Review: Power Rangers Super Samurai (Microsoft Xbox 360)

Power Rangers Super Samurai
Genre: Beat-Em-Up
Developer: Namco Bandai Games
Publisher: Namco Bandai Games
Release Date: 12/04/12

Games geared towards children generally tend to be sub-optimal gaming experiences; at best they are either surprisingly competent or at least tolerable to those who are not amazed by the franchise, at worst they are painful enough that the child will not even want to play the game offered despite being a fan. It’s extremely rare that a game aimed at the younger market is good on its own merits these days, and while one can certainly make the argument of how much different this may or may not have been “back in the day,” the point is that it can be hard to find a licensed game that manages to do something worth playing. This can further be compounded when using quirky technology, such as the Kinect; something that might have been tolerable with the controller might be more engaging if you’re flailing around, but it might also be more of a hassle to play if the controls don’t work right. This, unfortunately, brings us to Power Rangers Super Samurai, which is Namco Bandai’s attempt to bring the Power Rangers to the Kinect, which would, in theory, maybe make for a simple game where you fight monsters as your favorite Ranger. In practice, however, this is more of a case of a game that essentially doesn’t work in any way one might possibly expect, as at best it’s “flailing around and hoping something happens” and at worst it’s “watching your Ranger fail a lot because the game doesn’t register properly”.

There isn’t any sort of coherent plot going on here; you pick a Power Ranger and fight through various stages against monsters that have, presumably, appeared in the series, which would leave the player to fill in the plot holes from when the monsters appeared in the show. As such, the game boils down to “monster appears, you fight it, repeat” being the entire plot, with some mild conversation on the odd chance you encounter a monster that might matter that means little and advances nothing. You’re offered the option to jump into the story mode or to take on a training mode that allows you to train along side the Power Rangers or the Nighlok army, as well, which just amounts to repeating actions alongside the CPU in a sort of medium impact “Simon Says”. You can also look at collectibles and such that you might find in the game from the Collection, if you’re interested in this thing. This is the extent of what is offered here, and while you can return to prior stages in the story mode should you want to fight a stage or a boss as a different Ranger, the above is essentially all that’s offered to do with the game, in its entirety, so you’ll not find a lot to work with modes-wise.

Visually, Power Rangers Super Samurai is simultaneously awkward and adequate, but this is the best that it can manage at any given point in time. The character renders are fine in the sense that they look like Power Rangers, and their foes look suitably cartoonishly monstrous. The environments are generally acceptable, if quite non-descript; you run through cities and parking garages, cliff side vistas and temples, and it’s all fine but uninspiring. On the other hand, the characters make glitchy, spastic motions when the game isn’t sure what it thinks you’re doing, and the game has a habit of inserting live-action footage for various battle sequences, such as when the monsters enlarge, which is quite weird, as the transition is often jarring. The game also takes a picture of you with the Kinect to allow you to “transform” into your Power Ranger, but your picture often looks grainy and clashes with the transformation sequence. Aurally, the voice work may well be from the actors on the show, but whether or not it is, it’s stiff and bland, featuring mostly shouted statements of teamwork and “Get ‘em!” declarations that are rather nondescript. The music is unmemorable, and is neither offensive nor interesting enough to remember upon turning off the game, aside from the updated Power Rangers theme song, which is fine. The sound effects are adequate as well, offering nothing out of place or unpleasant but nothing that stands out either.

The gameplay, sadly, cannot match this level of ambivalent mediocrity, as Power Rangers Super Samurai is essentially played by flailing your arms in front of the Kinect and hoping for the best. Each stage more or less works identically: you’re introduced to the monster of the stage and his or her flunkies, if applicable, then the game makes you gesture out your symbol (which is mostly assembled through random flailing). You then stand bolt upright to transform, and spend the next several minutes flailing to defeat enemies and damage the boss. If your character needs to move a long distance, they will simply take over and run in a direction until you need to fight or dodge something; if they need to move a short distance, your flailing allows you to close the gap. You can also attack with your off hand or kick enemies, but there is generally little reason to do so when your weapon hand is, well, the one with the weapon in it. The game will occasionally ask you to strafe left or right to dodge an attack, as well as jump and duck to perform the same. Finally, the game will also prompt you with specific motions that can complete an Active Time sequence, such as punching rapidly or performing a “shove it” motion (seriously) to power up your weapon and deal more damage to enemies. You repeat this until the boss is defeated, prompting them to expand to massive size, which then starts a Megazord battle, which consists of the exact same battle motions. Eventually you will strike down said enemy with a cutscene attack, the boss will be defeated, and you will move on to the next stage, which will be the same thing against a different boss.

