Okay, no messing around now, no introductory anecdote, no time for a history lesson: There is a new Power Rangers game out, and it’s not actually that bad.
Go, go, Power Rangers!
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is the latest game based around teenagers gaining the ability to kick arse, and one that acts as a celebration of that franchise, taking inspiration from many of the various guises that the Power Rangers have donned over the years; from the earliest iteration in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to more recent versions such as Power Rangers S.P.D. and Power Rangers Super Megaforce.
Gameplay is a 3-on-3 beat ‘em up situation, with the ability to bring teammates in for a brief flurry of attacks or switch them in for a longer stint if your primary character is looking worse for wear. A battle is won by defeating all three members of the opposing team. It’s all very standard ‘been there, done that’ but it does mean the fights run for a good length of time without overstaying their welcome, and are never one of those gone in a flash affairs that can occur in more traditional 1-on-1 brawls.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid features all the standard modes you would expect for a beat ‘em up. Arcade is the main mode, but there is also local Versus multiplayer, and both ranked and casual online multiplayer. For those wishing to brush up their skills before heading online or to the Arcade mode, there is a training mode that goes over the basics.
Arcade mode is where you will spend the majority of your time and runs through eight rounds of increasingly difficult teams to fight against. In terms of a story – once you hit the sixth round – you are introduced to a couple of lines of dialogue offering some narrative, but it never really explains why the Power Rangers are pitted against each other. Then again, who doesn’t want to see Kimberley decimate Jason and Tommy?
It also doesn’t explain why you seem to end up fighting against the same characters over and over again. It could always have been argued that the Power Rangers TV series lacked any real, meaningful plot, but I think even the diehard fans will be left pondering what is going on here.
At launch, there are nine characters to choose from across the Power Rangers spectrum, but with a weighting on the original series’ cast ie. the ones you are likely to remember. Sadly, this isn’t really a large enough roster, especially when you consider the game’s roadmap includes Season Passes that include additional characters and skins for existing characters. The base game is £16.74, and the first Season Pass is almost the same price at £12.49. This means the game comes across as a bit of a cash grab.
Each character does come with their own unique moveset, in the form of light, medium and heavy attacks. These can be combined with a jump for high attacks, or a crouch for lower attacks. Shoulder buttons can call in reinforcements from other team members for a brief flurry, or a double-tap brings them in permanently. But these attacks feel limited in that they cannot be chained together or combo’d, like every other fighting game from the past 20+ years. Again, this feels limited.
Megazords also make an appearance, in a fashion. These can be summoned once per battle and are able to unleash attacks from way above the battlefield, so much so that you only see a fraction of them on screen. This obviously indicates their size and power but it is once again disappointing that we cannot see a full model obliterating the screen.
Another aspect of Battle for the Grid that lacks content is in the number of stages. There are four that appear through the Arcade mode, but one of those is limited to the final stage, so in essence there are three maps running on repeat. The same goes for the online modes. There is a training room stage, but this is only used when in the training mode, and is literally a grey room with a blue light intersecting it.
These maps are also pretty ugly to look at. They in no way match the character models – which in their own right are not spectacular – but these maps are another step down. One particular arena is set in the Rangers’ base and has Zordon floating in the background, but honestly, it looks like original Xbox-era graphics.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid on Xbox One features 34 achievements in total, with many requiring you to battle online. As a result of the not very large player base, fighting 1,000 ranked matches online will be difficult to unlock. There are achievements for completing arcade mode with each character – it counts the one you start each match with as the character you complete the mode with – that are far more achievable, but the online ones feel unnecessarily grindy for a game that is already struggling to find online competitors.
I did say at the very beginning of my review that this is a decent beat ‘em up, and I stand by that. Decent in the sense of returning to the original Tekken games, or the original Soul Blade game – when fighting games were experimenting with 3D – with about half as much content as these games. I don’t think Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is designed to be a throwback to simpler times, but that is how this feels. It’s just a shame really that there isn’t more of everything.