Games time forgot: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

Like any child of the 90’s, I watched the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers a lot. Like, a lot. I shuddered with fear and amazement as the saga of the mysterious Green Ranger unfolded. I sighed with relief when he finally turned good and became the White Ranger. I bought a fully articulated action figure, a lunch box and, above all, awaited the first movie with the glee that only a child of seven who is totally unused to decent acting or story structure can.

This also meant that when the SNES game based on the movie came out, I more or less needed it.

Though it’ll never go down as a classic and would probably have never been played by anyone had it not been for the crappy, pseudo-Japanese martial arts robot monster alien bad acting license that was Power Rangers, it still holds up and has one or two decent design ideas behind its generally shallow, arcadey beat-em-up gameplay.

Hit the jump for more.

Story:

Despite how much I was looking forward to it, I don’t actually remember anything from the Power Rangers movie other than the Ivan Ooze’s theme song:

Uh oh
We’re in trouble
Something’s come along and it’s burst our bubble
Uh oh
We’re in trouble
Na na na na na something suh ffn ouble

And thus I can’t really comment on how closely the game’s plot matches up with the film’s. I kind of doubt it, because I don’t remember a scene from the film where a bunch of F-16 jets fly about three inches above the Rangers’ heads and blow them back a few feet while they fight bad guys.

Or a scene where they snowboard down a mountain and jump over chasms.

Actually, though I obviously can’t be sure, I don’t think the movie had anything to do with the game apart from the fact that Rangers jump around doing Powerful things in both.

Gameplay:

Power Rangers: The Movie is a standard beat-em-up, only without allowing the character to move forward and backward depth-wise. At certain moments, your character can jump into the foreground or background (provided there isn’t a tree or telephone pole in the way, which results in a satisfying SMACK when your character tries to jump through it), but other than that you’re always on the same plane as your enemies. This makes the game a heck of a lot more shallow than your Final Fights or your Streets of Rages, but for a kid looking for his Morphin’ fix before the film’s release, it worked well enough.

What I found most interesting about the game at the time, and what I now consider to be a very intelligent design choice, concerns the fact that you can’t play as a Power Ranger until you collect enough power tokens from defeated enemies.

Rather than playing as the awesome, suited-up, action figure Rangers from the beginning of every level, changing into costume becomes a prize for beating the shit out of a sufficient number of baddies. The act of transforming into a proper Ranger carries a sense of weight and reward that it wouldn’t have if the characters were wearing their suits at the beginning of every stage.

It sounds dumb,* but though I’d restlessly fight through half a stage as a child, frequently wondering when the hell I was going to stop playing as a white tank top-wearing douche with a ponytail and turn into the badass White Ranger, the sense of reward I got from finally activating my Morph power and turning into a costumed hero was almost indescribable. Simply by delaying the appearance of the costumes and characters every child wanted to see, the game gave me incentive to play through every level and collect power tokens, then gave me a quasiorgasmic rush of fanboy glee when I finally got to beat up baddies while dressed in the “true” Power Ranger gear. I assume transforming also made you more powerful, but I was far too focused on the aesthetic to really care.

This same design idea — delay what the player really wants so it’s that much sweeter when they finally get it — was later used to great effect in Jedi Outcast, where the player doesn’t get their hands on a lightsaber until about two hours into the single-player campaign. Outside of these two games (and maybe Half-Life 2 and its gravity gun), I haven’t experienced too many examples of this intentional, delayed reward system in games. I wouldn’t mind seeing it used more often.

Why you’re probably not playing it:

Look, I loved the series as much as anybody as a kid, but today I can’t even remember what the goddamn villains were called. I know one was a witch, and one was a big red muscly thing with no skin, and the bad guy from the movie had something to do with Ooze, but that’s it. I don’t even remember anything about the villains’ foot soldiers, save for the fact that you had to punch the enormous, completely undefended “Z” symbols on their chests in order to defeat them. I didn’t even realize three of the original Rangers weren’t in the movie until I looked up YouTube videos of the character select screen.

Point being, even people who loved Power Rangers as a kid have since forgotten it. It, like The Rocketeer and Dick Tracy, exists in a state of retro limbo: it’s too old for anyone to give a rat’s ass about it or remember its specifics, but it’s too young to look back at with any sense of nostalgia and wonderment.

Maybe in ten or fifteen years people will be interested in the Power Rangers, and thus, this game again, but as it stands, nobody gives much of a shit about these guys. If you’re looking for a personal trip down unusually-violent-children’s-television memory lane, you can always NOT download it, but anyone totally unfamiliar with the Power Rangers is better off staying away.

*Mainly because it kind of is

Anthony Burch