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    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle

    Rating: 3.0 – Fair

    Mastodon!

    Power Rangers, a classic kids’ TV franchise that still retains its cult following today, went back to its roots with the feature-length movie reboot in 2017, and early that same year, fans were treated to an all-new downloadable beat-‘em-up that re-tells the story of the "teenagers with attitude" chosen to protect the world. From Bancai Namco Games, it’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Mega Battle for the PlayStation 4.

    Growing up and tuning into this show early in the morning as a youngster, I still find it enjoyable to experience a good old bout of nostalgia and revisit MMPR via my DVD collection, and some of the old-school video games that graced the major gaming consoles in the mid 1990s. One can look back at the heavily-chereographed fighting scenes, Halloween costume-style appearance of the episode’s main villains, and the constantly-recycled footage of the rangers’ giant robots coming together to form the Megazord â€?and laugh at how cheesy it looks now, but this still had my younger self in awe watching it, and admittedly there’s still an element of intrigue in it now.

    Once the Zeo series kicked in, my interest began to wane and I moved on to other things, yet in recent years I’ve gone back to watching through the original series again and acquiring a few MMPR video games. When MMPR Mega Battle was released as a digital downloadable from the PlayStation Store for the PS4 (it’s also available via Xbox Live for the Xbox One), I was somewhat interested and after finally getting round to playing it, I found that while a respectable effort that is quite faithful to the style of the original series, still feels a bit of an overall generic and somewhat unfulfilling beat-‘em-up experience.

    In the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and Super Nintendo era, these consoles had a few different Power Rangers games that were either standard fighters, or side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups that while usually nothing outstanding, were overall solid efforts that made decent use of the MMPR licence. Seeing as the show itself mostly involved hand-to-hand and weapon-based combat, as well as those Transformers-esque ‘Megazord-versus-overgrown monster’ battles that occurred at the episode’s climax, it made sense to go with gameplay genres that have combat as one of their main elements. It was usually quite satisfying to clobber down waves of Rita Repulsa’s putty grunts and test your skills out against one of the more memorable villains from the show who made it into the game as a boss character.

    Hence, MMPR Mega Battle plays it safe and follows that same old formula here, yet with the beat-‘em-up genre having witnessed something of a mini-revival with the Double Dragon IVs and Viewtiful Joes of the gaming world adding some interesting and innovative new ways to keep things fresh along with other tried and true elements, the bar has been substantially raised since the beat-‘em-up glory days of the early-to-late 90s. Sadly, MMPR Mega Battle, for me doesn’t quite do enough to really set it out from the pack as the overall gameplay style just feels almost as generic as it gets. Picking one of a handful of characters on offer, who evolve and learn new moves as they gain more experience through combat, while not getting much wrong here, still isn’t really anything new in the current day and age.

    The main game mode lets the player select one of the hero teen characters that represent one of the different colour-coded Power Rangers â€?Jason (Red), Trini (Yellow), Zack (Black), Kimberly (Pink), Billy (Blue), and in the same vein as the TV program, after meeting and adding him to the lineup, Tommy (Green). For a handful of pennies, an additional Morphinomenal DLC pack also allows you to select the Ranger lineup from the second and third season of the show â€?Rocky, Aisha, Adam, Kat, "less-nerdy-more-trendy" Billy and White Ranger Tommy. Any which character you go with, though, the game’s story remains the same â€?after discovering a strange yet powerful crystal during some training in the park, the teens suddenly witness their home city of Angel Grove demolished, and several mysterious-looking towers are set up around the district. The evil overlords Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd are keen on conquering the planet (of course!), and apparently the crystal is the key to their plan succeeding.

    When you’ve picked your Ranger(s) of choice (in the style of the old-school arcade brawlers, up to 4 players can play in the same game at a time), you set out through six different chapters, all of which are further divided up into three separate areas, that make up the story of the game. From defending the park and the mall to infiltrating the towers and escaping an alternate dimension, each stage follows the same standard outline of fighting wave after wave of the Putties; Rita’s dumb grunts who were often sent as the first wave of attacks against the Rangers as a warm-up before a stronger foe would come their way.

    Each character initially comes with only a handful of basic combat moves, though after you’ve defeated so many enemies to fill the character’s spirit meter, you can then morph into their Ranger form, which grants additional strength, their respective power weapon, and a projectile-firing blaster pistol (these have limited use and require a few seconds to recharge their energy). While the Putties are by far the most common enemy encountered throughout the main action-based stages, you do also come across some other common foes that are stronger and require a certain strategy to deal damage and defeat them (such as aerial attacks or use of power weapons to lower their defence).

    The one major drag with the fighting action is that is severely slows the pace of the level progression down; with multiple enemies appearing in a single wave that take a couple of minutes to dispatch, not to mention that when they are knocked down they take a few seconds to get back up, it really does get quite frustrating when you’re eager to just keep bashing on! Though you’ve got a few different moves like running attacks, ground and aerial-based combos and throws, it soon just starts to feel like a bog-standard, button-mashing beat-‘em-up that hardly picks up the excitement.

