The new Power Rangers movie has hit multiplexes. And as we've already reported, fans saw a new strategic mobile combat game arrive the day before. [UPDATE! The game is available now from Google Play.]
Power Ranger: Legacy Wars is by nWay, who are well know from games like ChronoBlade. The game is a side-on fighting game where you select powers from a deck rather than controlling the fighter directly. It will feature characters from all the incarnations of the Power Rangers universe, both heroes and villains. So you'll be able to mix and match protagonists from across the movies, comics and TV series, and fight with them against human opponents in real time.
The developer has been working on this tie-in game with Lionsgate for about a year, and it was surprisingly high profile at GDC. Boss Taehoon Kim took to the keynote stage in the company of Jason David Frank (classic Green Mighty Morphin Power Ranger) and Ludi Lin (the new Black Ranger). They battled it out in real time on the game - Green won, by the way. The full Unity keynote is available here but why not check out the Power Rangers live battle in this clip? Then scroll down for our exclusive interview with Kim, who we grabbed backstage for a hands-on with Power Ranger: Legacy Wars.
How did you go about bringing all the characters together so that it worked as one game?
We had to come up with a new story with Saban, who are the owner of the IP - and it's also related to the movie. In the movie, Rita Repulsa comes. She’s playing with the Morphin Grid. The Morphin Grid is kind of like the Force in Star Wars! In our story, she comes and corrupts the Morphin Grid, and that opens up the multiverse, and then you’re in a sort of hologram-type state where she is bringing all the Rangers (and us) together... and making all of them fight.
We had this premise. It was trying to create an excuse as to why we’re all fighting! The real reason is that fans have always wanted to play a game where they could pick different Rangers and pit them against each other. And there are villains that are very, very popular too. So it’s really providing the keys to the kingdom to the fans and having them play as any character.
How much was Saban involved? Was there a lot of oversight?
There is a lot of oversight with Lionsgate too because they're doing the movie. And it’s been great, because they know exactly which character and villain are the most fan-favourite and which one we should do first, and which to do later. We also want to get the moves and the style right, because Power Rangers fans are very hardcore! They’ll call it out if it’s different or wrong in the game. So we’re starting with 50 characters, but after the launch, we’ll be adding new characters every few weeks.
Power Rangers is 24 years old. Every year, they never had repeat seasons. Every year, there’s new characters, new villains that come out. When we checked their library, we were like, "Wow, there’s hundreds of characters. It’s perfect for a fighting game because you need a lot of characters."
Tell us about what form the game takes.
It's a real-time PVP battler. Whether it’s villains or Rangers, we bring your lead character and two assisting characters into battle. On the left side, there are action cards you select from. Yellow, if you use it, is a normal attack. The red is a special attack that’s not blockable. Blue is usually defensive. So you have to think about what the other person will do. If you think that person’s going to do an attack, you can go and hit him quickly to block that. If he’s always blocking, you can do a special attack, and so on.
It works on iOS and Android together, and you can play with anybody. It could be in different cities. And then the other big thing is, the game essentially has a guild system.
You upgrade the characters by collecting what’s called a character shard. If you collect enough character shards, you can upgrade your character. And you can trade a character shard with guild members. You compete with different guilds in real time, as well. It’s more like character-building rather than deck-building. Depending on which characters you’re bringing in, then your deck is decided. Click on a character on your roster and see what kind of moves they have. If you like the red attacks, you can pick characters that primarily have the red attacks. If you like doing something fast, like yellow regular attacks, then you can select characters that way. It’s very strategic. You upgrade a character by getting a character shard, but you can also upgrade each specific move as well.
Did you also look to fighting games for inspiration?
We looked at all the fighting games originally. When we prototyped it, we made it very similar to games like Street Fighter, Tekken, where it’s all about timing and pressing the block button and how fast you can react. That's great for a console game where it’s completely skill-based and everybody has the same characters, right? And you have a joystick. It works in that environment, but it doesn’t really work well for a multiplayer mobile game! So, we quickly realised in order to have a much more broader audience for mobile, we had to make some changes. So we created a completely new mechanic... and we’ve been getting a lot of good responses from users.
Every action you do, costs something. So there are consequences to what you do. It’s not unlimited. You can’t always block. You can’t always do the same thing. You have to be smart about playing the right move at the right time, and you have to be smart about what the other person’s going to do and react. It’s almost like martial arts or kendo where each move you do will have consequences and will cost you energy. So when you see people play, you can see them waiting for them to do the move. I think this is the right way to do it for a game where you’re playing with another human person online.
You got a couple of real Rangers actors to play on stage at GDC?!
You know how on keynote stages, no one does live demos? But we had the balls to actually try to do that! We didn’t want to do a video, we actually had a fight live. People were betting I think. "I’m betting on Black!" When I told the actors who we thought should win in the demo, the Black Ranger was like, "No, I’m gonna try to win!" Green Ranger won that round - and was really happy, he started posting on his social media about how the old school beat the new school.