It must be my old age kicking in or the fact that I simply never “got” the show, but believe it or not the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers have been around for fifteen years now. To celebrate this occasion Disney Interactive and developer Handheld Games have delivered Power Rangers: Super Legends for the Nintendo DS. The idea is to give fans of the series access to a different ranger from each season of the show as they try to defeat the evil forces of Gluto in a by-the-numbers action game. While the end result feels a bit dated there is certainly plenty of fan-service here to appease fans.
If action/platformers were a text book then Power Rangers: Super Legends copied it word for word. Each of the playable characters has three separate moves. You have your standard melee attack, which is easily the most useful as it will disperse most enemies. You have a laser gun that serves to stun and you have a sword attack which becomes crucial later in the game against foes bearing armor. The problem lies in the fact that the overall controls are just a bit too sluggish to handle the action.
Performing one move will leave you completely open by an enemy from behind. This wouldn’t be much of a concern if the game didn’t constantly toss enemies at you from both directions. The responsiveness of the controls also comes into play as most gamers have been trained and spoiled by today’s high standard of action that having to be patient with each attack will cause needless frustration. It can also be frustrating when trying to attack on the go as your character doesn’t seem to respond well to attack commands unless they are standing completely still.
However, if you do manage to get past the sluggish controls there is some fun to be had here. Creating combos is a blast, especially with the built-in combo meter and juggling an enemy in the air for multiple hits always brings a smile to my face. Most of the action takes place on the bottom screen while the top is used as more of an expanded background than anything else, but on rare occasions you will take to the top tier for some high-flying action. Power Rangers suffers more from a high learning curve than just plain sloppy controls.
In an effort to break the mold of repetition Handheld Games has added other segments to the game to break up the combat. Taking a nod from classic vertical shooters Super Legends will intermittently let you take to the skies in a helicopter for some old-school shmup action. Granted this action isn’t going to give Ikaruga a run for its money, the diversion is much appreciated albeit a bit on the effortless side. Most enemies sit idle until you take them out and your abundance of lives means very few game over screens. This may fly with younger gamers but with a fanbase spanning fifteen years gamers over the age of thirteen do enjoy a challenge.
The second piece to this diversity puzzle comes in the form of a first-person perspective megazord boss battles. These 3D sequences also suffer from being almost too easy as attacks are performed by swiping the stylus. The AI for bosses is so mundane that you can literally swipe the screen sporadically with positive results. This is further complicated by the fact that hit detection is questionable at best so sometimes you will have more success swiping randomly than actually trying to target your enemy.
Most of the complaints about the difficulty could be overlooked if the game was designed with a younger demographic in mind. This is obviously not the case as an English degree is almost required with the amount of dialogue and text scattered throughout the journey. The storyline will interest fans of the series, but after a while the idiosyncratic dialogue will grow wearisome. You can skip most of them, and you will want to, but they do reveal game play techniques so they are almost always required.
While the overall game is comparable the presentation does have some serious flaws. The backgrounds are drab and flat and the animation is, at times, terrible. Sprites do a good job of showing off the wonderful color palette and the menus read like an interactive comic book and are presented very well. The sound is forgettable at best and at its worst painful and the sound effects are some of the worst on the system.
Power Rangers: Super Legends is a game that will only appeal to fans of the show. The textbook action sequences have been done before and much better in other DS games. Breaking up the action with classic shooter levels scores a point in my book, but the unproblematic boss battles I could live without. Fans of the series would do well to give this game a look if for nothing more than its serious amount of fan service. For everyone else there are much better games in the genre on the system.