Fortnite is kicking off its third major anime crossover today with the introduction of My Hero Academia (MHA) content coming to the game. After having what seemed to be massive success with Naruto and Dragon Ball, Epic's battle royale and creative suite is taking on the My Hero series in a similarly major way. Alongside four in-game skins, an incredibly powerful new Mythic weapon called Deku's Smash, and in-game challenges, one of the best parts of the crossover is the new game mode, Hero Training Gym. The game mode was made in Fortnite Creative by Zen Creative, a sibling-founded studio that specializes in making custom experiences inside Fortnite.
Speaking to GameSpot while we ran around his My Hero Academia PvP mode together, co-founder R-leeo Maoate explained how the team made a name for itself in the Fortnite Creative space and what other dream projects the team at Zen Creative hopes to work on in the future.
"Back in April we did the Soundwave Series for Emicida, a Brazilian rapper," he said. "We also did something back in November 2021, which was Fortnite Lands Down Under," part of Epic's plans to promote the game in Australia and New Zealand, which launched alongside a new Twitter account at the time. These are major projects in the Creative world, but Maoate said that their work in Creative mode began merely as a hobby where he and his brother made their own maps.
After sharing some on social media and getting the attention of Fortnite fans, a "domino effect" occurred. Brands started looking to them for development opportunities, and eventually Epic came knocking regarding projects like those named above. "It's been full throttle from there," he added, explaining that the team known as Zen Creative, which was once just the two brothers, is now 10 total people, with a half-dozen of them having worked for the last several weeks on the MHA map for this crossover.
Maoate explained the rules of the game mode, Hero Training Gym, which plays out in 8v8 PvP and combines elements of Team Deathmatch and Domination, where teams fight for control points. A familiar character class system allows players to load out as tank, assault, or support types--each with their own strengths and weaknesses--but the kicker is the inclusion of Deku's Smash, the new Mythic weapon that players are already learning is as devastating, if not more so, than the Kamehameha that came to the game for the Dragon Ball crossover in the summer.
In Hero Training Gym, Deku's Smash will periodically spawn on the urban-set map, and when it does, both teams will want to prioritize it, because it's not only extremely powerful, but also wonderfully chaotic. With the many vehicles strewn about the map, one blast from Deku's Smash sends them flying like a comet fell to Earth. Big rigs get tied up in powerlines, sedans are flung like four-wheeled missiles, and anyone standing in the path of the weapon's blast or the debris is unlikely to survive the impact.
Without these physics toys at players' disposal, I think Hero Training Gym would be a lovely-looking map with a neat PvP mode set in it, but the addition of Deku's Smash raises its profile to something even I, someone who isn't an anime fan, plan on playing.
Another added feature is the mode's way of morphing between the pre-fabricated cityscape, which disables building mechanics in favor of the physics destruction, and a second map, Base Arena, which is largely empty save for some concrete cubes lying around meant to act as foundations for player builds. When in the Base Arena, cranking 90s and defending with quick builds is key, which means the mode in total becomes a fast-paced blend of both build and no-build strategies.
These nuances from the team remind me of the potential, both realized and still to come, of Fortnite Creative. I love battle royale, but with the Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN)--or what fans call Creative 2.0--on the way in the new year, I get the sense that talented teams such as Zen Creative are going to find new heights for their Creative modes and maps.
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I've often likened this next phase of Fortnite Creative to what Dreams could've--arguably should've--been for PlayStation: a flexible creation tool that will allow players to express themselves like never before. Hero Training Gym isn't built in Creative 2.0, and the team wasn't ready to talk about its plans for the forthcoming upgrade, but the intricacies of Hero Training Gym suggest to me that Zen Creative will be a team to watch once that exciting update arrives early in 2023.
Epic has been emphasizing Creative more as of late, with daily quests commonly pointing people in its direction. There's a lot already there, and it can be hard to wade through and find the best maps--though we have tried--so when Epic and indie teams like Zen can team up, especially when taking on branded material such as world-famous anime series, it helps point players toward some of the best maps and modes in the game. It's not unfathomable to picture Fortnite five years from now as being more famous for its Creative suite than even its battle royale mode.
For Zen Creative, it's a great place to be. To have the trust of Epic and other paying collaborators allows the small team to continue to grow and establish itself as a leading studio within the ever-growing Fortnite ecosystem. And Maoate says he still has more on his personal wishlist: "I'd love to work on more anime projects going forward. It's close to my heart, watching anime for a long time. Doing this kind of project has been one of the most fun things we've been able to do."
With Epic's trust and Fortnite's anime crossovers seeming to be some of its most successful ever, I expect we may see Zen Creative heavily featured in more collabs soon. Fans have clamored for things like One Piece and Attack on Titan, especially, and though Epic hasn't said one way or the other, it's easy to see these IP coming to Fortnite--doesn't everything anyway?
You can jump into Hero Training Gym as part of Fortnite's My Hero Academia crossover using Creative island code 6917-7775-5190 until December 29.
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