A love-letter to super sentai television series like Power Rangers, Chroma Squad is a tactical RPG bursting at the seams with colorful characters, an insane premise, and a surprisingly robust combat system. Capturing the true spirit of Saturday morning cartoons, Behold Studios’ latest adventure is a testament to the fact that fun comes first, and despite a few flaws, Chroma Squad is first and foremost a ton of fun.
After years of doing all the hard work on the popular Super Rangers television show, Chroma Squad puts you in the nylon suits of a group of stuntmen who have had enough. After deciding on set that they’d be better off on their own, your team quits and, using a studio space provided by a relative, start up their own take on the super sentai genre of television.
Before you can dropkick aliens in the face, however, you need to create your squad. Chroma Squad is comprised of five roles that each fill a specific niche, like the Techie who uses guns and has some nice debuff abilities. Roles can be filled by a range of characters possessing their own inherent stats and abilities. Choosing the right character for the right role is important, as once your squad is formed, you will be unable to change them without starting a new game.
At its heart, Chroma Squad is all about tactical RPG buttkicking—and you will be doing a lot of it. The game is divided up into five seasons, each made up of multiple episodes your superheroes must film. Each episode will tell its own miniature story, with a greater narrative arc weaved through that begins to unfold in earnest later in the game. While the dialogue is often lackluster and forgettable, Chroma Squad’s best feature is just how passionately it pulls from Power Rangers while still being wholly unique. The story itself is surprisingly interesting, telling a tale that quickly blurs the line between what is scripted for the television show and what is actually happening to your characters. It’s highly entertaining, and despite some scenes lasting far too long, I spent most of my time smiling and marveling at just how ambitious of a story it manages to tell. You can never be sure if a cheesy line of dialogue is intended to be satire or honest, and it doesn’t really matter—Chroma Squad is certainly dumb, but it’s the best kind of dumb.
Even better, the story has branching paths and multiple endings, some of which include vastly different gameplay mechanics, like access to a sixth party member or special episodes surrounding a lone motorcyclist. Those looking to experience everything the game has to offer will be up to their eyeballs in content for quite a while.
Behold Studios also upholds their tradition of beautiful pixel art and chiptune music. The sprite-work is vibrant and expressive, but the music is what really stole the show. Chroma Squad sports a wide range of awesome tunes, many of which I am still humming. While the 16-bit aesthetic has certainly been overused by indie games, Chroma Squad’s science-fiction-meets-cheap-special-effects vibe does a wonderful job of keeping things feeling and looking fresh.
The real stars of Chroma Squad aren’t the heroes themselves but the bosses they battle. Though they start off cheeky, like a boxer in a cardboard box, the bosses quickly escalate to some hilarious and bizarre creations. In the roughly 15 hour long campaign, you’ll fight iPods, backwards mermaids, doves with human arms, and even a dancing bear. It’s incredible. Furthermore, each boss adds a new element to the gameplay that you’ll need to contend with, helping to mix up the combat and always keeping players on their toes.
These battles end in an exciting crescendo when Chroma Squad introduces the Mecha fights. Mecha fights deviate from the tactical grid-based combat by offering a more traditional turn-based battle system. During a player’s turn they can use their Mecha to attack the monster with each attack doing more damage but increasing the opportunity to miss a blow. Missing gives the boss a chance to attack, which players must properly time their defense to mitigate the incoming blow. Just like Chroma Squad, the Mecha has its own abilities that it can use, which are often impacted by how many successful blows it has landed before using the ability. It’s a unique risk-reward system that created some intense moments as I decided whether to risk one more hit or play it safe and defend.
When players aren’t punching skyscraper sized aliens in their Mecha, they’ll be duking it out on grid-based maps with their squad. Combat is very satisfying and manages to ride the fine line of being easy to learn but hard to master. Using teamwork to propel heroes around the map, initiate group attacks, or finish off bosses with a powerful Chroma Beam keeps the combat fluid and flashy. Each hero has a diverse set of abilities, with more that unlock each season, ensuring players are given a steady stream of rewards and new toys to play with.
