No, No, Power Rangers.
The Power Rangers are set to hit the big screen this spring. And, just as you’d expect, that means it’s prime time for a video game adaptation to land on your console of choice. However, while the upcoming film is a somewhat grittier re-imaging of the series that dominated the Saturday mornings of millions of thirty-somethings, Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle takes the series back to its delightfully cheesy roots, tossing players into the skin-tight spandex of the original five “teenagers with attitude” as the battle the forces of the evil sorceress Rita Repulsa and the menacing Lord Zedd.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle is, much like its 16-bit predecessors from the mid-nineties, a rather by-the-numbers side-scrolling beat-em-up. Players choose between the Red, Blue, Yellow, Pink, and Black Ranger –though the Green Ranger, Tommy, is unlockable as you progress through the story – each with their own weapons and moves as they pummel a variety of familiar baddies from the television series. You’ll start the game with a relatively small repertoire of moves, such as light melee attacks, weapon attacks (which deplete your stamina), and special ranged attacks (which drain your energy meter).
This repertoire of moves grows pretty rapidly though, as you can spend experience you gather from fallen enemies at your robot pal, Alpha 5’s, shop to level up your Ranger with new abilities, stat boosts and more via a surprisingly deep skill tree. Don’t put too much thought into how you spend these points though, as by the game’s end you’ll likely reach level ten and have every available perk and ability unlocked. Still, it’s a welcome illusion of depth that adds a dash of RPG-lite flavor to an otherwise standard brawler.
From the outset it’s hard not to notice that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle packs all of the production value you’d find in your average mobile phone game. Bland, super-deformed sprites are the order of the day in Mega Battle, and they’re sure to throw a wet towel on your nostalgia pretty quickly. Animations aren’t much better. Moves are janky and unimpressive, and even the Rangers’ walking animation has all the character of someone eagerly charging to the nearest bathroom. Suffice to say, if any game can get away with cheesy effects, it’s a Power Rangers one. But sadly, Bandai Namco Games’ efforts here fall flat across the board, delivering a bland and lifeless aesthetic that would have looked stale a decade ago. Simply put, the low-budget visuals aren’t doing the game any favors.
This cheapness also carries over into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle’s sound design. Sure, you’ll hear some welcome and familiar tunes peppered throughout the course of the game’s 3-hour adventure, but they repeat all too often. And the rest of the music you’ll find accompanying the on-screen action is just tired butt-rock, that loops to frequently and sounds strangely muffled. There are plenty of storyboard sequences as well, but no dialog to go with them, making them fall flat – not that the writing was going to keep you engaged anyway. The story is pretty much just an excuse to send players to a handful of familiar Angel Grove locales featured in various episodes of the series, such as the mall, the Dark Dimension, and the fair grounds, where you’ll fight some of Rita’s familiar goons, like Hatchasaurus, King Sphinx, and Goldar.
While teaming up with three friends to topple these iconic monsters should be one of the game’s biggest selling points, these boss battles are far too formulaic for their own good. Each fight begins with you going toe-to-toe with the creature in typical beat-em-up fashion. However, most bosses are invincible for the majority of the fight, forcing you to simply wait until they’re done performing a predictable attack pattern before they become temporarily vulnerable, allowing you to get a few whacks in before the pattern resumes itself. After you finally bring them down, either Rita or Zedd will “make their monster grooooooow”, and you and your squad will be whisked away into your Megazord to finish things up. This should be the most exciting part of the fight, right? Nope! Sorry to say, all this section of the fight consists of is a lame shooter segment where you target and destroy two weak points, then proceed to shoot a handful of projectiles before you resume your assault. That’s it. Exciting, right? The third and final part of each boss encounter finally puts you face-to-face with the monster for some Zord-on-monster action, which is nothing more than a simple QTE-powered game of rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.
Each of the six boss battles plays out the exact same way. None of the awesome city-smashing battle royales that graced the series, no Mech-powered melees through a ruined Angel Grove, just rinse-and-repeat repetition that’s sure to put players on a crash-course trip to their nearest pillow for a restful slumber.
Wrapping up Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle’s six stages should take players just shy of three hours. And if you feel like jumping in for more after the credits roll, beating the game does unlock a Boss Rush and Dojo Mode, which at least gives the game a bit more legs. Though it’s hard to imagine many will feel compelled to pick up the controller again after wrapping up the main story.
In closing, I really wanted to like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle. As a 30-something gamer with both fond memories of the original series and a profound love for the beat-em-up genre, I came in expecting Mega Battle to be a guaranteed good time. Sadly, a serious lack of polish and the criminally repetitive boss battles make for an experience that’s really hard to recommend. If you’ve got kids and you want to introduce them to the series with an evenings of putty-punching action, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle worth the price of admission. However, if you’re just looking to add another beat-em-up to your collection, there are much better options out there.
Final Verdict: 2/5
Available on: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4 ; Publisher: Bandai Namco America ; Developer: Bandai Namco Games ; Players: 1-4 ; Released: January 17, 2017 ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP; $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is on a review copy provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.