An Inconsistent Grid
Video Game Review by Wesley Rea
Battle for the Grid is available on: Nintendo Switch/Xbox One/PlayStation 4/PC
As a long-time Power Ranger fan, the ultimate dream would be to have a good fighting game set in this ever-evolving world of spandex-clad heroes. After all, the show is filled with super-cool backflips, choreographed karate action, and lots of colorful fights and explosions. These ingredients – as well as the actual lore and character motivations from the past 25 years – should make creating a good fighting game a cinch, right?
The Power Rangers franchise is no stranger to fighting games and side-scrolling beat-‘em-ups. Whether it was the fighting games during the 16-bit era, the 3D action games of the late 90s and early 00s, or the Super Legends series that celebrated the 15th anniversary of the franchise, it is clear to see that this is a franchise that has gained modest success on various platforms. Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is the latest entry into the popular franchise’s gaming repertoire, released only a few short months after being announced for various platforms. So, how does it stack up?
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, the story is the weakest aspect of the game. The only mode that has a semblance of story is the arcade mode, and even that has sparse dialogue between characters limited to only the last few matches. The dialogue that is brought up is certainly meaningful if you know the characters and their backstories, but beyond that, casual or newer fans won’t be missing out on anything particular important.
That being said, there is news about an upcoming story mode being written by writers that have also worked on the Power Rangers comics from BOOM! Studios that may have some connection to the huge Shattered Gridcomic storyline from 2018 (which is basically about Power Rangers from every team coming together to take down Lord Drakkon, an evil Tommy Oliver from a parallel dimension). This is supposed to be an original story written for the game, so hopefully it will be handled with the same care that the comic book storylines have been.
I am mixed on how I feel about the audio in this game. It seems to be the typical rock/metallic/atmospheric-type of music that we have been getting in the past few years for the franchise. I found that the score was very similar to what was heard in the 2017 Power Rangersfilm.
Unfortunately, this type of generic-sounding music is basically all that’s offered in the soundtrack. None of the familiar tunes from the Ron Wasserman score of the original Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers season are offered as of yet. I do not even recall hearing the Go GoPower Rangers theme song anytime throughout my play time. It is a real shame that much of what we are getting soundtrack-wise is rather generic, but that seems to be par for the course for the franchise lately.
The lack of voice acting is a serious flaw that really needs to be remedied soon. Even if you cannot get back most of the original actors to do voices, at least getting sound-alikes would be a step in the right direction. Characters are introduced non-audibly at the beginning of each match, which creates an awkward wait time where nothing is said or done. Even during the sparse story bits, dialogue is delivered via text alone. This is a rather huge oversight that can, thankfully, be fixed in future updates.
This is where the game really shines. Is it a perfect fighting game? Certainly not. But it is definitely a FUN fighting game.
At this point in time, there are nine characters to choose from. There have been multiple characters announced for future DLC (both free and paid), but at this time, the character roster is very sparse. The gameplay is such that you have to choose three characters for your team and fight against another team of three, so be prepared to see the same characters and similar teams over and over again (especially in arcade mode).
While I am not a fighting game aficionado that can describe all the nitty-gritty details, I can tell you that each character definitely feels unique. Some of the attacks are direct homages to the character’s actions from the show while others are made up specifically for this game, but everything that the characters do feel right for that character. The unique part of the fighting comes in the way of Mega Assists. Currently, you can summon the Dino MegaZord, DragonZord, or Mega Goldar to help you during a pinch. Pulling these off in a moment of desperation feels supremely gratifying while also being extremely frustrating if you are the one getting pummeled by one. If you become quite proficient with the controls, you could definitely come out of these encounters relatively healthy, so there is certainly an element of skill involved. While not being as technical as, say, Street Fighter, it certainly goes out of its way to play smoothly and feel fair.
There are certainly characters that are used more in the online metagame, which is to be expected, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that no two characters feel completely alike. This is a refreshing change from fighting games with clone characters with little variety. I spent most of my time playing as the Magna Defender, Ranger Slayer, and Super MegaForce Yellow; each time I would switch characters out, I had to quickly relearn how they play since they played drastically different from each other (for example, the Magna Defender felt more like a slow-moving tank while Ranger Slayer and SMF Yellow were more speedy, with varying types of ranged and melee attacks).
In regards to the presentation of the battles, the weakest part would have to be the stages. Not that any are particularly bad, but there isn’t much to them. The most recognizable stage would be the Command Center; yet, even that stage seems relatively unpolished and lacks visual details, almost as if it was a beta stage. While not a deal-breaker considering most of your attention will be focused on the action, it is unfortunate considering there is already a lack of characters and modes at this point.
Summary (Was It Fun?)
Make no mistake: this is definitely a fun little game, especially if you are invested in the Power Rangers franchise. For the entry price of $19.99, you are getting a decent fighting game that is enjoyable to play in group settings. You will find quickly, however, that you will be left wanting for more due to the lack of content at this time. You could certainly go out of your way to collect all of the different banners for each character, but with very little reason to do so due to the lack of character and stage unlocks, all you get are bragging rights for playing with the same characters on the same stages in the same modes.
Rating (Buy/Wait for Sale/Rent/Pass)
My final piece of advice would be to wait for a sale on this game. While the initial price of $19.99 seems like a pretty good entry point, it is hard to justify that price combined with the season one pass (let alone future season passes we know nothing about) with very little knowledge about how it will be supported in the future. With the sparse character roster and very low replayability at this time, casual or newer fans to the series may be feeling a bit burnt by the current lack of content.