There are some pop culture obsessions from childhood that I’ll cling to until the day I die. For example, Batman and Star Wars will always hold a special place in my heart, if only because the best examples of both are strong enough to hold up to adult scrutiny. However, many of the things I adored more than life itself as a kid look positively pathetic through even my immature man-boy eyes. Power Rangers is one of them. As a kid, the prospect of monster fighting kung fu teens with gigantic robots was pretty well everything that I could ever want out of after school entertainment.
Now, I get nothing but camp value out of it with fluttering moments of nostalgia. So, when a copy of Power Rangers: Super Megaforce fell into my hands, I approached it with a combination of excitement and dread. The 12-year old in my head said, “Whoa! Morphin’ Time, am I right?” The realist said, “This is going to be just as rushed, cheap, shitty, and pandering as that 90s TV show that you can’t watch anymore.” The battle between my inner child and my outer childish adult continued until I played the first level. Sadly, even that little kid inside me had to concede that this game is absolute garbage.
The concept for Super Megaforce (a title that might as well be a parody) is a simple old school side-scroller beat em’ up. In each stage, you march through a series of street battles with minor enemies as the Ranger of your choice, before a Megazord boss battle wraps things up. It’s barebones Power Rangers pandering, but in theory pretty much exactly what I’d want out of a 3DS game based on the crappy old franchise. After all, it combines the TV show I loved as a kid with my favorite 90s gaming genre. Alas, this is far from a great example of an old school side-scrolling beat em’ up.
In fact, it’s one of the worst I’ve ever played. This game feels like it was created in a community college “intro to game design” class. It’s a product of the absolute bare minimum of effort that could ever go into creating a game. If you glanced over someone’s shoulder playing it while walking past, it might look professional for a split second. But, if you actually put anytime into playing this thing, you’ll become bored within seconds and contemplate setting the cartridge on fire.
Beating Super Megaforce is as simple as putting in the time to play every level. The only challenge involved is numbing your brain to the point that you’re willing to put in that time without wanting to kill yourself.
There’s kind of a plot, I guess. If you consider horrible low rez still images of Power Rangers plastered over poorly written text to qualify as gaming storytelling, then sure it’s there. We’re long since past that though, and this story can’t even compete with the nonsense that held Final Fight together. Speaking of Final Fight, since that game ironed out any possible control flaws in this style of gaming twenty years ago, it’s amazing how flawed the Super Megaforce combat system is. Attacks come with punishingly long animations and require pinpoint accuracy to hit any enemy. You’ll spend more time struggling to line up attacks then you will actually attacking anyone. Not that it matters.
The AI is so stupid and the challenge so unbalanced that even on maximum difficulty setting there’s never much of a threat of losing a fight. And on the off chance that you miss every single attack in a level, you’ll still win because you get an AI Power Ranger partner who has the same unbalanced skill level against the enemies. As for level design, whoo-boy is it bad. I sure hope you like what you see after you scroll through the first three screens of any stage, because the rest of the level will be little more than minor variations on the same stupid n’ basic designs. It’s as if the programmers faced such a fast turn-around on production that they only designed a third of the game, then just copied and pasted the code until the game at least felt like it was full length.
Sadly, the Megazord boss fights are just as dull and repetitive. They are set up to look like a fighting game, but you only have three moves and a charged special attack at your disposal. All of the Megazord attacks are insanely slow, but it’s pretty well impossible to miss. So beating any boss is just a matter of pressing the attack buttons repeatedly until it’s over with no strategy involved. Beating Super Megaforce is as simple as putting in the time to play every level.
The only challenge involved is numbing your brain to the point that you’re willing to put in that time without wanting to kill yourself. To keep you coming back (and God help you if you want to come back), you can also unlock playable versions of every Power Ranger and Megazord to appear in every iteration of the TV series. I’ll admit that’s a nice treat for fans, but given the fact that every character feels exactly the same with only minor variations, it means nothing. By the time you actually unlock the characters from the era of Power Rangers that you grew up on, you’ll be far too exhausted with this game’s pathetic design to even care.
As for the game’s handling for 3D, well there’s nothing to report because the designers didn’t even bother. Not even the menu is in 3D. That function of your system is turned off the second you turn on the game. That laziness speaks to the crappiness of Power Rangers: Megaforce as a whole. No one who worked on this game cared about the final product. It was produced purely to take advantage of an established market.
That’s awful and yet in a strange way it’s appropriate for this franchise. Power Rangers has never been a work of art, it’s merely a cynically produced show that hits all of the right notes to appeal to undemanding young audiences and shift merchandise. On that level, I guess Super Megaforce is an accurate representation of the franchise it’s leaching off of. That doesn’t mean that you should play it though. Nope, you should go out of your way to avoid it and while you’re at it, never watch Power Rangers again if you were ever a fan of the franchise as a kid. There’s nothing there for you anymore beyond nostalgia and even that will disappear if you dare to go back.