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Looking Back: Chroma Squad PS4

Chroma Squad is a tactical RPG with management elements sprinkled on top. Successfully funded on Kickstarter and released on Windows, OS X, and Linux in late April of 2015 it made the jump to PS4 and XBO in May of 2017. There was some small buzz around the game during its original launch partly because the studio behind Chroma Squad is the same studio behind the very creative and fun Knights of Pen and Paper and partly due to Saban taking issues with the games obvious similarities to Power Rangers. After the Saban legal issues were worked out and the game launched it kind of fell off of everyone's radars. When it launched on the PS4 and XBO it had little fanfare outside of people who were already aware of its existence on Steam. With that bit of background information out of the way, lets talk about the actual game itself and if it should be placed alongside good Super Sentai series like The Power Rangers or should we place it next to the knock offs like The Tattooed Teenagers from Beverly Hills?

Chroma Squad is about five stuntmen who are fed up being part of a Super Sentai show that is lacking heart and only cares for profits. Things come to a head when the tyrannical director of said series begins barking orders to our heroes and they quit on the spot, taking their Sentai costumes with them. As our heroes run into the streets, they decide to start their own studio and film their own Sentai series. What could of been simple "big talk" turns into something more as the group rapidly puts a plan together and indeed begins to film their Sentai show. Over the course of the game the group experiences twist and turns, that a lot fans of Super Sentai will see coming, cause our heroes to become the heroes they always wanted to become. As you might expect, the story leans heavily on references to Super Sentai which may fly over the heads of non Super Sentai fans. In fact, the story is nothing special, but the huge nostalgia factor and my own love of Super Sentai allowed me to overlook this fact and get quite a few hearty chuckles from its silliness. Those gamers not fond of Super Sentai will probably find the dialogue and jokes grating.

With a hit or miss story you really need good gameplay to keep your game from becoming another forgotten bit of shovelware. Unfortunately the gameplay is as hit or miss as the story. Now, before I get into the exact nature of the gameplay, I should note the game offers four different difficulty levels. Casual, a mode so easy that even a young child or video game journalist could beat. Interesting which can be beat by most gamers with no trouble. Challenging ups the pressure and requires you to focus on maxing your damage output and minimizing your damage intake, a task that becomes pretty challenging if you choose bad actors to play your stuntmen. Heroic difficulty requires you to min/max to the best of your ability and make damn near no mistakes. After going through the tutorial you are tasked with choosing who your actors are from a pretty large list. However, like all games with choices like this one, it's less of a choice and more like finding the actors that best fit each role with most actors being pretty shitty.

Now then, the majority of gameplay in Chroma Squad is standard tactical RPG fare wrapped in a Super Sentai suit. You (mostly) control the five members of your studio with each cast member assigned a perticular role that corresponds with both RPG and Super Sentai tropes. You have a healer, a scout, a leader, a scientist, and an assault Ranger that each have unique qualities, skills, and can wield unique weapons. Losing one member of your team, which is really easy on the harder settings, can cause a domino effect where you slowly start to lose one team member after another until you lose the level. At the end of certain levels you get into a Mecha vs. Kaiju fight just like all good Super Sentai shows. These fights are where the gameplay changes from the Steam version to the PS4/XBO versions. In the Steam version your mecha landed hits based on a percentage which was impacted by the various parts used to assemble your mecha. On the PS4/XBO you now have a meter that you have to stop on a hit zone in order to land a blow on your opponent. This system completely changes the mecha fights from praying for a hit to a cool fast paced one that you win or lose by your own reaction skill.

Another big part of gameplay is management sim elements. This starts with you naming your studio whatever your heart desires. Sadly, the ability to name your team, your mecha and mecha call out, your transformation and transformation call out, and your finishing move seems to have been removed leaving you with the default options. The ability to upgrade various parts of your studio, such as microphones or cameras, bestow increasing bonuses on your team. The upgrades, like many things in this game, are locked behind game progression(seasons) which means you can't choose to upgrade certain parts of your studio over others because you can only make a single upgrade level per item per season of the show. This holds the management sim bits back and relegates it to simply paid bonuses instead of actual management sim gameplay. The shop offers weapons and armors that are better, with a few exceptions, than anything you can craft. The crafting is held back by not being able to craft any item at any tie, but instead you are only able to craft items to a certain level based on what season you are currently in. The last bit of studio management you can do is picking which advertising package you choose, each giving different advantages and disadvantages over each other.

With that said, the game is still really fun. I enjoyed playing from start to finish, replaying the game several times to see all three endings. Whether you are looking for a challenging tactical rpg or a great Power Ranger-esque game then Chroma Squad is the game for you. If you're not a Super Sentai fan nor a fan of tactical rpgs then you can skip this game and not feel like you missed out on anything.