Saturday, January 22, 2011

Game Review: Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers

Note: Box and cartridge art may vary.
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
  • Publisher: Sega
  • Developer: Banpresto
  • Platform/Release: Genesis, 1994
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Rarity/Cost: Common (US$2-10)
There's nothing else like the Power Rangers franchise.  Each series of this kids' action show is a partial adaptation of another series, Japan's Super Sentai.  Rather than a direct dub, they used fight scene footage from the Super Sentai shows, while more or less rebuilding the plots by shooting new footage.  The first and most memorable incarnation of the former, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, aired from 1993 to 1995 and was based on the 16th season of the latter, 1992's Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger.  While the heroic team of Zyuranger consisted of five tribal members from the time of dinosaurs, the Rangers from Mighty Morphin' were random teenagers skilled in martial arts and involved in community service.

With a property as hot in its day as Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, there were obviously a whole mess of video games made based on the show.  As a matter of fact, given the glut of consoles and handhelds at the time, there were five different titles bearing the exact name Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.  Some were good, like the versus-fighter for Game Gear.  Some were bad, like the interactive movie stylings of the Sega CD title.  But what about ones for the more popular consoles, like Sega Genesis?

This version, like the one for Game Gear, is a versus-fighter.  In the one-player story, you play as any one of the five (six after you unlock the Green Ranger) Power Rangers, who face off against the monsters created by villainess Rita Repulsa and her crew.  There are five stages (the enclosed instruction book incorrectly states that there are seven instead, which is true of the Game Gear port), each except the last consisting of one on-foot battle and one giant robot, or Zord battle.  Unlike in other fighting games, these fights aren't best-of-three: if you drain the enemy's life once, you move on.  And if you lose, you have unlimited continues, but doing so from a Zord fight takes you back to its corresponding regular fight.

Contrary to more popular fighting game series like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, this game only uses two buttons; one for light attacks and one for heavy attacks.  Given that the Genesis controllers have 3 or 6 action buttons, this feels like a huge waste of potential.  It makes me think that the Game Gear version was the original game and the Genesis version was the port.  Having only two options for basic attacks means you'll use them a lot less than the Rangers' and Zords' special attacks, and as a matter of fact, the CPU opponents seem to think the same way and tend to spam their specials.

A meter below each player's life bar builds up when the character takes damage; the higher up this meter is, the more damage specials do, but in practice it's not much of a difference.  Then again, some special attacks are far, far more effective than others.  For example, the Black Ranger's Spinning Axe attack will frequently land three hits in a row with no window between hits to block.  (SFII's Chun-Li and her thunder kicks would like to say hi.)  Even the Zord/monster fights are cheap: a good way to win is to play as the Megazord and land a string of heavy sword attacks, each knocking the opponent down.  If you can keep your timing perfect, it's possible to do this the entire length of the match for a flawless victory.
Special moves (and not much else) set the Rangers apart.
The special attacks for each ranger are built around the weapons they use occasionally in the show; i.e. the Red Ranger's sword, Black Ranger's axe, and Pink Ranger's bow.  All of them also have a weak laser gun attack, conveniently mapped to the same command (↓,↘,→,A or B) as the world famous Hadoken of Street Fighter fame.  It's a good thing their fighting styles are so different, because colors aside, it would otherwise be way hard for players who don't watch the show to tell them apart.  The sprites of all the Rangers are colour-swaps of each other, except the Pink Ranger's, since her costume is the only one with a skirt built in.  No, seriously, they all have the Red Ranger's helmet and everything!

The presentation tries,
but doesn't leave an impression.
Don't expect to be floored by the rest of the presentation, either.  In between bouts are cutscenes starring animated cutouts of the characters, which are honestly well-rendered, ignoring the washed-out colours.  The music is the typical bass-heavy fare which represents 95% of all the music from every Genesis game ever.  Yes, they did include Ron Wasserman's imfamous theme song, but being dragged through the Genesis's sound processor strips it of all its cheesy charm.  There are even occasional voice clips during the matches, but they sound nothing like the Rangers uttering them.  The Yellow Ranger's "Tiger Crash!" is especially cringe-inducing.

It's funny that the Rangers are based on dinosaurs, because this game plays and feels like a dinosaur compared to its fighting-game genre peers.  Despite having come out a couple of years after its competitors in the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series, it fails to live up to not only those standards but the standards of any other fighting game worth its salt.  Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers on the Sega Genesis, while certainly playable, is a bland and unbalanced mess.  If you own a Game Gear, on the other hand, you're much better off tracking down the version for that platform, because its big brother proves that what's acceptable on a handheld won't always fly for a full-fledged console.

Graphics: 2 morphers out of 5
Audio: 1 morpher out of 5
Control: 3 morphers out of 5
Design: 1 morpher out of 5
The Call: 40% (F)

1 comment:

  1. If you want a really good Mighty Morphin Power Rangers game, then play either one of the two Super Nintendo games, or the Genesis game based on the 1995 movie.