Power Rangers: Time Force - POWER RANGERS! TIME! FORCE!
Perhaps the most interesting era of the Game Boy Advance history was not, in fact, it’s final, swan song games. Personally, I find the earliest games the most interesting - it was so much more advanced than the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour, but it took some time for the non-Nintendo developers to really take advantage of the new handheld tech. And from the games I’ve played so far for the Game Boy Abyss, none of those are as embelic of this early-day stumbling as Vicarious Vison’s GBA rendition of the long-running Super-Sentai-Turned-American, Power Rangers: Time Force.
Whilst my only real experience with Power Rangers was watching one of the oldest series back in the late 90s/early 2000s, I’ve recently been on a kick in regards to the series that in some ways birthed Power Rangers - Japan’s Super Sentai metaseries. Super Sentai is the source for all the costumed, action Power Rangers sequences, with the producers filming new live action footage in place of the incredibly Japanese sequences between them, creating two very different, but very similar shows. There are a couple of Super Sentai games on the GBA, and I will get to those eventually, but I thought for now I’d take it nice and easy with a true-blue Power Rangers title. Power Rangers: Time Force is one of the oldest titles on the Game Boy Advance, coming out within six months of the console’s original Japanese release. Hell, in that case, I suppose it came out even closer to its American release, as I really doubt this was even released in Japan. Anyway, Time Force received a version in April of that same year on the GBC, with a gorgeous action-beat’em up hybrid that really shows what you can do with the GBC. At first, I was worried Time force on the GBA would be just an up-rezzed version of that GBC version, but no, this is a substantially different title - for better or worse.
As it is, Power Rangers: Time Force is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up featuring the cast and villains of the eponymous 2001 series. Across a hub area and around five distinct stages, each of which are set in a different time period, from the future to ancient Rome, you’ll be kicking ass and taking names against the various monstrous foes released across the timeline by Time Force’s major antagonist Ransik. Whilst there aren’t any totally distinct characters to play around with, you’ll have access to the entire suite of the Power Rangers of this era. They vaguely have the same powerset, but they have different attributes in regards to their damage and health/energy pools. These also kind of replace lives for the Rangers - if a Power Ranger goes down during a level, you’ll switch to a different Ranger all together; you’ll only fail a level once all the Rangers in the squad go down, but you can find items hidden across stages that’ll revive fallen Rangers. All in all, it’s a fairly standard set’em up for a beat’em up, but there are enough Power Rangers bells and whistles to make it stand, ever so slightly, out from the crowd.
Each level pretty much follows the same formula; you start off in the large, ‘modern-day’ hub area, wandering around a bit before you run into one of the various villains unleashed upon the city. They’ll dash into the past, forcing you to follow them, leading to a classic beat’em up romp through a level, before a boss fight, which in turn culminates in the Power Rangers donning the Megazord - their signature mech - to battle their designated foe who’s grown to titanic proportions. Unfortunately, whilst each level has enough set dressing and whatnot to visually differentiate them from one another, actually playing through them, especially back to back, causes them to blend together a bit. It’s just a lot of jumping around, doing a few very basic attack strings, and moving on, broken up only by some of the special weapons the Time Force can find throughout each stage - lasers, screen clears, that kind of thing. Honestly, the movement was the most satisfying part of the gameplay for me - I actually got a lot of fun out of leaping about stages, avoiding foes and taking high roads to speed my way through with as few dead Rangers as possible. It’s fine, a very basic kind of gameplay loop, but considering the kind of game this is, it’s fine. Just fine.
Honesetly, as an audio-visual experience, Time Force can be middling, but not to an abhorrent extent. Well, at least in regards to the visuals. I don’t know if it’s just me having my expectations wrapped by some of the utter… yeah, that I’ve played in the last year, but whilst Time Force doesn’t look *great*, even as a title from 2001 it looks better than some of the later titles in the GBA’s library. Sprites are perhaps not as detailed as they could be, leading me to occasionally have no idea what I was actually looking at, but it’s a wonderfully colorful game, and the actual movement and animation of the game look a lot better than I expected. Honestly, the biggest shame is when I compare it to the Game Boy Colour version of the game; whilst I’d never say Time Force looks bad on the GBA, it genuinely looks kind of fantastic for a third-party GBC game; of course, this isn’t an issue on the developer’s end, but it’s fascinating to see the presentation between a platform at the very end of it’s lifespan, as compared to at the very beginning. Thankfully, in regards to how Time Force *sounds*, that’s a totally different story. This game’s soundtrack is an absolute banger; instantly upon booting up the game you’re met with a GBA-fied version of (what I assume, I forgot to look it up even as I write this) Time Force’s main theme, complete with lyrics - the words ‘TIME FORCE, PO-WER, RAN-GERS!’ is burned into my brain and I love it. The rest of the soundtrack has fantastic, toe-tapping stage themes left and right, and overall is probably the strongest element of the game. Seriously, I’m just gonna throw the opening them down here, it’s just that good. Almost worth the price of admission alone.
Sadly, Time Force is extremely short. Now, it being amongst the oldest titles on the GBA, this is somewhat understandable, but it’s really, really short. My time with Time Force clocked in at about fifty minutes, going through each stage and hitting the credits. Whilst I didn’t have any major struggles with the game, it certainly wouldn’t be a breeze for the younger crowd Power Rangers generally catered to - especially in that goddamn Rome level, where it felt like the enemy density was through the roof. Honestly, to a kid, it probably would have that kind of old-school ‘short game difficulty’ that was ever so present on the NES and SNES. I could imagine myself - if I was ever super into Power Rangers - putting hours into this game, never quite pushing through it but having a good enough time because, y’know, kids will play anything, regardless of quality. It’s a shame it’s so incredibly short, but I’m talking about a GBA game from twenty-two years ago; it has its moments, and that’s enough for me.
And that, in the end, is what Time Force is to me. It’s not particularly memorable, but not frustrating or annoying enough to be called a bad game. It’s a fascinating time capsule, in some ways, seeing such an incredibly early, third-party title in the GBA’s library. Move-sets are limited, but carving a way through armies of mooks, and having dramatic, albeit slow-paced, showdowns in the mechs brings a certain satisfaction all its own. In some ways, I think I’ve found Time Force to, at least at this point, the measuring stick of The Game Boy Abyss. Perfectly average, not that great, not that bad - guess that’ll be helpful. There isn’t much to say about Time Force, but if you’re a Power Rangers die-hard - and I’d be willing to be at least one of you are - I think this is worth a play. Since, above all, it’s charming, and sometimes, that’s all you need.
Thank you for reading my review of Power Rangers: Time Force in the Game Boy Abyss! It’s Year Two at the Game Boy Abyss, and by that, I really don’t think much will be changing. Two weeks on, one week off, all that jazz. As always, you can find me over at Twitter @Lemmy7003 or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any requests or whatnot to send to me. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you next week for one of the more… surprising experiences on the Game Boy Advance.