A staple of Japanese pop culture that has also left its mark on the West is the Super Sentai series. Focusing on fighters with colorful outfits, villains in rubber monster suits and tons of flashy explosions and fighting, the series is probably best known to Americans as being the inspiration for the long-running Power Rangers TV show. Now, indie developer Behold Studios is paying tribute to this very concept with Chroma Squad, a novel mix of turn-based strategy RPG mechanics with some simulation components to boot. The result is a title that’s charming, witty, surprisingly deep, and most importantly, fun.
Chroma Squad sees five TV stuntmen leaving their bossy director and starting their own indie studio in order to create a fresh new Sentai-styled series. Now on their own, they’ll have to deal with both successfully filming each episode and managing their money and equipment, along with their former director causing trouble and some other side characters complicating things.
The majority of the game’s playtime takes place on various maps, with a standard isometric view and grid layout for moving the characters in turn-based combat similar to Fire Emblem and Disgaea. Your five leads each have various class types assigned to them, like a support unit for restoring health and an assault unit with increased attack stats.
Each mission, true to Sentai tradition, has the heroes start out as regular citizens with lowered stats and no abilities, but landing attacks gradually fills an audience satisfaction bar at the top of the screen, and when a certain point on that bar is reached, your crew can don their hero outfits and reach their full potential for the rest of the battle. While it may sound like putting the costumes on should be done immediately, there’s a bit of a risk and reward component to it, as your squad will regain full health when they transform, giving you more of a benefit if you hold off for a bit.
One of the key features players will need to master is Chroma Squad‘s aptly named Teamwork mechanic.
Instead of choosing to attack, a unit can go into a special stance at the end of their move and if an ally walks into the square next to them and attacks an enemy, both characters will attack simultaneously for greatly increased damage. Even better is an extremely powerful team attack that can be activated if the player is able to surround an enemy with all five heroes in Teamwork mode.
The main levels end with boss battles, with players controlling a giant mech along the lines of Voltron or the Megazord. Again, a risk and reward system is emphasized here, as players can attack multiple times in a row, but with an increased percentage of a turn-ending miss each time. Thankfully, there’s an option to end a turn and shield yourself for less damage from the boss’ following attacks, as well as super moves that can dish out a ton of damage in exchange for ending a turn and having a cool down for the same move afterwards.
In between battles, you’ll spend your time managing resources at the studio, like picking affiliates for various perks, crafting and buying better equipment, and responding to emails. There’s also an impressive amount of customization for your team from the get go. Not only can you choose the name of the show and characters, but you can pick from dozens of different actors to take each role, along with adjusting their suit colors if you so desire. Different battle abilities also unlock for each character as your progress.
The game manages to hit a sweet spot in terms of its learning curve and difficulty progression. As someone who enjoys strategy RPGs but still isn’t a pro at them, I thought that I did reasonably well with the campaign, but there were still some close moments. The writing that is used to set up each episode is also generally charming, if a little light on genuine laughs and character development. Furthermore, the same middling quality is present in the game’s pixel-like graphics, which are merely decent overall.
Overall, Chroma Squad is a great time. Fans of strategy RPGs will find a lot of depth to its gameplay and sim elements, and anyone with previous exposure to the Sentai genre will like the numerous nods to it. Behold Studios has shown some genuine expertise with this particular genre here and it will be interesting to see if they go on to build on the successful foundation that this game establishes.
This review is based on the PC version, which we were provided with.
With fun presentation, robust gameplay and an accessible learning curve, Chroma Squad is definitely worth a look for strategy RPG fans.