NEW YORK — Like a lot of people my age, I have a distinct memory of coming home after school each day and rushing to the TV to tune into Power Rangers. Something about the combination of martial arts, goofy villains and mild continuity proved irresistible to our young psyches, and made a lasting impression. If you’re psyched for the new movie — or just want a healthy dose of nostalgia — Power Rangers: Mega Battle delivers a karate kick of ‘90s beat-‘em-up action.
I got to go hands-on with Power Rangers: Mega Battle at New York Comic Con 2016, and I was actually surprised that it got so little fanfare compared to the other games on the floor. The game is a gorgeous, comic-book style brawler for two players that seems to perfectly capture the campy earnestness and over-the-top action of the early Power Rangers franchise.
The setup is extremely simple: Villainess Rita Repulsa has summoned a bunch of monsters, and it’s up to the Power Rangers to put them down. Whether there will be a moral of the week or not remains to be seen, but otherwise, it’s a familiar premise. More importantly, it gives the Rangers an excuse to punch, kick and zap a small army of Putty Patrollers and more powerful foes into submission.
I took control of Black Ranger, while another press member grabbed the Red Ranger. At the risk of getting too deep into Power Rangers history, the gameplay is extremely reminiscent of Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie for the Super Nintendo. (This is probably not an accident; that was easily one of the better video game tie-ins from the early days of the series.) You control a Ranger in street clothes, moving across side-scrolling levels. Enemies assault you from all sides; once you beat them all up, you can continue onto the next screen.
You start off in street clothes, capable only of rudimentary punches and kicks. Morphing into a Power Ranger gives you access to weapons and special attacks, although it also restores your health, making the decision to morph a little more strategic. Toward the end of the level, which was a typical Angel Grove downtown area, we squared off against Rita’s Black Knight, which proved a much tougher fight. There wasn’t much to the demo beyond that. For better or worse, Mega Battle keeps things simple.
As the game progresses, players will supposedly be able to upgrade Ranger abilities, as well as take control of the iconic Megazord robot in order to do battle with gigantic foes. Upgrading Rangers could provide a bit of replay value, as each Ranger utilizes a somewhat different weapon and fighting style.
While Power Rangers: Mega Battle isn’t deep enough to be the next big thing in licensed gaming, it looks like a pleasant way for a few ‘90s kids to kill an afternoon or two — not unlike the live-action cartoon that inspired it. The game will be out in early 2017.