So-So Power Rangers!
Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid is a great example of how far rock-solid mechanics and strong characters can take a fighting game, even when everything else is working against it. This nostalgia-fest has the look of a free-to-play mobile game, a complete lack of voice acting, a barebones set of modes and features, only nine characters, only five stages, repetitive and generic music, all on top of the stigma of being based off a licensed property not known for having a great video game track record. But against all odds, underneath all of that beats the heart of a fighting system developed with thought, care, and an obvious love for 2D tag fighting games.
Battle for the Grid is a 3-on-3 tag fighter with a four-button combat system consisting of light, medium, heavy, and special attacks, much like Dragon Ball FighterZ. Also, like FighterZ, there are no complicated button inputs for special moves, with every move being performable by pressing a direction and a button. The result is a fighting system that all but removes the executional barrier of entry and focuses instead on fundamentals, which is great because the simplicity of the combat system is complemented by much more complex tag mechanics and a wild array of special moves that will have skilled players mixing opponents up like batter.
The comeback mechanic is unique and totally in line with the Power Rangers brand.
Beyond that, much of the depth comes from push blocks, armored EX moves, super moves, and a big, satisfying comeback mechanic in the form of a one-time use ultra attack that calls either a Megazord, Dragonzord, or Mega Goldar to use extremely powerful attacks that cover nearly the entire screen for a short time. The comeback mechanic is especially great, as it’s unique, totally in line with the Power Rangers brand, and succeeds as a way to turn the tide of a losing match in your favor without feeling like a cheap win button.
Battle for the Grid borrows its wonderful tag mechanics primarily from BlazBlue Cross Tag battle, and it works just as well here. You can call in an assist to have them do an attack, but then you also have the option to take control of the assist and tag your other character out, allowing you to convert combos off throws and continue combos with assists in fun and interesting ways.
While there are only nine characters in Battle for the Grid, which is a paltry number by any measure, they are at least all extremely well defined and fun to play. Most typical fighting game archetypes are covered: Kat is a hyper rushdown-focused character, Tommy and Jason are great all-rounders that can do a little bit of everything, Mastodon Sentry and Ranger Killer are extremely effective zoners, Goldar and Magna Defender are the big, slow bruisers that dish out huge damage with just a few successful hits, Gia is a mid-range-focused powerhouse, and Drakkon fills the role of the tricky character with his highly technical mixups and move set.
The main issue with Battle for the Grid is that everything surrounding its fundamentally solid and fun fighting system is utterly lacking. It’s not a very appealing game to look at, coming across as a marginally better-looking version of the Power Rangers: Legacy Wars mobile game and nowhere near up to the standard of the recent surge of fighting games; there’s virtually no voice acting outside of the announcer at the start of a match and a couple of monstrous growls from Goldar; the music is generic soft rock that quickly becomes repetitive because there are only five themes across the five stages; Arcade Mode is a bust, with virtually no story and poor AI; Training Mode lacks the basic function of being able to record and playback moves; there are plenty of graphical and sound bugs; and there’s no option to rematch in online play.
To be fair, Battle for the Grid is a budget-priced game with $20 for the standard version at launch, and the content offered certainly matches up with its reduced price. There is also a $40 Collector’s Edition with the Season One pass, featuring three additional fighters down the line and a few skins, which seems of much more questionable value.
There seem to be some substantial online bugs relating to blocking.
Battle for the Grid will ultimately live or die based on the community that develops around it. Online play has been mostly solid on wired ethernet, but playing wirelessly on Switch had frequent drops in connection and otherwise laggy play, so I’d recommend avoiding wifi if possible. There also seem to be some substantial bugs that are exclusive to online play relating to blocking. In several matches, I experienced issues with consistently getting hit by lows despite doing nothing but holding crouch block, and also getting hit by normal jump-ins despite doing nothing but holding standing block. Hopefully, nWay is able to fix it because it really hurts the online experience.