With a big budget reboot a few months away, it’s safe to say that the Power Rangers are officially back. Not that they ever really left, mind you. Despite the decreased awareness, Saban Entertainment’s franchise has continued to churn out new entries continuously since 1993. If you ask most, though, they’ll only be able to recall the original group of Teenagers with Attitude. With that in mind, it makes sense that Bandai Namco would turn to that iteration for Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle.
Loosely following the events of the original series, Power Rangers: Mega Battle is a brief version of the first two seasons. Bringing together the original five Rangers, plus the Green Ranger later on, up to four players can team-up in order to take down Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. The team will face off against familiar foes from the show, such as King Sphinx, Hatchasaurus, and most importantly, the magnificent Goldar. The plot of the game also fits in a very short version of the popular Green with Evil story. Throw in the requisite Bulk and Skull appearance, and you have a pretty broad take on the show.
The problem with this scattershot approach is that it doesn’t allow for the developer to bring in even more aspects of the television series. There’s none of the goofy charm/90’s cheesiness of the original seasons, which is especially noticeable in the Rangers themselves, who get little personality outside of the blossoming Kim/Tommy relationship. We barely even get the chance to properly feud with Rita, who is shuffled off mid-game, or Lord Zedd, who takes her place.
Also, where are the likes of frequent baddies like Squatt, Baboo or Scorpina? The story just quickly moves you from one static location to another, with almost no explanation for why. Mega Battle is advertised as being a love letter of sorts to Mighty Morphin, but the short length (my brother and I ran through the game in about 2 hours) means that a lot of the history of the show is simply left out.
While Chroma Squad did an admirable job of bringing Sentai action to a different genre, the Power Rangers are basically built for brawlers. As mentioned before, you have the option of choosing between the five original Rangers, each with their own stats. Red Ranger Jason is the strongest, while Pink Ranger Kimberly has the speed. Each Ranger can also use both their hand-to-hand weapons and blasters, although both are tied to meters, so you can’t spam them. If you’re familiar with other licensed beat ’em ups such as The Simpsons Game or X-Men, you’ll have a general idea of what to expect here.
Although far from the worst brawler I’ve played in recent memory, there are issues with the combat of Power Rangers: Mega Battle. For starters, there really isn’t any depth to the combat engine. Be prepared to mash the square button (on the PS4 anyway) until your hand falls off. At least the lack of challenge makes this lack of variety less egregious. The movement of the characters is also surprisingly stiff, particularly when it comes to sprinting. Sprinting is not only good for just quickly advancing, but it’s also necessary in order to defeat certain enemies while demorphed. Sometimes, despite how many times you input it, it just won’t work. Same for double jumping, but at least the amount of platforming sections to the game is kept to a minimum.
If the on-foot combat was merely boring, the Megazord battles are downright tragic. Who wouldn’t want to step into the massive shoes of the Megazord and face-off against a giant alien? Instead of even following the same template as the rest of the game, these large-scale face-offs are broken down into two parts. The first is done from a first-person perspective as you target different parts of your opponents body with laser blasts, while also also fending off return fire. Once that’s finished, you’re then thrust back into a 2D perspective for a series of quick-time events. Yes, the Zord battles, which are iconic for 90’s children, are concluded with a series of QTEs.
I’m sorry, but this is asinine. Even the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers game for the Super Nintendo had the decency to actually let you fight with the Megazord. That was over 20 years ago, and in all that time, the best we can get here is Flash-tier shooting segments and simplistic QTEs. Even the final boss, the big showdown with Serpentera, ends with a ridiculous series of timed button presses. I would have been alright with literally just about any other approach to these battles than the one we ended up with.
With the amount of characters for you to use in-game (the original five, Tommy, plus the replacement Rangers), I’m pleasantly surprised that Bandai Namco made them look close to their real-life counterparts. They’re far from perfect, and they kind of look like something from Newgrounds, but I appreciate the effort. The design for Rita more closely resembles Elizabeth Banks’ version, but Zedd, the Putties, and thankfully, Goldar look television show accurate. Less impressive are some of the minor characters, like a pilot who helps you out who looks wasted, and more importantly, the levels. There didn’t need to be a ton of effort put into where you fight (Ernie’s Juice Bar, Park, Moonbase), and yet I’m still disappointed with the finished product.
Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers isn’t really a bad game, as much as it is a mighty (HA!) disappointing one. I still believe that the franchise lends itself perfectly to gaming, but Bandai Namco was content to just churn out a bare-bones tie-in product. The gameplay rarely rises above mediocrity, and the barely-there storyline somehow does injustice to a kitschy-piece of 90’s nostalgia. Maybe if the reboot of the series does well in theaters, we’ll get another game, but for now, I have a feeling this is the best we’re gonna get.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Not even nostalgia can save Saban's Mighty Morphin: Power Rangers from feeling like a mediocre and rushed licensed screw-up.