To say that Power Rangers, as well as their Japanese counterpart Super Sentai, were incredibly popular in the 90s is an understatement. Those shows had millions of fans, sold tons of merchandise, and had dozens of imitations and parodies. All despite, or maybe because, their simple formula, that felt more and more generic each time it was ripped off by yet another franchise.
That formula is easy to explain: Five teenagers with martial arts skills, saving the world from forces of darkness, represented by cartoonishly overblown villains and their minions. Needless to say, the evil masterminds rarely took part in the fighting. Instead, each week, they’d send their servants to carry out the diabolical plans – along with one especially powerful monster, made just for the occasion. In fact, it was the Power Rangers show that made “monster of the week” format popular.
Sometimes the number of teens would vary, or they would get some special abilities. But every time the situation was getting really tough, heroes would “transform” into Rangers – the same teenagers, but in costumes and with a significant power boost. Oh, and don’t forget about their giant mech that would fight overgrown monsters Godzilla-style!
If you were one of those kids, who wanted to make their own “Power Rangers” team – here is your chance. Chroma Squad isn’t just a game based on the Super Sentai show. It’s the game where you make a new Super Sentai show.
Yes, here you aren’t just fighting outlandish villains and going on missions to foil their plans. You must do that all in style, as in reality your ratings determine how much money you’ll get. And the money you get, you’ll spend on the show’s props, costumes, and equipment that will increase your <Insert the name of your Super Sentai team> stats.
Management “behind the scenes” makes a significant part of the game. Not only do you invest money in your studio and actors, but there are also PR and marketing agencies to work with, to maximizing profits, audience, and fans. Yes, fans are an important resource that you gain from your audience and who themselves bring you income and can help facilitate special actions.
Sometimes you get fan mail, as well as messages from different organizations. And depending on what answer you choose, there will be different consequences. Maybe you’ll get more fans after an encouraging response, or even acquire materials for your props.
Crafting actually fits rather well into the story. You can get “loot” during the stage fighting, or disassemble existing stuff. And from the resulting materials, you craft even better parts of clothing or props.
Obviously, many situations play out in a comedic fashion. Chroma Squad is first and foremost about having fun with the Super Sentai show idea. It’s not a complex TV management simulator. In fact, while some choices can give you a handicap, most of the time you don’t need to sweat – even on the hardest difficulty, it’s not that hard to survive financially. At least if you don’t screw up one of the episodes.
Suited for Fight
Each episode is represented by one or more missions. If there are multiple quests, the heroes’ health, and all ability cooldowns are restored in-between. The only thing you can’t do is change skills or equipment mid-episode.
Each mission has its main goal – usually, destroy all or specific enemies. In addition to “Director’s Instructions”, like keep everyone’s health above 50%, reach a certain location in N turns, kill “The Boss” using Finishing Move with all five characters attacking at once. Executing those instructions will captivate your viewers, bringing you an additional audience aka additional fans aka additional money.
Other means of gaining audience are – performing acrobatic stunts, killing enemies, using special moves. Some depend on the character role. But be aware that you can also lose audience. For example, if you let one of your “rangers” be KOed.
As the tradition demands, each episode begins with our heroes being their usual selves. They can only run, punch and perform “teamwork” actions. The latter, however, is quite important – a character that you ordered to do teamwork can give others a boost, to move farther distance than usual. Or join an attack by another character if their common target stands on an adjacent tile. Both actions also increase audience count.
Only when you get enough audience, the team is allowed to don the costumes. “Transformation” is shown with a cool effect and allows using all the weapons and abilities, like healing, multi-target attacks, or stunning. In addition, it completely restores health, and moves everyone towards the center of the battlefield.
And let’s not forget Mecha Fights! While not present in every episode, this mini-game allows you to beat a giant monster if you have good timing and reaction. Too bad some nuances aren’t explained.
The beginning of Chroma Squad is very exciting. Even the basic tutorial is disguised as our heroes doing stunts for the “Super Rangers” episode, under the direction of Dr. Soap. However, they are fed up with the famous director’s lack of creativity, as well as not having a say in the matter, being just simple stuntmen. So, they quit and start their own studio.
That’s when all the management starts. As you buy upgrades, you’ll actually see them in the studio foyer. And you can also rename your studio however you want, customize characters’ names, and even catchphrases. And the pixel-art graphics, the signature of the 90-s, will make you even more immersed in your nostalgia!
However, as the game progresses, it loses some of its charm due to how tedious the fights become. New abilities and equipment aren’t enough to negate the thickness of enemies’ hides. And as later bosses take several turns to deplete their health bar, battles with them that are supposed to be most exciting, fall far behind the missions – less crucial plot-wise but with more inventive goals.
The interface also lacks some useful elements. Like, an option to add a grid on the ground – to help figure out some far-away enemies’ position, which is tough overwise. Miscalculating where you place someone for teamwork boost jump can completely screw up your battle plan.
How much damage can the enemy armor absorb? How far can they move? The game gives no answer.
Without the “undo” function (seriously, was it so hard to implement reset of the last turn as “another take”?!) any of your mistakes can only be rectified by restarting the entire episode. Multiple-mission episode.
Oh, and speaking of multi-mission episodes that can take more than an hour. You can’t save in the middle of them at all.
Despite my grievances, for the most part, Chroma Squad is fun to play. Hilarious fights with special conditions and opportunities to achieve your goal with a clever move. Not-too-tedious management of equipment, marketing contracts, and fan mail. Corny but funny dialogues that remind of the “good old days”.
This is one of those games, that bring the feel and experience unlike no other. In this case, it’s the experience of managing your own Super Sentai show. In fact, with Episode Editor and Steam Workshop, you can add your own stories and invented missions.
If you were (or are) a fan of Power Rangers or Super Sentai – this game definitely is a must-have. If you are not into all this, then the interface and design kinks may turn you off. But still, if you are familiar with the Japanese tokusatsu shows (or their American knock-offs) I think it’s worth a try.