Fun 20th anniversary content; card scanning; Power Rangers database, fully-voiced dialogue; Megazord Battles and Power Cards help break some of the monotony
Dull environments; stiff animations; generic combat; some Rangers less fun to use than others; voice acting becomes nonsensical and repetitive outside of cutscenes
I did a double-take when I read that Power Rangers is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. 20 years! It was with a heavy, aging heart that I read this news, as the Power Rangers were a mainstay of my childhood (Green Ranger for life!) and I honestly couldn’t believe that much time has passed. Regardless, Namco Bandai’s newest entry in the series, Saban’s Power Rangers Megaforce, is an ambitious title that is part anniversary celebration, part 3D brawler that never quite hits the mark. While enjoyable in some aspects, Power Rangers is held back by lackluster controls, presentation, and voice acting that make the game more of a grind than it should be.
Power Rangers is held back first and foremost by its uninspired combat. Players choose between one of the five Rangers at the beginning of every stage, with each character having a different movement speed and weapon for attacking. All the Rangers utilize the same light, heavy, and special attacks, but for some reason the Blue and Pink Rangers are bracingly slow compared to their teammates, to the point of not being worth selecting. This becomes particularly frustrating during battles when the player is forced to switch to the next available Ranger. Power Rangers loves to send waves of enemies at the player in timed survival matches, but these brawls can get frustrating when all the player has is the Blue Ranger’s tepid laser blasts to take them all out. Why developer Aspect Digital Entertainment made this decision is confusing, and more than a little frustrating.
Despite these shortcomings, combat remains serviceable. Power Rangers is like a lot of other, similar brawlers in that most threats are easily taken care of by mashing on the heavy attack button. The game frequently pits up to ten Loogies at a time against the player, and it can be satisfying sending them flying back to disintegrate. Spotty hit detection mars the action, sadly, and though movement in the game is 360 degrees, attacks only direct to the left or right. This restrictive offensive will often leave the player defenseless, swinging at nothing in a particular direction while enemies approach from the opposite side. The problem isn’t constant, but it creeps up frequently enough to make some fights needlessly tough.
The developers did make commendable use of the touch screen for activating the Power Rangers’ signature Power Cards, which grant a number of abilities to the player during gameplay. Tapping the screen allows access to different elemental abilities, which can be used for fighting and solving basic puzzles in the game environment. The fire card, for example, can shoot out a stream of flames to melt walls of ice blocking the Rangers’ path or incinerate incoming Loogies. There are also boss battles where the player gets to pilot the iconic Megazord, where use of the touch screen delivers powerful blows to the enemy. While not wildly innovative, both add welcome variety to an otherwise by-the-numbers beat ’em up game.
Graphically, Power Rangers disappoints during actual gameplay, but is decent in all other modes. Each individual Ranger looks like they should and uses their unique weapons from the show, which is good in a licensed game as it adds a feeling of authenticity. Unfortunately, though the Rangers appear the part, they’re stiffly animated, and coupled with generic environments and muted colors, gameplay won’t be keeping many eyes glued to the screen. Considering the franchise is known for over-the-top enemies and fight sequences, Power Rangers is surprisingly lifeless. The game does sport full voice acting, but outside of the cutscenes, it’s murderous on the ears. Over the course of each stage, every moment is punctuated by an endless stream of commentary from the Rangers. Literally. Every. Moment. Not only is the chatter constant, in many cases it’s outright nonsensical. Here are a couple of gems I was treated to over and over:
Red Ranger: “I think I hear birds!”
Blue Ranger: “Where are we, anyway?”
Pink Ranger: “Break it open!”
It’s admirable that Aspect Digital went through the trouble of including all this voice work, especially considering younger fans will love hearing their favorite Rangers talking back and forth, but the repetition and non sequiturs will drive even the most ardent fan insane. Fortunately, cutscenes fare much better in terms of the dialogue and visuals. Every line is spoken aloud, and the images of the Rangers and their enemies are all scanned in straight from the TV show. The scenes are static, but the use of 3D gives them some pop that they otherwise would be lacking. Speaking of 3D, though Power Rangers touts the feature, it’s primarily used in the bonus content and additional features, but never during actual gameplay. Admittedly, knowing young kids are the primary audience here makes it sensible to keep 3D limited, but with it so prevalent elsewhere in the game, the intent behind the omission becomes equivocal.
The remaining content in Power Rangers is of a better, if less exciting, quality. Anyone who buys a new copy of Power Rangers receives a limited edition Power Rangers Action Card Game card, which can be used in the game’s Card Scan mode. Apparently, any of the other cards in the series can be scanned into Power Rangers, too, which creates a nice continuity between the card game, the video game, and the toys. The Rangerpedia offers a small database of information about the Rangers and their enemies. Classic Scenes is a series of pictures of the Rangers from the TV show. Finally, there are two photograph options in the game. One allows players to take a picture of their head and upper body that is used to show them transforming into a Power Ranger, while the other is a batch of Power Rangers-themed photo frames. These additional features are fun for diehard Power Rangers fans, but will do little to increase the game’s appeal to everyone else.
Power Rangers is all over the place in terms of gameplay and presentation, and thus suffers accordingly. While the game does its best to create a faithful reproduction of the TV show and honor the franchise’s 20 year history, Power Rangers ultimately falls short of delivering a consistently compelling experience. With simplistic combat, bland graphics, and grating voice acting, the core campaign’s gameplay is mildly engaging. The remaining bonus content and features will please Power Rangers fans, but it won’t be enough for everyone else to forgive the overall mediocrity of the game. Consider Power Rangers for a younger or dedicated franchise fan; there are better brawlers to be found elsewhere.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.