May the Mighty Morphers have their moment.
Debuting in August 1993, the Power Rangers are a cultural institution. While 80s kids had Transformers, GI Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the 90s was all about turning dramatically to the camera and yelling “It’s Morphin’ Time”. Based on, and using footage from the legendary Japanese series, Super Sentai, Power Rangers has done what so many children’s brands fail to do. It has endured. The show that started in 1993 has an unbroken lineage to the current 28th series of the show, Power Rangers: Dino Fury. For context, Power Rangers started when The Simpsons was in its fourth season. That’s how long it’s been going.
And yet, in all that time, the series has never received a truly incredible video game. While the early seasons of the show inspired some passable beat-em-ups such as Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers on SNES and Genesis, and more recently, Power Rangers: Battle For The Grid has earned some respect from hardcore fighting game fans for it’s surprising depth and accessibility, no one has yet to give the Power Rangers their breakout video game hit. A game that paid respect to 30 years of lineage, and allowed players to take part in those massive, explosion laden battles they’d imagine in their back garden. Although, as was revealed recently, someone was trying, at least for a while.
Project Nomad, an open world Power Rangers video game that was cancelled in its conceptual phase, has been revealed by a former Saban employee. Jason Bishcoff, formally the director of Global Consumer products, showed off concept art and revealed some of the plans for the game. In a series of tweets, Jason described the concept for the game as “Arkham Rangers”, a clear reference to Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham franchise.
Jason has previously worked in the video game industry, having spent some years at Blizzard as senior manager for Global Licensing and Business Development. While little was revealed about the project aside from some art depicting the Mighty Morphin’ team in newly redesigned suits, as well as a look at concept art for the Rangers long serving assistant Alpha-5 and a look at some redesigned Alien Ranger suits, the idea alone got me incredibly excited.
Every time I’m asked what game I’d love to see made, my answer is the same. A Power Rangers game, with Rocksteady combat. It seems so obvious. Think about the encounters in the Batman: Arkham games, you’re incredibly overpowered against a group of random goons, and all you need to do is hit square to leap between them, punching them to bits, occasionally looking out for the counter indicator.
Now, think about the combat in the Power Rangers series. The majority of it is the Rangers fighting against the nameless soldiers for that season, beating hundreds of them a year, using stylish, acrobatic combat.
While the combat of a theoretical Power Rangers game may seem to lift nicely from the Arkham series, what also made those games so incredible was their narratives. Having all of Batman canon to lift from certainly helps. However, until recently, strong story telling wasn’t something the Power Rangers was exactly known for.
Due to each season being 50 episodes in length, plenty of them follow the same “monster of the week” formula. This was until the 2018 comic book series Shattered Grid. For those who haven’t read the series, and I highly recommend you do, the plot involves a rift in the Power Grid, the source of the Ranger’s power, that reveals an alternate dimension in which Tommy Oliver, the original Green Ranger, has stayed loyal to series one villain Rita Repulsa. In order to defeat Tommy in his new “Lord Drakkon” persona, the Rangers must unite from across all seasons and dimensions to take him down. If you were to make a Power Rangers game with the intent to pay tribute to all of the seasons you can, it’s hard to think of a better framework than that.
Batman: Arkham Asylum managed to pay tribute to decades of comic books and tell it’s own unique story in a single game. Every Batman villain or character you could think of managed to get a cameo, and it destroyed preconceptions about licensed video games.
I think Power Rangers is ripe to receive the same treatment. Considering the marketing power of nostalgia – especially 90s nostalgia – it’s ridiculous to me that no executive at a game publisher has thought about how many copies they’d sell of a Power Rangers game based on guys in their 30s seeing the Green Ranger on the cover in a shop and being transported back to when they were six.
Considering as of 2021, there are around 150 different Rangers and more than 25 teams, does that not sound like the exact type of thing that could be translated into a service model? Release the base game with the iconic suits, Mighty Morphin, Space, Ninja Storm and whichever series is modern at the time, and then after launch, release a new team every couple of months with a few new missions. You have no idea how much I’d pay to have the full set. I’m not alone.
The value of Power Rangers as a video game brand is completely undervalued. How many times do I need to suffer through a terrible Transformers game for Power Rangers to even get a sincere shot? No one can convince me that the game I’ve lined out above wouldn’t sell well. Power Rangers is a cultural sleeping giant, and with the 30th anniversary around the corner in 2023, it’s about time it woke up.