Skylanders to date. The senseis seem like a solid addition to the Skylanders cast, and it's also a way for the Trap Team villains to finally get figures. Skylanders fans of all ages can get the game on Oct. 13, and it'll be available on both modern and last-gen consoles.
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