E3 2016 – Skylanders Imaginators Preview – Imaginations to Life (PS4)

As the first toys-to-life game, Skylanders has been consistently pushing the bar further and further on what players can expect. When Disney Infinity announced that it was ending its run in the toys-to-life category earlier this year, the future of all games in the genre was called into question. Was this demise Disney’s alone, or did it bleed over to the long running Skylanders franchise and the newly introduced LEGO Dimensions? Fortunately it seems that both are moving forward with fascinating ideas, and we got the opportunity to see the new vision come to life in Skylanders Imaginators in person at E3 2016.

Skylanders Imaginators using a new figure called a creation crystal to allow players to create their own Skylander from their imagination. The customization possibilities are expansive, and even get as detailed as height, color, aura, catchphrase, and audio theme. Each creation crystal is a specific element and they all look physically different. They also have a pretty cool effect on the toy pad, pulsing with light. Though the element is decided by the specific creation crystal you have (the starter pack comes with a fire crystal), you can select your own battle class — such as bowslinger or knight — in addition to completely customizing the look and personality. Your created Skylander is written to the NFC tag in the creation crystal so you can take your created Skylander anywhere with you. Don’t worry though, they can be changed and equipped with any unlocked customizations at any time, so you never feel locked into how you created your Skylander — unlike all of those people who hate the face they made for their Destiny characters.

Skylanders Imaginators preview 2

My first thought was that the ability to create your own Skylander completely took away from the toys-to-life style. Sure, you’ve got a creation crystal, but where are the cool character figures? Fear not, because Imaginators need Senseis to teach them how to be a Skylander, and that’s where the traditional figures that we think of when we think Skylanders come into play. There will be 31 Sensei Skylanders to collect, from previous heroes and reformed villains, to all new characters. Senseis are extremely powerful characters that unlock additional leveling capabilities for your Imaginator, grant new abilities for their specific class, and even have a devastating sky-chi super move that they can use to clear the screen of Kaos’ legion of Doomlanders. 

The Return of Crash Bandicoot

Yes, Crash Bandicoot is coming back and he’s going to make his PS4 console debut as a guest in Skylanders Imaginators before he returns in remastered/rebuilt versions of the first three Crash games. Crash is a Sensei that will come with the Crash Starter Pack of Skylanders Imaginators. Getting to see the bandicoot in action was a thrilling nostalgia trip that sent me careening through memories. Crash’s animations, attacks, and even voice are all faithful to his classic self. I watched him spin around the screen, toss out explosive crates, and even do a body slam that left a Crash shaped imprint in the ground. Oh and his sky-chi super move apparently uses his yo-yo, though I wasn’t able to see it in action. I was plenty excited for Skylanders Imaginators before, but the faithful inclusion of an orange marsupial that was a childhood friend sent me over the top. 

Skylanders Imaginators preview 3 crash bandicoot

Apart from the new creation side of things, Skylanders plays pretty much the same as you remember it, which is great for brand familiarity. They are carrying over compatibility for all previous figures, including the vehicles from the previous game (though it’s just the race tracks from Superchargers that are being brought forward, with no new vehicle content mentioned). Skylanders Imaginators is making sure to keep your collection meaningful, even if you’ve been a part of the party since the first game’s release five years ago. 

One big question I did have was about the ability for people to turn their custom Skylanders into custom physical toys, complete with an NFC tag that would bring them into the game. While Toys for Bob doesn’t have plans to do this on a mass scale right now (there may be a promotion where limited numbers will be able to have this done), there was a wry smile on the presenters face that made me realize I was not the first one to have this idea. It may never actually be available for anyone, and if it does it would probably be pricey for completely custom figures based on kids’ (or your own) creations, but I can’t help thinking this feature would make a great promotion for bringing your imagination to life. 

Skylanders Imaginators preview 1 crash bandicoot

I’ll admit that I didn’t think much of Skylanders before Superchargers was brought into my house last year, but after realizing that the depth and fun of this game is definitely not just for kids, I’m really excited to get to create my own hero of the Skylands and have them train under the legendary Crash Bandicoot to take down another cycle of Kaos’ evil schemes this fall.