The heavens cry out! The earth cries out! The people cry out! They cry out for us to destroy evil! Listen up, evildoers… we are warriors of justice, Chroma Squad!
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love Japanese superheroes like Kamen Rider and Super Sentai with all my heart, thanks to a childhood supplemented with an excessive amount of Power Rangers. As such, the idea of a Sentai game in pretty much any capacity is enough to get me jumping up and down in glee. Chroma Squad, developed by Behold Studios, was funded by Kickstarter and came out in April of 2015. It got tied up in development Hell for a short period due to some legal trouble with Saban, who owns the rights to Power Rangers (that little “inspired by Saban’s Power Rangers” under the title? Yeah, they made them put that there), but the game made it out eventually, and justice and spandex filled my soul.
In the game’s story, five stuntmen working for a big time action studio quit their jobs to start up an indie hero show. Starting with crappy dollar store jumpsuits and monsters made of cardboard, the five strive to create the best hero show ever, though as the story progresses, the lines between show and reality begin to blur, and our stuntmen heroes find themselves wrapped up in a situation far more dire than they imagined. You can customize many aspects of the show and studio, like the names of your hero team and giant robot, the actors that play them, the colors of the suits, and the team’s catchphrases and battle cries (I wanted to name my team Pentachromatic Sentai Chromanger, but that was too long, so I settled for Chroma V).
Gameplay flips between managing aspects of the studio and filming the actual episodes. The studio needs a constant flow of income to cover actor salary and insurance and whatnot, but the leftover money from each episode can be used to buy new equipment for your heroes, upgrade your studio with better effects for in-battle buffs, and hire advertising firms to get more money and viewers. There’s also a fairly detailed crafting system that allows you to create new equipment and robot parts from the materials that monsters drop. With the right combination of plastic, spandex, and rubber, you can upgrade that cheap cardboard box robot into a proper fighting machine, with chest lasers and giant drills.
When filming episodes, the game becomes a strategy RPG. Each hero gets two moves to spend how they wish, and then the monsters take their turn. Characters move on a grid, and you can attack any monster adjacent to you. By defeating monsters and following the director’s instructions, the show gains more viewers. When you have enough viewers, your heroes can transform, granting access to weapons, abilities, and special attacks. Since you’re controlling a Sentai, the most important aspect is teamwork. You can have a hero use their turn to take on a teamwork pose, causing them to pick up and throw their teammates, allowing them to travel further. If you attack an enemy that’s adjacent to a teamwork-ing hero, you’ll perform a team-up attack for bonus damage. If all five heroes team up at once, they’ll perform a finishing move, which you’re encouraged to use on boss monsters to finish them. It’s only proper, after all. In some episodes, defeated monsters, will grow giant, and you’ll have to take them on in your robot. Robot fights are much simpler, using a risk versus reward system. Every hit you land deals more damage, but the next hit is less likely to make its mark. If you just keep punching and miss, you’ll leave yourself open, so you need to decide when the risk is too high and choose to guard instead of attack. By upgrading your robot, you can use high-power finishing moves, like a chest beam or a laser sword, as combo-enders to knock the monster down and gain another turn.
Now, I’m going to be real here: I loved this game, but that’s probably because I love hero shows, and understand the nuances and in-jokes. If you don’t like hero shows, you probably don’t want to play this game. It’s also rather simplistic for a strategy RPG, so folks exclusively in that camp may find things a bit lacking. Still, if you’re someone who enjoys hero shows, then I think you would definitely have a good time with Chroma Squad. There’s even multiple endings, one for each of the three kinds of hero show: Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and Metal Heroes. It’s not the best game ever made, but it pays loving homage to something near and dear to my heart, and sometimes, that’s all I need.