Monday, February 25, 2013

My Gaming Timeline: Dino-Rainbow: Robot Warrior Squad: The Movie: The Game A look back on how somehow, a cheesy ass kids show had pretty good licensed games Dec 03, 2012 8:46PM PST

So last time I posted my thoughts on the Mega Mans of my childhood, namely X, X2, 7, and a very vague recollection of having played the Soccer installment in the franchise. At the top of that blog (the one directly preceding this one on my page) I compared the color coding of abilities, importance of music in franchise success, having countless iterations that in many ways felt like the same thing, Japanese origins, and the general premise of robots beating the shit out of each other (ok, one is more blasting, the other more karate chopping, and strictly speaking it's not alway robo... you know what, just accept my comparison, it's my blog dammit) to a certain other franchise that had some of its best installments on the SNES as well.

If you grew up in the 90s not liking this theme song, it meant no one liked you.

Of course, as I clarified in my last blog, these aren't the classics Mega Man's SNES installments were. Not even fucking close. But they were decent. One of them was actually pretty good, if short.

That one was the simply titled Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

Something about the introduction in general is just so nostalgic for me.

It was also the only one I enjoyed enough to actually beat when I was playing these to see how they stacked up to my memories. In this case, pretty damn well.

When I first started it up, I played the first level and thought "this is entertaining enough in a 'well there's  on TV' way, but I sure wish they'd spruce it up with some platforming or something, cause these enemies are very predictable." And lo and behold, they did, and it was some challenging but fair platforming, too.

This screenshot is from my favorite level. I'd always die at the boss, but the boss was so cool to my 5-6 year old brain I didn't really mind.

In fact, there were several spots where I couldn't figure out for a second or two how to pass an area, and that's how I learned, through gameplay, that "oh you can flip up while climbing by holding up" or "oh you get up there by wall jumping." That experience reminded me of the egoraptor video I posted in my Mega Man blog about game design. It's surprisingly good here. This was when licensed titles actually got decent game releases. Hell, this game holds up a hell of a lot better than any of the hyper-predictable episodes to my adult self. I just said hell twice, cause that's where they're all going for making the Asian actress the yellow ranger (fun trivia: in the Japanese series, it was a guy in that suit, hence no skirt).

Every time you get past the first part or so of a level you see the boss leave some goons for you to fight, and you morph into your Power suit for the rest of the level. It's fairly arbitrary other than a pallet swap, save for one thing: this form allows you to use "bombs," which are pick ups that allow you to do a special move for max damage on bosses or waves of enemies. Basically, it puts an image of your Ranger's dinosaur in the sky while it rains their color. My strategy was to save it until towards the end of a boss battle and then if my health was low, release the Kraken-Zord! If there hasn't been an actual Kraken-Zord in this series since my youth, they need to get on that.

Another thought: why are the lips on the black ranger that bright? It looks like he's a blackface caricature, which he didn't in the series and is very much unnecessary. Didn't notice as a kid, but damn game developers, you racist!

Another great thing is that you can use the environment against enemies. Sometimes it's just falling rocks you can trick them into, sometimes it's a giant beam they'll walk to while trying to kill you, or, like in my favorite level, you can kill them with the classic slapstick staple of chandaliers.

Kimberly: "Take three steps back or I'll throw your purple friend here... that's it.

Finally, the end of the game (SPOILERS from the year 19XX!!)  let's you be the Megazord in order to defeat the final bosses. You have no idea how sick this was as a kid that grew up on the series.

Oh yeah!

There's only five levels (one for each playable character, though you can choose who you want for each level if you want to go through the game as just one or all five), but what's there has tight controls, surprisingly good game design, excellent music (a lot of which I didn't recognize from the series), decently inventive boss battles (ok, mostly just disappear reappear shenanigans, but I enjoyed them, and it was good seeing characters like Eye Guy and Bones) and an all-around fun beat-em-up/platformer/arcade experience.

I gladly say I actually recommend this one.

To a much lesser extent, I reccomend the Fighting Edition. As a kid, I loved it even better, and maybe I still would in two player mode, but first player is pretty monotonous and not very rewarding.Mostly, up until the final battles with Lord Zed (series villain introduced second series or so)  and Ivan Ooze (movie villain), you just find that one move you can corner opponents with and exploit it. When you do get up to the final bosses, there's more challenge, but it's a very sudden ramp in difficulty compared to the BS you were doing and winds up feeling cheap.

Stop that. Stop competently attacking me. The other giants  didn't!

Aside from music and victory animations, that's pretty much it. I loved it as a kid, but that's cause I loved Megazords as a kid, not necessarily because it still holds up. As for two player, I leave you this:

There's actually some decent trivia in their smack talk.

And then there's Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: The Game, which, has potential, but two fatal flaws kept me from playing past the second boss: you can only take five hits, and jumping on enemies counts as a hit. Seriously. Enemies are accordingly weakened, taking usually only two hits at most, but this means you're mostly playing defense. Who the fuck wants to play as a karate master with dinosaur powers and go on defense the whole time?

Anyway, another main difference here is you don't automatically change into your Ranger form at the end of the first part of a level. You pick up little lightning bolts to fill a meter that allows you to change, and from there you can fill the meter to get your special move. It takes a long time to get to transform, let alone use a special move, and I wasn't a big fan of this system.

Finally, unlike the other MMPR SNES beat-em-up, you can move between two planes in the game. This is to emphasize the defense aspect, as you'll need to dodge obstacles like oncoming putty motorcycle traffic to advance. This change I would have welcomed on its own, even as something that's just used to add a defensive element, but because it puts even more emphasis on the fact the game emphasizes defense (repetition!) I just ended up finding it annoying to have to switch between planes every so often.

White Ranger says: Oh come on, can't both of you just pick ONE side?

There were a few cool things in the second level, like starting on a motorboat that ramped itself up to an aircraft carrier, some bomb dodging and a decent final boss you had to get on a conveyor bel to hit, and you start level 3 on a snowboard, but it was so frustrating the visual trappings and surprises just ending up pissing me off more, cause I wanted to enjoy them but they were stuck in this frustrating game.

When yo die, the Continue screen asks you to use "tokens" to keep going which leads me to believe this was a sloppy arcade port that was initially designed as a quarter eating cabinet, and didn't account for the fact those sitting at home had already paid and wanted a consistently fun experience.

It has a lot of good ideas that are just horribly executed to the fact its initial purpose for existing was to trick kids into feeding it money... which is arguably a solid metaphor for the franchise as a whole, but they made a good game out of it before, so it's disappointing they couldn't here.

I think I just liked it as a kid cause it was more visually stylistic than the original game (also the reason I think I liked the movie, so at least it's true to its license).

Finally, there's one last one I remember enjoying as a kid, but didn't even bother to play to research this blog, because well, I'll let this fine Youtube video explain why I don't really feel like I have to:

That moment you realize childhood games were bad rom hacks of other, better series

Ok, you don't have to watch a video: I don't feel like it, cause it's clearly Mario Kart made bad. I know the Fighting Edition was on the Gundam engine, but this is ridiculous.

Anyway, I'll always remember bringting the Fighting Edition to people's houses just to try and play it cause I was so excited, watching the series religiously after school every day, and gaining and losing a friend in my youth by talking about the first couple series too damn much.

Good times, even if only one or two of these games can still provide them.

You can easily get the gist of the games by just looking them up on Youtube, but if you want a more in-depth look at the series itself, good Linkara Power Rangers retrospective. As odd as I find someone I think is close to my age or older continuin to watch these past childhood, there's some cool trivia even though they are loooong as hell.






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