"For fans of the show, this a title shaping up to look like required playing."
The cartoon Young Justice, which follows the exploits of a new generation of Justice League heroes, is currently enjoying its second season on Cartoon Network. For those unfamiliar with the show, it follows the exploits of teenage heroes and sidekicks of better known heroes to form a junior counterpart to the Justice League. Heroes include characters like Aqualad, Superboy, Nightwing, and Kid Flash.
There is a five year gap between seasons one and two of the show, and the creators of Young Justice have taken the unique approach of partnering with developer Little Orbit to create a game that tells a major story that takes place during that gap. "We wanted the story of the game to be able to stand on its own," said show creator Greg Weisman. "This covers a very crucial and important story in that gap. We wanted it to matter."
"Not everybody is willing to do that – to let us have access to the canon," said Little Orbit's Sharon Scott. "They gave us the major events that take place and beyond that gave us a lot of freedom."
We didn't get huge details on the intricacies of the plot itself, but we know that it revolves around a missing archaeologist. In the search for this archaeologist, you'll be visiting lots of exotic locations. "I don't know if you remember the old GI Joe cartoon," said Little Orbit's President, Matthew Scott, "but you kind of got to travel to all corners of the Earth in that show. We wanted to do the same thing to give us some variety in the environments." In the playable early build we saw, the Young Justice team was battling on top of high, interconnected spires in the middle of a jungle.
"Anything mechanical spawns – kind of like the old Gauntlet spawners," explained Scott while blowing something up. "You can fight those hordes endlessly, but until you kill the spawner you'll be going forever." The Gauntlet comparison is apt – when watching the early build of the game being played live, I was immediately reminded of its arcade style of action RPG. "With online, you can jump in and out of a game in progress. We want it to be casual that way," added Scott.
The game features a squad of three at all times. If playing solo, the other 2 members of your squad are handled by the AI, but they could also be human controlled in a cooperative or online game. When playing solo, you can switch between the characters at the push of a button. There are 12 playable characters, and each character has two distinct skill trees, providing some interesting replayability options in terms of character builds. As an example, archer Artemis can be built to cause massive damage to individual targets or to focus more on group attacks.
While seeing a demo of the game, we spotted 4 additional characters represented by question marks above and beyond the original 12. When asked about this, Little Orbit informed us that Day 1 DLC will be available that provides 4 more characters that weren't members of the team in season 1 of Young Justice, but are members now. These missed the original cut because they don't make sense within the story, but the developers thought this provided a fun solution for big fans of the show who still wanted to play as their favorite team member in spite of the plot.
The game is being developed for the PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, but Little Orbit let slip that there is also an as yet unannounced 3DS version of the game in the works that will play more like "Final Fantasy Tactics," which certainly got our attention. It was too early in the development process for more info on that version, however.
Since only a small portion of that previously mentioned 5 year gap is covered in this game, we asked whether there is a possibility for more games covering that gap.
"I'd be all for it," said Weisman, laughing. "I don't know what goes into that decision-making process, but I'm for it."
With a February 13, 2013 release date, Little Orbit is focused on making sure this first foray is a success. "One thing at a time," affirmed Little Orbit's Sharon Scott.
Little Orbit is obviously approaching the canon of the series with a lot of care while approaching the gameplay itself with familiar, classic elements of action RPGs. For fans of the show, this is a title that is shaping up to look like required playing. For fans of action RPGs unfamiliar with the show, the classic arcade style makes this one to watch for next year.