Saturday, September 25, 2010

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

Oh man, Power Rangers. Where do I start? If you grew up in the 90s and claim you never watched this show, you are a dirty rotten liar. And don't give me that "Well, I mean, I watched it, but I never actually liked it" garbage. Power Rangers was awesome back when it first came on, and everybody knows it. Then they added the Green Ranger, who could summon robotic dragons out of ponds using a flute, and it only got cooler. Eventually, the series reached that breaking point of popularity where they just couldn't stop themselves from making a movie. And that means they'd have to make a game based on that movie. But on the Game Boy? I'm definitely going to curb my enthusiasm.

Monochrome Rangers.The first problem is obvious just from the player select screen. You get to choose which Power Ranger you want to use for each stage, but you know how we tell the Power Rangers apart? Color. You know what the Game Boy can't display? Color. So unless you've memorized the details on the helmets of each Ranger, you don't really have a clue who you're choosing. And if you have memorized their helmet details, we have another problem entirely. If you look reallllllly closely, you can sort of see some boob contours on the two outer Rangers, which are indeed the females. But really, there had to be a better way than this, right?

Once you choose your Ranger, you choose which stage you want to play. There are six stages, and you can choose from five of these from the start of the game. The sixth can only be played after the first five have been completed. Each stage has a different boss at the end, though none of these but the last one have anything to do with the movie. Actually, for being a movie-based video game, Power Rangers is shockingly unrelated to the film. Not that I was expecting a scene-by-scene recounting or anything, but these levels are completely random! One stage has you riding mine carts and avoiding falling stalactites. One has you walking through empty buildings fighting laser-shooting robots as tall as your ankles. Don't recall that from the film.

Goop Soup.And not to keep harping on the Game Boy's color handicap, but what do you make of this situation? You go to the level whose boss appears to be some sort of giant mutant rat, and before long emerge from a door to find this. Where do you go? I'm standing on land, but I'm surrounded by what looks like bubbling lava. If only this were in color at least I'd have a better idea what I'm up against. So I try to figure out if there's something I'm missing. Maybe I can leap and grab onto those ladders to cross. No, that didn't work. Maybe if I go back through the same door I'll be in a different spot than I came from. Nope, no dice. Maybe I'm supposed to keep killing those infinitely-spawning satellite things that keep floating around, and something will happen. But you know what? By that point you are giving this game way too much credit. You just walk through the goop. Hell if I know what it is, but it doesn't hurt you. Nevermind that any other time I've seen anything that looks like that in any game, it's damaged if not instantly killed me. But how silly of me...these are the Power Rangers. They'll be fine.

The mechanics of the gameplay are just odd. I don't want to say they're bad, because they're honestly not, but they're definitely odd. Whenever you start a stage with whatever Ranger you chose (whether you knew which one you picked or not), you will be in their ninja outfits. You may recall that the movie introduced the whole Power Rangers Ninja crap. So you'll run around in your headbands and "ninja gear" initially. Enemies will keep coming at you, and you can punch and kick them into submission. Every couple guys you kill will fill one bar of "POWER." When the meter fills, you can press Select to strike a pose while a beam of light shoots down at you from heaven and bestows your armor on you. It will completely refill your life and you'll do double-damage the rest of the stage.

Certified BA.As you continue killing enemies, your power meter will get to full again. Now when you press Select, the coin for whatever ranger you have will flash on the screen while you pose, and everything around you will die. Even bosses will lose absurd amounts of life from the attack, so it makes sense to just save your power for them. This attack is also probably the first time you'll realize who you selected. "Oh, the Mastodon coin. I've been the Black Ranger this whole time!"

The only gaping issue with this system is that if you die before the boss of a level, you'll respawn in your weaker ninja garb. Depending on how close you were to the boss area, you might not have enough enemies to kill to get back your Ranger armor, which can be a nuisance. I mean, if you get to the boss with your armor, and then the boss beats you, you'll continue at the boss fight in your full armor again. But if you get there without the armor in the first place, you're just screwed. You have to either beat that guy at half strength or redo the whole stage. Can't you just give me my armor, please? It's the Power Rangers for crying out loud. I've a right to complain for even having to earn the suits in the first place.

