One staple of ‘90s media getting a surprising second wind in pop culture is Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Just in time for the franchise’s 25th anniversary, Power Rangers has seen a number of critical successes in recent years including the 2017 feature film, Shattered Grid, taking the comics world by storm, and its latest TV iteration, Beast Morphers, has seen some of the highest ratings in franchise history. Keeping the momentum going, Hasbro has its sights set on the console market. Power Rangers has had plenty of luck in mobile gaming, but this would mark the first time the series has come to a Nintendo console since Power Rangers: Samurai on the Wii back in 2011. After teaming with developer nWay, the result was Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid.
This multiplatform release is a 3v3 tournament fighter where you assemble your best team of Rangers, past or present, and pit them against others in tag-team style matchups. You can either take on your friends in local play or go online to compete for the best rank via worldwide matchmaking.
Previous video games bearing the Ranger name were often arcade beat’em-ups or shovelware adventure titles, but in a twist not seen since Netherrealm’s Injustice, Power Rangers works surprisingly well as a 2D fighter. What makes it work is the fact that Ranger teams have different themes from season to season, and the team’s overall fighting style would be reflective of that theme. Power Rangers in Space was an homage to Star Trek and featured a lot of blasters and space age tech to fight monsters, while Mystic Force was a fantasy series that utilized sword fighting and magic. It’s still Power Rangers, but exploring the concept in entirely different ways. There are contrasting themes like this throughout the franchise’s 25-year history and the appeal of seeing these clashes is more than enough material for a well-rounded tournament fighter.
The tag-team mechanic is a little intimidating at first (especially with a lack of 1v1 mode for beginners,) but every character controls buttery smooth and swapping between fighters frequently is encouraged as it allows you to get a few extra hits in. You’ll be spending a decent chunk of the beginning of the game getting the feel of each character and constructing your perfect load out. The game boasts easy to learn but difficult to master controls and that is absolutely true. You can button mash all you want in Battle for the Grid and it’ll definitely get you far enough into the game. But the complexities come with the swapping between characters and understanding how they each handle differently. It’s incredibly well balanced for a budget title. There is a reason for that, though.
While not advertised as such, Battle for the Grid is essentially a console port of Legacy Wars, a Power Rangers mobile game that launched in 2017 as a promotional tie-in for the movie. It’s the same developer and everything. This makes sense to do from a business perspective, especially since that game ended up being arguably more popular than the film it was promoting and also made Saban a ridiculous amount of money. If they already have this arcade fighter they know works and they know people like, they wouldn’t have to do much to get it optimized for consoles.
The problem is that there’s “not doing much” and then there’s “not doing anything” and this ended up being its undoing because the game is nearly identical to Legacy Wars. The only exception being that the free-to-play mobile game actually has more to offer than this console counterpart that is asking you to spend $20!
The thing that most people will probably notice right off the bat is the incredibly limited roster. Credit where it’s due, I actually like the selection a lot. You have series mainstays like original green ranger Tommy Oliver, but also a few deep cuts for the hardcore fans, such as the comic exclusive Ranger Slayer or SPD‘s Kat Manx. But this selection is dwarfed in comparison to Legacy Wars, which has a massive selection of heroes and villains from the Ranger canon. This omission is made all the more confusing when you factor in that the two games are visually identical and were even handled by the same studio.
You really can tell that this was a mobile game upscaled to 1080p and nothing more. There’s no voice acting or even a story to tie anything together. The closest you get are a handful of dialog boxes that appear toward the end of the single player arcade mode. It’s loosely based on the events of Shattered Grid, as a number of characters and locales from the comic are featured. But there is a bare bones presentation here outside of the gameplay itself, something that is a frequent problem when mobile games get ported to home systems.
There is a lot to like here for old school fans of the franchise, including unlockable skins for characters that are more modern reimaginings of classic Ranger costumes. While some hit home a little better than others, they are super cool to collect and see in action. Unfortunately, several of the skins are locked behind the game’s rather steeply priced season pass. While it looks like plans are in place to add a lot more content to the game as time goes on, you’re talking about a $15 season pass for a $20 game. That is an incredibly hard sell considering how little they bothered to include with the base game. It wouldn’t be so bad if the game didn’t see fit to remind me on every single screen that the season pass was available to buy.
Considering how this game turned out it’s a bit of a surprise they didn’t just make a free-to-play console version of Legacy Wars and call it a day. It’s almost as if they were trying to trick consumers into buying it under the impression it was an entirely new Power Rangers game for consoles, only to find it’s the game we already had, but on more systems. Even with the $20 price tag, it’s really hard to recommend Battle for the Grid when you can play an arguable better version of the same game on your phone for free.
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid Review
- Graphics - 6/106/10
- Sound - 5/105/10
- Gameplay - 8/108/10
- Lasting Appeal - 3/103/10
Final Thoughts: MEDIOCRE
If you’re already a fan of Legacy Wars on mobile and absolutely need more of it in your life, this will definitely satisfy. Its limited features and lack of any real progression however, make it a hard pass for anyone outside that audience. There is a ridiculously good fighting game at its core, but it is suffering from a significant lack of polish in virtually every other department. An iconic name like Power Rangers deserves a far better console outing than this, and hopefully Hasbro wises up to this before they do something even crazier like try to port their mobile Diablo clone Power Rangers All-Stars.