Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
by Polly

When Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers debuted around '93 or so, I wasn't all that impressed. In fact, I was downright pissed, because this new show with stupid real teenagers, and stupid special effects, and stupid robots, and stupid spandex had taken the early morning before school time slot of my usual intellectual viewing such as Bucky O'Hare and the fading Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I was never a fan of the show and couldn't tell you jack shit about it other than that I simply continued to watch it out of habit. Fuck if I was going to school without the proper amount of brain rot to deal with the fucking morons I had to deal with there on a daily basis.

Of course, Power Rangers would end up being the hip new thing all the little kids were into for quite a few years, ballooning to TMNT popularity and then some. Hell, they're STILL producing the shit if you can believe that. And like any good cash cow franchise, Power Rangers ended up spawning quite a few videroo games in the 16-bit era across the SNES, Genesis, and Sega CD. How or why I ended up playing any of these games, god only knows, but the SNES games really never seemed all that bad anyway.

You may (but probably don't) remember that I reviewed a game around summer of last year called Ninja Warriors. In that review, I briefly touched upon this game as well. Both games are seemingly built from the same engine, and other than some minor tweaks here and there, they play generally about the same. It's a simple "run left to right and punch people" set up with not a whole lot of other bells and whistles. The obvious catch here is that around the halfway point of a stage your chosen character will morph into their Power Ranger form and have access to a few different moves and their signature weapon, as well as being able to summon a pretty on-screen graphic of the dinosaur they represent which counts as a screen-clearing bomb attack.

Character selection really only comes down to preference. None of the rangers really control any differently, and though their move sets are quite varied per character, no one character has any distinct advantage over any of the others, and it doesn't even matter much once you're in ranger-mode anyway. Like your selection of characters, unfortunately enemies have very little variety as well. About the only enemy type you're going to be seeing until you get to a boss are gonna be various palette swapped putties who rarely ever attack in any other fashion than slowly creeping toward you and looking fucking silly. The only thing you'll really have to worry about is how many hits it'll take to take down which color.

PollyProTip: It's usually one or two.

It's a predictable slog to the end of each area, batting around the rainbow of flavor that is the Putty Army and there are very few surprises as you cruise from the left side of a stage to the right. Well, I take that back, because sometimes you might actually be required to do some vertical climbing to advance in a stage, and there might even be a stage hazard or two like saw blades and falling debris that'll impede your progress. You'll play the final two stages of the game in the Megazord beating up on two monsters that aren't either Goldar or Rita Repulsa, which seems like kind of a gyp. (Seriously, I know absolutely nothing about Power Rangers and you can shut your fucking mouth right now.) These parts of the game play out like a more button-mashy 2D fighter, and though it's kind of jarring switching from the standard beat 'em up gameplay to a 2D fighter, the transition is welcome and won't take long to adapt to.

If you haven't guessed already, MMPR isn't a hard game, but given its audience, that's fine. I guess this is one of the first few instances where a licensed game meant for kids actually felt like a game kids could feasibly play. Look at that damn health bar! And you can still fill it up beyond that point! NOBODY is going to lose that much health playing this game! Nobody with even the slightest modicum gaming prowess is going to lose an entire stock of lives and see a Game Over screen. But again, that's okay, because this game is for kids.

MMPR sports a strangely lop-sided visual presentation. Firstly, the Power Rangers themselves look great. It's clear that pretty much all the effort put into the visual package was dumped in here, bland backgrounds and enemies be damned. Why not though, since the promise of Power Rangers is why parents bought their stupid kids these games anyway. In their stupid teenager forms, each character sports a pretty damn impressive frame count. Lots of the silly over-the-top martial arts moves have been faithfully reproduced here and are smooth as silk, and even something as simple as their damn running animations seem to sport more sprite work than most games would see in either the 8 or 16-bit eras. In Ranger form, this count drops considerably (which I find incredibly odd) and they look like mere palette swaps with the only difference being their special weapons. Going lower on the graphical quality pole we arrive at the game's bosses which are colorful representations of some of the monster-of-the-week fodder kids are likely to remember from the show. They look nice and are decently animated, but aren't really going to strike you as all that intimidating or boss-like. On this same level we have the Zord battles near the end of the game, and again, they're good representations, but nothing spectacular. Then we arrive at the end of the pole that's sitting right in the poopy (mandatory poop association complete!), the enemies -- or rather...The enemy. Throughout every stage of the game you'll be faced with only one type of enemy: The Putty. You'll fight them in droves with the only relief from graphical boredom coming from the all-too-short boss encounters. In a game that's already not doing itself any favors gameplay-wise, the boring visuals only serve to make you realize just how truly monotonous this whole thing is.

Something that may surprise you is the game's audio production which is honestly quite good. I'm not just talking the note-for-note representation of the main Power Rangers theme, complete with the original's vocal chorus of "go, go Power Rangers," but every stage, cutscene, and boss theme in the game is really damn good. The soundtrack is composed mostly of upbeat action pieces with great and easily remembered melodies that on more than one occasion have found themselves lodged into my brain for hours on end. I honestly couldn't tell you if the tunes here are original or plucked from the show, but hey they're good, and anything that's able to keep me awake after slogging through seven stages of this game's monotony deserves some kind of special mention, original or not.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers is a kids' game through and through, and I'm not really gonna fault it for its lack of challenge since I was never its intended audience. What I can hold against it is the sheer lack of any type of variety or even the slightest hint of ambition. Come on, licensed games had to make up their own fodder enemies all the time in the 8-bit era and earlier, so there's no reason this game couldn't have had a little more than a few palette swaps in addition to the different bosses. There could have been just a bit more platforming or damn near anything to aleviate the mind-numbing monotony that this game degenerates into. You'll likely be bored into slumber before you see the end of the game's final Megazord battles, so unless you're suffering from a nasty case of insonmnia, I really can't recommend this game.

Just do yourself a favor and check out the far superior Ninja Warriors.

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