GameSpot visited Sennari Interactive--the developer behind Bam Entertainment's Sports Illustrated for Kids: Baseball, EA's NCAA 2001 Football for the PlayStation, and the licensed Powerpuff Girls GBA line--in Los Angeles today and checked out the quickly growing company's 2002 lineup for the Game Boy Advance. Sennari president Mike Cartabiano and producer Craig Selby showed us around and introduced us to the teams.
First up is Driver 2. The game is scheduled for an August release, and Sennari is adapting the original PlayStation version to its proprietary X2 engine. The game offers mission-based play; linked multiplayer modes for two to four players such as cops 'n' robbers and checkpoint; and a story mode that is delivered in a text-and-image storybook style, similar to its PlayStation counterpart.
There are four cities--including Chicago and Rio de Janeiro--all of which intertwine through the storyline. The objectives include tailing, escorting people, evading cops, A to B, seek and destroy, and more. Players, as Tanner, can also hop out of their car. The cars involve the standard Driver franchise muscle-car fare and reflect damage visually, actually falling apart and loosing pieces if players crash. Sennari is touting the game's physics engine, and rightfully so. At this early stage, the game handles impressively well, and the ray casting looks top-notch. The Driver 2 sound effects, including the cop's voices and general banter, will be included in the final game, although we did not hear them today.
Sennari also unveiled World Tour Tennis, a GBA tennis title that leans more toward Virtua Tennis rather than sim-style play. Two to four players can compete in linked matches, or a single player can play the in arcade mode. There is also a competitive world tour mode.
Six players are available from the start, with more to unlock as players progress through the game. Players can play on clay or grass courts to influence the speed of the ball, and minigames and an earnings model promise to keep the game interesting. Ball streaks, line judges, and chair umpires are creative features, although the gameplay, even at this painfully early stage, is already quite fun without them. Sennari expects the game to be completed by August, and we are looking forward to seeing more in the coming months.
Aegis: The Awakening is Sennari's original title for the Game Boy Advance. Currently in the conception stage, the game is an action-adventure offering two gameplay styles in one: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon-style side-scroller play and Final Fight One-style 3D arena battles with a proposed fair amount of Z-axis movement within the arena's range. Both single- and two-player modes will be available, and players can compete against each other or the computer or play cooperatively. The story is set in a "city under siege." Players assume the role of one of two royal warriors, or Aegis, known as Lash and Zhen. They wander into the city of Aldara, discover that it is being destroyed, and then set out to save it and the locals, the Jadin'zhal. Players will have magic and melee abilities at their disposal. In single-player mode, both characters will deliver a different gameplay experience. The game is also influenced by Mega Man-style play, in that each time players fight a boss, they adopt new skills that will help them fight the next.
The enemies take the form of elementals, and players must learn to use the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water to combat them, using opposing force. Players cast magic spells and fight in real time in Aegis, with the option of combining melee (force) with magic for more powerful or specific attacks.
A "shield" on the screen allows players to select their magic items and combine them with melee actions in just two presses on the D-pad. The game is in its infant stage, but we plan to follow the development of Aegis closely. The style, concept, and gameplay strategy look promising.
As the day ended, Cartabiano treated us to a demonstration of Sennari's proprietary Game Boy Advance RC product. This "game" includes a radio-controlled car, a transmitter that plugs into the link port of the GBA, and the game's software. But it's more than a radio-controlled car. Not only do players drive the car using the GBA's D-pad controls, but they can also store nearly 40 movements in linear succession on their GBA and play them back later. Players can also edit and adjust these movements, then command their car to follow the course and essentially drive on its own. The application may also be used with other technologies in the future. The kit will retail for about $59.95. Sennari does not have a release date for the RC product, but we will let you know as soon as it becomes available.
Sennari is licensed to develop for multiple platforms, so we expect to see more from the 4-year-old, 25-person development house in the future. Stay with GameSpot for more on these and other Sennari games in the next few months. You can view screenshots for each game by clicking the corresponding links in the upper-right corner.