'Adventure Time' game director talks 'Zelda 2' comparisons, retro influences

We find out more details on WayForward's upcoming DS/3DS action/adventure hybrid.

Depending on what part of the Adventure Time game you look at, you may think you're seeing a platformer, an adventure title, or a role-playing game. That's by design.

For the first game to spin off from the critically acclaimed Cartoon Network show about a boy and his shape-shifting dog, developer WayForward is using the structure Nintendo established with NES classic Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link. Players will explore the world in a top-down view, then fight and explore towns from a side-scrolling perspective.

"A lot of people are making a comparison to Zelda 2, which has an overworld with the shadow monsters [where] you get into random battles," said WayForward director James Montagna yesterday at a press event in San Francisco. "And for us, definitely, we took some inspiration from that sort of old school scenario."

Montagna stopped short of saying his team is trying to mimic Nintendo's game feature-for-feature, noting that he wanted to take inspiration from a variety of retro games. "Players may make a few comparisons playing through the main game mode, not only [to Zelda 2] but other old school retro game experiences," he said.

In some ways, the structure mirrors the game's development process, with WayForward bringing its well-established 2D action game style, and the Adventure Time license folding in role-playing elements in the overworld. Montagna said this wasn't a conscious idea, but that it fits with the team's approach, which is for Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward to stay in charge of the story and give approvals and WayForward to handle the bulk of the mechanics.

"A lot of people are making a comparison to Zelda 2 ... definitely, we took some inspiration from that sort of old school scenario."

Combat plays out much like many 2D beat-'em-ups, spiced with your dog friend Jake helping out and upgrades, move lists, and loot you collect on the touch screen. The game looks to strike a halfway point between an action-heavy platformer and a complex adventure or role-playing game.

Much like the art in previous portable WayForward 2D games, Adventure Time's playful art style is part of what makes it stand out. With the 3D slider turned up on the 3DS version, it has a papercraft shoebox diorama look, similar to Paper Mario or Parappa the Rapper. With the 3D slider turned down, it looks a lot like WayForward's other 2D portable games, such as Shantae and Thor.

According to Montagna, apart from the 3D and slightly higher-resolution visuals in the 3DS version, Adventure Time will be identical whether someone plays it there or on the original DS. Both are scheduled to ship later this year.

Read our interview with Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward too.

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