In case you haven’t been keeping track over the years, Power Rangers Samurai is the 19th iteration of the long-running live-action martial arts/sci-fi/fantasy franchise. Power Rangers Samurai Steel is the second game based on the series to come to the iPhone, after Power Rangers Samurai Smash. But Steel is different from its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way, while still being a Power Rangers Samurai game, and it’s all the better for it.
Whereas Smash was a clunky side-scrolling beat-‘em-up in the vein of Final Fight featuring super-deformed cartoon-style versions of our colorful heroes, Samurai Steel works differently on nearly all levels. Upon starting, you choose a difficulty level and one of five Rangers, each with their own stats, then take off into the city to fight the evil Nighlok monster Rofer. All along the way, you’re treated to sounds and music from the show, including the updated remix of the original Mighty Morphin theme used this season.
As the level loads, players are treated to some rather amazing graphics– at least, as Power Rangers games go. The Rangers, monsters, and city look almost like they popped right out of the show, albeit with a slight “uncanny valley” effect, but this is perhaps the most faithful looking Power Rangers game we’ve seen to date.
Round one, fight!
In this game, there is no looking for the action– you’re placed right in the thick of it, face-to-face with monster-of-the-week Rofer in a 3D-style over-the-shoulder perspective. You don’t have to worry about moving around, as your goal is to inflict as much damage as you can by slashing your sword via swipes of the touchscreen. Strangely, making calculated swipes according to how the monster is positioned does not seem to work, as most swipes don’t register; instead, moving your finger around the touchscreen rapidly in numerous directions– “scribbling,” for lack of a better term– is far more effective, leading to much more damaging combos. Doing so also builds up a meter at the bottom of the screen which, when full, allows you to perform a powerful Kanji attack from your Ranger’s Spin Sword.
Of course, Rofer’s not going to simply sit there and allow you to turn him into this week’s fireworks display; he’s going to fight back, and that’s when you must employ the other two buttons at the bottom of the screen. The left button makes your Ranger block, while the right makes your Ranger dodge with a sidestep. Another more difficult way to defend is attacking their attack, parrying it.
The controls conflict at times, as performing your “scribble” attack makes it more difficult to have your Ranger block or dodge in a timely fashion. This might have been less of a problem if the buttons were larger, as touching those small areas in the heat of battle can be tricky unless you stop your attacks short in anticipation of the monster’s counter.
After wearing down Rofer, he moves elsewhere, and this goes back and forth for a few rounds, followed by video footage taken from the show wherein he retreats. The battle doesn’t end there, though, as your Ranger must take on a series of weaker foes in the form of “Moogers,” the spiritual successors to foot soldiers such as the Putty Patrollers, Tenga Warriors, Cogs, etc. They are fought in the same way as the monster, attacking one at a time in sequence, but are easier to take down than Rofer.
The city budget didn’t account for this.
Rofer soon returns, continuing the battle as before until he is defeated– or so you think. In an unexpected twist, the Nighlok grows into a Mega-Monster, thus necessitating the roll of footage in which the five Rangers summon their individual Foldingzords to form the Samurai Megazord. Now standing tall over the partially-destroyed city (complete with cars racing along the roadways), the battle continues in the same fashion until Rofer is defeated.
And that’s it; roll credits. There is a “to be continued” tag at the end, implying that Saban intends to release more of these, though whether additional episodes will come at a cost remains to be seen.
Power Rangers Samurai fans may lament the lack of special weapons (seen wielded by Rangers on the title screen), as well as the Gold Ranger. We’re assuming the latter is due to Rofer being from earlier in the season, before the Gold Ranger appeared, and that they are trying to stay true to the episodes from which the footage was taken. Still, there are some other neat touches, such as Achievements earned for playing as a Ranger would– things such as saving your Megazord’s special move to strike the finishing blow– that really add to the Ranger-styled charm.
Another problem is that the game is short– the whole thing took about ten minutes or so to complete. But the bigger problem– or really, the biggest problem– is that the game is EXTREMELY prone to crashing. You may not even be able to get to the title screen before it does; we experienced the trouble on two different devices, and were only able to get the game to run well after shutting down every other program and rebooting… and even then, it was iffy.
Such a flaw would normally be the death knell as far as our score is concerned, but given that the game is free to begin with, it’s hard to feel ripped off. When and if you finally get it running, it is a rather fun little diversion, especially if you’re a fan of Power Rangers.