08th Mar2010

Power Rangers: Super Legends – AKA “I Saved Angel Grove, and All I Got Was This Lousy Game.”

by Will

I honestly only decided to write this at the behest of my TRU pal Mike “Special Forces” Johnson, but you’re all welcome to read along if you have even the slightest interest in the pop culture phenomenon known as Power Rangers.

Last weekend, I dropped by a Hollywood Video that happened to be going out of business. Their used games were 40% off, so $6 didn’t seem like to much to pay for Power Rangers: Super Legends. Released in 2007 to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Power Rangers franchise, Super Legends was released for Nintendo DS, PC & PlayStation 2. I’d never really heard anything good about the game, but I had a desire to use my PS2 as something other than a DVD player, and I’m a sucker for cheap Power Rangers merch. I ended up beating the game in 2 days, an amazing feat considering I haven’t beaten a video game in 10 years (and THAT was Super Mario Bros 2. Long story short: I like to take my sweet time). In the end, I’ve got a couple of issues with the game, but let’s have a Ranger primer before we get to all that.

Power Rangers debuted in 1993 as part of Fox Kids. It was basically the story of five teens, who were given powers in order to defend the Earth against evil space aliens – sure, there were some seasons when the number of rangers went up to 8, and there were times where the median age was about 25, but that was the main gist.

The first six seasons comprise the Angel Grove Era, as that was the name of the town where the Rangers lived. The show changed names a few times (Mighty Morphin‘, Zeo, Turbo and In Space), and the teens changed, but they all followed the same overarching storyline. Everything is pretty much wrapped up in the Power Rangers In Space finale, and the show changed its formula where each subsequent series only lasted 1 season, and they were only loosely related. Also, the rangers weren’t exactly teens anymore. This was basically the School’s Out Era, which included Lost Galaxy, Lightspeed Rescue, Time Force, and Wild Force.

In 2002, Disney purchased the Fox Kids holdings, including the Power Rangers franchise. Wild Force was the final series to air on Fox Kids, and it was believed that Disney would just shut down production, and sit on the library. Instead, Disney moved production to New Zealand, where it experienced higher production values including more wire work and special effects. Each incarnation still lasted 1 season, but seeing as how New Zealand only seems to have 25 actors, the same people kept popping up as different characters. From 2002 to 2009, The Disney Era gave us Ninja Storm, Dino Thunder, SPD, Mystic Force, Operation Overdrive, Jungle Fury and RPM. Power Rangers: RPM aired its last episode on the last Saturday of 2009, effectively ending the production of new live action Power Rangers series. Currently, they air “remastered” episodes of the original 1993 series.

So, Power Rangers: Super Legends follows a temporal plot, where second season villain Lord Zedd steals some time crystals and starts fucking up the timeline. This is noticed by Omega Ranger, who’s the curator of the Ranger Hall of Legends. Realizing that Zedd must be stopped, Omega visits various timelines, recruiting rangers to help with his mission. Since it’s a 2-player game, the plot has a built-in caveat that only 2 rangers can be active at one time. You’re given 2 preselected choices in each timeline, with the ability to unlock additional rangers throughout the game.

So, what were my problems with the game?

-Why is Zedd the villain? The game already acknowledges that he was “cured” of his evil in the PRIS finale. Plus, it’s not like he was the biggest bad the rangers ever faced to begin with.

The Angel Grove Era worked in a formula where each season presented a villain more powerful than the last. We start with Rita, who’s replaced by Zedd, who marries Rita in almost WWE fashion, who are then “replaced” by Rita’s father, Master Vile. Next, they’re all evicted by The Machine Empire, who are replaced by Divatox, and then we find out they ALL were working for Dark Spectre.

So, with that logic, shouldn’t Dark Spectre be the villain in the game? I mean, he was considered the greatest evil in existence! Also, they try to explain that the game’s Zedd is from an alternate timeline, but that just seems a little too convenient, especially once you get to the end of the game.

-Considering it’s the 15th anniversary of the franchise, not all incarnations are represented. I’ve noticed this happen in a lot of the post-Fox Kids merchandise. In fact, outside of Lost Galaxy, there’s not much emphasis on the Fox years. This can be understood, but it doesn’t go unnoticed. It’s like the Zeo-Turbo-In Space seasons never occurred, and they’re just represented by MMPR. I realize it’s the root source of those jilted incarnations, but they’re still missed.

To compound the problem, Time Force, Wild Force and Ninja Storm are ONLY represented on the DS version.

The most glaring omission of all, however, is that of Tommy Oliver.

Arguably the Greatest Ranger of ALL Time, Tommy was originally the Green Ranger, who lost his powers only to return as the new team leader, The White Ranger. He went on to become the Red Zeo Ranger before his “retirement”. Years later, after the Disney purchase, he returned in Dino Thunder, acting as team mentor and black ranger. The man was FOUR different rangers, always with the best weapons and zords, and you mean to tell me they just FORGOT him?! It makes me wonder if Jason David Frank was on the outs with Disney at the time.

-The Zord battles are shit. They are puzzle/combo based, where you’re shown what’s basically a still image, and given a button combo to enter. Do it correctly, and you successfully attack/block. Considering that past ranger games included Zord battles that utilized the same fight game engine of most games in 1997, this is a step WAY back! At the bare minimum, I was looking forward to something akin to Killer Instinct. Instead, I got Power Rangers: Simon.

-Omega Ranger. I feel that if anyone should be the M.C. of this thing, it should be Zordon. Sure, he’s “dead” but when did that ever mean anything? Especially, since the time crystals you’re hunting are exactly like the kind at the bottom of Zordon’s tube. His whole schtick was that he was trapped in the space-time continuum, so it was a no-brainer. Instead, they give us Omega Ranger.

Now, I didn’t watch a lot of SPD, but I know that Omega Ranger was essentially the Other Ranger of the SPD team. He was composed of pure energy, so he never unmorphed. The thing is, the Omega Ranger in the game is NOT the SPD Omega. However, he ends up recruiting 2 rangers from the SPD timeline – one of whom is…the Omega Ranger? Huh? WTF? The SPD version shows some confusion, and they riff on that in the video interludes, but they never explain that whole thing. That confusions could have all been avoided if they’d just gone with Zordon.

– It lacks in geographical accuracy. In the Angel Grove levels, you fight in a bustling metropolis. In fact, a major fight takes place on the freeway, in the middle of rush hour. Angel Grove ain’t Gotham City. The only time Power Rangers ever depicted it as a bustling city was in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and that’s, technically, not even canonical. Either fight in a park, a juice bar, down by the docks, or a quarry. Similarly, the Lost Galaxy levels take place in the innards of Terra Venture, when we never saw most of that on the show. Maybe the designers felt they were showing us a “different side” of the cities – one which we hadn’t seen in the episodes. Unfortunately, it just seems like they were reusing boards from other games.

So, there you pretty much have it. In what could have been a decent celebration of a (then) 15 year old franchise, fans were instead given a shoddily thrown together money grab of a game. Power Rangers is no stranger to the notion of nostalgia. Even in the Disney era, they continued the tradition of the crossover between different teams. They’ve also had several incredible anniversary episodes, like “Forever Red” (10th anniversary) and “Once A Ranger” (15th anniversary). Unfortunately, none of that was successfully replicated by this game. I understand that it was, essentially, made for younger children (otherwise, how could I have beaten it so easily?). After all, this is Power Rangers for a new generation. That said, if you’re not going to appropriately celebrate what came before, then why make an anniversary game?