It's morphin time!
Power Rangers Megaforce is the latest iteration of the hit children’s television show that’s in its 20th year. Though the series has been a merchandising giant since its inception, its video game offerings have been relatively spare in both number and quality. The 3DS counterpart to Megaforce gives the series a plus one in the number column. Quality? Well…
Like many of its brethren, Power Rangers Megaforce is a side-scrolling action/platformer. The commands are appropriately simple – you jump with your “B” button, use your physical attack with “A”, use “Y” to whip out your blaster to target enemies from a distance, and “X” enables you to enter Ultra Mode for a brief stint (more on that in a bit). The circle pad is used to move your character in the four primary directions. For those so inclined, the D-pad can also be used to move the digital Rangers, though I found the circle pad to be more comfortable in my experience. Praise for Aspect Digital Entertainment is well-warranted here for not screwing up something as simple as making sure the button commands work as necessary throughout the game, because it’s something they’ve failed to excel at in the past.
In some regards Power Rangers Megaforce may be the most faithful game to the TV show in sheer concept. The player morphs into one of the five Megaforce Rangers (using the built-in camera to snap a photo of themselves – nice touch), but by using the touch screen or the “R” and “L” buttons can swap between any of the heroes while playing except for special circumstances where the player is locked into a specific Ranger for a minute or so, or when they’re controlling Robo Knight (one of the Rangers’ allies in the show) on a solo mission (of which there are about four or five). Teamwork is the most definitive lesson the show regularly offers, yet previous game titles have rarely (if ever) allowed the player to have access to each member of the team as they set out on a mission.
An inherent flaw in that positive, though, is it severely reduces the difficulty of the game. Each Ranger has his or her own respective health bar, so if the one you’re controlling is near death simply switching to another character will get you through the battle. Enemies drop health fairly regularly, and even in Hard mode the game offers little resistance to an average user. Even with a self-imposed limitation of never switching Rangers (except when demanded so during a unique event), I died only twice during the Ranger missions.
The more sour aspect to this reviewer regarding the incorporation of all five Rangers during most missions is how the differences are generally more visual than practical. Emma, the Pink Ranger, can jump higher than any of the other Rangers, and seems to be more susceptible to damage than her counterparts. Noah, the Blue Ranger, uses a weapon that emits a huge charge at the end of its combo (a successive mashing of the “A” button) rather than a more powerful slash. Those are the only discernable differences between the Rangers beyond their colors and weapon visuals, making player color preference the only real deciding factor in what Ranger they should play with beyond the rare instances Gia must be used to jump to a higher ledge out of everyone else’s range.
(Readers may be curious as to why Emma can jump so high and Gia, the Yellow Ranger, cannot. The main game of this title is a re-skinned version of Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger: Game de Kaburincho!! – say that fives times fast – a Japanese 3DS release that corresponds to the 2013 Super Sentai series. That series features just one female member on its team, explaining Gia’s inability to jump higher.)
The gameplay changes a bit during the Megazord battles, which occur at the end of every “episode”. Instead of mashing buttons to take out waves of enemies, you fight one huge villain mano-a-mano. You’re given three options, which can be executed using button presses or the touch screen: Defend, light attack or physical attack. Defend is self-explanatory, but it’s worth pointing out that a well-timed defensive move can parry into a counterattack at times. The light attack is a long-ranged beam of energy that your Zord charges up for two to three seconds that works better as a distance maneuver than at close range. The physical attack is your strongest move, and works only in close proximity. I was pleasantly surprised at the checkers-like (to say chess-like would be selling it to high) precision needed to successfully win a Megazord battle, as all three executions are typically needed to complete a fight. While the game lacks any true need for strategy elsewhere, the slight dosage here is pretty well-done.
Graphically the game doesn’t inspire one to heap praise, but it gets the job done. It mostly fails to impress during the actual gameplay, as there’s nothing visually that strikes the player except for some okay animation during Ranger and Megazord transformation sequences. The game looks its best during the player transformation scene (the morph is show-accurate) and cut scenes, when 2D impressions of the Rangers, allies and villains pop up to move the “story” along. On the subject of narrative, there’s an attempt at one but it’s more or less a drawn-out average Power Rangers episode, so take that as you will and play accordingly.
One of two Megazords you can pilot.
The addition of voice over to the cut scenes is a topic that deserves special mention. It’s uncommon for games of this ilk to receive anything in the way of voice acting, so for the developers to spring for voice acting on almost every bit of dialogue throughout the game is pretty impressive in and of itself. The only character who sounds really faithful to their show counterpart is Robo Knight – and he’s a robot with a synthesized voice – but the replacements are tolerable. The voice acting does take its toll during the missions, however, where the Rangers NEVER STOP offering advice or words of encouragement to the player. The teammate angle ought to be pushed, but man does it get grating. It’s not impossible to envision parents chucking their kid’s 3DS out the car window if the volume is cranked up on this game for more than two minutes. There are no settings to turn down the dialogue, either, so what sounds like a decent soundtrack really can’t be enjoyed.
As far as replayability goes, users are encouraged to complete missions more quickly or efficiently to earn a gold medal on each stage to earn a trophy. Collecting Gosei Medals will also earn trophies. These tasks are completionist-driven and don’t really offer anything beyond that. After the game is beaten the player unlocks the ability to play as the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, though this seems kind of half-assed. The character models are well-designed, but the developer didn't even bother to change the touch screen icons or incorporate a more appropriate animation during the morph or ultra attack sequence. Those are fanboy gripes, but would have been excellent touches to really drive the nostalgia home.
Use Power Rangers ACG cards to get stronger.
Perhaps the aspect that will drive fans to the product isn’t so much the game, but inclusion of a card scan feature that corresponds to the Power Rangers Action Card Game. Those cards all have bar codes, which unlock special content on the cartridge. Photo frames, classic scene images from episodes of the series and in-game power-ups are among these goodies. The first-print of the game comes with an exclusive promo card for this reason. I had a lot of difficulty scanning the cards due to lighting and without holding the 3DS in awkward, aided positions. Luckily, Power Rangers fandom contributor Fury Diamond has compiled a list of each card that works with the game, what it unlocks and has provided a scan of each card whose digital image can be recognized by the 3DS. You can access all of that here.
Beat the game and unlock classic MMPR skins.