The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers were a huge early ’90s phenomenon. The show took a somewhat strange concept and turned it into something that every kid was at least aware of — even if they weren’t a huge fan of it. The blend of martial arts and giant robot battles worked, while cheesy acting added a bit of charm. The concept was perfect for action figures, all manner of toys, and of course, gaming as well. The SNES games generally gave you beat-em-up action, while the Genesis ones went for one-on-one fighting and then a brawler style later on.
None of the 16-bit games really captured what made the show work – the Game Gear games, ironically enough, did. They gave you fast action, shockingly good graphics for 8-bit hardware and combined fighting with great soundtracks to deliver the best MMPR experience for gaming fans. With so much time passing between now and then, the MMPR goldmine hasn’t really been used much since then. Fortunately, with the reboot film coming out, we’re getting a new game to enjoy that offers up beat-em-up action with the original cast — but does it top what has come before?
Saban’s Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Mega Battle retells the franchise’s origin story and uses a mix of super deformed and comic book art to get around not using the live-action show’s cast — with varying degrees of success. The core game is a single or multi-player brawler with a few different gameplay elements thrown into the mix. Most of your time will be spent punching, kicking, and slashing away at a slew of putty patrol goons. Slightly tougher enemies join the fray from time to time, and you may wind up meeting your demise due to the sheer numbers game being against you.
Unlike most brawlers over the past 25+ years, Mega Battle lacks a proper lives system. You can die, but doing so will send you back to the beginning of the stage — which can lead to quite a bit of aggravation since stages are fairly long. They are split into a few brawling sections and then a boss battle before finally breaking into a zord battle. The usual boss battles involve you facing a big monster and then zapping it with your crosshairs in a few key areas — and that’s it. There’s not much to them, but there is at least some skill involved.
Zord battles are similarly odd because while you have two giant robots going to war, you’d think these should be incredibly exciting – but instead wind up being a series of button combinations. They are among the easiest battles you’ll ever encounter and that seems so odd — in theory, a boss battle should be difficult. Here, they’re a total pushover and offer up no challenge whatsoever.
Mega Battle does feature a leveling up system, but it’s fairly thin. You can upgrade every one of the six playable characters, but you won’t need to upgrade much of their core stats beyond maybe health and defense. Every character has different stats, but everyone’s moveset remains a bit too lean. Despite throws and attacks to a grounded opponent being a part of the show, they aren’t present here in the game. This leaves you with jumping attacks, standing attacks, a couple of running attacks, and combos to use throughout the entire game.
Monotony can set in fairly quickly, and even with small diversions like hostage rescuing thrown in to make you feel like you’re doing more, you really aren’t. Even doing that just involves beating up the same few enemies over and over — just in a much smaller area. The lack of attack variety hurts the game even in its earliest stages and makes extended play sessions a bit of a slog. The best way to play the game is to just do it in half hour chunks where you run through a whole stage and then take a break. This isn’t a plot-heavy game, so you’re not running any risk of feeling lost coming back to it.
Mega Battle may not be the most varied brawler ever, but it does at least play fairly well. The control layout is nice, although the use of the right stick for rolling generally leads to using a twin-stick setup to control. The button combinations for attacks generally feel more natural using a d-pad, so alternating between a d-pad and left stick to move is a bit awkward. Double-tapping to dash is certainly a lot faster using the d-pad, while rolling out of the way is something you’ll need to do when you’re facing a horde of enemies all at once. The controls are fairly responsive, but the lack of detailed shadows can make it tough to judge your jumps.
While Mega Battle‘s brawling nature is well-suited for multiplayer, only local multiplayer is offered up. This is a shame since it’s going to be harder to for older players who grew up on the show to find others who actually want to play — and if they are old enough to remember that era of gaming, they’ll also remember that most high-end brawlers of that time were far more polished than this is. Online multiplayer would have given this game a bit more life to it. As it stands, when you beat the game, you get a glorified horde mode to get through and that’s it — there’s a major lack of content here that hurts the overall experience.
Visually, Mega Battle‘s cartoony style works more than it doesn’t. The bright colors fit in nicely with the show, but some of the color choices and especially character proportions just seem odd. The big headed look on everyone is strange and slightly off-putting, while Rita Repulsa’s ghostly-white appearance is simply strange. She had a fairly dark complexion on the show and is as pale as could be here. It’s not altogether bad because at least the choices made are striking and memorable, but it doesn’t seem very true to the source material. Character animation is smooth and the environments are reasonably detailed – but some parts of it, like bushes, can obscure your characters from time to time.
Mega Battle’s sound design may be its strongest point. While many parts of the original show haven’t aged well, its soundtrack has. Ron Wasserman did an incredible job with the show’s score, and many of the songs have been remixed wonderfully for Mega Battle. They’re a bit more chiptune-sounding and they work very well. Just like in the show, the music gets your blood pumping and that is definitely a plus given how you do sometimes need additional motivation to get through the monotony. Archival voice clips have been taken from the show and clash a bit with the in-game audio because of how low-quality they sound by comparison, but they do add a bit of authenticity to things as well.
Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Mega Battle is a love letter to both the show and beat-em-ups that falls short of reaching its goals. The franchise’s earliest games were largely better than this, and while this does scratch a nostalgia itch to some degree, it isn’t a satisfying gaming experience. Movesets are far too lean and there are too few enemies to keep the action interesting for very long. Dedicated fans of the show may want to check it out, but everyone else can safely skip it.