Friday, January 11, 2013

Power Rangers Super Samurai Review

Thanks to Namco Bandai Games, the Stay at Home Dad Gamer (and son) can bring you a review of the Xbox 360 Kinect game, Power Rangers Super Samurai!

The best part of the visuals of Power Rangers Super Samurai is the function that puts you in the game.  The Kinect will use the image of the player and put it into the game and story.  It's not the best looking part, but it's a cool feature and my son really likes it.  It's also neat that to morph you have to draw the symbol (kanji) of the ranger you chose.  Then they attempt to put you into the Ranger's morph sequence, but I haven't had it place my face correctly yet.  It's not the most precise thing, but it's a nice idea for this type of game and one I'd like to see in similar games.  After certain parts of the game, you can take your picture with the Rangers, which my son adored.  You can also select things with voice commands, which worked really well for me.

The Rangers and monsters themselves look fine and are recognizable.  The stages you fight in are fairly bland, but honestly, that's true to the show.  You can only have so much detail when they take place in an abandoned factory, city street or grassy plains.  Some of the visual effects like explosions aren't very good, but the signature Ranger attacks look pretty cool.  When the monster grows to Mega Mode ("magic wand, make my monster grow!") and the Samurai Megazord forms and attacks, the game will show the scene from the TV show.  Thankfully, these are high definition reels, since they look really good on a 52" screen.  No compression blockiness here.  Also, all the people from the show supply their voice for the game, which is always a plus.  So all in all, the game looks and sounds faithful to the show.

The main mode of the game is Ranger Mode, which has the player picking a Ranger and going through 8 stages, usually ending in a Megazord battle.  The flow of most stages is the same: run through the level while fighting generic Mooger troops, fight the main monster and then fight the Mega Monster at the end in your Zord.  Attacking Mooger troops is pretty fun, but can get tiring since you have to attack to move forward.  Fighting the monster of the week involves more strategy, since you benefit from dodging the attacks correctly and counter attacking.  On both fights, it's fun to get your super attack and lay waste to some monsters.  Just like in the show, though, you have to use your signature attack to finish off the monster, so don't blow it before then (which I've done)!

Slashing all these guys will work out your "Ranger muscles".

The battles in the Samurai Megazord are a mixed bag though.  For the most part they operate like the regular battles, but this time the player is playing from the Zord's perspective.  It's not jarring, but it does seem slow to respond at times.  If you dodge a few of the monster's attacks, you can counter attack, which starts with lots of punching (which is fun) and then you have to do 2 swipes in a certain time frame.  The motion detection on these has been spotty at times, meaning you lose out on some damage.  This will touch a bit on playing with my son, but 2 player Zord battles were frustrating.  It seems like we both had to do the motion for it to activate.  Also, since my son is still small (he's only 5), it kept thinking that he was ducking, therefore our Mega Zord was constantly ducking, making it impossible to attack normally.  We had to dodge and counter attack to do any damage.  Playing single player, I didn't have that problem, but he did.  Readjusting the Kinect didn't seem to help him, either.  He should fair better when he's older (and taller).

In addition to Ranger Mode, there is also Training Mode.  These have the player mimicking a string of moves that the Rangers and Moogers do.  The first, Breaking Challenge, has short strings of moves that end with a chop to break blocks.  It's kind of fun, but 2 player on the first set (20 blocks) would have us do one set of moves, no blocks would appear, and then it would abruptly end.  I'm not sure why this happened.  The second, Ranger Training, has longer strings of moves, and at the higher levels can be quite a workout.  The third, Nighlok Training, has you mimic a Mooger.  This set is fairly difficult, because you do poses not in the other modes, and their is no voice telling you what the move is.  With the first two modes, the Ranger in front calls out what the move is, you don't get that luxury in Nighlok Mode.  I'm not sure if the new moves are the Mooger equivalent of Ranger moves, since they don't talk and mimicking the move as shown didn't give the impression that I had done it correctly.

The best part about the game is how much moving there is.  It's not so much like dancing games where you do a lot of leg work, but Power Rangers Super Samurai has lots of upper body movement.  Sure, you do some kicks, but there is a lot more punching and sword slashing than kicks.  There is a fair amount of jumping though.  It all adds up to lots of physical movement.  The days after playing it, I had some sore muscles from all the punching and slashing, so be careful from extended play sessions if you are "old" like me.  It is great activity for kids though, since they have the energy to burn.  It was really good to let my son run rampant in the game, jumping and punching to his heart's content.

The achievements aren't too bad for Power Rangers Super Samurai.  Be warned that there are a few that require two people, so if you might have to jump in there and help your kids out.  They are also spread across the modes, so you will be doing more than slaying monsters.  Several are specific from the show, like beating a monster with a certain Ranger.  Also, there are a few skill-based ones, like winning a fight without taking damage and similar things.  These can be harder than you might think, since the Kinect isn't as precise as a controller.  It doesn't seem like it would be too hard or time consuming for a kid to get lots of achievements if they so desire.

A few last bits before diving into my son playing the game.  First, the stages in Ranger Mode flow right into each other, making the player pause and select "exit" to either stop or do another part of the game.  The only reason I didn't like that was it is hard to find a stopping point without creating it yourself.  Doing several levels together can get kind of tiring.  Second, if someone walks in front of a person playing the game, it signs you out of the in-game profile, and you have to exit to the title screen to get it back.  You could keep playing, but then the points and badges you earn won't save.  This is sadly present in most Kinect games, but some don't react this harshly.  Of course, it's still better than how Seasame Street Kinect in that respect.  Lastly, there is lots of loading in this game.  I can understand loading for each stage or game, but it seems to take a long time to load anything, and it loads frequently.  My son actually remarked that it was taking a long time to load, which was surprising.

First Person Zord Action

Observing the 5 year old:
So how did my 5 year old fare in the game?  First off, he really loved playing the game.  He's a fan of Power Rangers, so he loved being able to "fight the bad guys" like they do.  The Kinect sometimes has trouble tracking him, since he's still pretty small.  When both of us are on at the same time, it's a pretty big size difference, which didn't interfere as much as I thought it would.  Together, the only really hard part was the Megazord battles, since it seems you both have to do the motions for it to actually do it, and the game thinking we were constantly ducking.  He also had difficulties doing the finishing moves, so it took him some time to beat the main monster of the stage.  Thankfully, when you lose all your health, you can punch a lot to get back up, which he did just fine.  He didn't quite understand how to fight the big monsters at the end, since he wasn't very quick at dodging the correct direction.

Training Mode was a different story.  Since you can't fail, he did pretty well at it.  He did several of the Breaking Challenges before moving on to Ranger Training.  This was the mode he did best in.  He's pretty good at mimicking moves, and while a bit slow on doing them, that's ok in this mode.  He played this for a lot longer than I could, since he has all that energy.  He may have been frustrated from getting hit a lot in the Megazord battles, but there was none of that in Ranger Training.

Since the tracking seemed pretty spotty for a 5 year old, I'd recommend the game for kids a little older, say 7 or 8+.  If you have a kid that's a fan of Power Rangers (or are one yourself!) and have an Xbox 360 with Kinect, they will probably like playing the game.  It wasn't the best experience for me, but it is a pretty decent workout for the upper body.  People might go through Ranger Mode pretty quickly, but with lots of unlockable badges, there is incentive to come back and keep playing.  It also lets the kids burn off some of that energy they have to run around the house.  Go Go Samurai!

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