By Phil Schipper / September 16th, 2014
With rumors of a new Power Rangers movie going around, it’s obvious that sentai — the Japanese genre that Power Rangers draws from — has not faded from memory. Chroma Squad features its own sentai team, but with a twist: you manage a recording studio where you produce your very own sentai TV series, while also controlling the team itself in battles. How can that possibly work?
When you start a new game, you will be asked build your squad. It has five members, each with a specific job: Lead, Assault, Scout, Techie and Assist. For each of these positions you can choose an actor to hire (all of which come with different stats and costs to hire), name the character and pick out a uniform color. With this amount of customization I realized I could easily make one that roughly corresponded to my personal favorite sentai group of TV. I have to admit this really colored my experience (no pun intended).
Next, you head to the studio to prepare for production. At first, all you can really do is shop for supplies, costumes and props, but, later on, you’ll also get a crafting option. This allows you to upgrade existing costumes pieces and create new ones out of materials, or recycle previous ones to have a chance at getting materials back. Interestingly, you can’t sell the equipment you have, so recycling is the only way to go. This makes crafting a much more attractive option than the shop.
Once you’ve done all this, it’s time to go record an episode, and this is where it really gets interesting. The game seamlessly shifts to what the final episode will look like and narrates its particular bit of plot, then places your five actors — usually in their street clothes — in a battle. You’ll get to place your characters and attack hand-to-hand, or choose to have them wait in position for teamwork. This allows you to do team attacks or even boost a character’s movement range by vaulting over a waiting teammate. After you’ve had a little success, you’ll be ready to “Chromatize,” a flashy transformation that gives the characters access to their costumes and weapons.
But, despite what you might think about strategy RPG’s, Chroma Squad‘s battles are different in that they’re not actually about winning against your enemies. Yes, that is a goal, and succeeding at it will end the battle, but the real thing that’s likely to drive most of your decisions is the audience. You gain audience in small amounts simply by having each character do what their team position states they should, but the meat of it will come from the Director’s Instructions, two side objectives that come up in each battle. These might be something like, “Perform 3 team attacks,” or “Defeat 4 enemies in one turn.” Another good method is the Finishing Move, a special sequence that comes up when you perform a team attack using your entire squad. All these different things are worth pulling off because, after the battle, your audience determines the money your show will make, which, in turn, decides whether you’re in the hole after paying off your actors.
The audience is affected by all kinds of other things. Some actors and equipment give bonuses to it, as do certain upgrades to the studio itself. This gives you a lot of opportunities to trade off your actors’ combat effectiveness in favor of profit, which actually tends to be a good idea. You can even get a few fans by choosing the correct replies to emails sent your way. One of these even unlocks a new menu, marketing, where you can harness the power of your show’s dedicated fans (for a price, of course) to increase your audience further.
What makes this game interesting is the interplay between the “real” world and that of the TV series you produce. Your actors will often talk to each other out of character, then immediately jump into the show’s dialogue. Other than that, though, once you begin recording your episode the set disappears and makes way for the world of your show. You’ll see your squad members teleport in and out of scenes, fight strange-looking monsters and even talk to the obligatory floating head figure.
Tropes like that one combine with lots of techno blips and graphics that resemble the old Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers games to mold an experience that, while at times a little over-the-top and tacky, is beloved precisely because of that. If sentai shows ever had a place in your childhood, Chroma Squad is going to have a place in your life.
Behold StudiosChroma SquadPCstrategyturn-based strategy