The actors are ready, the rubber suits have been delivered and the pyrotechnics are armed. Is Behold Studios’ Chroma Squad a rip-roaring sentai simulator, or should this strategy RPG be condemned to obscurity like so many bad Power Rangers knockoffs?
I previewed Chroma Squad back in the early stages of its beta and it is very clear that the game has come on leaps and bounds since its beta release. Menus have scrubbed up well, my previous complaints about the battle UI lacking information no longer apply and Chroma Squad’s general presentation has been given a new lick of paint. Seeing enemy health bars, their stats as well as your own health is less of a chore now, with everything being displayed clearly on screen and not hidden behind a load of battle pop-ups. As for the actual combat itself, it works as a great introduction to the world of strategy RPGs. In the combat part of Chroma Squad, missions are split up in anywhere between 2 to 5 mini scenarios, where players may have to defeat a boss monster, hold out for a certain amount of turns or destroy certain structures as quickly as possible. Along with these mini scenarios, players have Director’s Instructions to complete which are side tasks which award you with more audience points. You have a constant track of your audience points at the top of the screen and it is imperative you collect as many points as possible. Getting a high audience point score translates into more money and more fans for you to use once you finish filming an episode.
When you start your journey into the world of super sentai filmmaking, you must pick your actors and the roles that they play. These starting choices are incredibly important as once you pick your actors and their roles within your multi-coloured fighting force, you cannot change them. Each actor has their own set of bonuses which will gel with a certain role within the squad. For example, an actor who has bonuses to their skill regen would be good as an Assist while an actress with a bonus to movement range would make a perfect Scout. Picking a bad actor line-up at the beginning of a campaign can spell ruin for later on so make sure you pick your furious five very carefully. In combat, each actor’s role gives them a unique skillset, ranging from the Lead who is a general all-rounder and is a great pointman whilst attacking, to the Techie who is built to debuffing the enemies and sniping them from long range with a gun made from toilet paper tubes and gaffer tape. You are slowly introduced to more and more character skills as you progress through seasons of your show, with every season unlocking new items to buy in the shop, more materials to use in creating your actors’ arsenals as well as additional character abilities which can be easily swapped out between each episode. Chroma Squad rewards you for actively switching up your character skills and trying your character a different way between episodes.
You also have special kaiju battles, which usually happen at the end of specific episodes. Like your actors, you can upgrade your mecha with different weapons, helmets and armour pieces to increase their defence or give you new skills in battle like a high-damaging chest laser or a forcefield that can stop enemy debuffs for a few turns. In these battles, there is no moving of your units or worrying about teamwork attacks, this is a much more simplistic battle system, very similar to the Giant Battles found in Bowser’s Inside Story. You chain normal attacks together, which increases their power but lowers your accuracy, meaning you have to gamble between going for more attacks and getting that high damage modifier so your laser sword finishers definitely kills, or cashing out your combo to get higher defence or increased health regen at the end of your turn. You also can defend against enemy blows very similar to the Mario and Luigi games, with timed mouse clicks increasing your defence and allowing you to last that little bit longer. However, due to the lack of any real complexity in these battles and the fact that the kaiju that you fight are just bigger versions of boss monster that you fought on the ground, makes these mecha fights become stale very quickly.