For a time in the 1990s, the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were big. Merchandise was everywhere, the series ended up getting a season premiere on prime time (a big feat, considering this was a weekday afternoon show), and there was even a theatrical movie that served as a transition between seasons two and three. Over 20 years later, the series is still going, and while it isn't a cultural phenomenon anymore, it's still big enough that a cinematic reboot is set to arrive near the end of March. Trying to capitalize on that newfound wave of nostalgia is Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle, and while it isn't as abysmal as many of the recent Power Rangers handheld titles, it's still pretty bad.
Based on the first two seasons of the original show, the game tells a very truncated version of the major story arcs. There's everything from the birth of the rangers to the initial appearance of Tommy and Lord Zedd's arrival. Don't expect the game to go over too many of the plot points, though. You need to be a fan to have any idea of what's going on, and with some cut scenes merely showing people coming in and leaving without any words or actions, those who want to get into the story via the game will be severely disappointed.
As you would expect, Mega Battle closely follows the standard beat-'em-up formula. Playing as a regular teenager, you have a decent number of moves that can be used against your enemies. You have a basic quick attack combo, a jump kick, a block and a more useful dodge attack. It all works quite well, and you can remain a teenager if you want to challenge yourself in the campaign. Gain enough power through beating up putties and tengu and the like, and you'll get the chance to transform into your chosen power ranger, which automatically affords you more and faster attacks. You also gain access to a stronger attack via your weapon and a laser blast, which works fine from a distance but requires energy to refill.
Whether as a regular teen or a ranger, you can immediately tell that the fighting feels off. Despite what the animations suggest, you need to get in rather close to your enemy before your hits land. It doesn't help that all of the attacks that land will move you forward just a bit, so there's a good chance you'll break your own attack combo. The combat system also feels like it's lacking some depth, since your quick combo is always your best attack. To be fair, the game tries to spice up the fighting by giving you the ability to level up for more moves and buffs. Meanwhile, only the putties succumb to your basic attack combos, so you'll have to put some thought into finding the appropriate attack to open up your enemies for more punishment.
Interestingly, Mega Battle seems to be more balanced for co-op rather than solo play. When playing the game alone, it seems to go on for a while since even the most basic enemies take a ton of hits before they go down. That doesn't help when you need to fight more of them on-screen, and death means you have to restart the level. Co-op, on the other hand, feels more manageable. The enemy count increases, but it feels much easier than what you dealt with while going solo, even though enemies still take the same number of hits to go down. There's also the fact that you can revive a fallen partner, so it's less of a chore to get through the game's six chapters.
Boss fights are always the most interesting part of a brawler, and things start off well in this regard. The game always has these in three fight stages, with the first stage requiring you to deal with the enemy in your ranger form for a standard brawl. Pattern recognition is key, but the fights aren't overly difficult and can be fun when compared to the normal skirmishes. From there, the second phase has you jumping into your respective zords and shooting at the giant boss in tank mode. The lack of auto-firing via holding down a button can get tiresome, but the whole thing is pretty easy since you only have to shoot the designated weak spots and projectile fire until the enemy's energy meter drops.
The final phase is where things fall apart, as you go into upright Megazord mode for a full-on final brawl with the boss. Those who have watched any incarnation of the show know that this is usually the episode highlight, and while the fights look flashy, all you're really doing is hitting buttons Quick Time Event-style before an attack is seen. As the level's climax, this method of boss fighting is a major letdown that makes the prior fights more of a grind since there's no exciting payoff.
Once you finish up the campaign, you have three other modes. Angel Grove's Dojo is the versus mode, so all four players can get into a free-for-all battle. It goes about as well as you'd expect in that, like other brawlers that attempt to do this, the mode isn't fun beyond a quick play or two. Boss Rush has you going from one boss fight to another in quick succession, while Rita's Tower is an endless mode to see how long you can survive. Both modes are fine additions, since you can't go through the campaign again with different difficulty levels.
When commenting on the graphics, one thing that can't be overlooked is the fact that this looks like a Flash game from top to bottom. The bright colors are mixed in with stiff animations that, while expressive, look like something you'd find more on a cartoon website. If you can get over that, you'll find that the art style for the rangers and enemies resembles their real-life counterparts, while some of the major ones, like Rita, look off. It all looks fine, especially the flashier Megazord fights, but the game suffers from a periodic one-second pause that throws off the flow of the fight.
At first, the audio seems to get everything right. The music, while not the original tracks from the show, takes great inspiration from it and does a good job of making the action move along. They've also sourced voice clips from the series to make the game feel more authentic; it works since the audio clips sound clean. From there, things start to go wrong. There are long sections where no music is heard, and the eerie silence makes the action feel dull. The selected voice clips are very short, so cut scenes sometimes start with one spoken word followed by more silence as reading takes over. Then there are the sound effects, which are also pretty hit-and-miss. The knockdown blows given to enemies sound fine, but other ones sound like blocked hits. To seasoned beat-'em-up fans, that sound effect coupled with the hits actually going through creates a weird disconnect that makes you feel like you're winning even though you sense that you aren't doing any damage.
Ultimately, Saban's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle is lacking in so many ways. The basic combat system lacks polish, and boss fights look cool but are boring to actually play. The presentation also feels unfinished, with missing bouts of audio and a pause that occurs at inopportune times rather often. It gets the modes right, and the presence of local co-op is appreciated, but none of that matters when the basics aren't up to snuff. It might be fine for young kids, but fans who are looking for a throwback to their SNES/Genesis days would be better served by digging up those titles instead.
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