Thursday, January 30, 2020

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

We approach the end of the month with a new review. It's for a fighting game that's evolved greatly since its launch last year. It's Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, and here is the SuperPhillip Central review.

Surprisingly awesome. Dare I say... "Morphinominal?"

The Power Rangers utterly consumed my childhood up until the fifth grade. I immersed myself in the show, intently watching every episode aired (and having a crying fit when I missed an episode), standing in line for opening night of the Power Rangers movie, getting the myriad action figures and associated toys bought for me, playing the video games, wearing the Red Ranger costume for Halloween in second grade and the White Ranger costume in fourth grade, and just ate up anything I could regarding the Rangers.

Since then, I've grown detached from the Rangers, as new teams and faces turned me off of the show, but I couldn't help but be pulled back in by a Power Rangers fighting game that plays like a combination of Marvel vs. Capcom with its tag-based fighting system and Dragon Ball FighterZ with its huge depth buried underneath its inviting and accessible controls. That fighting game is Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, and this budget priced fighter is one solid surprise as a fan of both fighting games and Saban's Super Sentai-based property.

Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a three-versus-three tag-based brawler that pits various Power Rangers characters from a variety of series in fast-paced, hectic battles. The game features a four button fighting system, used for light attacks, medium-strength attacks, heavy attacks, and special attacks. The latter is particularly nice because instead of complex, convoluted button combinations to pull off special attacks, you press the special attack button and then a direction on the D-Pad or analog stick to perform that attack. This gives some nice accessibility to the game, perfect for more casual players to enjoy Battle for the Grid while still offering enough depth for more experienced and competitive fighting game fans to partake in as well.

When Rangers take one another on, you can bet that the sparks will fly!
This mentioned "depth" comes from the systems involved in Battle for the Grid, consisting of things like smart blocking and subsequent push blocks (where you literally push an opponent who's heavily on the offensive back while you're in mid-block to give yourself from breathing room), the game's premier tag mechanics, and a perfectly themed mechanic in the context of the Power Rangers which serves as a means to come back from a deficit in battle.

This comeback mechanic involves calling for some overhead assistance, whether it's the Megazord, Dragonzord, Mega Goldar, or the recently released S.P.D. Zord. When you're on the losing end of battle, you can summon a Zord to unleash attacks from above in intervals temporarily to try to turn the tides of battle to your team's favor. While summoning a Zord or Mega Goldar may seem cheap, it's quite easy to dodge and wait out, simply by blocking and running out the clock on the opponent's summoning time. This results in a comeback mechanic that's fair and balanced rather than a mechanic that players will want to be on the losing end of a match just so they can use it to get a cheap win. There are no cheap wins with this mechanic, thankfully.

In all honesty, the sparks will fly in every battle, regardless of who's fighting!
As stated, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid features a 3-on-3 tag system, and this is where the game really shines gameplay-wise. You can call in an assist or two to bring one or both of your teammates into battle to unleash an attack, not only to mess up your opponent, but also to make it so you can continue combos to great effect. You can create some killer combos by chaining together moves, throws, and assists, and learning your team's strengths and weaknesses can contribute to that. Just be careful, though, because teammates called into assist can easily be attacked, making it so you need to show caution and call in some help at the right moments in battle. Assist characters called in can also be switched between as the active fighter while the characters in reserve have a portion of the health bars restored as they wait in reserve.

Udonna from Power Rangers: Mystic Force puts the freeze on Mastodon Sentry's zoning game.
The initial roster of Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid was a bit on the small size, totaling less than ten characters at launch. However, in a manner that Rita Repulsa would be proud of, nWay managed to "make that roster grow" by almost double the original amount since the game's release. It needs to be said, though, that if you want the full roster of 18 characters, six must be purchased either individually or via the two separately-sold season passes.

A Season Pass One addition, Lord Zedd makes a monkey out of Goldar.
The roster runs the gamut of Power Rangers heroes and villains that have a selection of each of the genre's traditional roles. You have Jason and Tommy serving as the Ryu and Ken of Battle for the Grid, the Ranger Slayer and Mastodon Sentry as characters that are great at keeping opponents away with long-ranged attacks, and you have big brutes in the form of Goldar and Dragon Armor Trini who are slow, yes, but can unleash devastating attacks to make up for it. There is a great deal of variety in play styles in Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid, and despite the small roster, I feel it's the definition of quality over quantity on display.

The roster wasn't the only thing bare-bones at launch with there being a paltry amount of modes to play through, as well as a basic and bland presentation. Since the game's release, a Story Mode has been added, allowing players to go through an interactive retelling of the Shattered Grid event that occurred in Boom Studios' Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comic. It's a short affair, with about two or three hours of fights interspersed with text-based dialogue and the occasional fully voiced still-frame cutscene, but it's a welcome addition to the game. Alongside the Story Mode's voice acting, characters in the game are now voiced as well, and additional stages are now included from the original release's handful.

Story Mode has wonderfully drawn visuals from comic book artist Dan Mora.
Online play has also improved since launch, offering cross-play between the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One, offering a larger community where even at odd times of night, I didn't have to wait too terribly long to find a match in ranked play. Casual play offered more of a wait, however. It makes sense considering Battle for the Grid features various online seasons--exclusive to ranked play--where those who rank up and reach the top of the leaderboard earn exclusive banners for their profiles, on top of other banners earned offline through beating arcade and story mode, as well as playing and winning online as specific characters for a number of matches. The netcode overall was rather good with my time playing online, and I seldom had a disconnection between myself and the other player due to a faulty connection.

Jen Scotts of Power Rangers: Time Force delivers her special move in a dazzling display.
As a budget fighter, Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a product of its cost. While animations and the presentation do less than impress, it's somewhat acceptable to me due to how much the game sells for. It's also acceptable because the gameplay here is so fundamentally solid. There's plenty of depth for those who want it, while also being accessible enough so that those who aren't overly competitive with their fighters and just want a casual time of it can enjoy the game as well. nWay has done well with its initial effort in the fighting game genre, and with more continued work, I can see Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid become an even greater game. As is, the foundation is strong, but the content just isn't quite there yet for anyone beyond the most ardent Power Rangers and fighting game fan.

[SPC Says: B-]

No comments: