Despite a clumsy, ham-fisted title, Saban’s Power Rangers is every bit a throwback to the classic side-scrolling Streets of Rage clones I used to play as a youth. My cherished cartridge for Natsume’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers got more of a workout than anything else I played on my Super Nintendo. It was a culmination of all I loved as a kid. Leading these “kids with attitude” not as the standard fan favourite Jason Lee Scott, but as the bespectacled Billy Cranston. Because who doesn’t value science over being hip and jive or whatever kids were all about in the early nineties?
Funnily enough, Saban’s Power Rangers isn’t a tie-in or companion title to the Lionsgate film reboot coming out in just a couple of months time.
Though the overarching themes and story beats will likely be similar, this game is more or less a reimagining of the television series that millennials were glued to as kids. Zordon, an all-powerful disembodied head, not unlike Oz the Great and Powerful, cherry picks five Angel Grove “kids with attitude” before bestowing them with coins, spilling over with powers derived from the great dinosaurs that once roamed the globe.
It’s a campy, cringe-filled and rushed coming of age story told over the course of the game’s six chapters. Villain mainstays Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd keep the Rangers busy throughout as Jason and the gang exhaust their martial artistry before taking the fight to Rita’s titanic monsters in the infamous Megazord, Saban’s elegant answer to the Transformers, which were wildly popular in the 80s. Obviously long before Michael Bay’s fingerprints muddied the world’s view of the once beloved robots in disguise.
While my memories of the beat ’em ups of old are rather fond, it’s not a genre that brings a whole lot to the table. You walk leisurely to the right, beating the living suitcase out of anything that dares stand in your way. Tactics don’t play a large part as mere button mashing will, for the most part, get the job done.
As you level up, you’re able to unlock extra techniques for your preferred Ranger, each adding to an already extensive arsenal. You do this by checking in with Alpha-5 who, for some reason, is conveniently posted up on the battleground, peppered throughout each of the game’s stages. While a few of the game’s enemy variants gave me headaches at first, it wasn’t long before I had unlocked enough mega powers to just blow through the penultimate stages of the game. The final stages, hilariously, wound up being easier than the introductory stages where I was a mere, puny human.
And the boss battles are even simpler. The patterns are so predictably basic, you could almost sleep through them. Even the game’s final, colossal struggle against Zedd is laughably pedestrian. Stepping back into the sneakers of the Angel Grove teens may be cool at first, it soon wears off a couple of stages after the game refuses to evolve beyond its initial, uninspired form.
As she used to in the series, Rita wills her monster to grow into a colossal form to close out the chapter. This sees you main the Megazord in a quick tussle that, while lacking in difficulty, is bad ass. A few frames show the Megazord piecing itself together as the “Go Go, Power Rangers” tune plays out in glorious, nostalgic fashion. Though a pang of embarrassment lingered beneath the surface, I couldn’t wipe the shit-eating grin off of my face as the Megazord, after the careful execution of a few quick-time events, put down Rita’s monstrous pets.
Once you’re finished with the story mode, a plethora of other modes will unlock including the likes of Boss Rush and a wave-based mode called Rita’s Tower. I tried the latter for ten minutes before my eyes glazed over. Being that it strips the game back to its purest form of just punching up Rita’s crooks, it exposes the game as the lacklustre, imperfect brawler it really is. It’s simplistic in a frustrating way.
Mega Battle, from the get-go, struck me as a game constructed on a smaller than usual budget. Short scenes that bookend chapters have little to no animation, nor voice performance beyond the odd grunt or notable catch phrase. The character sprites filled me with a pang of nostalgia to see my old favourites touched up as exaggerated, big-headed cartoon characters. As cool as some of the set pieces can be at the game’s not-so-lofty best, the fact that scene animation is recycled inside the span of a three-hour game is disappointing, to say the least.
The game’s six stages range from the streets of Angel Grove to the Dark Dimension to one of Lord Zedd’s phallic towers which, beyond diminishing the Rangers’ power gems, served little to no purpose from what I could tell. They might have been gateways or something, but I can’t say I cared much one way or another.
The signature “Go, Go” theme is present in all of its polyphonic glory and the soundtrack beyond it rings true to what you’d expect in a Power Rangers game. It’s unadulterated electro-pop pouring through the speakers, the crack of the snare so often lining up with each blow to one of Rita’s puttie-patrol. There’s a minimalist approach in the remainder of the sound design with all of the comical whacks and grunts you’d expect from a beat ’em up.
I consider myself a pretty big fan of those Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. It was everything to me when I was a kid and it does sadden my inner child to have played this game. It’ll appeal to some that are new to the franchise who may want to tune out and just wallop on endless, nameless clay men for a few hours but, as a long-time fan, I found only disappointment with rare sprinklings of flair.
Go, go buy something else with your twenty dollars.
The PS4 version of this game was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.