Flying Putty.The enemies themselves are pretty standard and uninspired. Yes, we get it, there are putties in Power Rangers. They make odd noises, attack in groups, and tend to get the snot beat out of them. "Blade blasters up!" is probably the most frightening thing these guys have ever heard. But can we do better than this for the game? I'm not saying invent enemies completely, but some more variety in the putties would be nice. As it stands, the game features putties that walk toward you slowly, and putties that are somehow on jetpacks. That's about it. The other baddies are just laser turrets or bats. For an action game, it makes the combat very dull. I realize it can be hard to balance making the game challenging with making it play well and being faithful to the core material, but this was a pretty lackluster effort. You abandoned the whole "Stay true to the source" mantra when you chased me through a mine shaft with a giant tunneler, anyhow.

Now, with six selectable Rangers that have only the most minuscule visual differences, you'd hope they at least played uniquely. Well, yes and no. There are two "types" of Rangers here. The Red, White, and Blue Rangers all do high damage but are slow and less mobile, while the chicks and the Black Ranger (poor guy) are weak and take hits like wusses, but are quicker and can jump a good deal higher. The difference in damage dealt isn't really noticeable outside of boss fights, but the damage taken certainly is. So that means you'll usually want the stronger Rangers, yeah? You're more survivable, clear stuff quicker, can take down bosses more easily...

Physics Failings.Except that the boss battles are awful. A few of them, such as Goldar here, feature platforms above the floor. Only the weaker Rangers can jump high enough to land on these platforms. Or, as you can see, to hover off the side of the platform. No, that's okay game, you don't need functional programming. Just keep doing your thing. The boss is a moron, too. He'll just stand in place swinging his sword up and down, hoping you walk into it. Occasionally if you're across the screen he'll dash at you, or sometimes he'll teleport a few steps away, but mostly he'll just flail. And if you're above him, he can't hit you. Not to mention you can jump upward through that platform to land on it, so you can just drop down, kick him, jump back up, and repeat ad nauseam until he dies.

The technical flaws don't even end there. You can walk through the boss. You can stand in him, occupying the same space. And you won't take any damage. He'll stand there flailing wildly, trying to exorcise you from his bodily confines, but there is nothing he can do. Why is it that one of the safest spots to fight a boss in this game is inside the boss itself? Of course, you can't hit him from there either, so eventually someone has to move. Now again, you'd think if you're down there, you'll want the stronger Rangers. But there's an entire boss fight that is literally impossible without the higher jump. This big Tengu (vulture sort of thing) keeps flying in and out of the screen, and it's only vulnerable if you hit it on the way up or down. But the only way to do that is from the elevated platform, which you can't jump to if you're one of the stronger Rangers. Hope you didn't pick one of them to do this stage, because it looks like you're going to be dying very shortly.

Beg to differ.Eventually you'll get to the final stage, where you have to fight the first five bosses all over again with intermittent combat areas. At the end you'll have a showdown with the movie's primary villain, Ivan Ooze. He sits in a throne and flicks crap at you. Seriously. Defeating him reveals his second form (multiple forms for an end boss?! Preposterous!!), which is remarkably easy to kill. And at least here they do make sure you've got your armor for the task. You'll beat Ooze and he'll shatter into a bunch of pieces, after which the credits roll and whatever Ranger you beat the game with will say something completely unnecessary. It's not very exciting.

To be fair, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (The Game) really isn't terrible. It really isn't great either. In fact, it really isn't anything at all. It's an easy game, but if it were more difficult it probably wouldn't actually be any more fun to play. I mean, the Power Rangers were freaking sweet back when they hit the scene, but it's no surprise that the ceiling of quality on a Power Rangers video game would be pretty low. It's a game that suffices to waste some time, and you won't really regret playing it per se, but there are plenty of better titles to spend a few hours with. Ones that are in color.

Bottom Line: 10/20

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