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Skylanders: Imaginators is a toys-to-life action 3D platformer video game developed by Toys for Bob and published by Activision. A successor to Skylanders: SuperChargers, it was released for PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. For the first time in the series, players can create their own characters, known as Imaginators.
In ancient times, the Ancients used "Mind Magic", a powerful force, to create Skylands. Realizing that the magic would be easily misused by villainous people, they decided to protect it and hide it in an unknown place. However, years afterward, Kaos discovers this force and attempts to utilize it to create the world's greatest villains: a new army called the Doomlanders. Portal Masters, who are extremely concerned about Kaos' act, decided to create their own army, the Imaginators with their own imagination, and that they would be trained by the Senseis, powerful class masters sent by Eon. They must work together to stop Kaos and bring peace back to Skylands.
Similar to its predecessors, the core gameplay revolves around solving puzzles, platforming, and fighting enemies. As the title is a toys-to-life game, players can put Skylanders toy figurine onto a Portal of Power, which will then allow players to control the figurine-represented character in-game. Creation Clash, a remake of Skystones which was introduced in Giants is featured in the game. The game supports local multiplayer.
One of the newest additions is "Imaginators", which are characters created by the player. At the beginning of the game, players can select a battle class and elemental class, which determines their fighting style. Afterwards, players can customize the names, voices, powers, appearances, colors and sizes of their Imaginators. For players who do not wish to create a new character, they can use a mechanic that automatically generates an Imaginators randomly, or use any existing Skylanders featured in its predecessors. The Imaginators created can be shared to other players. Body parts, which are classified into four types, namely Common, Rare, Epic, and Ultimate, can be found when players are exploring in the game. These new parts can be used to customize the player's existing imaginators, which can be modified at any time. Creation Crystals are where the Imaginators are stored. With the crystal, players can transport their custom Imaginatiors to all video game consoles the game is released for. In addition to Imaginators, the game also adds 31 more typical Skylanders into the game. These new characters are called "Senseis", and they are extremely powerful, as they are extremely refined in their respective classes. 11 of these Senseis are villains who had appeared in previous Skylanders games. They also have the ability to perform a special attack called "Sky Chi". These Senseis lead the Imaginators, and involve in helping them to unlock their abilities, techniques, weapons, and level-cap. Senseis are optional, and players can complete the game without using them.
Both Crash Bandicoot and Doctor Neo Cortex appear as guest characters and Crash has his own level, called Thumpin' Wumpa Islands. This level has iconic gameplay features present in previous Crash Bandicoot games.
"We remain confident that there is something fundamentally appealing here in this genre, and that our best strategy is to try to make the best, most innovative games in that genre"
Development of the game began after the completion of Skylanders: Trap Team, and the game's development cycle is approximately two years. With SuperChargers not being a commercial success, and Disney's decision to shut down its own toys-to-life developer Avalanche Software and its game, Disney Infinity, Activision, which had grossed $3 billion with the franchise, remained hopeful and believed that the genre still has potential for continuous game development. As the game's target audience is kids, many development team members suggested ideas to their own children to see whether they resonate with them, and pitched these ideas to other members to see whether their children are equally interested in order to ensure that these gameplay ideas appeal to them.
According to Jeff Poffenbarger, the senior executive producer of Imaginators, innovation is one of the most important aspects while designing the game. They hoped that with new mechanics and systems, they can continue to attract new customers to play the game, as well as retaining the core players. In addition, according to CEO Eric Hirshberg, one of the advantages is that Skylanders, unlike its competitors, features largely original characters and would not be confined to any limitation. The Imaginators mechanic was the most significant introduction, and was designed to be similar to other complex role-playing games. However, one of the key principles is to retain its accessibility. They hoped that players can make use of their creativity to create unique Skylanders, and that the team "can’t wait to see what people create". This mechanic was inspired by a fan letter after the release of Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure. Selected player-created Imaginators will be printed out through 3D printers by the Skylanders team. As this creation mechanic introduced lots of new characters, the team decided to create a story that puts a huge emphasis on existing characters, so that these characters would remain relevant to the franchise.
In February 2016, Activision confirmed that there would be a new Skylanders title set to be released in 2016. The game was officially revealed on June 1, 2016. Imaginators was released for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360 and Xbox One in October 2016. The team opted not to port the game for mobile platforms as the team realized that there is not a huge demand or market for toys-to-life games in these platforms. The developers have also decided not to make a Wii or 3DS version, unlike in previous titles, possibly due to this particular game's technical limitations. A Dark Edition, which costs more than the standard edition, was released alongside the game. It adds several cosmetic designs to the Senseis, and three more Creation Crystals. Digital Starter's Pack would not return, as the team thought that physical toys should be a key part of the game.
In June 2016, Sony Interactive Entertainment revealed that Crash Bandicoot would be a new guest character in the game. His level and character include designs created by veteran Skylanders developer, Vicarious Visions. To create an accurate version of Crash, the team studied old documents of the old games, including the original concepts. As Crash has its own physical figure, the team went through multiple design iterations to ensure that they had successfully captured its personality, and that its final pose and appearance are cohesive with his old version. The team began animating Crash after finishing up the model, with the goal of ensuring that Crash's "edginess, trademark wackiness, and swagger" are preserved. To capture Crash's legacy, the team specifically created a new life system, spin attack mechanic for it, and numerous crates for its level. Imaginators marked the first major appearance of Crash in several years; though he had a cameo appearance in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, the last game in which he was the main character was 2010's Crash Bandicoot Nitro Kart 2. In August 2016, at Gamescom, it was announced the game would also feature Crash Bandicoot series antagonist Doctor Neo Cortex as a playable character, along with an additional level featuring gameplay and design elements derived from the Crash series.
Following the Nintendo Switch Presentation on January 13, 2017, Activision announced that Skylanders: Imaginators would be released on the console as a launch title. Due to the Nintendo Switch version not supporting or including a Portal of Power, the Nintendo Switch version would not support Traps and Vehicles introduced for Skylanders: Trap Team and Skylanders: SuperChargers respectively.