One of the greatest virtues of the 1990’s was the upsurge of entertainment which emanated from Asia. It was the decade where Jackie Chan leapt from stateside obscurity to stardom with films like Rumble in the Bronx and Police Story 3: Super Cop, while manga and anime mushroomed in popularity. Specifically, 1993 ushered in the inaugural season of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, a brilliant synthesis of the Japanese tokusatsu series, Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger spliced together with new footage of American actors. The byproduct proved to be a colossal success, prompting a two decade long legacy for revolving teams of ‘teenagers with attitude’ taking on haunting villains like Rita Repulsa, Ransik, and Lord Zedd.
For the series’ twentieth anniversary, Saban Entertainment reacquired IP rights from Disney, releasing Power Rangers MegaForce to a new generation of fans. In execution, the latest adaptation doesn’t stray far from the blueprint of the series- this time providing a pentad of cheerful Power Rangers battling an armada of alien attackers called the Warstar. Beyond characters having new weapons and new-fangled MechaZords, characters also have another crucial capacity: inserting power cards into their Gosei morphers grants access to special attacks and powers. Unsurprisingly, the recent release of Saban’s Power Rangers MegaForce for the Nintendo 3DS replicates this element, allowing players to scan bar-coded cards for unlockables. Although it’s a concept that certainly has potential, MegaForce’s underlying gameplay isn’t enjoyable or varied enough to generate an interest in these supplementals.
Booting up the game for the first time steers players toward MegaForce’s main menu, where a majority of options are initially locked away. Selecting the game’s Stage Select component commences a lengthy but invariable campaign. Sessions start with players using the 3DS’s camera to morph their face onto one of the five Rangers- giving the selected character a minor ability bonus. Like the game’s collectable card component, it’s a well-intentioned idea that’s hindered by the limitations of the hardware. With ample lighting and an extremely long reach, a decent snap shot can be taken. Yet, in lower light levels, pictures become a pixelated mess. Attempting to read cards in anything but sunny environments can be frustrating- and even in seemingly ideal lighting conditions, players might have to manipulate the orientation of the 3DS or card.
Once players are able to convince the portable to recognize a bar code, an indulging set of embellishments are unlocked. Beyond a collection of screen grabs from Power Rangers history, there are also a set of photo frames, allowing owners to superimpose their likeness onto Ranger-themed shots. In execution, MegaForce’s amenities nearly outweigh the core game. From unlocking the original Might Morphin team for campaign play, a collection of forty trophies to chase after, and a handful of bonus stages, the cartridge strives to provide long-term appeal.
However, Power Rangers MegaForce’s play mechanics aren’t going to keep gamers interested for the long haul. Initially, the game’s combat seems innocuous, permitting players to use melee and ranged attacks to surmount leagues of loogies. Each of the five protagonists has a unique weapon and talent, such as the Blue Ranger’s devastating Shark Bowgun or the Pink Rangers’ ability to jump higher. Recalling the tag system used by fighters such as Marvel vs. Capcom, gamers use the 3DS’s shoulder button to cycle through their combatants, while resting Rangers slowing regenerate health. Megazord fights even mix things up- as players must shift between a defensive stance as well as using strong and normal attacks to subdue these foes. Yet before long, the battles become increasingly populated which reveals a number of flaws. Slowdown is evident when more than four loogies are on screen. Opponents which toss projectiles from elevated positions have the tendency to lock players into hit animations. Ranged attacks aren’t well integrated into play. While shots can take down frozen enemies which wait patiently on the screen border, they’re almost impractical against foes which like to rush players.
Worse, there’s not a lot of diversity in gameplay. Missions in each stage task players with accomplishing four reoccurring tasks- from clearing out loogies, surviving for sixty seconds, picking up Gosei medals, or capturing a Power Card. After only a handful of levels, gamers will have seen most of what MegaForce has to offer; relaying on the tite’s unsophisticated background graphics is one of the few ways to know that you’re making progress. While the game’s mostly 2D backdrops are spartan, they demonstrate more diversity that that game’s voice over. Every few seconds, one of the recuperating Rangers chimes in with either an affirmation or blatant observation. Regretfully, the only way to mute these interjections is by turning the 3DS’s sound down- the game lacks the ability to customize the sound mix.
Games designed for a younger demographic often get skewered by reviewers with more mature sensibilities. This wasn’t the case with Saban’s Power Rangers MegaForce. I would have certainly appreciated a game which let me morph into a skintight suit and satisfyingly surmount a swarm of insectoid foes. But, MegaForce’s fisticuffs lack a fundamental level of polish and nuance. Likely, players will button mash their way through the title, watching stiffly animated protagonists pummel armies of mindless adversaries. That approach might have worked during the ‘90s, but given today’s standards, MegaForce is poised to peeve.