This is, in its entirety, the story mode.

You can also head to the Training Mode, which allows you three separate play options. You can choose the Breaking Challenge, which has you duck and jump to place blocks, then chop to break them, across five levels of challenge. You can choose the Ranger Training, which features the Rangers directing you to perform motions that you’ll then follow, ala “Simon Says”, across four levels. Finally, you can choose Nighlok Training, which is basically Ranger Training, except that you are training with the bad guys, their instructions are mostly conveyed via charades since they speak no English, and there are only two levels. In all three modes you simply appear on-screen alongside the Rangers, instead of playing as one as in the story mode, though this changes nothing about the experience. All of the appropriate modes allow for two players as well, so if you want to fight monsters with a friend or train together or what have you, you’re certainly welcome to do so, so long as you don’t want to play as the same Ranger one supposes.

The basic issue here is that, while there might potentially be reasons to come back to the game, such as the fact that Ranger Training offers a mild cardio workout or the fact that the story mode offers multiple difficulty levels, there are two major reasons not to. The first is that the game is exceptionally repetitive; one can literally flail their arm back and forth for the majority of the time they play, stopping to punch the air and dodge occasionally when needed, and complete the game. There is no real depth to the gameplay outside of “flail arm with weapon in it” aside from “dodge sometimes,” “power up weapon,” and “punch occasionally.” The second problem is that, even with these limited mechanics, the game doesn’t work a notable amount of the time, especially when it comes to jumping and ducking. Having recently tested the Kinect (as in, going from this game to Dance Central 3 and back again), the system can certainly register jumping and ducking just fine, but the game, for some reason, literally cannot. Of (and I wish I was exaggerating here) fifty separate attempts to duck, the game recognized this motion all of three times, and of fifty attempts at jumping, it never recognized this once. As the game requires you to do this thing to dodge some attacks, there will literally be sequences where you simply take damage, unavoidably, and while getting up from defeat is easy enough (punch a lot), this does not change the fact that you will find that about a quarter of your actions simply do not register with the game. The game doesn’t even give you any indication of how to pause, or if such a thing is possible; while the game responds to voice commands (mostly), shouting “PAUSE!” at the Kinect did nothing, and I eventually had to turn off the game and load it back up to get to the main menu, which could have been averted by offering the option to quit from the results screen at the end of each stage, at the very least.

Put simply, Power Rangers Super Samurai is an unfriendly game that is both simplistic and unfunctional, offers few options to play it, and is designed in a manner that is inoffensive at best and unfriendly at worst. The game looks and sounds “okay” at the best of times, but there’s no plot to speak of and only a small handful of gameplay modes to jump into at all. The gameplay amounts to flailing your arm a lot and occasionally sidestepping, jumping or ducking for a couple hours or until you get tired if you play the story mode, and matching simple commands in the training modes, and that’s it. Even this would be fine, but the game is literally only this for however long you choose to play it (as you can see everything in a couple hours), and even then, the game finds it hard to register jumping and ducking motions, which you need to do in order to survive at all. If you have a child who absolutely loves Power Rangers Super Samurai, buy them the toys instead. If you have a Kinect in the house and kids who like playing it, buy them one of the Sesame Street games or something. Power Rangers Super Samurai isn’t going to keep your kids occupied for any length of time no matter how much of a fan they might be, and you could buy almost anything else for the Kinect and end up with a better deal.

The Scores:
Story/Game Modes: BAD
Graphics: POOR
Control/Gameplay: DREADFUL
Replayability: DREADFUL
Balance: BAD
Originality: WORTHLESS
Addictiveness: WORTHLESS
Miscellaneous: WORTHLESS


Short Attention Span Summary:
Power Rangers Super Samurai is a messy, occasionally non-functional, limited, repetitive, meager game that essentially offers no compelling argument to own it unless you absolutely must play as a Power Ranger for some reason. It looks and sounds acceptable, and the game is incredibly simplistic, but beyond that there is basically nothing of note to say about the game. The story is virtually nonexistent, the play modes available are miniscule, and the gameplay is either “flail your arm and occasionally dodge” or “repeat motions directed to you” for the entirety of the experience. Even then, the game becomes massively repetitive at the best of times, and there are frequently problems detecting jumping and ducking motions that will lead to missed moves repeatedly no matter what you do. You could do better to purchase anything else for the Kinect but this, unfortunately, and only the most diehard of Power Rangers fans will find anything to enjoy here… and even then, it won’t be terribly much.



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