Version tested: PC (Steam)
Also available on: Mac, Linux
Developer: Behold Studios
Publisher: Behold Studios
Genre: Turn-Based RPG
Like the majority of children in the early 90’s, I was obsessed with the TV show Power Rangers. The fighting, the teamwork, and the giant transforming robots beating up the giant alien monsters entranced my young, impressionable mind. As an adult, I still look at old Power Rangers clips on YouTube and get a sense of nostalgia – even if the show itself has aged about as well as a glass of milk left out in the sun.
And now, to help me with this unhealthy addiction to the past, Behold Studios have released Chroma Squad (Sentai Tactical RPG). It is a retro-styled, turn-based strategy game where you play as five TV stunt actors who decide to create their very own indie Sentai series. The set up is straightforward: you have to film episodes where your squad beats up a horde of generic creatures, before having to fight a tougher boss that is usually a play on older costumed monsters.
You’re scored on how well you take out the baddies as well as how well you follow the Director’s instructions. For example, you may have to take out all of the lower goons before taking out the boss monster, or only being allowed to take out the boss monster with Chroma Squad’s finishing move. And in true Power Rangers form, after you defeat the boss monster, you then have to take on their giant sized version in your very own enormous mecha. As you progress, the monsters get tougher and your audience demands more action. So you have to upgrade your squad with better weapons, stronger armour, new abilities, enhancements to your mecha and even improvements to your TV studio.
When first playing the game, the nostalgia factor hits you like a brick wall – but in a good way. Chroma Squad is the closest to the Power Rangers game I always wanted to play as a child. The fact that it is turn based works surprisingly well; it keeps the tension high whilst also allowing you to plan elaborate set pieces to save the day. The individual special abilities as well as the team-based ones are all satisfying to use and more often than not can help turn the tide of battle. And to further help my regression back into a child, the game has a great amount of customization, including letting you change the name of the squad, their catchphrases, and even their mecha calls. So not long after starting I had my “Power Rangers” yelling, “It’s Morphin’ Time”, before stating, “We need DinoZord Power Now!”
However as I carried on playing, one thought started to bug me: If Chroma Squad didn’t star a bunch of knock-off Power Rangers would I still be enjoying it? And as the levels (or episodes) went on, and I fought bad guy after bad guy and monster after monster, the answer was quickly becoming no. Chroma Squad follows the Power Rangers formula to a fault. Each episode starts with your squad fighting low level goons, then fighting the main boss monster, then fighting his giant form in your mecha. Every. Single. Time. Some levels have you fighting with special guest allies, or fighting with less than your full squad, but the basic formula remains the same. And it gets very, very repetitive.
Whilst I’m complaining, I should probably also mention the mecha battles, as they are easily one of the games lowest points in Chroma Squad. The mecha battles are turn-based, but unlike the squad fights, these battles require almost no strategy. You have one button for attack, one for defend and, depending on your upgrades, up to four special ability buttons. It is nowhere near as involved as the regular fights and it feels closer to a web-based skill game than a PC title. And considering that the mecha battles were usually the highlight of each episode, my expectation was that these would be the most fun to play. Sadly not. And as the game went on, I began to dread these encounters more and more.
The story is another area where the game falters. Like any episode of the Power Rangers, the story in Chroma Squad feels pretty token, only being there as an excuse for the martial arts and mecha suits to make an appearance. Starting from a humble position of making episodes on a tight budget, the story soon escalates to entertaining a massive amount of fans, sorting out the marketing and dealing with the actors petty squabbles. Around halfway through the game the plot thickens, and if it had been executed properly it could have elevated the game as a whole. But since this massive change in circumstances isn’t conveyed to the player in an effective way, it ends up feeling hollow.
Despite all of these complaints there were moments where Chroma Squad shone brightly. There were several times where the team came together and executed the perfect attack at the last minute or pulled through an enemy beat down and yelled “It’s Morphin’ Time” that sent the tingles up my spine like I was five years old again.
The presentation is also a highlight. The game uses the tried and true 16-bit style of sprites, and every single one is beautifully realized and wonderfully animated. The sound effects and music are also used well. One or two extra music tracks would have been welcome, but the music that is there, especially the battle music, is awesome.
If you’re a fan of Power Rangers you will glean some enjoyment from Chroma Squad. But if you’re not a fan, you will most likely find the game to be an 11 hour slog.
Decide for yourself and check out the game at www.chromasquad.com
Danny is a former games producer turned writer and video maker. He’s been gaming since he was 3 years old (albeit terribly) and can be found on Twitter usually whining about minor inconveniences.