Developer: Bamtang Games
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure, Beat-Em-Up
I can’t overstate this: when Saban’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers debuted on Fox Kids back in 1993, I became an instant fan, as did many kids my age. Personally, I connected with Billy, the Blue Ranger, who was the team’s brain; my younger brother was the Red Ranger, Jason–the team leader. At school, I played Power Rangers every day in the schoolyard; my brother and I even had costumes. Nothing was cooler than Zordon’s team of “teenagers with attitude” battling Rita Repulsa, Goldar, and Lord Zedd. In hindsight (and with a little help from the magic of Netflix), I can see the show in all its corniness. Still, to seven-year-old me, it was fascinating.
With the approaching release of the live-action “reboot” film, Power Rangers has returned as a cultural zeitgeist. There have been new series of the show released almost consistently since the original’s debut, but nothing compares to the original Rangers in terms of sheer popularity. Bamtang Games taps into all that nostalgia-laden goodness with Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Mega Battle. Obviously, it had my attention at first glance, but does the final product hold up?
Spiritual Content: Rita Repulsa is a sorceress from the cosmos; during boss battles, she makes monsters grow to “kaiju” sizes. Beyond that, magic isn’t really an element, but it’s worth noting. Parallels can be drawn from the team in regards to teamwork, unity, and everyone doing their part, but none of these elements are implied by the game to be spiritual, even if they are positive.
Violence: The show faced criticism from the beginning for glorifying violence, so being a beat-em-up (a’la Castle Crashers or like the many classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games), there is violence aplenty. Still, there is no blood/gore or anything along those lines. It’s all kick-punch karate while on-foot (with the occasional energy weapon or team-up attack). While controlling the towering MegaZord, damage is dealt with energy blasts or by a massive sword. It’s all fun, with nothing dark or inappropriate.
Language/Crude Humor: Nothing crude or in bad taste that I can recall.
Sexual Themes: Nothing of the sort. While the Yellow and Pink Rangers are female, I didn’t find them to be portrayed in any real “fan-servicey” way with amplified features.
Positive Themes: While the majority of gameplay time was done solo (which will be addressed later), the time I did spend in multiplayer stressed the importance of working together for combos, which, I feel, is always good. In its own way, the game brings out the heroic themes of the show fairly well, even in a condensed and written-text form. Using voice-overs from the show might have made the positive comments said throughout more effective, but alas, that’s a missed opportunity.
Channeling the show’s nostalgia through the medium of a downloadable, beat-’em-up game seems like the instinctive route to take Power Rangers in this day and age, and, for the most part, I think the game delivers on that concept. Still, I think the title’s price is a big determinant on the finished product (a point I’ll revisit throughout this review). While my review isn’t “sterling,” it’s more reflective of what I feel is done right.
Incorporating sound bites and music (Oh, the music!) does wonders in establishing the Power Rangers feel. The character designs also really capture the essence of each cast member, enemies included. (I think that much is evident to fans examining the pictures in this review.) This game looks and sounds like the Power Rangers I remember; and, as interpreted through the cartoon aesthetic on display, all the components mesh together well. Could there have been more action to in-game cinematics? Of course. Could there have been more integration of sounds or dialogue from the show? Yes, but all of these things would have taken more resources to produce in-game, and, ultimately, the price of the finished product would have been higher.
At launch, the game is fifteen dollars. What does that include? The story mode takes you through six levels, each with three stages that act as a condensed retelling of events of the show’s first couple seasons. The team is drawn together, fighting the Putty Patrol (A LOT) and other enemies, and even tussling with Goldar and other monsters conjured by Rita. Ultimately, the Power Rangers have a big, bad showdown with someone even bigger and badder than her. Fans of the show will most likely see the story mode as “comfort food,” and players expecting a fun (playable) trip down memory lane will get exactly that. There’s nothing deep or ground-breaking on display in terms of story, but it’s a well-liked property handled in a fun way, even if the “plot” is just pinned on to service the gameplay.
In regards to that gameplay, the experience is completely competent, if not memorable. Some smaller games don’t always get their controls and combos right, but I never struggled with the controls in Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Mega Battle. The rare times I pulled off group attacks filled the screen with devastating strikes and left me with a huge, goofy grin on my face. For the most part, the game is a team-based beat-’em-up, and it’s obvious from any trailers that the game works best with a full roster playing.
I played solo during my playthrough of the story as Red Ranger (see, I can branch out). Stages always start with the team gathered together, but as soon as the stage becomes playable, all other Rangers run off-screen. There is no option to turn on AI-teammates, and that is a huge loss for the experience. Rarely do the Rangers work solo in the original series (if ever, that I can recall), but, for the majority of players, that will be the experience. Your color may be different (as well as your player’s base stats), but you’ll be a lone wolf.
What about online players, you ask? There are no online options, which is a huge misstep that has to be considered by any potential buyers. Still, having servers surely would have boosted the price. If you’ve got four controllers and “couch co-op” buddies with a love of Power Rangers, I can see a fun night to be had (maybe even a few, for avid completionists).
I found the beat-em-up portion of the gameplay to be satisfying, but what about the boss battles and Zord action at each level’s end? These elements have drawn some of the biggest complaints I’ve found from players. Essentially, the boss battles are fairly simple; it’s worth noting that the almost “copy-and-paste” encounter that acts as the final battle feels terribly lazy. For side-scroller fans, there isn’t much challenge offered. The game shifts to a shooter with shifting targets and fireballs to shoot down–nothing groundbreaking, but it’s handled competently. Afterward, in the MegaZord battle mode, what initially appears to be a Street Fighter-like level turns out to consist of everyone hitting a variety of button combinations correctly in sync. Playing with a group, I can see the challenge, but flying solo, this gameplay gimmick feels unfulfilling. Still, those ending animations of the MegaZord wrecking monsters always make me smile.
Each element is handled well for what it is, but I couldn’t help but feel the there was something missing as I played through the game. Then my mind returned to the price. This isn’t a fully-featured retail game with all the bells and whistles I expected. It’s an enjoyable game that delivers when I keep my expectations low. Parts of the experience feel like “missed opportunities,” and my score would further reflect that if the game was priced any higher.
After the game is completed, boss battles can be replayed. There’s a dojo mode, and there’s even a 50-story enemy tower to conquer. As of this writing, I haven’t fully dug into all of these modes, but I plan to. Going back and replaying to fully max out each character may not be for everyone (as enemy types are often repeated throughout the game); still, I can see some fans being engaged enough to give it a go. Those who pre-ordered the game unlocked alternate characters, which mainly consisted of unsuited forms, with the most exciting incentive being a playable White Ranger. (Awesome!)
Overall, I think if Power Ranger fans keep the low price point in mind and aren’t bothered by “couch-play only” with buddies, they will enjoy the experience. Solo play definitely loses something, but Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Mega Battle is a fun reminder of the show and potentially a good way to introduce a child to what you loved about Power Rangers. Those with little appreciation for the property won’t find anything here to change their minds, but I found it to be fun for fans.
The Bottom Line
Good, but never achieving full greatness, there's a lot to like about Mega Battle, and there's a lot to not. Many aspects left me feeling like they were not fully realized opportunities, and with the addition of AI-squadmates and online play, I'd have gladly paid double and had a game with some longevity. As is, Mega Battle is a fun time that isn't overly deep or memorable in its own right beyond evoking memories, and that's a shame.