Chroma Squad Review (PC)
Games have had great success borrowing mechanics and tropes from other games, but when it comes to borrowing from T.V. and movies, not so much. Games have had an especially hard time drawing inspiration from television outside of copying the format with episodic gameplay. That’s part of what makes Chroma Squad such a fun and fresh experience as it mimics the ins and outs of running your very own “Sentai” show; the equivalent of the Power Rangers show in the U.S. For better or worse this game is a very close facsimile to what it’s like to both run and watch these types of television shows.
As soon as you start up Chroma Squad you’re treated to a Super Sentai inspired Japanese theme song that instantly sets the stage for Chroma Squad’s tone. In Chroma Squad, you’re tasked with running a fledgling TV show that’s heavily inspired by Power Rangers, Kamen Rider and the like. Everything from cast salary and studio expenses to costumes and marketing are your responsibility. This type of progression helps invest you in the game even more since every upgrade or piece of gear you buy shows up in the game immediately. Going from cardboard and sweatpants costumes in the beginning to expensive, custom-made gear later is very satisfying. The same can’t really be said for the basic enemies however, as you just fight stronger versions of the same enemies throughout the game. Fortunately the boss battles and designs are varied enough to keep these engagements fun. The plot, like the boss battles, is enjoyable throughout the game. It’s a good balance of self-awareness and over-the-top action with plenty of twists and turns along the way.
Chroma Squad is a turn-based RPG, and all of the upgrades you make to your characters and your studio affect the combat. Better lighting makes it easier to dodge enemies for example. The combat feels like Fire Emblem, as it takes place on an isometric grid and you take turns moving your characters and attacking enemies as the opponent does the same. There’s not as much depth here though, and combat areas are much smaller, which makes most battles much more compact. This works out well for this game however, since it keeps the action flowing and still gives of the feeling of watching an episode of a television show. This is compounded by the extra objectives you have during each fight that are meant to appeal to fans and rack up a larger viewer base, which in turn earns you more money.
This is where the game’s biggest weakness comes into play though. Chroma Squad emulates the monster-of-the-week formula, right down to the repetitive nature of it. Most episodes of this game play out the same way: fight minions, fight a boss and then fight a super-sized version of that boss with your mech. Granted there is some clever dialogue between the squad and these bosses throughout the episode, but the culminating mech battle gets old rather quickly. Mech battles, or kaiju battles, are turn-based as well but much simpler.
When it’s your turn, you select an action such as attacking, defending or using a special move, and after you perform it, you select another. Defending or using a special move ends your turn, and every time you attack you have a smaller chance of landing the next attack. Enemy turns are just a matter of timing since you have to click once the defend meter hits the right point to minimize damage. This makes mech battles rather mindless and a bit tedious since the bosses have a tremendous amount of health at this point. Seeing the mech come together for the first time and using it in battle is extremely satisfying though. Formulaic as it may be, there is still a lot of fun to be had managing your studio and watching it grow right before your eyes. This makes you want to immediately start filming a new episode or a new season just to see all of your new gear and equipment just to see how many more fans you can get.
The gameplay is a bit repetitive, but the strong story more than keeps you interested. The combat is simplistic enough to be fun and strategic without becoming overly difficult or tedious. The mech battles and formulaic gameplay do weigh Chroma Squad down in the long run, but not enough to impact your overall enjoyment of the game. Not every episode plays exactly the same even though it follows the same basic structure, so there is enough variation to keep the moment-to-moment gameplay fun. Whether or not you grew up watching Power Rangers is irrelevant since the game and its story hold up well without relying on those types of references. Despite its flaws Chroma Squad is a very fun experience that should not be missed.
This review is based on a purchased download of Chroma Squad for the PC.