Players won’t just have to worry about keeping their squad alive either, as Chroma Squad is still a television show, and putting on a good fight for the audience is important. Every action you take increases your audience, but having heroes knocked out or using a finishing move too early can spoil their good time. Furthermore, your heroes usually start out combat in their normal clothes and lacking all of their powerful abilities. After a few rounds of attacking enemies, when they finally attract a big enough audience, they can form up and chromatize—transforming into the costumed superheroes. It’s an interesting mechanic that adds a new layer of depth to the combat, as simply killing an enemy isn’t always as effective as killing them stylishly.
Each episode also has special objectives that players can attempt to fulfill to increase their audience and the rewards they get for winning. These objectives can be ignored, but going out of your way to complete them is more than worth it. Disappointingly, I found many of these objectives were bugged and couldn’t be completed; one of the many glitches I encountered while playing, including a few instances where I was forced to load a previous save.
Difficulty was also a problem for much of the game. Playing on medium didn’t offer much of a challenge until the last few seasons. The hardest difficulty is incredibly tough, something that veterans will likely enjoy, but I wish the difficulty had been better balanced throughout the whole campaign. While this wasn’t always a problem when fighting the hilarious and exciting bosses, a few episodes were obvious filler that really killed the tempo.
The user interface could use some work too, and I would have appreciated the ability to preview moves before actually making them, as more than once I tried to coordinate heroes only to find the lack of information made me come up one square short. By the end of my time with the game though, I felt like I was able to adeptly move my heroes around the map, initiating group attacks on enemies and deploying skills with the proper timing. It made for an incredibly satisfying campaign.
Unfortunately, the exciting pacing of the combat is somewhat derailed by the management side of the Chroma Squad coin. When your team of superheroes aren’t out fighting interstellar villainy, they are back in their studio resting up for the next episode. During this time you can answer emails from fans and spend your hard earned money and fanpower to equip your squad and increase their abilities.
The studio itself can be upgraded with a range of passive enhancements that will increase your heroes abilities and the rewards they earn at the end of each episode. You can also use materials obtained from defeating foes to craft better weapons, armor, or Mecha parts; or simply buy some of them from the store. While initially I enjoyed this section of the game, I quickly tired of it because much of it felt inconsequential and poorly explained. I never fully understood if the decisions I was making were actually helpful, and without a universal metric to measure character growth, I never had a satisfying notion of how powerful my team was becoming. Crafting was also frustrating because I wasn’t able to compare a crafted item with what I had equipped until after I created it, which frequently left me recycling those items because my character was already better suited.
Overall, Chroma Squad is an incredibly enjoyable experience—one that will appeal to anyone looking for a game that is just bursting with mindless fun. The goofy story is surprisingly well constructed and perfectly suited to the eccentric bosses and rewarding combat, while managing your studio, poorly designed UI, and some bugs can put a damper on the experience. But at the end of the day, any of these flaws are eclipsed by just how glorious Chroma Squad can be.
- GAMEPLAY: 8 – Fun and complex combat lies at the heart of this tactical RPG, but the pacing is at times derailed by an inconsequential management aspect, some padding for length, and a few bugs.
- VISUALS: 8 – All of the environments and sprite-work looks fantastic, but the boss monsters are what really steal the show. Both hilarious and creative, they provide an exciting incentive to continue playing just to see what new creation you’ll take on..
- POLISH: 6 – UI elements could use some work as information that I wished was available often wasn’t. Many gameplay elements went unexplained, leaving me to guess at their usefulness. Bugs ranged from minor to a few that required restarting the game. Outside of the Narrator (who intentionally misspells things) I encountered quite a few translation errors.
- LONGEVITY: 9 – Roughly a fifteen hour campaign is significantly lengthened by multiple endings, choice-based split narratives, and wanting to go back through the game with different party combinations. More content is also expected down the road.
- VALUE: 9 – For the price, Chroma Squad offers a significant amount of gameplay and top notch presentation. A robust campaign and combat system will keep players coming back for more, and beautiful music and visuals will keep you smiling the entire time.