Centuries ago, dark forces threatened to destroy civilisation in Japan. The danger was thought to have been destroyed by a clan of fearless warriors wielding power symbols that had been passed down for generations. Now these dark forces have returned to finish the destruction they started so long ago, and the survival of Earth rests on the shoulders of six ordinary teenagers – the Power Rangers Samurai.
The Power Rangers have been a staple series in children’s programing for over 18 years now and this past February saw the start of the 19th season with Power Rangers Samurai. While the cast has changed multiple times throughout the years, the show’s humour and over-the-top action remains intact today. In Samurai, the evil Master Xandred has returned after centuries of hiding with his minions of Nighloks in the attempt to flood Earth with the waters of the Sanzu River. While the Rangers take hold of their inherited destiny and set off to put an end to Xandred’s threat of destruction once and for all.
Fans of the series should be excited to know that this DS entry lets you relive ten of the show's episodes as a 2D side-scrolling action game. Each mission starts off with a lengthy storyboard that features segments taken straight from the episode the mission is based upon. All of the cheesy character script is completely voiced-over by their respective actors and the show's rock soundtrack makes the portable transition as well, nailing the game’s setting perfectly.
Taking control of your Ranger you're already equipped with the signature spin sword, with X and Y used for light/heavy attacks, which can be chained together with rapid button variations. Shoulder buttons are used for blocking enemy attacks and can also be used in combination with the attack buttons for powerful special attacks that drain your symbol power gauge, which is filled by collecting kanji symbols scattered throughout each mission. The Power Disc is found during play on the touch screen and a few quick spins will set the Ranger ablaze on-screen for a short period of time — decreasing the amount of symbol power drained when using special attacks.
Master Xandred’s mooger minions are abundant attackers throughout each mission. At first easily defeated with a single blow, as the missions progress they become increasingly difficult: becoming airborne, firing multiple projectiles, furiously blocking attacks and even found hiding in trees. By learning to block incoming attacks and mastering air attacks, you’ll quickly gain the necessary skills to eventually face Master Xandred. It’s no easy feat though, as the game has no issue trapping you in sections of each mission where forward progression is blocked and waves of enemies must be defeated before you can resume. In later missions, these sections find multiple enemies in both the air and on the ground, as well as floor spikes and other obstacles to avoid, making for challenging battle sequences that offer a significant challenge. While the challenge is definitely fun for the older fans, we’re afraid that the littlest of Rangers might find the game to be a bit too difficult.
The boss battles also offer up a welcome challenge too: what good is a boss battle if it's not challenging? While these fights are indeed tough, the symbol power can be used to quickly reduce their health; only by trying to defeat them without the use of the symbol power will these battles truly become difficult. Upon defeating a boss, the battle isn’t quite won just yet though, as they’ll morph into giant beast as a last-ditch attempt at victory. Quickly, the Rangers combine all their powers together and morph into Mega Mode, allowing you to take control of a megazord to send the giant beast to the grave.
Taking control of these megazords might not be what you'd expect: taking cues from Elite Beat Agents, you’ll spin a disc on the bottom screen rapidly to fill an attack meter on the top screen before your enemy. If you're successful an attack circle appears on the touch screen, initiating a rhythmic attack; if your enemy fills its meter first, you have to defend using another stylus minigame. These tug-of-war megazord battles aren’t exactly the highlight of the game — it’d be much cooler to actually control a megazord — but this approach does allow the action to play out just as it does in the television show on the top screen: hysterical stand-off fights where each opponent takes turns attacking the other.
While the little DS cartridge is already jam-packed with loads of the Rangers’ dialogue and tunes, the game also manages to still find room for a few other extras as well. For those who think they’re up for the challenge, finding all of the hidden power discs scattered throughout the missions grants access to multiple gameplay bonuses. Also, defying evil and destroying Master Xandred grants a host of other extras too, but we’ll not go off and spoil any surprises.
The action-packed 2D Power Ranger gameplay found here is surprisingly fun and does a great job of bringing the series style into a portable gameplay format. The graphics aren’t the best we’ve seen on the handheld and the common enemy in the game are reused far too much in each mission. A few platforming elements and variations are peppered through the missions to add some variety, but things still tend to get a bit repetitive after a few hours though. Even with its faults, this is far from the usual cash-in licensed title we’ve come to expect and Power Rangers Samurai is well worth a look from fans of the series.
Today’s Power Ranger fans may have parents who were fans themselves at one point long ago and whether you’re a fan new or old, Power Rangers Samurai has something to offer. While the littlest wannabes might find the challenge a bit too stiff, if those a bit older find the game nestled away in their stocking this Christmas, they might be chanting “Go Go Santa Claus” instead come Christmas morn.