    When it comes to boss battles, these play out in a three-part format â€?the first in which you remain in the 2.5-dimensional action mode and have to study the boss character’s movement and attacking patterns and attack back at the right time when the boss is vulnerable. In typical fashion of an MMPR episode, Rita or Zedd then make the boss grow to a gargantuan size, leading to a Megazord battle, wherein a first-person view you use the left analog stick to aim the crosshairs and the Cross button to shoot highlighted weak spots in the boss’ armor, as well as shooting down any projectiles they fire back at you. This part is rather easy provided you’re firing your weapon quickly, and really not that much fun, sadly. After this comes a battle screen that looks similar to a 2D fighter with the Megazord and the villain on opposing sides of the screen and a pair of health meters. Disappointingly, these segments are laughably easy in that all you have to do is punch in a combination of action buttons that flash up on-screen within a short time limit; doing so correctly making the Megazord successfully land a hit, and the boss is defeated after around a half-a-dozen successful button combination entries.

    This pretty much sums up the whole experience in each of the six levels that make up the game, although there are a few other moments that occasionally mix things up as well. One particular example I quite enjoyed was one part involving having to surf around the screen to avoid oncoming rocks while you surge down a rapidly-flowing stream, all while fending off Putties who appear to attack while doing so; some stages also involve having to dodge hazards falling from above, and some in which you have to rush through an area as quickly as you possibly can in order to avoid a deadly laser beam chasing after you that destroys absolutely everything it touches and results in instant death should it catch you.

    So, the most fun you’re going to get out of the experience is from the main brawling action itself that makes up most of the game. Granted, beat-‘em-ups can usually have a degree of repetition to them when you’re fighting several waves of grunts at a single time, so I can’t really knock the game too much for this particular issue. Something else that does a little bit to keep the action somewhat fresh are the upgrades that can be purchased from Alpha 5, who is occasionally met during your travels. By defeating enough foes and gaining experience orbs left behind, your character levels up and gains a handful of ‘Ranger Coins’, that can be turned in to purchase new fighting moves, or increase your statistics or various energy meters.

    However, one area that could have made the game more interesting â€?which they didn’t capitalise on here â€?would have been some side-plots that were specific to certain characters. The story unfolds the same way throughout the game, whichever character you go with. Perhaps by playing as Zack, it would have been nice had you have to deal with the "Knasty Knight" who attacks prior to his birthday party; as Kimberly, escaping confinement in an alternate dimension inside a magical urn before helping the others defeat the Samurai Fan Man; or as Billy coming to the rescue of his date whom has been kidnapped at the hands of Madame Woe? With dozens of different, quirky villains they would encounter each week in the original TV show, I was disappointed that so many of them were missing from this game.

    Elsewhere, the game is at least very pleasant visually, the game going with a set of mostly colourful and vibrant, comic book-style cartoon graphics with plenty of smooth animations and neat looking effects when your attacks connect with your enemies. Some other familiar characters from the show make their appearance within the cut-scenes, such as the powerful wizard Zordon who grants the teens their powers, his robot assistant Alpha 5 (complete with that very grating ‘Ai ai ai ai ai’ quip), and Angel Grove dimwit bullies Bulk and Skull. Somewhat disappointingly, there’s little else by way of voice-overs for the characters as the dialogue is shown in the form of on-screen text beneath the character’s portrait in the style of a visual novel. With the cut-scenes of the characters morphing and bringing their Zords together it does somewhat capture the look and feel of an MMPR episode.

    The audio is decent enough with little to complain about as a lot of the background music from the show is here; besides a jazzed-up remix of the show’s opening music, the music that played while the teens were in the command centre, or Bulk and Skull’s trademark theme are also heard here, played note-for-note with the exact same instruments. High-energy light rock music accompanies the action-filled areas, and likewise it goes quieter when you enter a seemingly empty area prior to an enemy ambush. Sound effects of punches, kicks, weapons and projectiles hitting their target are both resounding and satisfying, too.

    A full playthrough of MMPR Mega Battle will take up at least a couple of hours of your time if you’re going it solo, and it does have a few challenging parts; some areas with numerous high-level monsters and a couple of lengthy boss battles may require the odd extra try. There are quite a few health refills to find by destroying certain props in a stage, though there can also be the odd time when there is none to be found when you’re most in need! For the completionists, there are some trophies to be earned for achieving such feats like purchasing all upgrades for a Ranger, beating the game with all characters, using a certain type of move a certain number of times, and even clearing stages and entire chapters without receiving any damage, so it will take several hours and playthroughs to get absolutely every achievement possible.

    With the story not being as deep as it could have potentially been and only a few different character skins within the Morphinomenal DLC pack, the extra money spent does little else to enhance the replayability and experience. There’s no form on online multiplayer either, and there are no additional side-quests or missions to play through outside of the main story; one additional unlockable mode known as Rita’s Tower is the only notable extra gameplay mode, but this is merely a gauntlet in which you advance through single screen floors and battle various enemies who grow in number and strength the further on you get; the mode ending when your life meter is depleted. Other than a trophy available for reaching the 50th round, there’s not much to get out of playing this mode when you’ve already cleared the main story.

    As a beat-‘em-up brawler, MMPR does at least get the gameplay right. The controls are simple to learn and understand, the hit detection works well enough, there are a range of locales to play your way through even if the enemies you encounter in each one don’t vary too much; there are moments of challenge and it can be a fun once-over when playing with other players. There’s no real major flaws with the combat system itself either; it’s just that it feels very repetitive â€?even for a beat-‘em-up â€?and the pace can slow down to a crawl when you’re having to clear several waves of enemies (that can also take a bit of time to ultimately defeat) just to advance a few steps further! For the price it goes for, I can only really recommend this for the hardcore MMPR fans and lovers of the old-school style brawler games. Overall this is a fair game and by no means the worst entry in the MMPR video game lineup, though it’s hardly going to take the gaming world by storm in the same kind of manner the MMPR TV show did for young viewers in the early 90s.

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