It’s hard to believe that the Power Rangers franchise will be 24 years old in 2017. The entire time it has continued to spawn TV shows, toys and video games. Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle is aimed at fans of the original series, with the original team of Rangers battling against classic villains. Even with the help of nostalgia Power Rangers: Mega Battle ultimately falls short as both a game and trip down memory lane.
Power Rangers: Mega Battle is a 2D brawler where you face off against foes such as Putties, Goldar and other Power Rangers villains. Before starting a level, you select one of the five Rangers to play as, although eventually you can unlock the Green Ranger. Each Ranger has their own stats in different categories such as agility, defense and martial arts, although they all play the same. Once you have picked your Ranger you are ready to battle.
The combat in the game is often repetitive. Early on most enemies are knocked down by your light attack, allowing you to keep them from ever attacking. Later enemies will only have brief windows where they can be damaged but their patterns are simple. Most battles are spent waiting for these enemies to open themselves to attack. The boss battles have the same problem. Each boss has only one or two simple patterns. After they attack they open for damage and you take a sliver of their health. Repeat this pattern eight or nine times and then if your Ranger hasn’t died of boredom you can finish the boss.
The game tries to switch things up but the changes are rarely fun. In most levels, you start as a human Ranger with limited abilities, such as no heavy attack. As you attack enemies you earn energy which eventually allows you to morph. It’s a nice nod to the TV series where almost every episode included at least one fight before morphing. However, removing most of your abilities takes the already dull battles and makes them worse. The game also features Megazord battles but these are terrible. They consist of two phases, in the first phase you move a cursor around the screen shooting weak points while the boss stands still. Occasionally they will fire back at which point you shoot down their missiles. After you do that three or four times you run through a series of quick time events to finish the battle. For something that was a major part of the show it certainly feels like it was tacked on in the worst possible way.
There is some character progression in the form of a skill tree. The skill tree has a lot of options but, except for passive buffs such as increased health, most of them are useless. While you could certainly try to take advantage of all the skills offered by the game, most combat revolves around mashing the light attack button. The more powerful combos and abilities are rarely helpful as the higher end enemies are only vulnerable for brief moments and many have a cap on how much damage they can take at a time.
The simplistic combat isn’t helped by the poor controls and feel. There were several times where the game didn’t register a change in direction of the analog stick. Other times the same button presses can produce wildly different results. Sometimes pressing light attack in the air will do a diving kick pushing your character forward and other times they will simply kick straight down and fall like normal. Hit detection is also poor. There were fights where enemies on the same plane as my Ranger didn’t get hit while another enemy above or below me did. Getting my character to do what I wanted was a chore for most of the game.
The many gameplay problems make it even more disappointing that Power Rangers: Mega Battle fails to really capture the essence of early Power Rangers. While the Rangers in costume look great everything else looks a little off. Whether it’s the art style or the obvious fact that they didn’t have likeness rights for the characters, it just doesn’t look like how you remember Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The closest to the original actors we get are a few voice samples. Even then the game only uses about 10 voice lines and just repeats them so by the end of it you are tired of hearing the same lines. The theme song didn’t make it through unscathed either. It sounds like they used a rerecording of the original track. I even hopped on Netflix to watch an episode just to make sure my ears weren’t playing tricks on me. With the gameplay doing so little they absolutely had to nail the vibe of those early Power Rangers seasons and they missed the mark.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion but it isn’t enough to carry a game. Unfortunately for Power Rangers: Mega Battle the gameplay problems are too much for a theme song and voice samples to overcome. It’s a game that has interesting ideas that it can’t deliver on. Ultimately it’s a generic beat-‘em up that doesn’t do enough to capture what made the original Power Rangers a cultural icon.