Hello. For those not up to speed, Battle For My Last Braincell is a blog I've created to talk about Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid as a passing fan of Power Rangers and a passing fan of fighting games. Thanks to this blog, I have, among other things, managed to get into Mirai Sentai Timeranger, which has been awesome. (Though I've been taking a break from Timeranger and binging Mobile Suit Gundam content on Netflix since it's finally there.)
In part 1, I talked about the roster of the game. In part 2, I talked about the gameplay, which I considered to be the high point.
Now... the low point. The story. Which I finished a few days ago and let myself think about.
So, Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid is adapted from Boom Studios' Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers comics, specifically the Shattered Grid storyline. I have never actually read this storyline, so playing through the game's story, which heavily compresses it, was an interesting experience to say the least. So, that leads us to the question? Is Battle For The Grid a game with a good story? Even a decent one?
No. No, it's not.
So, with no knowledge of Shattered Grid and its nuances, I'm going in like Linkara does with the original Sentai in History of Power Rangers: The story I was given and what I could get off a basic google search and a read on the TVTropes page. So, as far as I can tell, Shattered Grid is a story focused around a Crisis on Infinite Earths-style crossover. The main villain is my man Lord Drakkon, who has the pettiest motivation in possibly the history of comics. Drakkon is an alternate version of franchise face Tommy Oliver. Some stuff got messy with him, and basically, he not only murdered the universe's other Rangers, not only raised an army with their powers, but then proceeded to murder his own mentor, that universe's version of Rita Repulsa, and seek to murder every other Tommy Oliver out of spite. Let me start with the strongest point of the game's adaptation: Lord Drakkon is a fucking awesome villain. He carries the same despicable, petty energy of someone like the DCAU's Darkseid. His accomplice, the Ranger Slayer, is sadly underused in the game's story.
I've never read the comic, but the heavily compressed story doesn't do Battle For The Grid any favors. Battle For The Grid has two forms of storytelling: Motion comic cutscenes with little to no animation, and dialogue boxes. Very often, fights start with little to no justification. Fights are also repetitive and nonsensical. At least twice, the player beats the hell out of an enemy, only for the story to treat it as though the player needed the aid of a new hero as the cavalry. The story is borderline incoherent. Despite starting coherent, it quickly becomes a mess as the player witnesses a story that rips aspects from the comics and provides them with little justification. Characters are thrown at the player with the assumption they will understand them perfectly. The only character who's presented to the player in a meaningful fashion is Drakkon himself, who is great in terms of villainy and a delight on the whole. The story jumps from setting to setting with little justification, often repeats scenarios and fights, and throws the player against the same few enemies constantly. Fights rarely have any effect, and nothing feels meaningful. The most fun the player gets is when the game throws the player into the shoes of the villains and lets them stomp the heroes into the ground. Even then, there are aspects that really fail to land: Goldar is a key example of this. The game really tries to convince the player that Goldar, who shouldn't be on the roster in the first place, is threatening despite him speaking in the simpleton-like voice of the original series' Goldar.
Perhaps the peak of the flaws in Battle For The Grid's story is the Ranger Slayer. The Ranger Slayer is, in theory, my favorite character. Kimberly Hart, turned to the side of Lord Drakkon and used as a precise and powerful assassin who eliminates Rangers with her own experience and power. She's cold, professional, and brutal. Sadly? She's also, uh, useless. The Ranger Slayer wins one or two fights, and then gets the crap beaten out of her. A while later, she shows up, fights Kimberly, and halfway through the fight reveals that she's actually here to help, having been brainwashed. The game then unleashes a flashback on the player without telling them it's a flashback, with the Ranger Slayer fighting some Mastodon Sentries (We'll get to these gents, don't worry) and then Lord Drakkon. All that's really told to the player is that she fought Drakkon, got brainwashed, and now she's un-brainwashed.
Flaws like this are commonplace. The Magna Defender gets his own subplot that I don't really understand, fights are interrupted by text boxes, story events happen while assuming the player will just know what's going on, and the game also throws the player into the shoes of different characters all the time, jumping perspectives constantly and ridiculously. Drakkon's forces somehow cast spells on existing roster members to keep them from involving the A Squad or Koragg from Mystic Force, since they're not on the roster. (The latter being a personal favorite I know is a character in the comics.) The story changes and compresses enough that any appeal from the existing comic is entirely diminished.
