SMy Plastic Heart, a small, yet
exquisite toy store in lower Manhattan, was overrun by a large band of ninjas late friday night. Not only was the store overflowing with Ninjatown plushies and original artwork from creator Shawn Smith, the developers from Venan Entertainment were on hand to demo a preview build of the game. I got a chance to talk to the team a bit about the game's development, what it was like working with Shawnimal himself, and their thoughts on the new DSi.So how involved was Shawn Smith in the making of this game? Very, said Brandon Curiel, President of Venan. "We would have weekly meetings with him to let him know how the game’s going," Brandon said. "When we started development, all the characters that were in the game didn’t exist in Ninjatown yet, so we worked with him to develop new characters that we could use." "Everything in the game definitely went under his eye to make sure it fit Ninjatown perfectly." I had asked Jeremy Pope, Producer, if there was any issues with the design possibly going overboard considering some of crazy ideas thought up in this game. He said, thankfully, Shawn knows what he's doing when it comes to making games. "You deal with that often with a license where someone is coming out of left field, and they just assume that 'Why can’t we just do whatever we feel like doing?' Shawn understands there’s a structure and a framework that we’re working within." Ninjatown's core gameplay closely resembles that of your typical tower defense game. However, the team says the similarities stop there. They actually call it a type of an action/strategy game, since its more character based and has a much faster pace. Oh, you can also burn enemies with a magnifying glass. "We played a lot of tower defense games, try to get a feel for what they’re like, why they were fun, what mechanics we wanted to borrow for ours," said Alex Kain, Associate Designer. "I think we ended up making something totally unique," Like everyone else, the development team was completely unaware Nintendo had been working on the new DSi model, which was first revealed last week in Japan. And while the new features seem appealing from a design perspective, Venan expects to continue focusing on the current DS Lite for the majority of their upcoming projects. "For us, it’s about the greatest common denominator. Even though they have this new DS, the vast majority of the market is going to be the old DS," Brandon added. "So, even when it’s out, we’ll be designing for the old one and probably will be for the foreseeable future" So where does the Ninjatown franchise go from here? I popped the question about a possible release of the game on other platforms, such as PSN or XBLA. It makes perfect sense, after all, what with the apparent success of titles such as Braid, Castle Crashers, and the Pixel Junk series. There's clearly room for a game such as this in the downloadable console space. Right? "We’re not talking about anything else just yet, but I think we can say that we’re all very pleased how the DS game as turned out and we’re excited about exploring other things," said Jeremy. I'll be posting my impressions of the game later on, so keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, check out the rest of the gallery from the night below.