LEGO Battles: Ninjago is bringing its own brand of Spinjitzu to North America and Europe this week. TT Games producer Vince Grogan appeared in a puff of smoke, so we hurled shuriken-sharp questions in his direction until he fled.
Nintendo Life: What's the first thing we should know about LEGO Battles: Ninjago?
Vince Grogan: LEGO Battles: Ninjago is the sequel to the successful LEGO Battles. It allows you to play your way through the story of the first Ninjago series. You get to play as a group of young Ninjas protecting the world of Ninjago or you can play as the army of Skeleton Warriors that are set on destroying it. LEGO Battles: Ninjago is both an action adventure and a strategy game that allows you build and create custom armies and battle them against the AI or against a friend.
NL: What exactly does "Ninjago" mean?
VG: It’s what players must shout when they commence battle when they play with the Ninjago Spinner play sets. You can shout it while you’re playing the game if you like, but I can’t promise it will make you any better at the game.
NL: What about Spinjitzu, and how in-depth will this game explore it?
VG: Spinjitzu is an almost forgotten ancient art form which allows a highly trained Ninja to summon a powerful tornado with devastating effects. Each Ninja’s tornado is different: for instance Kai, the red ninja, has a Fire Tornado which burns any enemy it touches. In LEGO Battles: Ninjago you can upgrade each Ninja with different weapons which will create different Spinjitzu attacks.
NL: How does this improve on the original LEGO Battles?
VG: In LEGO Battles there was one Hero unit allowed in each army which meant only one unit that could cast spells. LEGO Battles: Ninjago allows you to create an army with seven Hero units all with their own unique set of powerful spells. Also, Hero units can now be upgraded to gain better weapons and amazing spells.
NL: Can you tell us a little bit about the actual gameplay of Ninjago?
VG: The game is all about building a strong base while constructing an army capable of defeating your opponent. Your units are split into two types: Builders and Heroes. Builders can build and repair structures, as well as collect resources. Resources can be spent on building Hero units which can then be upgraded to gain extra abilities. Unlike our other LEGO games, instead of controlling one character, you’re in charge of controlling all the characters in your army. You can order them about by selecting them and touching on the screen where you want them to go or by touching an enemy to attack them. Once you have a healthy group of Hero units, you can use your weapons, spells and abilities against your opponent and try to take down its base.
NL: What's it like to develop a game having the dual screens and touch screen functionality the DS system brings to the table?
VG: It’s always exciting developing for the DS as it is so different to any other system. The touch screen is great because it gives players complete control of their army. They are able to select single units by touching them or group units by simply sweeping over them with a selection box, it’s really simple. The addition of the top screen allows us to display all the information players’ needs regarding the battle without cluttering the main game screen.
NL: Do you see the LEGO Battles games as fitting into the LEGO repertoire, or more as games of their own unique style that star characters from the world of LEGO?
VG: All of our LEGO games belong to the same world of fun and adventure. However, each has its own unique feel and style. Therefore the style of this game is heavily influenced by the exiting and vibrant world of Ninjago.
NL: What makes LEGO Battles: Ninjago unique in terms of the real time strategy genre?
VG: The game is unique as it is a strategy game and an action adventure game all in one. Being a LEGO game, it’s possible to pick up and play, but at the same it still has lots of depth and tactics that you would expect from a strategy game. Plus, only a LEGO game would allow you to build and create an army of Ninjas and Skeletons, and many other LEGO characters. We even have a Mexican Wrestler!
NL: How does the 2-player function work?
VG: Battle Mode allows you to play against a friend. In this mode, you can create a custom army from all the characters you have unlocked and battle against a buddy. You can choose from four different game modes including two game modes from the previous LEGO Battles game: Annihilation, Capture the Flag, Brick Race and King of the Hill. You can also play against the AI in each of these game modes in addition to two new game modes which are called Goliath and Survival.
NL: What are the development and production teams most proud of in creating this game? Were there any surprises or major breakthroughs along the way, or drastic changes from the original idea?
VG: The most notable improvement from LEGO Battles is the graphics. The team did a fantastic job making the characters so much more detailed and each and every building look like it’s made out of LEGO. In fact, it’s entirely possible to build each building in the game from LEGO which is something we are very pleased about. Another area we are very proud of is the cutscenes; they really bring the whole world to life and tell the story of Ninjago perfectly. They also look fantastic for a system like the DS and are full of the fun and humor that you would expect from our cutscenes.
NL: Is there an emphasis on building and customization in this game, as the LEGO branding would suggest?
VG: Absolutely, the whole game is based on creating your own custom armies and building bases for them to protect. Each tower you build can be upgraded with different elemental effects. Your Hero units can change their weapons and special abilities at any time during a battle. Additionally, you can collect different characters to mix and match into your army. You can even have Skeletons fighting alongside Ninjas!
NL: Is there anything you'd like to tell our Nintendo Life readers in closing?
VG: Yes, as with all LEGO games, we are proud to offer hours of gameplay for the player to explore. There are 42 Story Mode levels plus endless amounts of armies to face in Battle Mode. There are also LEGO Red Brick and Minikit collectibles to be found, 25 conquests to be completed and 30 characters from your favorite LEGO ranges to unlock.
Thanks to Vince Grogan for his time and staff who contributed questions.