Review: Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is an Ode to the Long-Running Series, but to Mixed Results
The fighting game Power Ranges: Battle for the Grid is getting its 1.4 update patch today, which includes a new paid DLC fighter, as well as the conclusion to the crossover storyline that spans Power Rangers franchises from the original 90s series to the 2017 film.
When Mighty Morphin Power Rangers premiered in the early 90s, I was at the right age to get caught up in it. The hype was intense, the toys were impossible to find, and every one of my friends was running around the playground pretending to “morph” into their favorite ranger while recreating the campy martial arts moves we saw on the show. And then I grew up, and even though I wasn’t following Power Rangers any longer, I couldn’t help but notice its progression from Mighty Morphin to Turbo, Space, Time, and lots of other incarnations. It’s a franchise that’s just always been around (probably thanks to the sheer amount Super Sentai material they had). With the movie that came out a couple of years ago, and a rumored new movie in the works, it’s fresh on people’s minds. So a fighting game based on the Power Rangers franchise makes sense, and it’s something that I was a little more than excited to play.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a team fighting game with mechanics that take inspiration from Marvel vs Capcom, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and others. But most of all, it’s an ode to the twenty or so series and multiple movies that make up the entirety of the Power Rangers opus. It has characters from at least eight different iterations of Power Rangers, including a character from the 2017 movie, in a huge crossover story. Despite these “biggest crossover event” things being chic right now, I haven’t gotten tired of them, so I loved the premise of Battle for the Grid, even if it did skirt dangerously close to Injustice in tone and theme, which it seems to take a bit of inspiration from. But that’s okay, because I loved Injustice, and figured that Power Rangers could use a little edge to cut its campiness. The results are mixed, and it’s something that permeates the entire game.
Battle for the Grid’s story centers on Lord Drakkon, who is an alternate, evil Tommy Oliver (Green/White Ranger from Mighty Morpin Power Rangers). His goal is to make himself even more powerful, and to do this, he has to travel across time and space to steal the morphers from various Power Ranger teams. After an intro in which he murders 90’s version Green Ranger Tommy, Drakkon and his forces clash with many different iterations of the Rangers, some of which I had never even encountered before this game.
The story is interesting, with bigger moments being portrayed with static hand-drawn art and voice acting. The rest of the story is told through dialogue, usually before the start of a fight. These parts are obviously inspired by Netherrealms’ story telling through the recent Mortal Kombat games, and Injustice, but they tend to feel extremely rushed and cheap. I don’t want to rag on a game with a lower budget, but what must have been the desired impact of these sequences and the result is in disparity. Still, it’s a serviceable vehicle to the main part of what Battle for the Grid is about: fighting.
I’m happy to say the actual fighting part of Battle for the Grid is done pretty well. It’s not the best, but it goes beyond serviceable and lands squarely in the range of “fun.” Some fighters feel more satisfying than others, but that can be chalked up to individual preference. For instance, I can’t stand the Pink Ranger’s moveset, but the cat chick from Power Rangers SPD and the Yellow ranger in the dinosaur suit (that’s a thing?) are super fun to play. In some places in the story mode, and in the rest of the modes, you don’t fight as just one fighter, but as a three person team with similarities to the Marvel vs. Capcom series. You can call on your other teammates for assist moves, or switch to them to spare your character from being knocked out of the fight.
The fighting is fluid, combos are satisfying, and the super moves (in a system reminiscent of Injustice) can be pretty impressive. Still, you can’t help but feel like it’s all done on a budget—story included. That’s usually okay, but in a fighting game that is trying to fashion itself into a true AAA competitor, some of the graphics and animations make it seem cheap. Luckily, this doesn’t detract from the fun of the fighting system.
The massive mechanical Zords make their appearance, too, but unfortunately there aren’t any battles between massive robots to be had (though you can see them fighting in the background of at least one arena.) The Zords do provide help, though, as massive environmental damage effects that come from off screen when a player (or AI) invokes them. They’re sometimes hard to dodge, so they’re the perfect way to break a combo, or defensively take down an opponent that isn’t fast enough to get out of their way.
With update 1.4 dropping today, Battle for the Grid gets a little beefier. One of the main criticisms of Battle for the Grid was its lack of content at launch, but there have been a few free updates since then—like fighters Udonna (Mystic Force) and The Cenozoic Blue Ranger (the one from the 2017 film). The 1.4 patch brings the total number of fighters to fifteen with the addition of Lord Zed as paid DLC—much more respectable than the nine at launch. The third act of the story is also included in the 1.4 patch, and along with it, the conclusion of Lord Drakkon’s power grab.
Still, there is a lack of interesting modes to partake in. Everything offered is what you would expect: there is a story mode, a single player arcade mode, local versus, a training mode, casual online play and ranked online play. There are no extra challenge modes, or other bonus modes to explore. There just isn’t much to do.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is certainly a mixed bag, but it’s only getting better the longer it’s out. If you ever wanted a modern Power Rangers fighting game, especially one that mixes the multiple series and movies together, Battle for the Grid can scratch that particular itch—but it’s a bit content lite, even after the progressive free content drops, and even with the paid DLC characters. It just doesn’t have enough modes, or other content to keep you occupied beyond the normal online modes.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is available now on Nintendo Switch, XboxOne and Playstation 4.
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