So, uh, how's the gameplay of story mode? Buckle yourselves in. I'll talk about the other issues, but I feel one enemy has to be given huge credit, credit they're not given. So let's get into...
Six Mastodon Sentries singlehandedly managed to defeat the entire Nighlok Horde.
Nine Mastodon Sentries once used landmines to wipe out a Megazord.
Two Mastodon Sentries killed Carter Grayson with no help whatsoever. One threw down landmines so he couldn't move, and the other just kept shooting him.
Three Mastodon Sentries could take down the entire U.S. Military if all of them opened fire at once.
A Mastodon Sentry fought Satan and not only survived but was invited to do it again, because Satan considered him a worthy opponent. Jesus's official verdict was: "I want a piece of that action."
Okay, in case you can't tell, I am exaggerating the Mastodon Sentries' feats a little bit. Nonetheless, the game is very clearly meant to be played in specific ways. The 3-on-3 tag combat with Megazord aid is clearly designed to be the only way the game is played, and the story mode does not stick to that whatsoever. This makes already existing flaws in the game's design, nicely covered up by the existence of these functions, very visible. In addition, you can't stack an entire team with the same character, but the AI ignores that entirely in story mode while in the process showing exactly why that is. The Mastodon Sentry is a fairly balanced character in normal gameplay. After three shots, his rifle needs a moment to reload, allowing the player to open up, and his land mine can be easily avoided by not going close. In addition, since tagging lets the player regenerate health, tagging characters in means damage is rarely too permanent. Once the player gets the hand of the normal 3-on-3, things should be fine. The game's story shoves the player against three Mastodon sentries on a team multiple times, only made worse by the fact the player has no ability to call in assists, tag, or use the Megazord. It's pure hell, with the Sentries spamming gunfire, throwing landmines, and proving that they're deadly in a group of three. Utter footnotes in the "plot" (If it can be called that) are harder and more frustrating than boss fights. The weaknesses in the gameplay are all magnified by the fact the player is stuck with no assists, a couple extra lives at most, and Mastodon Sentries who can zone the player effortlessly, know how to tag in and out and avoid attacks, and generally have a higher edge at all times. This makes enduring the story mode of the game all too difficult and frustrating, and leads me to the conclusion that a single squad of Mastodon Sentries could wipe out an entire team of Power Rangers, much less the army Drakkon seems to have.
Oh, also, in the last act, shit does not get better. The heroes call in Rita for a temporary alliance, the hype gets going... and the game forces the player through repetitive, arduous fights. The most awesome moment in the story has to be both Kimberlys tearing apart Drakkon together, which is fun, but then Rita proves exactly how useless she is and purposeless her role in the story is when she only gets into the throne room to get offed and give Drakkon a power boost. Just as it seems the darkest hour has come... Tommy Oliver inexplicably revives in a moment where even he admits he doesn't know how this happened, which I'm sure made more sense in the comic (Or I at least hope it made more sense in the comic), Drakkon upgrades again, and then Tommy brawls him. It's actually a decent boss fight, but it plays to the game's weaknesses again, being a 1-on-1 where the enemy is straight-up given more lives than the player, and is only saved by Tommy being a solid all-rounder who can take out Drakkon's lives without too much struggle. After that, Drakkon blows up, and then they're done! The team unites, nothing really seems to bother them, and Tommy's only worry is that maybe he might turn out like Drakkon, but the team gives him a moment of validation and unconditional support in what would be heartwarming if not for the fact that Zack and Billy weren't there this entire time and it feels completely unearned since the story sucked so much beforehand. Also, it ensures that everything else the heroes did was pointless since Tommy just showed up and killed Drakkon anyways, a complete and unearned deus ex machina that the game seems all too proud of itself for.
So, uh, yeah. The story also has the same issues as always with Power Rangers. The voice acting is pretty awful, as in worse than usual, all the performances sound phoned-in, clear attempts to build hype are undermined by lackluster storytelling and repetitive fights, and the story all in all breaks its own back. It throws the player into random roles, and especially pales when it's adapting a widely-beloved comic storyline and we live in an era where ArcSys and Netherrealm are making far better story modes. While I'm not going to say I feel Battle For The Grid is a cash-in... the story mode is of cash-in quality.
Overall, not good. Easily the weakest part of the game, its sole redeeming quality being an awesome villain. It's so lackluster and weak.
Anyways, uh, Christopher Lee made some metal albums and they're weird and I recommend checking them out just because I love Christopher Lee. Also, Timeranger is awesome, so expect a blog on that at some point.