Power Rangers Samurai
DS | NAMCO BANDAI Games | 1 Player | Out Now
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14th December 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
The plot revolves around the monster lord, Xandred, who has been bringing forth swarms of Nighloks to the real world to wreak havoc on the city. Across a series of missions, the team of five will come up against various enemies and bosses as they try to rid their world of evil. The story is told through stills presumably taken from the show, with dialogue boxes appearing on the Touch Screen to clue you in on everything that you can and can't see in the simple images. Not much to see here.
The Power Rangers have varying levels of attack and defense power, presented to you in plain sight on the Ranger Select screen. Each character is also versed in a specific elemental specialty, whether that is light, earth or fire. After you've made your selection, a sequence will take place on a separate screen where you'll have to re-create the symbolic Japanese writing for that respective character by tapping outlines on the Touch Screen. Successfully clearing this three-second Simon Says sequence will grant your character maximum Symbol Power during that stage (more on that subject in a bit). Aside from a clear weakness with Pink Ranger, the differences in attributes between the five characters are usually minor, and at the end of the day you'll be using every one of them over the course of the game.
Power Rangers Samurai's gameplay adopts a traditional model of 2D side-scrolling fighting games where quick on-the-run combat is emphasized over clever platforming. The Nighlok army consists of fireball-shooting wizards, warriors, archers, and the odd dinosaur or two. Environments are laid out as flat, simple-looking strips nearly devoid of background activity. At the end of a strip, you'll find a yellow arrow that will cause the screen to fade to black and switch to a new area.
Controls are easy enough to understand, with the +Control Pad used to move your character or head into an area on another screen, and the B Button for jumping. Attacks are mapped to both the Y and X Buttons which house quick and strong attacks, respectively. Using L and R can block against basic attacks, but pressing Y or X while these are held down will also execute a special elemental attack that will deplete energy from the red bar at the top of the screen.
By stringing combos together in succession, you can build up an ongoing chain of defeated enemies. Almost like a courtesy, chains aren't lost when you go into a different area, change characters or even have damage dealt to you. Rather, when your chain is of substantial size, you're given ample time to continue adding to it before the points are cashed in. While all this is taking place on the top screen, the Touch Screen houses a Power Disk that you can spin from time to time to power-up your character in some fashion. Even though I followed instructions and used my stylus to spin it around now and again, I honestly never noticed a real purpose in doing this since my character's health wasn't improving and their attacks weren't increasing in strength either. Other than that gimmicky inclusion, the controls do work well overall.
Levels contain common features including giant spin tops you can use to destroy enemies and barriers with a strong attack, barrels that explode shortly after impact, as well as interactive markings that you can trigger to knock enemies out of trees or cause a metal bar to fall on enemies below. Much more common are the blue, purple and red Power Circles which can produce a temporary speed boost, teleport you to another location, or allow for higher jumps, respectively. Also of interest are element-based obstacles that block off paths leading to secret collectibles. These require you to head to character switch pads and use the right Ranger for the job. This is the very reason why you'll be using each and every Ranger at one time or another.
Mission structure in this game follows a consistent format where the first part of each mission will involve getting to the close-off point in the level, with a boss fight to follow. With one exception, the boss fights in this game always have two phases to them. The first is your standard fight-till-the-death duel while the second has you joining forces with the other Rangers to create a giant Megazord robot. During these Mega Monster Fight segments, players will be required to spin a disk on the Touch Screen again and again until you build up enough energy. When this happens, you'll need to tap the Attack button to activate a blue ring, and then tap it a second time when it meets the red ring around the button. When it's your enemy's turn, four corner buttons will appear on the Touch Screen marked "Block" and "Miss". Obviously, you need to tap all of the "Block" icons to prevent the attack from doing any damage. Visiting new missions will unlock additional Megazords with varying degrees of attack power, defense and even the rate of growth with the energy meter.
As a whole, the bosses aren't too difficult if you know what you're doing. Go in with a full set of elemental energy, you can easily chop much of your challenger's health using your special attacks. And as for the Megamode Battles, based on the way the Megazoids look and how they're formed, you could easily mistake this for a Voltron game. That aside, even though the boss fights aren't bad, the fact that every single boss follows the exact same format (even down to the text that precedes each Megamode Battle), things become very repetitious.
Variety becomes a bit of a luxury halfway through when the player will likely begin feeling like they're just coasting through the experience without really deriving much from it. From this point onwards, you'll experience two instances within missions where you'll need to scour an area for pieces of a fragmented stone artifact. Other times, a specific Ranger will be called upon to do a solo mission as part of the storyline, and later on, a sixth, more agile character will join the team. But that's about all there is to speak about in terms of variety, which may prove to be a valid issue depending on your feelings towards the gameplay as a whole.
When I started out, I felt the game wasn't that repetitive despite the fact that there weren't a whole lot of changes taking place. As time went on, though, the action became less exciting and reached a point of tedium. The lack of variety in the environments certainly doesn't help with this. I only counted four different areas: the normal city, an underground area, a jungle, and finally, one set by the ocean. It wasn't just the fact that the developers stuck to these same backgrounds all the time, but the storyline text seemed to indicate the team would occasionally find themselves in a different realm. So that was disappointing.
In terms of difficulty, I thought the normal stages had a good balance that would prevent kids from getting frustrated too easily. Power Symbol collectibles appear from time to time to recharge your health meter and health pick-ups aren't too common in general, yet loss of health is never a major concern, even when getting attacked from multiple angles. It's a good thing, too, because unless you make it to the boss fight before you pass out, having all your health depleted will send you all the way back to the entry point of the mission. At the same time, though, I thought two of the later bosses created an abrupt spike in the difficulty that would do exactly what I said the game managed to avoid up until this point: frustrate players.
The presentation values in Power Rangers Samurai could've used some more work in my eyes. Animations of characters running or pushing blocks usually looked a bit fuzzy, and the environments in the game feel basic as stated earlier. The images of the models on the Ranger Select screen look like they were done in Photoshop with a simple white stroke added to them. I thought the music was pretty fitting for the on-screen action, albeit nothing was memorable enough for me to take notice of. Also, it was nice that they included a voice clip here and there and even the Power Rangers theme song as per the license material.
Following the 10th Mission, you'll come up against the game's final boss which is hardly any different from all the other bosses you've fought before this. Considering that I was able to beat him on my first go, I found the 8th boss (Steeleto) more difficult -- which took me over five attempts. After witnessing the Credit Roll, no additional modes or stages are unlocked for play, making this a slightly short 10-mission adventure. Due to the somewhat repetitive nature of the levels, there's not really much motivation to return and earn maximum star ranks on each of the missions -- even if there are secret areas to hunt for using different characters. Sad to say, this just feels like another game to just "get through" with little to be taken away from the experience.
In the end, despite some decent game design, Power Rangers Samurai doesn't do anything noteworthy that's worth paying to see or support. Repetition does enter into the mix, but because the mechanics are good, it's actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Still, there's no beating around the bush when it comes to the lasting appeal of this game: simply put, there is none. Kids will probably have some fun with it for a few short spurts during the span of a week, but that's about it. With that said, you might just be better off skipping it.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Controls mostly work well, consistent mission structure, basic elements seen throughout, forgiving combo system, gimmicky Power Disks
Presentation 6/10 - Uses the same four environments over and over, visuals are decent although the animations could've used some work, average music
Enjoyment 2/5 - Becomes repetitive especially with the bosses, little to take away from the experience, features an abrupt spike in difficulty, little variety
Extra Content 3/5 - Ten missions in total, a bit short, can aim for star ranks on each level but the motivation isn't there, secret areas to discover
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System