Before I get into this review, there are two relevant facts about me that I should put out front:
Number 1 – I’m not a big fighting game guy. Back in the days of arcade button mashing matchups, where one guy won the first and third round while giving the second round to a lesser player as a token of good will, I was the second round guy.
Number 2 – I am a low level Power Rangers geek. I am far from a devote follower of the series, but I was low-key into Mighty Morphing when it debuted back in my first year of high school and I have maintained a passing interest since. I have watched some of the original Japanese stuff, including the absolutely bonkers Super Hero Taisen, which features every Power Ranger (Super Sentai as they are called on their home turf) in an epic battle with every Kamen Rider ever. So, while my Ranger credentials aren’t air tight, I do have at least one dog in the hunt hoping for a great Rangers game I can whittle away some hours on.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is so close to being that game that it makes it really hard for me to say that its not.
First, a history lesson…
Tokusatsu is the genre of Japanese live action television that is best know for its practical effects, colourful heroes and, perhaps most importantly, guys wearing giant rubber suits destroying model cities. It is the genre that brought us Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Super Sentai (Power Rangers) and the king of all monsters, Godzilla. The Super Sentai franchise alone has a 40 year history, with 26 seasons adapted for North American Audiences. A little rough Ranger math and you have over 150 different rainbow coloured warriors ready to be adapted and turned loose in video game form. Never mind the rubber villain of the weeks, generic fodder soldiers (shout out to the Putties), central villains, bonus Rangers, movie version and comic book original characters from the excellent BOOM series. With this much history to draw on, I flipped on my review copy of this game ready to face the rainbow and be amazed at the vast spectrum of Power Rangers available for combat.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid offered me 9 characters.
Not the OG Mighty Morphing 5 and some villains, not the current Ninja team, not even the sleek versions from the recent movie. Just 6, seemingly random, Rangers from different seasons, Goldar from the MMPR series, and 2 characters straight from the BOOM comics that have never appeared on screen.
To say that this was a let down would be a Megazord sized understatement.
For a comparison, I looked at the rosters for the only other fighting games I have played recently; WWE 2K19, which boasts a total playable roster of more than 200 superstars (some have to be unlocked), and Marvel vs Capcom, the most recent incarnation of which features a starter roster of 30 characters, with more unlocked through play.
For a 2019 release, 9 is just not enough. Especially when the only way to unlock additional characters is through a Fortnite style battle pass that adds… 3 as yet unrevealed Rangers (some time in May), and a new skin for the Red Ranger.
I don’t mean to harp on this one aspect of the game, even though I am aware I totally have, but if the game is meant to appeal to Power Ranger fans, where are all the Rangers? No SPD, no RPM, no ZEO, no Ninja Storm, no Mystic Force, no….you get it.
But okay, how does the game play?
Turns out, it’s actually alot of fun. Battle for the Grid is a 3 on 3 tag fighter in the Marvel vs Capcom style, where each character has a super simple set of moves, combos and super attacks that can all be pulled off without a single 1/4 circle turn of the thumb stick. The roster, though limited, does feature enough variety of fighting style for you to find your 2D fighter archetype of choice and go to town. Tag attacks, where your 3 person team all gang up on your opponent, are fun to watch, and the more you play the game the more you feel like you are really getting into the groove of the fight mechanics. Even if you pretty much suck at fighting games as I do.
A really fun feature of the game is the lifesaving Megazord attacks that can be unleashed where your pre-selected mega sized character of choice steps in, literally, to save your bacon. Once again though, with only 3 choices… you are left wanting much, much more from this feature.
While the fighting itself is fast and fun, there isn’t really anything else at all to this game. On round 6 of the 8 round arcade mode, a short story pops in, but there is no voice acting to go along with it. When you compare that to genre fighting game like Injustice… well, its actually no comparison at all. There is just nothing there.
Not wanting to give up on this game, but also not wanting to relive my days of getting schooled at the arcade, I enlisted the support of a gamer I might be able to beat as long as he didn’t have time to learn the game first: my 8 year old son.
Not to brag, but I took him to school.
2 player mode was fun and easy for him to pick up and get into. It was also a welcome break from hearing about his Fortnite achievements, but that’s a whole other topic. While he enjoyed the graphics and play, he encountered a real difficulty with the block command (pulling back on the stick). As we duked it out, I also noticed how inconsistent block was. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it just didn’t. Of course, maybe I was just that good.
He liked the game, but after a few rounds of 3 on 3, we ran out of characters to try – which is generally a selling featuring of a fighting game.
My daughter, age 11, also took it for a spin on her own. She appreciated the inclusion of 3 female Rangers off the top and found the game easy to pick up and play which was a solid bonus, but also lost interest pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, I could go on with issues like the bland, non-interactive back grounds, generic fight music and lack of overall depth, but my first gripe is still my main one: not enough Rangers.
I get that Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a cheap pick up in the Switch store and that the inclusion of a Battle Pass option means more content will be released over time, but this feels like an incomplete game or something I would have played years ago on my Sega Genesis, not a next-gen console game.
The bones of a really fun game are here. However, lack of variety from characters, to effects to settings make Battle for the Grid a really lacklustre entry into the world of side scrolling fighting games. I hope that the developers can take what they have started and pack some meat onto these bones with a deeper roster, engaging story and just more of everything that should be here.
I’m not saying don’t pick this one up, but I am saying don’t be surprise if you put it down shortly thereafter.