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May 18, 2011 / jwaxo

Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers (Video Game Ripoffs)

And that’s probably the simplest screenshot I’ve ever drawn–with good reason.

Before the Pokémon craze there was only one thing that made every kid drool at the thought of it: the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. Okay, there’s my opening statement, and now for the question that leads into my essay: what was it about the Power Rangers that hooked us kids so much? I really have no idea whatsoever. They were in high school, about ten years older than any of us. They were really hilarious wholesome. The bad guys were laughable (although what bad guys aren’t, in things for little kids?) and it really should have been suspicious how half of it was clearly dubbed and ripped off from a Japanese show. Who’s to say what it is that interests little kids, though? They do love giant robots, something Power Rangers had in spades, as well as spunky teenagers with attitude, which always sells well.

We ate it up to an extent that, even now, thinking back, I can’t help but have a huge nostalgia filter on everything. Heck, the other day I read through the entire TV Tropes article, laughing and feeling warm fuzzies over the ridiculous memories that I had hidden away now brought to light.

Of course, I then watched a few clips and planted my hand firmly over my face.

It’s inevitable, I guess. After all of the things that I rightfully feel nostalgic over because of genuine awesomeness, there are a few things that turn out to actually not be that great. I did go a little overboard with Power Rangers, though.

We never had the toys. They were always extremely expensive, and my parents didn’t really stand for buying things for the current flash-in-the-pan fad. Maybe one action figure, picked up from a garage sale, or a Halloween costume, sewn by my mom herself, that I impulsively blush at just thinking about.

And if those photos ever get out my face will permanently dye red.

Where is this going, you ask? How is this video game related? I’m getting there. And stop being so pushy. In case you can’t tell after eight weeks of me talking biweekly, I do go on.

As you should know by my previous talk about Pokémon Red, I did eventually end up with a GameBoy. There is no suspense in pretending I did not, even though the full tale is an epic Christmas story involving grandparents and maybe a few tears on everyone’s parts. But there was a still a very large chunk of my life in which I did not have that hallowest of mobile video game consoles. I could continue to wax eloquently about that brick of a masterpiece, but this isn’t about that.

No, this is about before that.

One Christmas, a Christmas in which I really desperately wanted a GameBoy, I was woken up by my mom.

Here’s a secret about my mom: she always made us go to sleep early, would always be stern that we could not get up before a certain hour on Christmas morning, would seem extremely serious and tired at the prospect of getting up before 7:00 am–and then would wake us up at some super-early hour, 5:30 or 6, to excitedly tramp downstairs to the Christmas tree bulging with presents.

“Come on! PRESENTS!”

There was the usual gift-opening and other stories best saved for a Christmas post. As for me, I got one of the most strangely memorable presents I’ve ever received:

The Power Rangers 3-in-1 Electronic LCD Handheld Game.

It looked like a GameBoy. It held like a GameBoy. It even had cartridges like a GameBoy.

It was not a GameBoy.

Look at this thing: first of all, it’s yellow. Second of all, it has space for two buttons, but only has one (the A button). Thirdly, those cartridges are just LCD screens and some basic timing instructions.

Don’t get me wrong here, by the way: like all kids, I was easy to entertain with something, and I did have fun with the game, although it could be quite challenging at times. Years later I would play Super Smash Bros. Melee and recognize that Mr. Game & Watch was clearly a similar breed as my Power Rangers game and feel that warmth of recognition. But you can’t imagine the disappointment at the realization that, while it was Power Rangers-themed and fun, it was clearly supposed to be a replacement for a GameBoy.

Which brings us to the subtitle of this post: video game ripoffs.

It’s really an important lesson. These things are made to trick your grandparents or nearsighted uncles or just parents who can’t or are hesitant to spend as much money on the real thing into buying what is, in essence, a poor substitute.

There are a billion examples of these things out there. From “Vii” and “PZ3” consoles to things like my Power Rangers 3-in-1 Electronic LCD Handheld Game, you see them everywhere. I’m sure I got roped in with my own cash a few times in my golden elementary school days, tricked into buying something I can afford because it looks similar to what I wanted.

Still didn’t stop me from toting that game on road trips, running away from Puttys while my family listened to Tom Chapin albums or Jungle Jam and Friends.

Hmm. Different inputs, similar outputs. This requires further experimentation.

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