If you were a kid in the 1990’s, there’s little doubt you were impacted by a television show called ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers’. The show ran for three seasons before spawning a movie, toys, and many, many more series. The storyline was about a group of five teenagers who protect the world from monsters by morphing into a fighting squad known as the Power Rangers. The show used stock footage from a Japanese Super Sentai series and spliced it together with scenes filmed in the United States for when the teenagers were living their normal lives. They were proficient in martial arts, piloted giant robots that combined into an even more giant-er robot called the Megazord, and when they weren’t saving the world they were dealing with local bullies named Bulk and Skull. And the show’s theme song? Well, if it’s not on your workout playlist then that’s probably because you either don’t have a workout playlist, or you’ve forgotten just how rad it is. To those who were the right age to appreciate the original show when it came out, it was and remains an awesome celebration of friendship, teamwork, and courage.
Hoping to evoke those same warm and fuzzy feelings, Behold Studios has produced Chroma Squad, a tactical RPG in the vein of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. Right below the title are the words “Inspired by Saban’s Power Rangers,” which, considering how apparent that is without explicitly stating it makes one think that the development team was legally required to have the words there. As if somebody wearing a suit in a corporate office somewhere wasn’t in on the concept of parody or homage.
The premise of the game is that a group of stunt actors on a Super Sentai television show rebel against their oppressive director, leaving the show and starting their own. They vow that their show will be fueled by passion for Sentai culture, and not the drive to make money or inflate personal egos. The game takes the form of “episodes”; battles that play out on an isometric stage and normally involve fighting a squad of enemies before defeating a boss. The game does a great job of incorporating elements of television production into these battles. For example, cameramen can be seen standing just to the side of the action, actors complain about the quality of their costumes, and completing flashier attacks that utilize teamwork earn more “fan power “, which can in turn be converted to money to purchase upgrades to your squad and studio. After each battle the player is shown Tweets from people having just viewed the episode, commenting on how they received it.
In between filming episodes the player does a lot of customary RPG activities like buying and crafting equipment as well as upgrading character systems like health and basic attack abilities. All of this is done in the studio, which grows and changes as the player makes improvements to things like cameras, microphones, green screens, and even things like marketing plans. There’s a real feeling of putting on a show when playing the game that casts Chroma Squad in the amusingly odd role as part tactical RPG and part television show simulator.
The game takes great strides to make the player feel invested in the squad by making the team customizable. You choose five members from a large cast of characters to play your actors, each person having different strengths, weaknesses, and backstories. My squad, for example, was led by world famous actor Wesley Stripes and had a silent monk named Ryo Yoshi. You can also choose your squad’s name and battle cry. Gameplay consists of controlling the squad on a grid and using a limited number of actions per turn to move around, attack, and perform special moves like attacking multiple enemies or healing teammates. You’re given optional tasks to complete each episode such as winning in 10 turns, hitting the boss character each turn, or winning by performing a team attack.
The game’s writing might rely a touch too much on Meta humor, but it consistently hits funny moments all the way up till the appropriately epic conclusion. The high points for the presentation are the soundtrack and the designs of the boss monsters. The song that plays on the opening menu screen is triumphant and perfectly sets the mood for the adventures to come. The music that plays during battles is a similarly engaging “chiptune” like a song that makes battles fun and lighthearted. Boss monsters are clever incarnations that always come with a heavy dose of humor. My favorite was a leather jacket wearing pumpkin man with a green Mohawk named, of course, Punkpin.
While its writing could have been more focused and perhaps its lofty ambitions exceed its grasp, Chroma Squad is still a charming callback to a show that brought many happy moments to our childhoods. With multiple endings, highly customizable features, a cute presentation, and solid RPG mechanics at its core, this is a game that’s easy to recommend not just to those who have fond memories of the Power Rangers, but also to anyone looking for a fun and accessible tactical RPG.