Saban's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Mega Battle Review
For years upon years, I have been walking from left to right, beating the tar out of anything that moves and loving every minute of it. (I suppose I should say "in video games" there, huh?) From Contra to Ninja Turtles, Sunset Riders to Dragon's Crown, there's something quite special about an arcade brawler. The cathartic drone of the gameplay combined with the skill of maximizing damage dealt, whilst eliminating damage taken, that boiled down to "how cheap can I beat this game" has always been fun to me. While more modern games like Dragon's Crown allow you to level the characters, gaining new powers and abilities, I've always enjoyed the ones that simply threw the heroes out there on the way to beat up a bad guy and put a few million lackeys between the two.
While not on my radar, I know the Power Rangers have been energizing the youth of our nation to beat the living tar out of rubber faced goons. With a new movie on the horizon, it appears it is time to scratch the itch of the newly-grown-ups of the world who we all know love anything from their youth. This is where Saban's Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers--Mega Battle fits right in, though a few design decisions make it a hard fit anywhere else.
In the game, each level is heavily influenced by a particular episode from the classic television series. Therefore, they follow a traditional pattern: the Rangers, in human form, go to do something. Suddenly, enemies appear. They beat on them enough to gain the power to transform, and beat up more enemies in their Ranger suits with extended powers. Alas, that's bound to fail eventually, as a giant boss arrives. Time to get in the giant robots and form a tag team tank of sorts. But, the enemy is stronger! So it's up to the Megazord to finish it off! While a staple of entertainment, the classic episodes had a formula. Hey, it worked.
Translating that over, this means you start underpowered as a traditional "Teen with Attitude" and beat up people until you can transform. Then you get a little more nimble and have a gun to shoot and a weapon to swing around. After that, the "tank mode" is a target range, where you have to shoot back at the enemy and deflect their attacks. In Megazord mode, it's more of a tag-team QuickTime event. The screen shows a battle between the Rangers and the enemy, and you have to hit a set of buttons together to land a blow. For me and my teammates, this turned into a chant of the button combinations to get all the inputs done simultaneously. I liked that little addition. It made it feel like the whole team was helping control the Megazord to take down the enemy. This isn't without it's faults, though, as I will explain later.
More and different enemies are introduced through the course of the game. The tells they have on their attack patterns are fairly obvious. Paying attention, you should be able to take them down with little to no damage, but the challenge is in the combination of enemies thrown at you and the environment you are in. A gaggle of Putty creatures is nothing, but taking them down on a busy highway adds an extra level of chaos to work through.
Unfortunately, there are a few core things that I didn't understand with the game, and it primarily boils down to how multiplayer is handled. First and foremost, there is no online play for the game. If you want to multiplay, you have to physically get your team together. While I love couch co-op and insist it exists in any game I play, the lack of online play makes it harder to get a full team together. As I said earlier, this is rather ideal for families looking to help their kids gain interest in the franchise. Enemies are manageable by a single player, with the ability to resuscitate your teammates to get them back on the field. Unfortunately, anyone playing alone is going to be in for a bit of a borefest, as enemies wait in line to kill you, and I eventually found a few combos of jump kicks were so effective playing solo that I rarely used anything else. And while local multiplayer is great for the family aspect, it has to be the right combination of people who all agree to play together for a certain period of time. Starting the game brings up the four-player selection screen, and starting another controller activates another player. For the life of me, I could not find a way to start another "drop in" player after the game was active short of getting to a save point, quitting out, and initializing another controller. Likewise, nobody can flat drop-out if done. They have to die, lay there for a while, and then finally wait for the countdown to complete. Arcade brawlers are quick affairs, and it seems nonsensical to me that a quick in or out is not available.
The game is rated E10+, and I can see why due to the mechanics involved. My cohorts were 10 and 5. While my 10 year old had no problem understanding the process, my 5 year old struggled in a couple areas that became glaringly obvious. My favorite "teamwork" part for the Megazord fell apart, because he couldn't follow the QuickTime events. Also, you do have to fight and "power up" to get to your Ranger Suit. Since he isn't terribly good at fighting, it would take him twice as long to get to the power level necessary to suit up, which made him even more ineffective in battle until that moment hit. He was all about the game as I read the subtitles to him, and the fighting was easy enough to get, but the special scenes (that aren't too well explained even to someone understanding it) proved difficult. The level up system is exciting to see, but it takes far too long to implement. What should be a general progression or maybe a pause menu feature requires you to find a levelling station to activate. You have to get past the first boss to get to one, and then the amount of XP you've earned barely allows you to purchase anything worthwhile. I would have preferred the actions to be doled out as you level automatically, a la the Scott Pilgrim game.
My last little beef has to do with how the general story is handled. The Rangers are a team, and they do a good job of showing it when in the 'Zords, but in solo mode it feels a little empty. In multiplayer there are a few cool team up moves, but when there's a story bit and then all the other characters not currently active teleport away, then back for a scene with the villains, then away again. In solo mode, it feels like "Hey, Billy, go save the world!" and even in multiplayer it feels like that fifth Ranger is getting off easy. I know the Xbox One can register up to eight controllers, and it'd have been awesome if the game would have been one of the few that supports it, especially once the Green and White ranger join the fray. I can see it being a problem with the cross platform play, with the PS4 only registering four at most, but it would have been a neat exclusive over on the One. Of course, it would have been possible everywhere with online play as well, but again, just more tweaks I would have done that would allow more flexibility in play.
As a game for fans, Power Rangers--Mega Battle definitely scratches an itch, and the more fans you have in one house the better it is. Unfortunately, this means it'll be hard to get a full team through the game. The lengthy game isn't made to be defeated in one sitting. By most standards that would be a good thing, but it's like finding time for the old D&D team to get together again since there's no drop in-out or online gameplay. Solo play is mundane, but if you can hit that sweet spot and find a foursome ready to kick Rita Repulsa's butt back where it came from, you'll have a mighty morphin' good time.
Thanks to the developers for providing an Xbox One code for review.
Final Review Score: 3.5/5