Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle Review — Underpowered Nostalgia
Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle doesn't make the cut. The latest Power Ranger game on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is a half-baked nostalgia grab, that can't even manage to reward fans.
With a new movie coming out soon and an ongoing TV presence, it’s no surprise that Power Rangers would return to video games. There hasn’t been an entry into the franchise since 2014 and even before that there was a considerable drought in the late 2000’s. But it looks like Saban is once again testing the waters with Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle.
It’s unfortunate that this latest installment spent so much time focusing on the nostalgia of the series and not crafting lasting gameplay. The game takes inspiration from early beat-em-ups like TMNT and X-Men and doesn’t add enough to the shallow formula. Attempts are made to spice up the 4-5 hour adventure but things start to get stale around the halfway mark.
The story is takes cues from the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series and features the original 5(ish) teen heroes. They are attacked by an alien menace and then whisked away by the magical Zordon who selects these ‘teenagers with attitude’ to be the Earth’s saviors.
With their new powers they must stop the invasion by the evil Rita Repulsa and Lord Zed. They’re helped by their Jurassic themed giant robots (the Dinozords) and Zordon’s bumbling robotic helper, Alpha 5.
The Rangers in the game take their likeness from the original 5 actors from the series. Jason, Trini, Zack, Kimberly and Billy are all here. The art style is angular and strange, but it grows on you. There’s almost a bit of a hyper-deformed look to all the characters which mostly works.
However, characters such as Rita and Zed get the short end of the stick; the former looks incredibly young and anime-like here whereas the latter looks like he’s been hitting the gym too much.
The character designs are by and far much more interesting than the environments. The levels generally are the ruins of Angel Grove or weird alien complexes that all seem to blend together after awhile.
There seemed to be at least an attempt at the start of the game to vary things a little. For example Stage 2 has you going through an amusement park and Stage 3 has a section devoted to fighting on top of a plane.
Unfortunately, these stages don’t last that long and are so generic that there’s not even an attempt to put in interesting details. You know it’s bad when an amusement park is made to look boring. Everything here just seems like it was rushed during the development phase and never fleshed out.
The gameplay fares a little better, but still feels under-developed. A lot of the game is the standard “walk left to right and beat up everyone in your path” that fans of the genre have come to expect. This is shaken up just a tad with small objectives like freeing hostages or having to beat down a door to progress. Unfortunately it doesn’t take long for these additions to become tedious as well.
The enemy types become surprisingly varied near the midpoint of the adventure. Rita Repulsa’s signature ‘Putty Patrollers’ act as the identical henchmen for the game whereas stronger enemies join the fight but in smaller numbers.
Some strategy is needed with dealing with these opponents such as doing a quick air attack on one type or waiting for another to chuckle in between assaults. It is a welcome addition but unfortunately isn’t enough to make the entire game feel fresh.
Each of the Rangers can gain levels and unlock new abilities via skill trees. You don’t really see this feature until part way through the second chapter (there are six, so a third of the way through the game) and I found a lot of the upgradable options weren’t that useful or were poorly explained. The best choices to go with were increasing health and certain combos that you could just spam over and over again.
For some reason Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battles only has local co-op available and only for 4 players. There are 5-ish Rangers to choose from — why can’t we play as all of them at once? I played a bunch of the campaign with two players and I didn’t feel that much more fun than when I played solo.
There’s some neat dual attacks you can use (some of which cause some slowdown) and you can revive a fallen teammate. This made the experience a little easier even though there are more enemies and a time limit on bringing back a Ranger from near death. The game itself isn’t that difficult; through my entire time with the game, I only died a handful of times during my single player run.
What does make the action frustrating, however, is the input hiccups that you’ll get. There are seemingly random moments where the game won’t respond to the controller when you’re trying to move. This happens fairly commonly after you use a dash attack or if you get knocked down by specific enemies. It’s by no means game-breaking but it doesn’t do much to counter the ‘unpolished’ argument here.
There are some extra modes and features that should theoretically have you coming back for more. For instance (as mentioned before), each Ranger has their own experience level to help progress their skill tree Players are able to return to the game and power up each Ranger’s techniques, skills, and levels individually..
There’s little point in doing this however as they all share the same moveset with cosmetic differences with the attacks. Granted, there are meters to show you how efficient each character is with unique stats (Arsenal, Martial Arts, etc.) but I tried out all of them and I couldn’t feel the difference.
There are a few modes that unlock when you complete the game. There’s a boss rush mode and a dojo where you can have lackluster fights between Rangers (without any background music for some reason). ‘Rita’s Tower’ rounds out the bunch as it has you fighting increasing amounts of enemies on each new floor. None of these new features really screamed replayability. There’s still the same issues with the lack of variance in the main game to make it compelling for more than an hour or two.
Musically, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle excels at the beginning. There’s all the energy of the iconic theme from the show. They obviously used that track as much as they could as well as adding some more rock/guitar-centric songs. It doesn’t take long however to realize that the soundtrack is pitifully small and repetitive.
Even the ‘Go, Go, Power Rangers’ theme isn’t done right. You first hear it in the menu screen but the chorus never comes. Instead there’s a mess of a medley that ruins the original. You only hear the sung part in the giant robot battle (The Megazord) with bosses. And even here the song sounds off, as it isn’t the original but a cover of it.
Speaking of boss fights, developer Bamtang tried to get creative with the formula and was incredibly off the mark. You usually fight your final opponent as the Rangers first. Then, as per the show tropes, Rita or Zed make the creature grow to giant size.
The second phase starts here with you taking control of the blaster heavy ‘battle mode’ of the Megazord. You control a crosshair with the control stick and blast the targets that randomly appear on the boss’ body. They get hurt, shoot a few slow moving energy balls in your direction (that can easily be shot out of the sky), and then rinse and repeat until the boss goes down.
When your giant robot finally gets to fight hand-to-hand in the last phase, the gameplay devolves completely. The most exciting part of the show is powered by a series of quicktime events. You’re given 3-5 buttons to push in order and when you do, you get to see stock animations of the Megazord beating down the boss. It’s as unsatisfying as it sounds.
Unfortunately this becomes a perfect example of why this isn’t a good Power Rangers game, or even a good beat-em-up. There are attempts to make this more than an arcade button masher, but most of them are half-baked. Everything gets stale by the halfway point of the game and parts that should be no-brainers are ruined by bad decisions. Pro-tip: if you’ve got a series that is known for its giant dinosaur robots, let the player actually control them!
Nostalgia doesn’t redeem this game either. The cameos and surprises from those original seasons of Power Rangers are severely lacking. For instance, Bulk and Skull only show up (briefly) twice throughout the game. There’s also voice samples used from the show that sound like they were taken off a VHS from the 90s.
Whether you’re a hardcore fan of the show, someone who watched the original series as a kid, or someone who’s excited for the new movie, I’d stay away from Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle. The Rangers deserve something that’s more than a cheap cash-in, but I doubt we’ll see anything like that anytime soon.